UN Model Tax Convention Article 26: Inequitable Exchange of Information Regime – Questionable Efficacy in Asymmetrical Bilateral Settings
By Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed
The United Nations Model Tax Convention between Developed and Developing Countries (UN MTC) Article 26 charts out an exchange of information (EOI) regime “between developed and developing countries,” feigning that it is more favorable to the latter set of nations. Contrarily, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) MTC Article 26 is professedly geared to protect and promote interests of OECD members – “the club of the rich.” Even a cursory comparative look at the two MTCs intriguingly reveals lack of dissimilarities, and irresistibly leads to the conclusion that materially both provisions are identical. The situation gives rise to a paradox whereby developing countries that are completely at different levels of development have broken governance structures, convoluted fiscal and criminal justice systems and struggling tax administrations, have been yoked into a multilayered EOI regime, which stemmed from an intra-OECD statecraft imperative and is pre-dominantly beneficial to developed countries. The new normal contributes towards enhancement and deepening of the embedded inequities in the neocolonial economic order. The paper seminally dissects the strains generated by absence of dissimilarities between the two MTCs vis-à-vis Article 26, and posits that, in fact, this fundamentally being a developed country project, developing countries have been exploited as ‘beasts of burden’ merely to promote economic interests of dominant partners in the relationship, and by doing so, sheds light on and galvanizes the unjustness latent in the international taxes system – an inherently unequal and lopsided affair. It also delves deeper into an axiological normative evaluation of the extant EOI regime, and finding it untenable, urges a larger paradigm shift. In fact, the UN’s meek convergence with the OECD on EOI regime, ditching developing countries and leaving them to fend for themselves in this critical area of international taxation, is the scarlet thread of the paper.
Taxation of Computer Software: Need for Clear Guidance in the UN Model Tax Convention
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Sebastien Babou Diasso
Developing countries pay enormous sums of money for the right to use intellectual property such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc. Such payments are known as ‘royalties’. The scale is enormous, and just 27 South Centre Member States paid $45 billion in 2020 as royalties. Some proportion of these payments are for the right to use computer software. Developing countries can gain significant revenues if the United Nations can provide clear international tax guidelines that payments for the right to use computer software should be taxable as royalties. This Policy Brief provides the world’s first country-level revenue estimates for 34 of the South Centre’s Member States and finds that they could collect potentially $1 billion in tax revenues in 2020 had they been able to tax payments for the use of computer software as royalties.
Enforcing Secondary Taxing Rights: Subject to Tax Rule in the UN Model Tax Convention
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Sebastien Babou Diasso
The Global Anti Base Erosion (GloBE) Rules under OECD’s Pillar Two recommendations, with a minimum effective tax rate of 15%, are expected to play a significant role to end the ‘race to the bottom’ in corporate taxation, which is one of the main drivers of profit shifting. However, the thrust of these rules is designed in a manner to give priority to the developed countries. In this light, the Subject to Tax Rule (STTR), which is a treaty-based rule that allows source jurisdictions to impose limited source taxation on certain payments that are taxed below a minimum rate in the country of residence, is of extreme significance for the developing countries. Under Pillar Two, application of STTR is restricted to base eroding payments or mobile income between related parties only, which does not address Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) concerns in an entirety. That apart, the withholding tax rate of 9% proposed by the OECD may not result in generation of significant resources for the developing countries. In this light, developing countries keenly expect that the UN Tax Committee should devise an STTR that is simple to operate, has a broad scope covering all payments in a tax treaty and imposes a higher withholding tax closer to 15% to bring meaningful revenues for them. Also, developing countries desire that STTR provisions may be introduced at the earliest so as to speedily implement them through the UN Multilateral Instrument under contemplation. This Policy Brief also examines existing average withholding tax rates on interest and royalty payments in existing tax treaties of 48 South Centre and 52 G-77+China Member States and finds that out of a total of 100 developing countries, only 25 would stand to benefit from the STTR in its restricted form in Pillar Two, further strengthening the need for an improved version formulated by the United Nations.
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.
UN Model Tax Convention: Selective Territoriality – The Specter of Privileged Player in a Rigged Game
By Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed
This paper lays out the chessboard on which taxes on international incomes from immovables are contested, bargained, and harvested as per pre-determined rules that are starkly tilted in favor of developed countries. This embedded and pronounced bias in the international taxes regime in favor of developed countries makes them a privileged player. The developed countries then make maneuvers to optimize on their economic gains at the expense of developing nations rendering it a rigged game setting. The paper derives its rationale from an exceptionally selective choice of territoriality on incomes from immovables, which was astonishingly not aligned with the expected reverse capital movement, that is, from developing to developed countries. The genesis and evolution of selective territoriality are traced through its various institutional development phases – League of Nations (LN), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and United Nations (UN). An overwhelming international consensus on selective territoriality on incomes from immovables notwithstanding, the UN’s role is brought into spotlight to argue that the developing countries may have suffered massively over the past one hundred years by instinctively believing in the UN Model Tax Convention’s (MTC) efficacy and blindly pursuing Article 6 in their bilateral double taxation conventions (DTCs). The inimical implications of herd-mentality on part of developing countries got galvanized in the particular wake of developed countries employing innovative optimization tools – citizenship/residence by investment programs, tax havenry, manipulable ownership structures, beneficial ownership legislations, and porous exchange of information regime – to maximize on the economic gains. The paper undertakes both normative and structuralist evaluation of selective territoriality to sum up that this is an unjust principle of distribution of fiscal rights at the international level particularly in asymmetric economic relationships, and can hold its ground only until developing countries attain full cognition of the reality and start raising their vocal chords in unison to dismantle it.
Two Pillar Solution for Taxing the Digitalized Economy: Policy Implications and Guidance for the Global South
by Irene Ovonji-Odida, Veronica Grondona, Abdul Muheet Chowdhary
The taxation of the digitalized economy is the single most important topic in international tax negotiations today. The OECD has devised a “Two Pillar solution” to the problem. Pillar One is focusing on a reallocation of taxing rights to market jurisdictions, which are largely expected to be developing countries, and Pillar Two is instituting a global minimum tax. The Pillar One solution, known as Amount A, will be codified into a Multilateral Convention (MLC) and is expected to be placed before countries for signature in early 2023. The solution ushers in a new paradigm in the taxation of multinational enterprises but has immense complexity and likely minimal revenue gains for most developing countries. It will also require them to give up the right of unilateral tax measures on all out-of-scope companies, meaning they will only be able to tax the fewer than 100 companies likely to be in-scope, if at all. The decision to sign or not is thus a historic one, as it will lock developing countries into a constricted new framework, at a time when revenue needs are especially critical to recover the economies from COVID-19 in the context of a turbulent state of the global economy.
However, the United Nations too has a solution, known as Article 12B. This operates in a different manner and is a minor modification to the existing decentralized international tax system which is based on bilateral tax treaties, and which developing countries are more familiar with. It is also likely to generate far higher revenues than Amount A, and does not restrict any of their sovereign taxing rights. This Research Paper assesses the various implications for developing countries from adopting the OECD’s or the United Nations’s respective solutions and concludes with a possible global South response to the Two Pillar solution.
Conceptualización de un Instrumento multilateral de la ONU
Por Radhakishan Rawal
Los cambios que ha sufrido recientemente la Convención Modelo de las Naciones Unidas sobre la Doble Tributación entre Países Desarrollados y Países en Desarrollo han dado lugar a disposiciones mas favorables a los países en desarrollo, al aumentar los ingresos fiscales a través de la imposición de tributos internacionales, por ejemplo, en la imposición de tributos a los ingresos procedentes del extranjero. En esta imposición se incluyen, entre otros, los impuestos sobre los ingresos procedentes de servicios digitales automatizados, pagos de programas informáticos y plusvalías. Normalmente, estos impuestos se incorporarían en convenios fiscales bilaterales a través de largas negociaciones. En cambio, un instrumento multilateral de las Naciones Unidas permitiria actualizar de una manera mas acelerada varios convenios tributatrios por medio de una sola negociación. Esto ayudará a los países en desarrollo a recaudar ingresos con mayor prontitud. En este informe sobre políticas se aborda la posible estructura de un instrumento multilateral de esa índole.
Outcomes and Recommendations of the FIRST AFRICAN FISCAL POLICY FORUM
South Centre and Coalition for Dialogue on Africa
The Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) and the South Centre co-organized the First African Fiscal Policy Forum on 16 December 2021 with the theme “Inequalities in Taxing Rights”. It was the first of a series of dialogues aimed to bring together key stakeholders from Africa and the Global South on tax matters, to examine the legitimacy of the international tax reform processes and illicit financial flows and the place and role of Africa in the processes. The dialogue discussed contents of the Two-Pillar Solution of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) and its implications for African countries. It analyzed other alternatives to the Inclusive Framework, including recommendations of institutions such as the United Nations High-level Panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (UN-FACTI) and Article 12B on Taxation of Automated Digital Services of the UN model Tax Convention. The forum sought to discuss the reasons some countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka did not endorse the Inclusive Framework proposals and made recommendations for African countries.
Artículo 12B: una solución del tratado tributario del Comité sobre Cooperación Internacional en Cuestiones de Tributación de la ONU para la tributación de ingresos digitales
Por Rajat Bansal
La tributación sobre los ingresos de las empresas multinacionales dedicadas a actividades digitales por las jurisdicciones de origen y las de mercado es actualmente el desafío más importante para la comunidad tributaria internacional. El actual conjunto de miembros del Comité en cuestiones de tributación de las Naciones Unidas finalizó, en abril de 2021, una medida de tratados tributarios para abordar este desafío. Este informe explica la justificación para la solución particular de agregar un nuevo artículo a la Convención Modelo de las Naciones Unidas, sus méritos y cómo esto puede ser beneficioso para todos los países, especialmente los en desarrollo.
Global Minimum Corporate Tax: Interaction of Income Inclusion Rule with Controlled Foreign Corporation and Tax-sparing Provisions
By Kuldeep Sharma, ADIT (CIOT,UK), FTI (Australia), Insolvency Professional (IBBI)
The OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS (the Inclusive Framework) agreed on 8 October 2021 to the Statement on the Two-Pillar Solution to Address the Tax Challenges Arising from the Digitalisation of the Economy. The Two-Pillar Solution will ensure that MNEs will be subject to a minimum tax rate of 15%, and will re-allocate profit of the largest and most profitable MNEs to countries worldwide. Under these recommendations, inter alia, Pillar Two consists of two interlocking domestic rules (together the Global Anti-Base Erosion Rules (GloBE)), which includes an Income Inclusion Rule (IIR) to impose a top-up tax on a parent entity in respect of the low taxed income of a constituent entity. The IIR shall be incorporated in domestic laws of opting jurisdictions, and seems to have profound interaction with the Controlled Foreign Corporation (CFC) and tax-sparing provisions. The IIR operates in a way that is closely comparable to a CFC rule and raises the same treaty questions as raised by CFC rules, although there are a number of differences between the IIR and the CFC rules. In the context of IIR, there may be a case when the Ultimate Parent Entity (UPE) is taxed on the Constituent Entities’ (CEs) income and the spared tax is not considered as covered taxes for calculating the Effective Tax Rate (ETR) of the CE. This generates a situation for developing countries in which they have to shore up their ETR by overhauling their tax incentive regimes and retooling domestic legal framework for more effective taxation of MNEs to avoid losing a significant portion of their tax right/base to a developed country. Adoption of IIR (which is an extension of CFC rules) under Pillar Two is therefore going to create conflict with the tax-sparing rules. From the perspective of developing countries, the adoption of GloBE implies losing tax incentives as a tax policy instrument to attract foreign direct investment. This is why every country involved, but especially developing countries, should undertake a thorough examination to determine whether such measures are convenient for their interests in the long run.
Article 12B – Une solution de convention fiscale par le Comité fiscal des NU pour taxer les revenus numériques
Par Rajat Bansal
L’imposition sur les revenus des entreprises multinationales dans des activités numériques par les juridictions de la source ou de marché est actuellement le défi le plus important pour la communauté fiscale internationale. La composition actuelle du Comité fiscal des Nations Unies a finalisé, en avril 2021, un accord de convention fiscale pour relever ce défi. Ce rapport explique la raison d’être d’une solution particulière consistant à insérer un nouvel article dans le Modèle de convention des Nations Unies, ses mérites et comment il peut être bénéfique pour tous les pays, en particulier les pays en développement.