UN Tax Committee

SC & IHEID Report, October 2023

Taxation of the Digital Economy 

by Adnan Sose, Nicolás Tascon and Anders Viemose

As globalisation has pushed through complex inter-State trade in goods and services, in parallel there is a growing complexity in determining the taxation of Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) in an increasingly digitalized economy. This report reviews existing bilateral tax treaties between South Centre’s Member States and States where most digitalised MNEs are headquartered, using a threshold of EUR 750 million in annual turnover to limit the number of in-scope MNEs in the study. This analysis produced primary data on South Centre Member States’ source taxing rights scores and the implications of this on tax treaty negotiations to enable effective taxation in the digital economy through the inclusion of the United Nations (UN) solution for digital taxation, Article 12B of the UN Model Tax Convention. Further, the study sought to identify ‘weak’ tax treaties with low source taxing rights which merited a comprehensive renegotiation beyond the inclusion of Article 12B. Furthermore, the reports examined the treatment of “Computer Software” in the tax treaties under study, and concluded with recommendations going forward.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 34, 24 July 2023

Conceptualizing Remote Worker Permanent Establishment

By Radhakishan Rawal

COVID-19 impacted humanity in many ways and one such impact is wide acceptance of the concept of Work From Home (WFH) by the corporate sector. Previously, WFH did exist in some countries, perhaps at a much smaller scale, but compulsions of COVID-19 have made WFH a new normal. This new normal also creates new tax challenges for the Multinational Enterprises (MNEs). Does the employee create a taxable presence in the countries where they are working remotely through a ”permanent establishment” and if yes what are the profits attributable to such permanent establishment?

The existing treaty provisions are likely to result in widespread litigation on these issues. It is desirable that a new provision is introduced in the tax treaties to tackle these issues. The suggested remote worker permanent establishment provision adopts a very simple measurable threshold for determination of permanent establishment and also attempts to balance taxing rights of the country of source as well as residence. A simple standardised approach could be adopted for determining the profits attributable to such permanent establishment.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 31, 25 March 2023

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.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 30, 25 March 2023

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.

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Research Paper 161, 26 July 2022

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.

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First African Fiscal Policy Forum, 16 December 2021

First African Fiscal Policy Forum

Inequalities in Taxing Rights

Thursday, 16 December 2021, 02:00 PM (South African Standard Time), Virtual Meeting

The Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CODA) and the South Centre, together with other key stakeholders are co-organizing a series of dialogues to discuss and address the issues related to stemming IFFs from Africa.

The main objective of this dialogue series is to bring together key stakeholders to discuss the current global processes towards combatting IFFs, re-allocation of taxing rights, the role of African regional institutions, the importance and place of Africa’s voice and representation in these processes.

The dialogue series will examine the legitimacy of these processes, including the nature of Africa’s representation in the global conversations and the outcome of the processes with respect to Africa’s interest.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 21, November 2021

Streamlining the Architecture of International Tax through a UN Framework Convention on Tax Cooperation

By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Sol Picciotto

The architecture of international taxation at present is fragmented among multiple institutions. The UN Tax Committee, the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes are some of the key institutions which set multiple and overlapping international tax standards. The lack of a genuinely global international tax body has long been a lacunae in the international economic system and a disadvantage for developing countries, who are unable to participate in international tax standard setting as full and equal participants. This has been borne out most recently by the Two Pillar Solution for taxing the digital economy that has come from the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework. The G-77’s renewed demand for a global tax body shows the issue continues to remain a priority for developing countries.

This Policy Brief provides a way for bringing the existing plethora of institutions under unified, universal and democratic control through a UN Framework Convention on Tax Cooperation (UN FCTC). This idea builds on the long-standing idea of a UN Tax Convention, which has also been recommended by the UN FACTI Panel. A UN FCTC would function similarly to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC), through a Conference of Parties (COP) which would give the existing institutions such as the UN Tax Committee and Inclusive Framework mandates to work on. In this regard, it would replace the narrow mandates of the OECD and G20 with mandates coming from all the Parties to the UN FCTC, which could be all countries, both developed and developing. A UN FCTC thus provides a practical and realistic way forward for a genuinely universal, intergovernmental framework for international tax rule making under the auspices of the United Nations.

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