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.
Impact of a Minimum Tax Rate under the Pillar Two Solution on Small Island Developing States
By Kuldeep Sharma
The Research Paper commences with an overview of Pillar One and Pillar Two followed by detailed discussions on salient provisions of Pillar Two.
Pillar Two is envisaged to have a widespread impact on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) which are a distinct group of 38 United Nations (UN) Member States and 20 Non-UN Members/Associate Members of UN regional commissions that are exposed to unique social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities. In all, 36 SIDS that are members of the Group of Seventy-Seven (G-77) have been analysed, namely, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belize, Cabo Verde, Comoros, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vanuatu.
The South’s Role and Responsibilities in the Next Phase of Multilateralism
By Elizabeth Sidiropoulos and Luanda Mpungose
The global erosion of trust in the global institutions is the direct result of non-delivery on the most crucial challenges that face humanity such as inequality, poverty, and climate change. South-South Cooperation can play a vital role in reinvigorating multilateralism. Beyond its horizontal engagements it has already begun supporting and enriching processes, institutions and norms-building at the global level. However, changing the superstructures that have discriminated against many developing countries will require a strategy that involves prioritising, coalition-building and coordination.
A Global Asset Registry to track hidden fortunes and for asset recovery
By Ricardo Martner
Financial opacity and offshore hidden wealth have become a major economic and political problem. Tax havens continue to exist and provide financial secrecy services that allow the richest individuals in the world to hide their wealth from national tax authorities. Implementing a Global Asset Registry could help tax authorities to identify, record and tax all wealth, regardless of where it is held. It would also be a critical tool in efforts to recover stolen assets of countries suffering from widespread corruption.
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.
Outcomes and Recommendations of the CoDA-South Centre Dialogue Series on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs): Comparing Tax Revenues to Be Raised by Developing Countries from the OECD and UN Solutions for Taxing the Digital Economy
Statement by the South Centre to the 2022 Assemblies of the Member States of WIPO
The South Centre is the intergovernmental organization of developing countries based in Geneva that supports developing countries’ efforts to build up a fair and inclusive multilateral system conducive to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are of the view that a central objective of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as part of the United Nations (UN) UN system should be to support the achievement of such goals through the promotion of a balanced international intellectual property (IP) system that reflects the interests of countries at different levels of economic and technological development, and in line with the WIPO Development Agenda.
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.
Conceptualisation d’un instrument multilatéral des Nations Unies (IML des NU)
Par Radhakishan Rawal
Les récentes modifications apportées au modèle de convention des Nations unies concernant les doubles impositions entre pays développés et pays en développement ont donné lieu à l’introduction de dispositions plus avantageuses pour les pays en développement en matière d’imposition des revenus, en permettant en particulier l’imposition des revenus étrangers. Il s’agit notamment des revenus tirés des services numériques automatisés, des rémunérations sur les logiciels, de plus-values et autres. Ces dispositions sont généralement intégrées, au terme de longues négociations, dans les conventions fiscales bilatérales. Une convention des Nations Unis, en tant qu’instrument multilatéral, permet en une seule négociation de modifier plusieurs conventions fiscales et contribue ainsi à ce que les pays en développement puissent percevoir plus rapidement des recettes fiscales. Le présent rapport sur les politiques examine la forme qu’un tel instrument multilatéral peut revêtir.
The Place of Multilateralism in Tax Reforms: Exclusionary Outcomes of a Purported Inclusive Framework
By Alexander Ezenagu
Countries have come to accept the wide application of international tax rules in both their domestic and international tax affairs. However, where international tax rules fall short of the legitimate expectations of countries and fail to provide necessary guidance, countries may be compelled to seek other sources of guidance. In this paper, it is argued that in the absence and failure of international tax rules to provide adequate guidance and encourage a fair tax system, countries should not be prohibited from exercising their fiscal sovereignty.