As globalisation has pushed through complex inter-State trade in goods and services, in parallel there is a growing complexity in determining the taxation of Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) in an increasingly digitalized economy. This report reviews existing bilateral tax treaties between South Centre’s Member States and States where most digitalised MNEs are headquartered, using a threshold of EUR 750 million in annual turnover to limit the number of in-scope MNEs in the study. This analysis produced primary data on South Centre Member States’ source taxing rights scores and the implications of this on tax treaty negotiations to enable effective taxation in the digital economy through the inclusion of the United Nations (UN) solution for digital taxation, Article 12B of the UN Model Tax Convention. Further, the study sought to identify ‘weak’ tax treaties with low source taxing rights which merited a comprehensive renegotiation beyond the inclusion of Article 12B. Furthermore, the reports examined the treatment of “Computer Software” in the tax treaties under study, and concluded with recommendations going forward.
By Sol Picciotto, Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed, Alex Cobham, Rasmi Ranjan Das, Emmanuel Eze, Bob Michel
This paper puts forward an alternative to the proposed multilateral convention under Pillar One of the BEPS project, by building on and going beyond the progress made so far. A new direction was signalled in 2019 by the G-24 paper proposing a taxable nexus based on significant economic presence, combined with fractional apportionment. The resulting measures agreed under the two Pillars entail acceptance in principle of this approach, and also provide detailed technical standards for its implementation. These include: (i) a taxable nexus based on a quantitative threshold of sales revenues; (ii) a methodology for defining the global consolidated profits of MNEs for tax purposes, and (iii) detailed technical standards for defining and quantifying the factors that reflect the real activities of MNEs in a jurisdiction (sales, assets and employees).
The time is now right to take up the roadmap outlined by the G-24. The work done shows that technical obstacles can be overcome, the challenge is essentially political. This paper aims to provide a blueprint for immediate measures that States can take, while engaging in deliberation at national, regional and international levels for a global drive towards practical and equitable reforms. Unitary taxation with formulary apportionment is the only fair and effective way to ensure taxation of MNEs where economic activities occur, as mandated by the G20. It can ensure that MNE profits are taxed once and only once, provide stability and certainty for business, and establish a basis for international tax rules fit for the 21st century.
* Also available in French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.
The GloBE Rules: Challenges for Developing Countries and Smart Policy Options to Protect Their Tax Base
By Emmanuel Eze, Sol Picciotto, Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed, Abdul Muheet Chowdhary, Bob Michel and Tommaso Faccio
The OECD global minimum tax of 15%, known as the Global Anti-Base Erosion (GloBE) Rules, have meant that developing countries need to consider what policy responses to take to ensure they collect the minimum tax and not cede it to developed countries. One option being promoted by the OECD is the “Qualified Domestic Minimum Top Up Tax” (QDMTT), with the claim that it will help developing countries collect the minimum tax of 15%. This Policy Brief points out that under the QDMTT MNEs can still pay zero taxes, it does not guarantee tax collection, it is complex to administer, it curtails national sovereignty in the form of the “peer review” mechanism and it is relevant mainly for tax havens which are destinations of profit shifting. The Brief then outlines policy options relevant for developing countries, namely Alternative Minimum Taxes (AMTs) and reform of tax incentives.
TAXING MULTINATIONALS: THE BEPS PROPOSALS AND ALTERNATIVES
BEPS Monitoring Group, 6 July 2023
This briefing by the BEPS Monitoring Group (BMG) analyses the outcomes of the latest phase of the G20/OECD project on base erosion and profit shifting, and outlines options and alternatives, especially for developing countries. The BMG is a network of experts on various aspects of international tax, set up by a number of civil society organizations which research and campaign for tax justice including the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, Red de Justicia Fiscal de America Latina y el Caribe, Tax Justice Network, Christian Aid, Action Aid, Oxfam, and Tax Research UK. This report has not been approved in advance by these organizations, which do not necessarily accept every detail or specific point made here, but they support the work of the BMG and endorse its general perspectives. It is based on previous reports, and has been drafted by South Centre’s Abdul Muheet Chowdhary, Alex Cobham, Emmanuel Eze, Tommaso Faccio, Jeffery Kadet, Bob Michel, and Sol Picciotto.
COVID-19 impacted humanity in many ways and one such impact is wide acceptance of the concept of Work From Home (WFH) by the corporate sector. Previously, WFH did exist in some countries, perhaps at a much smaller scale, but compulsions of COVID-19 have made WFH a new normal. This new normal also creates new tax challenges for the Multinational Enterprises (MNEs). Does the employee create a taxable presence in the countries where they are working remotely through a ”permanent establishment” and if yes what are the profits attributable to such permanent establishment?
The existing treaty provisions are likely to result in widespread litigation on these issues. It is desirable that a new provision is introduced in the tax treaties to tackle these issues. The suggested remote worker permanent establishment provision adopts a very simple measurable threshold for determination of permanent establishment and also attempts to balance taxing rights of the country of source as well as residence. A simple standardised approach could be adopted for determining the profits attributable to such permanent establishment.
With the objective of collecting information regarding the role of businesses in realising the right to development, Prof Surya Deva, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development, made an open call for inputs from various stakeholders such as States, international organisations, national human rights institutions, civil society organisations, and others.
