Bali, September 2, 2022– The Second Asia Initiative Meeting, hosted by the Directorate General of Taxes in Jimbaran, Bali was concluded on Friday, September 2. The high-level meeting was attended by Tax Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners from Armenia, Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong (People's Republic of China), India, Indonesia, Japan, Macau (People's Republic of China), Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, People's Republic of China, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand. Also present to give their full support are representatives from four partner organizations, namely the Asian Development Bank (ADB), International Finance Cooperation (IFC), Study Group on Asia-Pacific Tax Administration and Research (SGATAR), and The World Bank.

The meeting was conducted subsequent to the ministerial meeting and signing ceremony of the Bali Declaration on July 14 which echoed the political impetus of the high-level officials for the agenda. In the meeting, participants agreed on a work program focused on building regional capacity. Capacity building is expected to reduce the gap among members of the Asia Initiative, particularly on the maturity levels of EOI implementation.

Essentially, the work program is expressed through some baseline actions that are fundamental to the implementation of tax transparency standards. The baseline actions are established to ensure effective implementation and use of the tax transparency standards, including through the participation to the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, the foundation of an efficient EOI function, the monitoring of the EOI activity, measuring the impacts and benefits of EOI in resource mobilisation, and building EOI capacities among tax auditors and EOI analysts.

In addition to the baseline actions, participants also agreed on a number of complementary actions in which interested members can voluntarily participate. Complementary actions in the work program include using EOI for non-tax purposes, increasing the effectiveness of automatic exchange of financial account information, tax claims recovery, using EOI for the administration of Value Added Tax or Goods and Services Tax, as well as exploring other forms of tax administrative cooperation. All members welcomed the work program enthusiastically.

The participants shared their experiences in good practices to support tax transparency, such as the effective use of financial account information and the implementation of a voluntary disclosure programme in relation to the automatic exchange of information. In addition, participants were also involved in interactive discussions regarding the importance of beneficial ownership information and effective EOI implementation strategies.

Deputy Minister of Finance Suahasil Nazara in his virtual opening remarks emphasized the importance of cooperation between tax authorities to encourage transparency and the use of exchange of information. Thus, Suahazil welcomed the second meeting of the Asia Initiative and expected a high commitment from its members to continue collaborating to erect more barriers for tax avoidance.

The Director General of Taxes, Suryo Utomo, also had the opportunity to deliver a virtual speech. Suryo underlined the importance of reducing the capability gap among Asia Initiative members and in other Asian countries in terms of transparency and EOI.

Yon Arsal, Expert Staff to the Minister of Finance for Tax Compliance, representing Suryo Utomo as Chair of the Meeting in his closing remarks welcomed this meeting earnestly. He is of the view that the meeting has produced a clear direction and has provided valuable new insights in accelerating the tax transparency agenda in Asia.

The next Asia Initiative meeting will be held in Seville, Spain on November 8, 2022 as part of the Plenary Meeting of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (Global Forum) to discuss the progress of the Asia Initiative. In addition, India as the chair of the Asia Initiative in 2023 have agreed to host two trainings in February and September 2023. The participants welcomed the outcomes of the meeting and looked forward to implementing the work plan and the next steps for the initiative.

Asia Initiative was launched on the margins of 2021 Plenary Meeting of the Global Forum and is a platform that is expected to push the agenda of tax transparency and exchange of information (EOI) to combat tax evasion and illicit financial flows in the Asian region.