Global deal on tax nears first stage

28 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

LONDON: A global agreement that could reshape the tax landscape for the biggest corporations is approaching a crucial first stage as the Group of Seven (G-7) nations hone in on an accord that might feature both a minimum rate and encompass digital giants.

If finance ministers due to meet virtually on Friday and in person next week can find enough common ground, that could pave the way for a wider consensus to form within the Group of 20 (G-20), building a foundation for the worldwide agreement that is in negotiators’ sights, report agencies.

“It’s absolutely promising that we will have a solution very soon, and I’m expecting it to happen this summer,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

“This is also the case with the question of how we could better tax the big global corporates, especially those in the digital sector, the global digital platforms. There are new proposals on the table and I’m quite optimistic.”

European governments are increasingly confident of an initial accord within the G-7, said people familiar with the matter, while Japan is also anticipating progress, a finance ministry official said.

The insistence by countries including France on the need for an arrangement that can capture tax from digital businesses such as is perhaps the most controversial issue in the talks.

Convincing low-tax jurisdictions such as Ireland to agree on a minimum rate will also be a challenge to a final deal being pursued in talks between 139 nations at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

That is the area where ground has shifted the most in recent days, after US President Joe Biden’s administration last week floated a global tax floor of at least 15 per cent, less than the 21 per cent rate it has proposed for the overseas earnings of US businesses - a level that countries including the United Kingdom regarded as too high.

While European nations warmly received that offer, they have been holding out for the United States to focus on measures to ensure big technology firms pay more of their tax in the countries where they operate. US officials have opposed efforts to target specific industries for taxation.

European governments see a deal nearing as there is progress in talks towards meeting their demand of ensuring that all digital firms be covered by new rules, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing.