Assessment of the Two-Pillar Approach to Address the Tax Challenges Arising from the Digitalization of the Economy
An Outline of Positions Favourable to Developing Countries
Report by the South Centre Tax Initiative’s Developing Country Expert Group
Irene Ovonji-Odida, Veronica Grondona, Samuel Victor Makwe
This report is written primarily for developing country negotiators in the Inclusive Framework and accordingly contains a technical assessment of Pillars One and Two. The aim is to discuss the positions and principles which can inform the negotiations in developing countries’ best interests. However, it is also written for a larger audience, particularly diplomats involved in financing for development discussions and international trade rule making, so as to sensitise them to the nuances of the ongoing discussion on the taxation of the digitized economy. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a devastating economic downturn, it is more important than ever to ensure that developing countries obtain their due taxing rights. This report is an initial contribution in that direction.
Redistributing Taxing Rights to the Global South through the Digitalized Economy
By Carlos Protto
A historic discussion is underway within both the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on redistributing taxing rights to the Global South through proposals on taxing the digitalized economy. An overview of the issues at stake is provided in this SouthViews by Carlos Protto, Member of the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters and Argentina’s representative in the Steering Group of the OECD/Group of Twenty (G20) Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). The text is based on his presentation at the international virtual seminar co-organized by the South Centre on “Equity in Global Tax Regimes and Implications for the SDGs” held on 7 October 2020. The recording is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wAESmfvRN4&ab_channel=uomlive.
Comments on Discussion Draft: Possible Changes to the United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention Between Developed and Developing Countries Concerning Inclusion of software payments in the definition of royalties
The South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI) offers its comments on the discussion draft on inclusion of software payments in the definition of royalties. As is well known, this is an important issue that developing countries have been fighting for, for a while now. The SCTI supports the proposed change which seeks to insert the phrase “computer software” in article 12(3) of the United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention Between Developed and Developing Countries. The COVID-19 pandemic adds special urgency to resolving this long-pending issue as revenue from software payments made from developing countries continues to increase.
Base Erosion and Profit Shifting in the Extractive Industries
By Danish and Daniel Uribe
Developing countries with significant natural resources have not fully utilised them for financing their development aspirations. Extractive industries and the revenue generated from their extractive activities need to constitute a larger share of domestic resource mobilisation. However, the sector remains beset with massive tax base erosion and profit shifting by large multinational companies. This policy brief therefore looks at the extractive industries, and the potential impact of their practices on the national policies and regulations in developing countries. It further also considers some current initiatives at the international level for enabling countries to obtain more revenue from natural resource extraction, and offers some observations on the policy options available to developing countries.
Mesures nationales sur l’imposition de l’économie numérique
ParVeronica Grondona, Abdul Muheet Chowdhary, Daniel Uribe
Le Cadre inclusif sur le BEPS de l’Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques (OCDE) envisage une approche fondée sur deux piliers en matière de taxation de l’économie numérique. Les premières estimations concernant l’impact de ses recommandations montrent une modeste augmentation de la collecte de l’impôt sur les sociétés, dont les bénéfices devraient revenir principalement aux pays développés. Dans le même temps, les mesures nationales de taxation de l’économie numérique se multiplient, en conséquence de la pandémie de COVID-19. Le droit international reconnaît pleinement ce droit aux pays, bien que cette approche soit considérée comme une forme d’unilatéralisme. Ce document de recherche met en lumière les mesures de fiscalité directe prises par différents pays et présente les trois approches clés retenues pour taxer l’économie numérique : (1) l’imposition de taxes sur les services numériques ; (2) l’élaboration de règles permettant d’établir un lien fiscal pour les entreprises numériques qui opère par l’intermédiaire d’une présence numérique significative ; (3) des retenues à la source sur les transactions numériques.
