Digital Economy

SouthViews No. 215, 6 April 2021

Technology and inequality: can we decolonise the digital world?

By Padmashree Gehl Sampath

In this article, the author argues that techno-centric explanations of progress and industrialisation are deeply entrenched in a wider social context that encourages us to ignore the historical roots of current inequalities – which, in fact, are not amenable to a technological solution alone. Making the data economy work for all will require a serious reflection on how we want to frame this debate, and how to align ourselves to a common vision of social progress that technology could help to accomplish.

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SC Submission, March 2021

Comments on Discussion Draft: Taxation of Software Payments as Royalties

South Centre Tax Initiative

The South Centre supports the proposal being discussed in the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (UN Tax Committee) to tax payments for computer software as royalties. This will help developing countries more effectively tax the digitalized economy and will bring clarity to the application of existing bilateral tax treaties.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 13, February 2021

Making the UN Tax Committee more effective for developing countries

By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary

The United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (UN Tax Committee) is an important and influential subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that shapes standards and guidelines on international taxation. These are the rules through which Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) are taxed. Its role post-COVID-19 has become even more important as countries struggle to raise revenue. Despite being under-resourced, it has produced valuable guidance, especially on the crucial question of the digital economy. As a new Membership of the Committee is about to be selected, this Policy Brief provides practical recommendations on how the Committee can be reformed to be made more effective, especially for the interests of developing countries.

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Report by the South Centre Tax Initiative’s Developing Country Expert Group, August 2020

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.

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SCTI Submission, October 2020

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.

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SouthViews No. 206, 25 September 2020

Digital Transformation: Prioritizing Data Localization

By Bilal Zaka

After years of rather stable and predictable growth of telecommunications and software systems, the last decade has witnessed a tremendous shift towards unpredictable and disruptive innovations in every field of life. Today, we are experiencing the true social, political, financial and cultural effects of what is termed as globalization, deregulation, liberalization and convergence. Some major factors influencing this change are proliferation of mobile devices, ubiquitous wireless access to internet and increasing interventions of online or internet-driven technologies. While this digital transformation is inevitable, it is imperative that we equip ourselves to handle the negative implications of external influence caused by foreign dependencies and the non-regulatory nature of the new information ecosystem.

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Document de Recherche 111, Septembre 2020

Mesures nationales sur l’imposition de l’économie numérique

Par Veronica 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.

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Documento de Investigación 111, Septiembre 2020

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.

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Research Paper 117, September 2020

Data in Legal Limbo: Ownership, sovereignty, or a digital public goods regime?

By Dr. Carlos M. Correa

The legal characterization and design of a legal regime for data poses one of the most important contemporary challenges to law professionals and policy makers. How such a framework is designed matters for what kind of insertion a society will have in the digital economy, and the extent to which a country will be able to benefit from the opportunities opened by big data. The current policy space to devise legal regimes adapted to national circumstances allows countries to seek for new solutions that take into account differences in legal systems, levels of economic and technological development, and national objectives and priorities.

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SC Webinar Series on Development and COVID-19

Webinar on Tax Policy Options For Funding the Post-COVID Recovery in the Global South

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected tax revenue collection globally, with the Global South especially hard-hit. The decline in economic activity has meant reduced corporate profits, declining consumption and increasing unemployment. This in turn implies declining revenue from corporate income taxes, goods and services taxes and personal income taxes. Resource-rich countries are especially being affected by the drop in global commodity prices and decline in international trade. This reduction in revenue collection is limiting developing countries’ ability to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis. It is therefore necessary to explore what are the concrete tax policy measures developing countries can take to raise revenue at this critical time. Measures pertaining to the digitalized economy are of particular importance given the increasing sales of tech companies and highly digitalized businesses during the lockdown.

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SCTI Submission, June 2020

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.

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SCTI Submission, May 2020

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.

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