The one-article bill would add a paragraph to Article 78 of the 2020 Unified Tax Procedures Law, which stipulates that articles 140 and 142 of the Central Bank of Egypt's law on secrecy of banking accounts will not prevent banks from exchanging confidential information on the personal accounts of their clients in compliance with international tax agreements effective in Egypt.
Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait told MPs that the scope of the bill is limited to exchanging tax information with member states of the Forum.
“It is by no means related to breaching the secrecy of accounts of Egyptian citizens with banks,” said Maait, indicating that “the coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions in 2020 and 2021 led to delaying the preparation of the bill.”
“But right now, the bill should be up for a vote because it is a matter of international obligation for Egypt,” Maait said.
House speaker Hanafi Gebaly also indicated that “the scope of the amendment is limited to exchanging tax information among the Forum's 172 member countries with the objective of fighting international tax evasion operations, tax havens, and money laundering activities.”
According to a 10-page report prepared by the House's Budget Committee, the one-article amendment to the 2020's Unified Procedures Law is in compliance with the agreement on the Global Forum for Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, which Egypt joined in 2016.
“This compliance is necessary for Egypt to avoid being labelled as a failed state in terms of financial transparency and fight against tax evasion and illegal tax havens,” said the report, clarifying that "the Forum's agreement requires that member countries amend their legislations to allow exchange of information for tax purposes.”
“As the government of Egypt was keen to comply with the Forum's periodical evaluation of the performance of its member countries, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly decided in 2020 to form a committee to revise legislations that had to be amended to observe the Forum's obligations," said head of the Budget Committee Fakhri El-Fiqi.
"Hence comes the one-article amendment to the 2020's Unified Tax Procedures law to give the Egyptian Tax Authority the green light to exchange tax-related information with foreign countries and in a way that will not breach information on the personal accounts and deposits of local citizens with Egyptian banks or divulging their industrial, commercial and professional secrets."
The Committee's report revealed that a technical assistance team affiliated with the Forum visited Egypt last March and recommended that the Unified Tax Procedures law be amended to allow exchange of information among member states on taxes and banking accounts.
“The team indicated that most of the Forum's 172 member countries took this step, the last of which were the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which have already complied with the Forum's recommendations in this respect,” said the report.
The report also revealed that “a new Forum's team will visit Cairo in the next few days to determine whether Egypt moved to observe the Forum's recommendations on transparency, and so it is highly necessary that Egypt gets positive evaluation in order to be able to get access to credit facilities from international financial institutions.”
Deputy head of the Budget Committee Yasser Omar asserted that “the House's final approval of the bill would pave the way for Egypt to obtain $14 billion in loans from international lending institutions.”
The bill, however, received vehement rejection from a number of leftist MPs who said “the legislative amendment is not clear and it provides no assurances that it will lead to exchanging confidential information on personal banking accounts with foreign countries.”