Tax Havens

Research Paper 111, May 2020

National Measures on Taxing the Digital Economy

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.

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Book by the South Centre, 2019

International Tax Cooperation: Perspectives from the Global South

About the Book:

A substantive reform of the global tax system involving a variety of multilateral platforms is underway.  The question is not whether the tax standards and practices will change, but in which direction.

Developing countries have long sought changes in rules, standards and procedures shaping the allocation of taxing rights among sovereign states. In the wake of the 2008-2010 Great Recession, developed country governments engaged in massive public sector layoffs and channeling enormous public resources to bail out large financial companies and their wealthy investors.  The Panama Papers, the Paradise Papers, the Lux Leaks became household words in the United States and Europe because of the journalistic coverage.  Other scandals, such as the “cum/ex” fraud in Germany involving a loophole in the taxing of dividend receipts were less known but just as materially significant.  Tax reform, particularly as it applied to the treatment of corporations working in multiple tax jurisdictions, thus became not only a problem of developing countries but an issue of global concern.

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Statement, September 2019

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.

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Research Paper 94, April 2019

Tax Haven Listing in Multiple Hues: Blind, Winking or Conniving?

By Jahanzeb Akhtar and Verónica Grondona

Tax havens are among the biggest challenges faced by developing countries in achieving their national development goals. States, international organisations, multilateral agencies and non-governmental organisations have all made several efforts at compiling ‘lists’ of tax havens at the multilateral and national levels, with varying levels of seriousness and outcomes. This research paper examines these efforts by analysing the objectivity of criteria used and the clarity of the final outcome in a comparative manner. The paper is organized into four sections dealing with the tax haven blacklisting by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the countries of the South, the European Union (EU) and an analysis across lists. The concluding section offers some suggestions.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 7, February 2019

Developing Countries and the Contemporary International Tax System: BEPS and other issues

By Marcos Aurélio Pereira Valadão

This policy brief addresses the design of international taxation and tax cooperation in the context of issues presented in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)/Group of Twenty (G20) Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS)Project. It further considers their significance for developing countries and provides the Brazilian approach to those issues. The brief concludes by exploring the importance of regional cooperation vis-à-vis international organizations and highlights relevant considerations for developing countries engaging with the contemporary international tax system.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 6, January 2019

Illicit Financial Flows: Conceptual and Practical Issues

By Hon. Irene Ovonji-Odida and Algresia Akwi-Ogojo

The issue of illicit financial flows (IFFs) is of great significance for many countries looking to mobilize domestic resources for achieving their development goals. The High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, led by H.E. Thabo Mbeki, brought the issue into the global spotlight, notably since the release of exposés like the ‘Panama Papers’. This policy brief elaborates on the conceptual underpinnings of IFFs, its sources and the development costs they generate. Building on the report of the High Level Panel, it provides recommendations to stem IFFs from developing countries.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 5, December 2018

The Definition and Treatment of Tax Havens in Brazilian Tax  Law between 1995 and 2015

By Alexandre Akio Lage Martins

Over the years, a number of ‘tax haven lists’ have been created at the national and international level, with varying definitions and criteria used to identify jurisdictions falling under their scope. This policy brief presents the experience of Brazil in compiling their national list of tax havens, the road map they followed for its implementation, and the impact that it has had on their foreign investment flows. It also provides the lessons learnt from this experience, which can be positively utilized by other developing countries.

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Research Paper 87, November 2018

Stemming ‘Commercial’ Illicit Financial Flows & Developing Country Innovations in the Global Tax Reform Agenda

By Manuel F. Montes, Daniel Uribe and Danish

Illicit Financial Flows generated due to the commercial activities of multinational enterprises are quantitatively the most important challenge faced by developing countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Current efforts for stemming these illicit flows and reforming the international tax system are however being led by developed countries, with developing country interests poorly reflected in the reform agenda. This research paper highlights the tax issues of great priority for developing countries and how international tax cooperation can contribute to preventing such illicit flows.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 1, May 2018

Ecuador and Its Fight Against Tax Havens

Taxation has been a key tool in improving Ecuador’s Gini coefficient. Ecuador has improved how it manages tax collection and implemented domestic anti-fraud regulations and international mechanisms concerning aspects such as transfer pricing and tax havens. These measures have helped to increase the tax base, which has had a positive impact on the redistribution of wealth and equality. The increase in the tax base has also led to more social investments in health care, education, the road infrastructure, etc.

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