The spat among G20 countries over cracking down on tax havens is a sideshow to the much more urgent task of tackling the gravest economic crisis in decades. However distasteful the facilities such havens offer wealthy individuals and companies to stash away billions, they have little or nothing to do with the current crisis. That French President Nicolas Sarkozy was reportedly willing to undermine a G20 agreement over the status of Hong Kong and Macau as tax havens smacked of political grandstanding. Intervention by presidents Hu Jintao and Barack Obama narrowly avoided a showdown. After much diplomatic finessing, the two special administrative regions have been relegated to the nether world of unclear status - they neither belong to the list of virtuous countries and jurisdictions with international tax standards like the mainland, nor are they on the black and grey lists of dodgy havens. Hong Kong does not have secret banking services like Switzerland. What we do have is a simple tax system that is worth defending, such as having no taxes on stock dividends, capital gains, estates and bank deposit interest. However, the real bone of contention with Germany and France, which have been spearheading global efforts against tax havens, seems to be our outdated confidentiality conditions for taxpayers. Because the Inland Revenue Department is barred from sharing taxpayers' data with another country, many places have refused to sign double-taxation agreements with Hong Kong. This has disadvantaged many taxpayers with tax exposure to another country or jurisdiction. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has now promised to reform the confidentiality rule and share information if necessary to bring it in line with international standards. This is a positive move. The truth is that tax havens exist because the rich countries have allowed them to do so. Now, popular anger demands an end to such privileges for wealthy people. But such efforts, however justified, only work if they are uniformly enforced. When this crisis subsides, there will always be places willing to serve the rich and powerful.