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Banks and officials move towards better compliance relationship

Tax compliance in the banking sector has become a top priority for revenue authorities since the global economic turmoil began in 2008 and a meeting in Rome this week emphasised the point.

The head of the Italian Banking Association (ABI) announced at the meeting that his organisation and Agenzia delle entrate, the Italian Revenue Agency, would work together to produce a code of conduct for banks.

"A code of conduct will help to achieve a right balance between the need to reduce the incentives towards aggressive tax planning and promote certainty and predictability for taxpayers," Giovanni Sabatini, the ABI’s director-general, said.

The meeting brought together revenue agencies, banks and their industry representatives, and the OECD, for two days of discussion on developing the enhanced relationship in the banking sector.

The enhanced relationship refers to the work done by the OECD’s Forum on Tax Administration to create a new way of working between revenue officials and taxpayers based on “a mutual understanding of each party’s needs and aspirations, the development of the tools and techniques most appropriate for achieving these, and a path to implementing what needs to be done”.

This week’s meeting looked at the role of banks in the economy now, the impact of recent regulatory changes on tax matters, and the experience of various stakeholders with cooperative compliance programmes. Delegates also discussed issues such as those related to bank losses and how to determine the appropriate tax treatment of branches of foreign banks.

“It is important for tax authorities to adopt a balanced approach: zero tolerance for aggressive tax planning, but at the same time impartiality and fairness in evaluating legitimate tax planning. More in general, an approach aimed at giving certainty to taxpayers,” Attilio Befera, General Commissioner of Agenzia delle entrate said in his opening remarks to the meeting.

Jeffrey Owens emphasised the value of cooperative compliance.

“Cooperative compliance initiatives benefit both governments and taxpayers through fewer routine audits, increased transparency, a positive impact on compliance culture in general and of course more revenue: a win-win situation,” said the director of the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration.

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