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October 10, 2019

OECD publishes proposal addressing challenges from the digitalisation of the economy

By Joe Pickard

The OECD Secretariat has published a proposal to advance international negotiations to ensure large and highly profitable multinational enterprises (MNEs), including digital companies, pay tax wherever they have significant consumer-facing activities and generate their profits.

The proposal would re-allocate some profits and corresponding taxing rights to countries and jurisdictions where MNEs have their markets.

It would ensure that MNEs conducting significant business in places where they do not have a physical presence, be taxed in such jurisdictions, through the creation of new rules stating where tax should be paid and on what portion of profits they should be taxed.  

The proposal brings together common elements of three competing proposals from member countries.

It is based on the work of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS, which groups 134 countries and jurisdictions on an equal footing, for multilateral negotiation of international tax rules, making them fit for purpose for the global economy of the 21st century.

OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría said: “We’re making real progress to address the tax challenges arising from digitalisation of the economy, and to continue advancing toward a consensus-based solution to overhaul the rules-based international tax system by 2020.

“This plan brings together common elements of existing competing proposals, involving over 130 countries, with input from governments, business, civil society, academia and the general public. It brings us closer to our ultimate goal: ensuring all MNEs pay their fair share.

”Failure to reach agreement by 2020 would greatly increase the risk that countries will act unilaterally, with negative consequences on an already fragile global economy. We must not allow that to happen.”

The Inclusive Framework’s tax work on the digitalisation of the economy is part of wider efforts to restore stability and certainty in the international tax system, address possible overlaps with existing rules and mitigate the risks of double taxation.

As well as the specific elements on reallocating taxing rights, a second pillar of the work aims to resolve remaining BEPS issues, ensuring a minimum corporate income tax on MNE profits. This will be discussed in a public consultation foreseen to take place in December 2019.

The ongoing work will be presented in a new OECD Secretary-General Tax Report during the next meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington DC, on 17–18 October.

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