According to this article from the Wall Street Journal U.S. officials are very pleased with Panama signing of the tax agreement today. "The agreement will permit the nations to seek information from each other on all types of national taxes in criminal and civil matters for tax years beginning Nov. 30, 2007." I would wager that access to U.S. banks will allow the current administration to seek tax information on previous leaders suspected of money laundering. After all, the U.S. is the worlds largest tax haven for politicians from all around the globe. Other than that it is of little direct benefit to Panama.
Here is how the WSJ put it.
The U.S. has won greater access to information about bank accounts in Panama, a step that COULD move the U.S. closer to ratifying a stalled trade deal with the Central American nation. U.S.. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Panamanian Vice President Juan Carlos Varela signed the tax information exchange agreement Tuesday.
Panama has been labeled a tax haven by international organizations including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
It has previously inked a host of such information exchange deals with countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Mexico, in the hopes of being removed from the OECD's tax haven list.
Some Democrats in the U.S. Congress had said that Panama must make more progress in helping the U.S. catch tax evaders, before they are willing to let the trade agreement advance.
Congressional Republicans, who have been pressing for action on the trade deal, said Tuesday's announcement shows Panama's desire to cooperate with the U.S.
"The fact that we have now signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement with Panama should remove any remaining hurdles to moving forward with this important trade agreement, something we should do as soon as possible," said Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.). Camp will assume the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee when Republicans take control of the House in January.
"This is a long-needed and welcome step," said a spokesman for Ways and Means Committee Democrats.
Geithner said the signing of the tax information exchange deal heralds "a new era of openness and transparency" between the nations.
The agreement will permit the nations to seek information from each other on all types of national taxes in criminal and civil matters for tax years beginning Nov. 30, 2007.
"Upon entry into force, the new [agreement] will provide the United States with access to the information it needs to enforce U.S. tax laws, including information related to bank accounts in Panama," the Treasury Department said.