In line with its programme of work, the South Centre is keen to submit the following information to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development considering the need to achieve progress on the fulfilment of social rights, in particular the Right to Development (RtD) and its interface with issues such as climate change, corporate responsibility, food security and small farmers’ livelihood.
Taxation of Digital Services: what hope for the African States?
By ADJEYI Kodzo Senyo, KOUEVI Tsotso and AMAGLO Kokou Essegbe
Globalization makes it necessary to adapt multinational taxation by taking into account the place of use or consumption of goods and services. “Pillar 1” of the OECD aims to allow States in which multinationals market products or services, or collect data and content from users, to benefit from a portion of their residual consolidated worldwide profit. Since residual profit is a function of the turnover and profit achieved in the jurisdiction, this solution can only be an advantage if, beyond the rules of fair taxation, efforts are made to promote the use of digital services. Internet access is one of the levers that can increase the consumption of digital services. The current situation in Africa according to statistics published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) shows low rates of internet access compared to other continents.
Global Minimum Taxation of Multinationals: Opportunities and risks for some African States
By AMAGLO Kokou Essegbe, KOUEVI Tsotso and ADJEYI Kodzo Senyo
To face the challenges posed by the digitization of the economy, the OECD’s Inclusive Framework has developed two Pillars to address tax base erosion and profit shifting. The objective of Pillar Two is to define the minimum amount of tax to be paid by multinational enterprises in the jurisdictions where they operate. The OECD’s Inclusive Framework has adopted an average effective rate of 15% for this purpose. The objective of this study is to show whether the implementation of Pillar Two in African jurisdictions constitutes an opportunity or a risk for them.
The results show that it is an opportunity for countries with a low effective tax rate and a risk for countries with a high effective tax rate. Therefore, setting a 15% income tax rate for non-resident multinationals is an opportunity for some African countries. For it would constitute for these countries a source of additional tax revenue mobilization. For this reform to be an opportunity for Africa, however, the minimum effective tax rate must be raised to at least 20%, as was demanded by the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF).
The risk that lies in the application of an effective rate of 15% for Africa as a whole is that some African countries might have to reduce their effective tax rate. This would be a loss of revenue for those African countries. Since most countries in the African jurisdiction have effective tax rates and statutory corporate income tax rates that are more than 20 percent, above the set average effective rate, multinationals would seek to shift their profits to the countries with the most advantageous taxation. This could lead to a transfer of profits to other jurisdictions.
Digital taxation under the OECD Amount A and UN Article 12B mechanisms for market jurisdictions in Africa: a comparative analysis
By Erica Rakotonirina
This Policy Brief examines the need for the evolution and harmonization of international taxation in the face of the digitalization of economic transactions.
Between the OECD proposal for shared taxation of residual profits through the Amount A mechanism and the UN proposal of Article 12B for taxing income from Automated Digital Services on a gross basis through shared but capped taxation, with an optional variant of the taxation of net profits, African States need to make vital political and technical choices.
The strategic negotiations must include regulatory sustainability, the right balance and fiscal fairness between the divergent interests of residence states vs source states (which include almost all African countries), and MNEs in their quest for profit and expansion.
The Policy Brief carries out quantified evaluation of possible revenue estimates using a case study approach. However, such an exercise remains difficult for questions of accessibility and reliability of data relating to the activities of multinational companies.
To be realistic, the scope of the study was restricted to a reference company in the digital sector but targeted economies of different scales. The results of the revenue estimates represent an optimistic case of the impacts on tax revenues of the application of the OECD and UN measures on different types of economies.
COMMENTS ON PILLAR ONE – AMOUNT A: DRAFT MULTILATERAL CONVENTION PROVISIONS ON DIGITAL SERVICES TAXES AND OTHER RELEVANT SIMILAR MEASURES
The BEPS Monitoring Group, 25 January 2023
The BEPS Monitoring Group submitted comments to the public consultation on the draft provisions on withdrawal of Digital Services Taxes and ‘relevant similar measures’. Abdul Muheet Chowdhary, Senior Programme Officer of the South Centre Tax Initiative, was a contributor.
Climate Finance Withholding Mechanism: Exploring a potential solution for climate finance needs of the developing countries
By Radhakishan Rawal
The developed countries’ commitment to provide climate finance to the developing countries has remained unfulfilled. The Climate Finance Withholding Mechanism (CFWM) is a potential solution for addressing climate finance needs of the developing countries. The CFWM adopts the well settled “withholding mechanism” under the tax laws to provide a steady flow of funds to the developing countries.
Multinational enterprises’ (MNEs) tax residents of developed countries earn income from the developing countries and pay tax on such income in the developed countries. The CFWM requires retention in the developing country, of the amount of tax so payable by the MNE, towards climate finance commitments of the developed countries. The CFWM does not result in additional tax outflow for the MNEs and also does not adversely impact taxing rights of the developed countries. The CFWM results in application of tax revenue of the developed countries towards their climate finance commitments. The CFWM does not address all the issues related to the climate finance problem but only attempts to speed up the flow of funds to the developing countries from where the relevant income originates.
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.