Medidas Tributarias Nacionales sobre la Economia Digital
Por Veronica Grondona, Abdul Muheet Chowdhary, Daniel Uribe
El Marco Inclusivo de la Organización de Cooperación y Desarrollo Económicos (OCDE) está considerando un enfoque de dos pilares en relación con el cobro de impuestos sobre la economía digital. Las estimaciones preliminares acerca de la repercusión de sus recomendaciones indican un modesto incremento en la recaudación de impuestos sobre la renta de las sociedades, cuyos beneficios se prevén que se dirijan principalmente a los países desarrollados. Al mismo tiempo, están proliferando las medidas nacionales en materia de cobro de impuestos sobre la economía digital, un cambio estimulado por el comienzo de la pandemia de COVID-19. Los países también tienen plenos derechos a aplicarlas en virtud del derecho internacional, pese a las etiquetas de “unilateralismo”. En este documento de investigación se ponen de relieve las medidas en materia de impuestos directos que están adoptando diversos países y se exponen tres enfoques fundamentales con respecto al cobro de impuestos sobre la economía digital: 1) impuestos sobre los servicios digitales; 2) normas sobre un nexo en base a una presencia digital significativa; y 3) retenciones en origen sobre las transacciones digitales.
Comments on Session Paper relating to tax consequences of the digitalized economy – issues of relevance for developing countries
The SCTI offers its comments on the Session Paper on “Tax consequences of the digitalized economy – issues of relevance for developing countries” (E/C.18/2020/CRP.25) to be discussed at the 20th Session of the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation on Tax Matters. The comments examine key issues for developing countries in the Unified Approach (UA) to Pillar One and explore alternative solutions at the international level as discussed in the Paper.
Comments to the FACTI Panel on improving cooperation in tax matters
The South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI) would like to draw the attention of the Financial Accountability Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) Panel to the following aspects of improving international tax cooperation:
(1) legal procedure to upgrade the UN Tax Committee into an intergovernmental body;
(2) Right of even Inclusive Framework Members to take unilateral measures;
(3) Need for comprehensive scope of Pillar One;
(4) Primacy of Undertaxed Payments and Subject to Tax rules in Pillar Two;
(5) Need for clear and administrable rules for dispute prevention.
By Veronica Grondona, Abdul Muheet Chowdhary, Daniel Uribe
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Inclusive Framework is considering a two-pillar approach on taxing the digital economy. Preliminary estimates about the impact of its recommendations show a modest increase in corporate income tax collection, the benefits of which are expected to go mostly to the developed countries. At the same time, there is a rise in national measures on taxing the digital economy, a move spurred by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also fully within the rights of countries under international law, despite labels of ‘unilateralism’. This research paper highlights the direct tax measures being taken by various countries and finds three key approaches to tax the digital economy: (1) digital service taxes; (2) nexus rules based on significant economic presence ;(3) withholding tax on digital transactions.
Taxing the Digital Economy to Fund the COVID-19 Response
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Daniel Uribe Teran
The COVID-19 pandemic has weakened global economic growth, raising pressures on revenue authorities to fund the fiscal stimulus necessary to contain the spread of the virus and provide income support to affected households. Accordingly, countries are taking national measures to tax the digital economy as highly digitalized businesses are seeing a rise in sales, subscribers and profits owing to the work from home lockdown measures. The three main policy responses undertaken are digital service taxes, nexus rules based on significant economic presence and withholding taxes on digital transactions. These are briefly summarized here and elaborated in detail in a forthcoming research paper by the South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI).
India and recent updates on the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework’s Two-Pillar Approach
By Subhash Jangala
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)/Group of Twenty (G20) Inclusive Framework in its January 2020 Statement has affirmed the commitment to arrive at a consensus-based solution to the tax challenges arising out of digitalization of the economy by the end of 2020 and take forward the on-going discussion on the two-pillar approach. This article examines some of the key issues in the Statement for developing countries, such as the scope, new nexus rules, role of accounting standards and proposed source rules. India’s proposal on profit attribution through a two-factor apportionment using employees and assets is mentioned as a potential option for country-wise thresholds in the new nexus.
The Role of South-South Cooperation in Combatting Illicit Financial Flows
By Manuel F Montes
Developing countries bear the brunt of costs from illicit financial flows (IFFs). These losses are the result of the facilities that the global system provides transnational companies, operating in multiple tax jurisdictions, to move their profits to favorable locations. International cooperation has been seen to be a key ingredient in restricting IFFs. However, a difference in interests in the treatment of many types of transactions between developed and developing countries is an obstacle to a fast solution of the problem. Developing countries must seek to seize the initiative to restrict their losses from IFFs. They can deploy various joint and concerted actions, within the umbrella of the principles of South-South cooperation for this purpose.