Taxing Big Tech: Policy Options for Developing Countries
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Sébastien Babou Diasso
Even as the COVID-19 crisis wreaked havoc on the global economy, it gave rise to a small set of winners, namely Big Tech. The increasing prevalence of remote work and an acceleration of the digitalization of the economy allowed Big Tech companies to raise enormous revenues during the pandemic, which in some cases dwarfed the gross domestic product (GDP) of several countries. This policy brief explores the rising untaxed profits of Big Tech in particular, and the digitalized economy in general, and explains why the existing rules are insufficient. It also critically examines the solution that has been devised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of developed countries. Finally, it outlines alternative policy options that are more suitable for developing countries to tax the profits of Big Tech.
Illicit Financial Flows and Stolen Asset Recovery: The Global North Must Act
by Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Sebastien Babou Diasso
Domestic resource mobilization is essential for developing countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by the deadline of 2030. Concomitantly, Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), which also lead to asset theft, are major means through which these countries are losing resources. This research paper analyzes the World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery (STAR) database and shows that countries from where assets have been stolen are mostly developing countries, and countries where the stolen assets have been hidden are developed countries. The paper also shows that regarding the pending or ongoing asset recovery cases, there is a clear pattern where the majority of countries waiting to have their assets returned are developing countries, and those who must return them are developed countries. There is an unexplained and unjustified delay by developed countries in the process of returning the frozen assets to developing countries which needs to be addressed as soon as possible. There is also an evaluation of international legal reforms which can be implemented to accelerate the asset recovery process. However, all these will need the full commitment of Global North countries where most of the stolen assets are hidden and which bear the brunt of responsibility for returning them to the developing countries.
Taux Minimum d’Impôt Mondial : Détaché des réalités des pays en développement
Par Sébastien Babou Diasso
Sous la direction des pays du G20 et de l’organisation de Coopération et de Développement Economique (OCDE), le Cadre Inclusif sur la réforme de la fiscalité internationale a adopté le 8 octobre 2021 une solution à deux piliers visant à résoudre les défis auxquels sont confrontés les pays dans le système fiscal actuel au niveau international. Cependant, le moins que l’on puisse dire, c’est que ces solutions n’apportent pas de réponses aux préoccupations de nombreux pays en développement, en particulier le taux d’impôt minimum de 15%, dans un contexte où la plupart des pays en développement membres de Centre Sud et du G-77+Chine ont déjà des taux effectifs bien au-dessus de ce minimum. Cette note vise à informer sur les niveaux actuels des taux d’imposition effectifs dans les pays en développement, pour lesquels les données sont disponibles, et à montrer pourquoi il ne serait pas pertinent de prendre en compte le taux minimum adopté dans le cadre inclusif. Mobiliser plus de ressources fiscales des entreprises multinationales est important pour les pays en développement pour la réalisation des Objectifs de Développement Durable. Nous recommandons donc que les pays en développement ignorent simplement le pilier deux et maintiennent leurs taux d’imposition actuels, ou les augmentent à des niveaux plus adaptés à travers l’application de mesures unilatérales plutôt que d’accepter d’être soumis à la procédure indiquée dans le pilier deux s’ils décident de l’appliquer.
Global Minimum Tax Rate: Detached from Developing Country Realities
By Sebastien Babou Diasso
Under the umbrella of the G20 and the OECD, the Inclusive Framework adopted on 8 October 2021 a two-pillar solution to address tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy. However, these solutions do not respond to the needs of many developing countries, in particular the global tax minimum rate of 15%, in a context where most developing countries, defined as Member States of the South Centre and the G-77+China, have an average effective tax rate higher than the adopted rate. This policy brief provides information of the current effective tax rates in some developing countries, and highlights why the minimum rate of 15% in Pillar Two is insufficient for them. Tax revenue mobilization is important for developing countries to achieve the sustainable development goals. It is thereby recommended that developing countries simply ignore Pillar Two and maintain their current higher rate or increase their rate to an appropriate level and enforce it through unilateral measures rather than the rule order under Pillar Two, which they will have to follow if they decide to implement it.
Global Minimum Corporate Tax: Interaction of Income Inclusion Rule with Controlled Foreign Corporation and Tax-sparing Provisions
By Kuldeep Sharma, ADIT (CIOT,UK), FTI (Australia), Insolvency Professional (IBBI)
The OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS (the Inclusive Framework) agreed on 8 October 2021 to the Statement on the Two-Pillar Solution to Address the Tax Challenges Arising from the Digitalisation of the Economy. The Two-Pillar Solution will ensure that MNEs will be subject to a minimum tax rate of 15%, and will re-allocate profit of the largest and most profitable MNEs to countries worldwide. Under these recommendations, inter alia, Pillar Two consists of two interlocking domestic rules (together the Global Anti-Base Erosion Rules (GloBE)), which includes an Income Inclusion Rule (IIR) to impose a top-up tax on a parent entity in respect of the low taxed income of a constituent entity. The IIR shall be incorporated in domestic laws of opting jurisdictions, and seems to have profound interaction with the Controlled Foreign Corporation (CFC) and tax-sparing provisions. The IIR operates in a way that is closely comparable to a CFC rule and raises the same treaty questions as raised by CFC rules, although there are a number of differences between the IIR and the CFC rules. In the context of IIR, there may be a case when the Ultimate Parent Entity (UPE) is taxed on the Constituent Entities’ (CEs) income and the spared tax is not considered as covered taxes for calculating the Effective Tax Rate (ETR) of the CE. This generates a situation for developing countries in which they have to shore up their ETR by overhauling their tax incentive regimes and retooling domestic legal framework for more effective taxation of MNEs to avoid losing a significant portion of their tax right/base to a developed country. Adoption of IIR (which is an extension of CFC rules) under Pillar Two is therefore going to create conflict with the tax-sparing rules. From the perspective of developing countries, the adoption of GloBE implies losing tax incentives as a tax policy instrument to attract foreign direct investment. This is why every country involved, but especially developing countries, should undertake a thorough examination to determine whether such measures are convenient for their interests in the long run.
