Statement of the South Centre at the Sixth Intersessional Meeting of the Human Rights Council on Human Rights and the 2030 Agenda
18 January 2024
Leveraging human rights in the fight against illicit financial flows and corruption through greater international tax cooperation and fiscal transparency
Combating Illicit Financial Flows : “Now or Never”
Statement of H.E. Thabo Mbeki, Chairperson of the African Union High Level Panel on IFFs
“I fully support the creation of a globally inclusive, intergovernmental process at the UN. I urged all international organisations and Member States to resist attempts to block this important step forward, and thus call into question our global commitment to fighting illicit financial flows and corporate tax abuse in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
* H.E. Thabo Mbeki is also the Chair of the Board of the South Centre.
South Centre Comments on Progress Report on Amount A of Pillar One
The South Centre offers its comments to the OECD Inclusive Framework’s Task Force on Digital Economy (TFDE) on the Progress Report on Amount A of Pillar One.
In June 2022, the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CODA), a Special Initiative of the African Union, and the South Centre, jointly released country-level revenue estimates from Amount A compared with Article 12B of the UN Model Tax Convention, for the 84 combined Member States of the African Union and the South Centre. CODA and the South Centre have also provided a set of recommendations to developing countries on the taxation of the digitalized economy.
The Progress Report on Amount A, the latest version of the OECD’s proposed solution for taxation of the digitalized economy, makes it clear that the revenues expected for developing countries will dwindle even further than estimated by CODA and the South Centre.
With each successive update of the rules, the proposed solution is becoming increasingly less appealing to the developing countries. The OECD must, at a minimum, release revenue estimates for the 141 jurisdictions of the Inclusive Framework such that each can take an informed decision in the national interest. As an organization that sets ‘transparency’ standards, OECD must itself be transparent and provide countries with the essential information needed for making what may become a historic decision for the international taxation regime.
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.
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.
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.