Comments on the STATEMENT ON A TWO-PILLAR SOLUTION TO ADDRESS THE TAX CHALLENGES ARISING FROM THE DIGITALISATION OF THE ECONOMY
The BEPS Monitoring Group, 31 July 2021
On 1 July 2021 a statement was issued by the OECD outlining the agreement reached through the Inclusive Framework of the OECD/G20 base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) project. These comments by the BEPS Monitoring Group (BMG) aim to contribute to a wider public understanding of the issues involved. 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 Sol Picciotto with comments and contributions by Abdul Muheet Chowdhary (Senior Programme Officer, South Centre Tax Initiative), Jeffery Kadet, Annet Oguttu, Sudarshan Rangan, Attiya Waris, and Francis Weyzig.
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.
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.
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.
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 130 members of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework (IF) on a two-pillar solution to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy. The agreement by the members is indeed historic and marks progress in the right direction. Unfortunately, the agreed upon solution is limited and disappointing as it falls short of the more ambitious and transformational reforms needed for a balanced agreement that fully responds to the concerns of developing countries, especially in the backdrop of the socioeconomic challenges posed by the COVID pandemic. Nine jurisdictions have not agreed with the statement, with the reasons still not public; however, it is a signal that cannot be ignored.
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.
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.
Designing Pro-Health Competition Policies in Developing Countries
By Vitor Henrique Pinto Ido
Competition law and policy has become an important tool for countries to promote access to pharmaceuticals. How can countries design and enforce competition policies that are suitable to the particularities of developing countries? What are the main anti-competitive tactics in the pharmaceutical sector, and how should they be dealt with? This paper deals with these issues, taking into account the socio-economic relevance of access to health products. It finds that developing countries should apply their competition laws in the pharmaceutical sector more actively, and that there is ample policy space under international law to do so. It provides an overview of the way in which competition policies have been applied in some industrialized and developing countries and explores how such policies can be designed and implemented in the context of developing countries.
Redistributing Taxing Rights to the Global South through the Digitalized Economy
By Carlos Protto
A historic discussion is underway within both the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on redistributing taxing rights to the Global South through proposals on taxing the digitalized economy. An overview of the issues at stake is provided in this SouthViews by Carlos Protto, Member of the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters and Argentina’s representative in the Steering Group of the OECD/Group of Twenty (G20) Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). The text is based on his presentation at the international virtual seminar co-organized by the South Centre on “Equity in Global Tax Regimes and Implications for the SDGs” held on 7 October 2020. The recording is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wAESmfvRN4&ab_channel=uomlive.
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.
Base Erosion and Profit Shifting in the Extractive Industries
By Danish and Daniel Uribe
Developing countries with significant natural resources have not fully utilised them for financing their development aspirations. Extractive industries and the revenue generated from their extractive activities need to constitute a larger share of domestic resource mobilisation. However, the sector remains beset with massive tax base erosion and profit shifting by large multinational companies. This policy brief therefore looks at the extractive industries, and the potential impact of their practices on the national policies and regulations in developing countries. It further also considers some current initiatives at the international level for enabling countries to obtain more revenue from natural resource extraction, and offers some observations on the policy options available to developing countries.