The majority of the world’s top finance officials have supported a major revision to international taxation. This includes a global 15% corporate minimum levy to discourage big companies from using low-rate tax havens.
At a meeting in Venice on Saturday, the Group of 20 countries’ finance ministers endorsed the plan.
Janet Yellen, U.S. Treasury Secretary, stated that the proposal would end a self-defeating international competition in tax rates. For years, countries have lowered their rates in order to attract businesses. She stated that it had been “a race nobody has won.” Instead, it has deprived us of the resources that we need to invest into our people, our workforces and our infrastructure.
Next steps include further work at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and a final decision at Group of 20 meeting of prime ministers and presidents on October 30-31 in Rome.
The national level would be required to take action for implementation, which is expected to happen as soon as 2023. The minimum tax requirement would be incorporated into the laws of each country. Others parts may require a formal agreement. In talks with more than 130 countries, the OECD approved the draft proposal July 1.
Italy hosted the meeting of finance ministers in Venice, as it holds the rotating chair for the G-20 which accounts for more than 80% the world’s economy. The event attracted more than 1,000 protestors under the banner of “We Are The Tide,” a group that focuses on environmental and social justice. They include opponents to large cruise ships and the thousands of tourists they bring to the lagoon. After escaping from an area designated for demonstrations, a small group clashed with police on Saturday.
Although the U.S. has an existing minimum tax on foreign earnings, President Joe Biden proposes roughly doubling it to 21%. This would be more than the global minimum. The rate increase is part of a larger proposal to finance Biden’s infrastructure and jobs plan by increasing the domestic corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.
Yellen stated that she is “very optimistic” about Biden’s infrastructure, tax legislation and “what we need for the United States of America to comply” with the minimum tax proposal.
The measure has been opposed by Republicans in Congress. Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican who sits at the top of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee has criticized the OECD agreement, saying that it was an economic surrender to China and Europe. Congress will reject this.
The international tax proposal is designed to discourage the largest companies from using accounting and legal strategies to transfer their profits to countries where no or little tax is due. Companies that avoid taxes abroad would have to pay them back at home. This would remove incentives to use tax havens and set them up.