[JAKARTA] Indonesia and Singapore have agreed to step up efforts to share tax-related information to tighten loopholes on tax evasion in each other's countries, Indonesia's finance ministry said.
The commitment came after a meeting between Indonesian Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro and his counterpart Tharman Shanmugaratnam in Singapore on Monday, the ministry said in a statement.
Indonesia and Singapore have had an agreement to exchange tax-related information upon request, including data from financial institution and individuals, since 1992. "Exchanging information by request is not enough to reveal all assets hidden by citizens of both countries," the Indonesian ministry said. "Therefore, to accelerate information flows, Indonesia and Singapore have committed to exchange information automatically to complement the mechanism for information exchange by request." The mechanism should start as early as 2017, or at the latest, by end of 2018, the statement said. Both countries have also agreed to amend local legislation to support the exchange of information.
Singapore's finance ministry said the city-state and Indonesia have both endorsed the automatic exchange of information as a global standard, but Singapore's implementation is guided by several principles. "Singapore will be able to implement AEOI (automatic exchange of information) if it is adopted in all key financial centres in Europe and Asia, to avoid regulatory arbitrage,"Singapore's finance ministry said in an email on Tuesday.
The automatic information exchange must also be done "within a robust framework of law to protect taxpayer confidentiality and ensure that the information is used properly", the Singapore ministry said, adding that there must be reciprocity with any future partners in terms of information exchanged.
In a bid to tackle cross-border tax evasion, countries across the world are signing up to new standards drawn up in 2013 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for "automatic exchange of information". Under these standards, countries can sign reciprocal agreements that they will automatically share certain pieces of financial information about each others' taxpayers.
Indonesia's new president Joko Widodo has made improving tax collection a priority. During his campaign, he pledged to increase Indonesia's tax ratio to 16 per cent of gross domestic product from around 12 per cent at present.
Many wealthy Indonesians are known to have assets in Singapore.