German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has rarely poured so much energy into anything as he did into his battle against tax evasion. Nearly two years ago at the G-20 summit in Mexico, Mr. Schäuble and his British counterpart, George Osborne, began an initiative to develop a new international standard on automatic exchange of tax information.
This week, Mr. Schäuble will be rewarded for his efforts. Representatives from 95 countries will meet in Berlin to discuss how to increase international cooperation against tax evasion. Thirty finance ministers are expected to attend.
Fifty nations have committed to share information as early as 2017. The agreement, due to be signed Wednesday, will give tax authorities automatic access to financial information and boost the worldwide fight against tax evasion.
It is unusual for an international agreement of this magnitude to be accomplished so quickly. That the signing will take place in Berlin is also an acknowledgment of the effort by Mr. Schäuble, a member of the Christian Democratic Union. It will be one of his greatest moments, even the rival Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) acknowledges.
“It is all good; Germany has taken over a visibly active role,” said Norbert Walter-Borjans, the finance minister of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia and an SPD member. “Despite that, it must be noted that in the beginning, the red-green (SPD-Green parties) governed states were the ones that paved the way for Mr. Schäuble.”
Mr. Schäuble changed tack in 2012 after the SPD blocked a treaty he had negotiated with Switzerland that would have allowed for retroactive taxation of undeclared money held by German citizens in Swiss bank accounts.
Tax havens are becoming increasingly rare, and German tax evaders seem to be getting the message. A record number of around 32,000 voluntary declarations of money banked elsewhere were made in the first three quarters of this year.