The Place of Multilateralism in Tax Reforms: Exclusionary Outcomes of a Purported Inclusive Framework
By Alexander Ezenagu
Countries have come to accept the wide application of international tax rules in both their domestic and international tax affairs. However, where international tax rules fall short of the legitimate expectations of countries and fail to provide necessary guidance, countries may be compelled to seek other sources of guidance. In this paper, it is argued that in the absence and failure of international tax rules to provide adequate guidance and encourage a fair tax system, countries should not be prohibited from exercising their fiscal sovereignty.
Making the UN Tax Committee’s Subcommittees More Effective for Developing Countries
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary, Sebastien Babou Diasso, and Aaditri Solankii
New United Nations (UN) Tax Committee Members have been appointed by the UN Secretary-General and among them 13 out of 25 are from developing countries. The Committee sets international tax standards, vital for financing for development, and works mainly through its Subcommittees. However, an unhealthy trend over time has been the disproportionate involvement of business representatives in the Subcommittees, which can be harmful for promoting the interests of developing countries. This policy brief examines this trend and outlines some of the tools available to developing countries to promote their interests in the Subcommittees.
Developing Country Demands for an Equitable Digital Tax Solution
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary
The taxation of the digitalized economy is the foremost challenge in international taxation today. Countries around the world, especially developing countries, are struggling with taxing the rising profits of major tech giants which operate on entirely new business models that have made traditional international tax rules obsolete. A “Two Pillar solution” is being negotiated in the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS that seeks to update these rules, re-allocate taxing rights and establish a global minimum tax. However, as it stands, the solution has very limited tax revenue benefits for developing countries and is administratively complex. For the solution to be durable, it must be equitable, and accordingly must incorporate the concerns of developing countries going forward.
Ending Extreme Poverty by Ending Global Tax Avoidance
by Abdul Muheet Chowdhary
The world is estimated to lose around USD 500-600 billion in revenues from corporate tax avoidance each year. Ensuring that governments can collect this revenue through ending global tax avoidance will play a major role in ending extreme poverty. Overseas aid provided to developing countries focused on eliminating extreme poverty must therefore incorporate addressing tax avoidance, especially by Multinational Enterprises, as a core component of their efforts.
Combatting Tax Treaty Abuse: Tools available under the BEPS Multilateral Instrument
By Kuldeep Sharma, ADIT (CIOT,UK)
The anxiety of taxpayers, consultants and advisors over the consistent application of Principal Purpose Test (PPT) provisions in tax treaties can now be put to rest as tax authorities are expected to consistently read the PPT provisions in conjunction with the preamble, i.e. the key to application of PPT provisions lies in the preamble of the treaty itself. This follows on taking a leaf out of the Preamble to the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (MLI), Vienna Convention, Commentaries on PPT in the respective Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and United Nations (UN) Model Tax Convention (MTC), 2017 and Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) instructions on PPT which abundantly highlight on conjoint application of the preamble in the course of invocation of PPT provisions. Now, the entire focus of extending treaty benefits has shifted to undertaking bonafide transactions and preventing double taxation as against a tendency of securing tax savings through tax avoidance. Therefore, PPT as read with the preamble can clearly be invoked to combat treaty-shopping arrangements, abusive tax planning and abusive tax avoidance arrangements or transactions. At the same time, tax authorities in any part of the world may not be inclined to invoke PPT as read with the preamble in respect of any arrangement or transaction when taxpayers are able to discharge their onus establishing that (below mentioned conditions to be satisfied in tandem):
– genuine business and commercial reasons for a transaction exist;
– a purpose for the transaction cannot be ascribed to non-taxation or reduced taxation through tax evasion or tax avoidance;
– despite no tax advantages, the transaction would be carried out exactly in the same way; and
– it cannot reasonably be considered that one of the principal purposes of the arrangement or transaction is to obtain treaty benefits and that the object and purpose of the treaty is getting defeated.
Financial integrity for sustainable development: Importance of developing country joint action on tax, corruption and money-laundering
By Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki
Countries are beginning to realize that the landmark agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals will be unrealized if financing is not found for the agenda. Much of that financing can be found if illicit financial flows are stopped. In March 2020, the Presidents of the United Nations General Assembly and Economic and Social Council convened a High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (FACTI Panel) to review global cooperation and recommend further actions by the international community as a contribution. Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, the Co-Chair of the FACTI Panel, outlines the measures that the FACTI Panel recommended to combat tax abuse, corruption and money-laundering. He emphasizes the importance of developing countries taking a leading role in proposing solutions, and the value of inclusive international institutions. The text below is based on remarks that were made at a briefing to the Group of 77 and China in Geneva in April 2021, jointly organized by the FACTI Panel Secretariat and the South Centre. The Panel’s full report can be read at: http://www.factipanel.org/report.