Multilateral Instrument (MLI)

Statement, 13 October 2021

Statement by the South Centre on the Two Pillar Solution to Address the Tax Challenges Arising from the Digitalisation of the Economy

The South Centre takes note of the Statement by 136 member jurisdictions of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework (IF) made on 8 October 2021, on a two-pillar solution to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy. The broad architecture of the agreement is now in place and it is clear to developing countries what they can expect from it.

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SC Submission, September 2021

Comments on Draft Agenda of the UN Tax Committee

The South Centre welcomes the UN Tax Committee’s invitation of public comments into its draft agenda and four-year work plan. By engaging the public in preparing the work plan, the UN Tax Committee’s work can be more responsive to the needs of developing countries, and of UN Member States as a whole. By stating that “the goal to ensure that the Committee’s agenda is practical and relevant to developing countries and includes the most pressing challenges they face in tax policy and administration” the Committee has shown a laudable intent which is also in line with its mandate, which is to give special attention to developing countries. The South Centre offers its written comments on the three topics on which inputs have been requested. These have been prepared based on consultation with the South Centre’s Member States, which are exclusively developing countries.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 18, September 2021

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.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 17, July 2021

An Albatross Around the Neck of Developing Nations – MFN Clause in Tax Treaties

By Deepak Kapoor, IRS

The Most Favoured Nation (“MFN”) clause in double taxation avoidance conventions epitomises the basic principle of non-discrimination and intends to bring parity in business and investment opportunities among treaty partner countries and jurisdictions. Inclusion of provisions like MFN and non-discrimination clauses in tax treaties are intended to promote equity among treaty partners. In the context of tax treaties between developed and developing countries, the MFN clauses also act as negotiating tools to bargain for better treaty tax rates.

However, lately these clauses have started demonstrating disadvantageous effects for the source countries, which are mostly developing countries. The MFN clauses generally do not appear to be creating potential risks if they are operational between two equally developed countries but when the relationship is between a developed and developing country, where one partner receives more investments from the other than it makes, such risks are inevitable. Lately, problems have started arising due to various interpretations of the MFN clauses by the courts forcing the source countries to extend benefits of reduced rates and restricted scope to treaty partner countries under the MFN rules. Such beneficial interpretations have gone beyond the basic objective and purpose of the MFN clauses.

In light of recent court cases in South Africa and India, it appears that the MFN clauses are creating opportunities for “reduced taxation” and leading to unintended erosion of tax base of source countries. The problem also lies with the ambiguous drafting and formulations of the MFN clauses, which eventually leads to unexpected negative outcomes for countries who have bound themselves with the future commitments. Therefore, a comprehensive review of existing MFN clauses in tax treaties, their cross connections and possible negative spill over effects to other treaties is the urgent need of the hour for the source jurisdictions.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 16, July 2021

Article 12B – A tax treaty solution by the UN Tax Committee for taxing digital incomes

By Rajat Bansal

Taxation of income of multinational enterprises engaged in digitalised businesses by source or market jurisdictions is currently the most important challenge before the international tax community. The current membership of the United Nations Tax Committee in April 2021 finalised a tax treaty solution to address this challenge. This brief explains the rationale for coming up with a particular solution of inserting a new Article in the United Nations Model Tax Convention, its merits and how it can be beneficial for all countries, especially the developing ones.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 15, June 2021

Conceptualizing a UN Multilateral Instrument

By Radhakishan Rawal

Recent changes to the United Nations (UN) Model Tax Convention have resulted in provisions that are more advantageous for developing countries in raising revenue through international taxation, i.e. taxation of foreign income. These include taxation of income from automated digital services, software payments, capital gains and others. Normally, these would be incorporated into bilateral tax treaties through time-taking negotiations. A UN Multilateral Instrument (MLI) provides a speedy manner for updating multiple tax treaties through a single negotiation. This will help developing countries in collecting revenue more quickly. This Policy Brief discusses the possible structure of such an MLI.

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