Addressing Developing Countries’ Tax Challenges of the Digitalization of the Economy
By Monica Victor
This Policy Brief sheds light on some of the implications for developing countries concerning the new international taxation global governance structure and the ongoing corporate tax reform process under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project umbrella in the context of the digitalization of the economy. The objective is to inform developing country tax authorities on the issues that may require further South-South cooperation and action to protect taxing rights that are of vital importance for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Firstly, the new international collaborative mechanisms created after the BEPS Project – the Platform for Collaboration on Tax and the Inclusive Framework on BEPS – are described. Secondly, the international tax reform proposals under negotiations in the Inclusive Framework on BEPS are outlined. The final remarks will address the challenges for developing countries to participate in the ongoing international tax reform effectively.
Comments on the OECD Secretariat Proposal for a “Unified Approach” under Pillar One
The South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI), the South Centre’s flagship program for promoting cooperation among developing countries on international tax matters, submitted its comments in November 2019 to the OECD Secretariat’s Proposal for a “Unified Approach” under Pillar One. This proposal is the key solution proposed by the OECD to address the challenge of taxation in the digital economy. In today’s world, it is a common occurrence that large multinational enterprises pay little or no taxes on their global profits by exploiting gaps in international tax rules. Approximately $500 billion is estimated to be lost globally due to corporate tax avoidance each year. This number is five times the annual requirement for funding the Paris Agreement ($100 billion) and around 20% of the funding requirement for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in developing countries ($2.5 trillion). Hence, revenue lost to corporate tax avoidance could go a long way in financing sustainable development and actions regarding climate change.
South Centre Statement to the United Nations High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development
Four years after its adoption, Agenda 2030, “Transforming Our World,” the United Nations’ (UN) most recent and most ambitious development agenda, is off-track. Various estimates of the spending needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) range from $1 to $3 trillion. Domestically mobilized resources are critical to achieve these goals. A main source of the inadequate scale of public revenues are shortfalls in corporate tax collection, which are largely explained by international corporations hosted by or doing businesses in developing countries that take advantage of facilities offered by the international tax standards and practices to avoid full payment of taxes in those countries. A substantive global reform process involving a variety of multilateral platforms is underway. The question is not whether the system of global tax standards and practices will change, but in what direction it will change. Drawing lessons from the developing country context will be critical if the ongoing process of global tax reform will benefit developing countries and achieve substantial success in generating the income needed to effectively attain the SDGs.
Gender, Tax Reform and Taxation Cooperation Issues: Navigating Equity and Efficiency under Policy Constraints
By Dr. Mariama Williams
This policy brief has sought to present a review of the state of thinking and research on a pressing issue of the day: tax reform and tax cooperation and its gendered impacts. There is undeniably widespread agreement amongst all the entities of global governance with responsibility for a role in macroeconomic, financial and trade policies that gender equality and women’s empowerment are important to sustained growth and development. Increasingly, these same voices are articulating and researching on how fiscal policy both on the budgetary and on the revenue side can be made more efficient, gender sensitive and gender responsive. Taxation is the latest area of focused attention in this regard. There is now a quite strong body of work, including case studies, that demonstrates how the tax system can work to the disadvantage of socio-economic development and social goals including gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Improving Transfer Pricing Audit Challenges in Africa through Modern Legislation and Regulations
By Thulani Shongwe
Auditing multinational enterprises often involves a broad range of complex technical issues, and transfer pricing (TP) is often the most important one. This policy brief looks at some of the key aspects of the modern TP legislation and illustrates how different drafting of regulations can assist in additional revenue collection as well as increased compliance. It further provides practical examples from real cases to show where poor legislation has given rise to tax planning and to profit shifting. Lastly, the brief offers practical solutions to some of the transactions illustrated through the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) Suggested Approach to Drafting Transfer Pricing Legislation.
Exploding Public and Private Debt, Declining ODA and FDI, Lower World GDP and Trade Growth—Developing Countries Facing a Conundrum
By Yuefen LI
Recently international institutions repeatedly cut the projections for world gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2019, revealed further worsened accumulation of debt, reported declining official development assistance (ODA), highlighted consecutive drops of foreign direct investment (FDI) flows and showed decelerated international trade and intensified trade tension. A closer examination of the performance of developing countries in these datasets shows clearly the economic conundrum that developing countries are facing. The most dangerous sign is the rising levels of public and private debt, and debt sustainability challenges for developing countries. It is worrisome that over 40 percent of low income countries are facing a high risk of debt distress or are in debt distress. The cloudy patches over the world economy are gathering together and getting darker. It seems a storm is coming soon for those developing countries which are facing a combination of weak economic fundamentals. Yet, there seems to be limited room for policy makers to take actions as downward pressure is coming from different directions at the same time and creating constraints which would make policy measures ineffective or feeble. In some cases, policy tools used to limit negative effects of one problem could trigger negative impact on other problem(s) in hand.
Tax Haven Listing in Multiple Hues: Blind, Winking or Conniving?
By Jahanzeb Akhtar and Verónica Grondona
Tax havens are among the biggest challenges faced by developing countries in achieving their national development goals. States, international organisations, multilateral agencies and non-governmental organisations have all made several efforts at compiling ‘lists’ of tax havens at the multilateral and national levels, with varying levels of seriousness and outcomes. This research paper examines these efforts by analysing the objectivity of criteria used and the clarity of the final outcome in a comparative manner. The paper is organized into four sections dealing with the tax haven blacklisting by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the countries of the South, the European Union (EU) and an analysis across lists. The concluding section offers some suggestions.
Developing Countries and the Contemporary International Tax System: BEPS and other issues
By Marcos Aurélio Pereira Valadão
This policy brief addresses the design of international taxation and tax cooperation in the context of issues presented in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)/Group of Twenty (G20) Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS)Project. It further considers their significance for developing countries and provides the Brazilian approach to those issues. The brief concludes by exploring the importance of regional cooperation vis-à-vis international organizations and highlights relevant considerations for developing countries engaging with the contemporary international tax system.
Illicit Financial Flows: Conceptual and Practical Issues
By Hon. Irene Ovonji-Odida and Algresia Akwi-Ogojo
The issue of illicit financial flows (IFFs) is of great significance for many countries looking to mobilize domestic resources for achieving their development goals. The High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, led by H.E. Thabo Mbeki, brought the issue into the global spotlight, notably since the release of exposés like the ‘Panama Papers’. This policy brief elaborates on the conceptual underpinnings of IFFs, its sources and the development costs they generate. Building on the report of the High Level Panel, it provides recommendations to stem IFFs from developing countries.
The Definition and Treatment of Tax Havens in Brazilian Tax Law between 1995 and 2015
By Alexandre Akio Lage Martins
Over the years, a number of ‘tax haven lists’ have been created at the national and international level, with varying definitions and criteria used to identify jurisdictions falling under their scope. This policy brief presents the experience of Brazil in compiling their national list of tax havens, the road map they followed for its implementation, and the impact that it has had on their foreign investment flows. It also provides the lessons learnt from this experience, which can be positively utilized by other developing countries.
Stemming ‘Commercial’ Illicit Financial Flows & Developing Country Innovations in the Global Tax Reform Agenda
By Manuel F. Montes, Daniel Uribe and Danish
Illicit Financial Flows generated due to the commercial activities of multinational enterprises are quantitatively the most important challenge faced by developing countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Current efforts for stemming these illicit flows and reforming the international tax system are however being led by developed countries, with developing country interests poorly reflected in the reform agenda. This research paper highlights the tax issues of great priority for developing countries and how international tax cooperation can contribute to preventing such illicit flows.