United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
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.
Making the UN Tax Committee more effective for developing countries
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary
The United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (UN Tax Committee) is an important and influential subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that shapes standards and guidelines on international taxation. These are the rules through which Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) are taxed. Its role post-COVID-19 has become even more important as countries struggle to raise revenue. Despite being under-resourced, it has produced valuable guidance, especially on the crucial question of the digital economy. As a new Membership of the Committee is about to be selected, this Policy Brief provides practical recommendations on how the Committee can be reformed to be made more effective, especially for the interests of developing countries.
Comments to the FACTI Panel on improving cooperation in tax matters
The South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI) would like to draw the attention of the Financial Accountability Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) Panel to the following aspects of improving international tax cooperation:
(1) legal procedure to upgrade the UN Tax Committee into an intergovernmental body;
(2) Right of even Inclusive Framework Members to take unilateral measures;
(3) Need for comprehensive scope of Pillar One;
(4) Primacy of Undertaxed Payments and Subject to Tax rules in Pillar Two;
(5) Need for clear and administrable rules for dispute prevention.
Mainstreaming or Dilution? Intellectual Property and Development in WIPO
By Nirmalya Syam
In 2007 Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) unanimously adopted a set of 45 recommendations which constitute the WIPO Development Agenda. Developing countries sought to give new direction to WIPO through the Development Agenda, away from the pursuit of facilitating and strengthening protection, acquisition and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights as an end in itself towards an approach that would be sensitive to the impact of IP on development, both in terms of opportunities as well as costs. This paper explores whether development considerations have been adequately addressed by WIPO since its creation as the United International Bureau for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI) in the nineteenth century. The paper also analyses whether the implementation of the WIPO Development Agenda adopted in 2007 has shaped the current vision of the WIPO Secretariat and its Member States to address the impact of IP on development; and whether implementation of the Development Agenda has facilitated the use of IP law and policy as a tool that responds to advancing innovation, industrial, health, agricultural, education and other development policies in developing countries. The paper finds that the approach towards IP in WIPO continues to be dominated by a perspective that pursues acquisition, protection, management and enforcement of IP rights as an end in itself. Conflicting interpretations of development orientation have adversely impacted the implementation of the Development Agenda in the spirit in which the developing countries had proposed the Development Agenda. The paper recommends developing countries to undertake cross regional coordination to enhance their level of engagement on IP and development, advance specific suggestions for achieving greater impact on addressing development challenges through specific activities including projects in the areas of technical assistance as well as norm-setting, pursue governance reforms in WIPO to ensure greater representation of developing countries in the decision making bodies of WIPO and in the staff composition of the WIPO Secretariat, amend the WIPO Convention to align its mandate on IP promotion to the development needs and challenges of its Member States and the development goals of the United Nations (UN), and also pursue a review of the relationship between the UN and WIPO as a UN specialized agency in the UN Economic and Social Council.
This update provides a snapshot of the publications and social media activities of the South Centre during the month of June 2019.
UN tax committee gets a boost through new working methods
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary
The UN in May published a document titled ‘Practices and Working Methods for the Committee Of Experts On International Cooperation In Tax Matters’. For those who believe that the UN should play a stronger role in the governance of international tax, this is a welcome development. The document further deepens the institutionalisation of the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (henceforth UN tax committee) by developing new working methods and making several clarifications. Some of these are welcome while others are problematic. Overall, it is clarified that the working methods must be read in conjunction with the rules of procedure of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and in the case of inconsistency, the ECOSOC rules are to prevail. (more…)