Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

'A turning point in the history of world standards'

New global rules to force tax avoiders to "pay their fair share" are expected be introduced under a 15-point action plan launched by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development think tank.

The OECD claimed the plan, which will be rolled out over two years, marks "a turning point in the history of international tax co-operation".

It comes amid mounting controversy over the way multinational corporations have shifted profits to low tax jurisdictions, often offshore.

The minimal corporation tax paid by US multinationals including Google, Starbucks and Amazon, has ignited a firestorm of controversy in the UK.

But even in the US the issue has become a political hot potato. Republican senator John McCain was sharply critical of Apple during a congressional hearing, saying domestic competitors were disadvantaged by its actions. Apple, however, insisted it paid every dollar it owed.

The OECD said its plan would stop companies "abusing" out-dated international tax rules to prevent multinationals from paying tax in more than one country.

A new set of global standards will be developed with this aim.

The plan aims to align tax with substance, forcing companies to pay tax where sales and profits are made. And the OECD further wants to make multinationals report "their aggressive tax planning arrangements" so it can break down the information on a country-by-country basis.

It said: "This will help governments identify risk areas and focus their audit strategies. And making dispute resolution mechanisms more effective will provide businesses with greater certainty and predictability."

Secretary-General Angel Gurria explained: "This action plan, which we will roll out over the coming two years, marks a turning point in the history of international tax co-operation. It will allow countries to draw up the co-ordinated, comprehensive and transparent standards they need.

"International tax rules, many of them dating from the 1920s, ensure that businesses don't pay taxes in two countries – double taxation.

"This is laudable, but unfortunately these rules are now being abused to permit double non-taxation."

The OECD pledged that its plan would address the digital economy, which offers "a borderless world of products and services that too often do not fall within the tax regime of any specific country, leaving loopholes that allow profits to go untaxed".

Tax critics welcomed the plan. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "A new global law against 'double non-taxation' is vitally important and we want the British Government to signal immediately that it will comply."

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