OECD proposals target aggressive tax avoiders

Amazon, Starbucks and Google have been at the centre of a debate over corporate tax avoidance

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The Independent Online

The OECD has announced potentially ground-breaking new proposals to clamp down on aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations such as Amazon and Google.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development unveiled an array of recommendations, including the demand that the world’s major economies impose a new “country-by-country” reporting regime on multinationals in order to increase the transparency of their corporate activities and limit the scope for them to shift profits offshore to avoid tax.

“The country-by-country reporting will provide a clear overview of where profits, sales, employees and assets are located and where taxes are paid and accrued,” it said.

The OECD also said a rule that allows a company to operate a warehouse within a country, without also registering a tax residence, should be reconsidered. This could potentially affect the online retailer Amazon, which reduces its tax bill by selling to the rest of Europe, including Britain, through a subsidiary in Luxembourg.

 

The suite of proposals, which also includes a curb on businesses artificially channelling profits to tax havens through the abuse of “transfer pricing”, will be presented to G20 finance ministers in Australia later this week and will go before the full leaders’ meeting for approval in November. The new regime is scheduled to be finalised next year, when national governments will be tasked with enacting legislation to bring it into force.

Tuesday's announcement was given a mixed reception by campaigners and tax experts. Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK described the new reporting proposals as “good news” and added: “No multinational corporation can argue ever again that it does not have this data or that it would be too costly to publish it.”

However, Sol Picciotto, a senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network, told the New York Times that most of the measures were “just tweaks” and that a wholesale restructuring of the global tax system was still necessary. “They’re trying to repair an old motorcar, but what they need is a new engine” he said.

It also emerged that the UK was among a group of four countries which blocked attempts to make the new regime tougher by clamping down on the poaching of tax revenues that flow from intellectual property (IP) assets. The Coalition has introduced a controversial “patent box” which offers a significant tax break to pharmaceutical companies and other that register their IP in the UK.

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