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.
Taxing the Digital Economy to Fund the COVID-19 Response
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Daniel Uribe Teran
The COVID-19 pandemic has weakened global economic growth, raising pressures on revenue authorities to fund the fiscal stimulus necessary to contain the spread of the virus and provide income support to affected households. Accordingly, countries are taking national measures to tax the digital economy as highly digitalized businesses are seeing a rise in sales, subscribers and profits owing to the work from home lockdown measures. The three main policy responses undertaken are digital service taxes, nexus rules based on significant economic presence and withholding taxes on digital transactions. These are briefly summarized here and elaborated in detail in a forthcoming research paper by the South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI).
India and recent updates on the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework’s Two-Pillar Approach
By Subhash Jangala
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)/Group of Twenty (G20) Inclusive Framework in its January 2020 Statement has affirmed the commitment to arrive at a consensus-based solution to the tax challenges arising out of digitalization of the economy by the end of 2020 and take forward the on-going discussion on the two-pillar approach. This article examines some of the key issues in the Statement for developing countries, such as the scope, new nexus rules, role of accounting standards and proposed source rules. India’s proposal on profit attribution through a two-factor apportionment using employees and assets is mentioned as a potential option for country-wise thresholds in the new nexus.
The Role of South-South Cooperation in Combatting Illicit Financial Flows
By Manuel F Montes
Developing countries bear the brunt of costs from illicit financial flows (IFFs). These losses are the result of the facilities that the global system provides transnational companies, operating in multiple tax jurisdictions, to move their profits to favorable locations. International cooperation has been seen to be a key ingredient in restricting IFFs. However, a difference in interests in the treatment of many types of transactions between developed and developing countries is an obstacle to a fast solution of the problem. Developing countries must seek to seize the initiative to restrict their losses from IFFs. They can deploy various joint and concerted actions, within the umbrella of the principles of South-South cooperation for this purpose.
Third Annual Developing Country Forum on South-South Cooperation in International Tax Matters (Report)
The South Centre organized, in cooperation with the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Finance of India, the Third Annual Developing Country Forum on South-South Cooperation in International Tax Matters (the Forum). The Forum is an activity of the South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI) which serves as a platform owned by developing countries to facilitate the networking and access to their officials to technical and academic resources, as well as to provide a venue for discussion among developing countries to identify collective efforts towards their participation in international tax fora and negotiations on matters of global economic governance. Discussions during the forum addressed the most relevant tax issues that may impact developing countries currently being discussed at the international level, especially in the OECD. The Forum also allowed the exchange of expertise among developing countries coming from Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa, which consolidated this space as a necessary mechanism to identify coordinated positions among developing countries towards the consolidation of a network of tax officials from developing countries and strengthening their voice in the international fora.
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.
Addressing Developing Countries’ Tax Challenges of the Digitalization of the Economy
By Monica Victor
This Policy Brief sheds light on some of the implications for developing countries concerning the new international taxation global governance structure and the ongoing corporate tax reform process under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project umbrella in the context of the digitalization of the economy. The objective is to inform developing country tax authorities on the issues that may require further South-South cooperation and action to protect taxing rights that are of vital importance for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Firstly, the new international collaborative mechanisms created after the BEPS Project – the Platform for Collaboration on Tax and the Inclusive Framework on BEPS – are described. Secondly, the international tax reform proposals under negotiations in the Inclusive Framework on BEPS are outlined. The final remarks will address the challenges for developing countries to participate in the ongoing international tax reform effectively.
Comments on the OECD Secretariat Proposal for a “Unified Approach” under Pillar One
The South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI), the South Centre’s flagship program for promoting cooperation among developing countries on international tax matters, submitted its comments in November 2019 to the OECD Secretariat’s Proposal for a “Unified Approach” under Pillar One. This proposal is the key solution proposed by the OECD to address the challenge of taxation in the digital economy. In today’s world, it is a common occurrence that large multinational enterprises pay little or no taxes on their global profits by exploiting gaps in international tax rules. Approximately $500 billion is estimated to be lost globally due to corporate tax avoidance each year. This number is five times the annual requirement for funding the Paris Agreement ($100 billion) and around 20% of the funding requirement for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in developing countries ($2.5 trillion). Hence, revenue lost to corporate tax avoidance could go a long way in financing sustainable development and actions regarding climate change.
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.
Gender, Tax Reform and Taxation Cooperation Issues: Navigating Equity and Efficiency under Policy Constraints
By Dr. Mariama Williams
This policy brief has sought to present a review of the state of thinking and research on a pressing issue of the day: tax reform and tax cooperation and its gendered impacts. There is undeniably widespread agreement amongst all the entities of global governance with responsibility for a role in macroeconomic, financial and trade policies that gender equality and women’s empowerment are important to sustained growth and development. Increasingly, these same voices are articulating and researching on how fiscal policy both on the budgetary and on the revenue side can be made more efficient, gender sensitive and gender responsive. Taxation is the latest area of focused attention in this regard. There is now a quite strong body of work, including case studies, that demonstrates how the tax system can work to the disadvantage of socio-economic development and social goals including gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Inequality is one of the greatest challenges that the world needs to face. Inequality is intimately linked with poverty. Although there has been progress in reducing poverty, a large part of the global population (overwhelmingly living in developing countries) is still denied access to a dignified life. While no poverty and reduced inequality are two of the outstanding Sustainable Development Goals, these and other goals are unlikely to be achieved by 2030. In fact, inequality is on the rise. Changing this situation will certainly require significant efforts at the national and regional level. But it also requires an international architecture that supports those efforts by respecting the policy space that countries need and coordinating constructive actions within the multilateral system. The current initiatives to ‘reform’ this system will only be legitimate if they recognize the gaps in the levels of development and contribute to effectively address them under a fair, pro-development system of rules. Please see last month’s SouthViews on “Understanding global inequality in the 21st century” by Jayati Ghosh, development economist and Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University.