Streamlining the Architecture of International Tax through a UN Framework Convention on Tax Cooperation
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Sol Picciotto
The architecture of international taxation at present is fragmented among multiple institutions. The UN Tax Committee, the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes are some of the key institutions which set multiple and overlapping international tax standards. The lack of a genuinely global international tax body has long been a lacunae in the international economic system and a disadvantage for developing countries, who are unable to participate in international tax standard setting as full and equal participants. This has been borne out most recently by the Two Pillar Solution for taxing the digital economy that has come from the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework. The G-77’s renewed demand for a global tax body shows the issue continues to remain a priority for developing countries.
This Policy Brief provides a way for bringing the existing plethora of institutions under unified, universal and democratic control through a UN Framework Convention on Tax Cooperation (UN FCTC). This idea builds on the long-standing idea of a UN Tax Convention, which has also been recommended by the UN FACTI Panel. A UN FCTC would function similarly to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC), through a Conference of Parties (COP) which would give the existing institutions such as the UN Tax Committee and Inclusive Framework mandates to work on. In this regard, it would replace the narrow mandates of the OECD and G20 with mandates coming from all the Parties to the UN FCTC, which could be all countries, both developed and developing. A UN FCTC thus provides a practical and realistic way forward for a genuinely universal, intergovernmental framework for international tax rule making under the auspices of the United Nations.
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.
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.
The UN General Assembly Resolutions on COVID-19: Solemn Assurances for Access to Health Technologies without an Action Plan
By Nirmalya Syam
The United Nations (UN) has the mandate under the Charter of the United Nations to promote solutions to international health problems, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. While the UN secretariat, led by the Secretary-General, has undertaken a number of initiatives in response to COVID-19, member State initiatives in the UN has so far been limited to two resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly. Member States are currently negotiating an omnibus resolution of the General Assembly on COVID-19. This policy brief analyzes the extent to which the General Assembly addresses the issue of timely, equitable and affordable access to health technologies, particularly for developing countries who have greater vulnerability to COVID-19. The adopted resolutions make very broad pledges for global solidarity but lack specific commitments to guide actions by member States. The omnibus resolution currently under negotiation should provide specific guidance to member States on actions to be taken based on the principles of solidarity and multilateral cooperation in diverse aspects impacted by COVID-19.
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.
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.
Developing Country Coalitions in Multilateral Negotiations: Addressing Key Issues and Priorities of the Global South Agenda
By Adriano José Timossi
The recent increasing and unprecedented attacks on multilateralism and its institutions as well as the growing dangers of weakening international cooperation are regrettably leading to an enormous setback in the history of the international system. These developments could reverse decades of collective efforts to establish a more stable, equitable and inclusive path of development and social justice for all. An immediate impact is that international negotiations, which have increasingly become important for developing countries over the past decades, are now becoming even more complex. If the resurging path of unilateralism and protectionism adopted by some powerful countries is maintained, the risks of further deterioration grow even larger. The instabilities of the contemporary world pose serious risks to the achievement of the longstanding development goals of the Global South such as poverty eradication, the South’s ability to successfully address emerging challenges such as climate change, and to overall global stability, a pattern not seen since the Second World War. In this context, developing countries’ negotiating coalitions such as the Group of 77 (G77) + China and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), while respecting and adapting to the differences that might emerge within these large groups, need to remain together and ensure that their coalitions are preserved and strengthened. Working collectively will improve negotiating capacity and leverage and increase bargaining power of developing countries in the multilateral negotiations in order to get more balanced outcomes.
Impacts of Unilateral Coercive Measures in Developing Countries: the need to end the US embargo on Cuba
By Vicente Paolo Yu and Adriano José Timossi
On 1 November 2018, the 193 Member States of the United Nations (UN) held the twenty-seventh consecutive annual vote of the General Assembly on a resolution entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba.” The resolution was adopted with a near unanimous vote of 189 in favor, 2 abstentions (Ukraine and Moldova) and 2 against (United States of America and Israel). Before the vote and for the first time since the resolution was submitted in 1992, the US presented a set of eight proposed amendments to be considered by the 193 Member States, which were all rejected.
The present policy brief is a summary of the input prepared by the South Centre as a contribution to the 2019 report of the Secretary-General with respect to the imposition of unilateral economic, finance and trade measures by one State against another that is prepared pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 73/8.
The Future of Investor-State Dispute Settlement Deliberated at UNCITRAL: Unveiling a Dichotomy between Reforming and Consolidating the Current Regime
By Kinda Mohamadieh
Reform of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is being deliberated at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group III, which will be meeting in New York between the 1st and 5th of April 2019. For several years, the ISDS regime has been under scrutiny from voices in both developed and developing countries. ISDS reforms have been addressed in multiple forums, including national, bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Reforms could include moving away from arbitration as the norm for dispute settlement between foreign investors and host states or end up by introducing adaptations that might make arbitration in ISDS cases perform in a more acceptable way. Finding one-size-fits-all solutions in these deliberations is unlikely. Advancing relevant reforms would require full and effective participation of interested countries, equal opportunity for different points of views to be heard and integrated into the design of any potential outcome, and effective mechanisms to address any potential conflicts of interest within this forum.