BEPS 2015: G20 finance ministers endorse OECD's plan to curb avoidance by multinationals

At a meeting in Lima, Peru today, G20 finance ministers approved the OECD’s final package of measures in its Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project which sets out comprehensive reforms for the international tax rules

The meeting of finance ministers, chaired by Turkish deputy prime minister Cevdet Yilmaz, expressed strong support for the BEPS, which provides governments with solutions for closing the gaps in existing international rules which allow corporate profits to ‘disappear’ or be artificially shifted to low or no-tax environments, where little or no economic activity takes place. 

There was also commitment for rapid, widespread and consistent implementation of the BEPS measures and another call for the OECD to prepare an inclusive monitoring framework by early-2016, allowing for all countries to participate on an equal footing.

Ministers agreed to forward the BEPS measures for discussion and action by G20 heads of state during their summit on 15-16 November in Antalya, Turkey.

‘Base erosion and profit shifting is sapping our economies of the resources needed to jump-start growth, tackle the effects of the global economic crisis and create better opportunities for all,’ said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

‘The G20 has recognised that BEPS is also eroding the trust of citizens in the fairness of tax systems worldwide, which is why we were called on to prepare the most fundamental changes to international tax rules in almost a century. Our challenge going forward is to implement the measures in this plan, rendering BEPS-inspired tax planning structures ineffective and creating a better environment for businesses and citizens alike,’ he said.

Undertaken at the request of the G20 Leaders, the work to address BEPS is based on the 2013 G20/OECD BEPS Action Plan, which identified 15 actions to put an end to international tax avoidance.

The plan was structured around three fundamental pillars: introducing coherence in the domestic rules that affect cross-border activities; reinforcing substance requirements in the existing international standards, to ensure alignment of taxation with the location of economic activity and value creation; and improving transparency, as well as certainty for businesses and governments.

Revenue losses from BEPS are conservatively estimated at $100-240bn annually, or anywhere from 4-10% of global corporate income tax (CIT) revenues. Given developing countries’ greater reliance on corporate income tax (CIT) revenues as a percentage of tax revenue, the impact of BEPS on these countries is particularly significant

The final package of BEPS measures includes new minimum standards on: country-by-country reporting, which for the first time will give tax administrations a global picture of the operations of multinational enterprises; treaty shopping, to put an end to the use of conduit companies to channel investments; curbing harmful tax practices, in particular in the area of intellectual property and through automatic exchange of tax rulings; and effective mutual agreement procedures, to ensure that the fight against double non-taxation does not result in double taxation.

The BEPS package also revises the guidance on the application of transfer pricing rules to prevent taxpayers from using so-called ‘cash box’ entities to shelter profits in low or no-tax jurisdictions, and redefines the key concept of Permanent Establishment, to curb arrangements which avoid the creation of a taxable presence in a country by reliance on an outdated definition.

The BEPS package offers governments a series of new measures to be implemented through domestic law changes, including strengthened rules on Controlled Foreign Corporations, a common approach to limiting base erosion through interest deductibility and new rules to prevent hybrid mismatch arrangements from making profits disappear for tax purposes through the use of complex financial instruments.

Nearly 90 countries are working together on the development of a multilateral instrument capable of incorporating the tax treaty-related BEPS measures into the existing network of bilateral treaties. The instrument will be open for signature by all interested countries in 2016.

The BEPS measures were agreed after a transparent and intensive two-year consultation process between OECD, G20 and developing countries and stakeholders from business, labour, academia and civil society organisations.

‘Everyone has a stake in reversing base erosion and profit shifting,’ Gurria said.

‘The BEPS Project has shown that all stakeholders can come together to bring about change. Swift implementation by governments will ensure a more certain and more sustainable international tax environment for the benefit of all, not just a few.’

For further information on the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project, including the 2015 Explanatory Statement, the 2015 BEPS Reports, background information and FAQs, go here

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Penny Sukhraj |Content editor, Accountancy - (up to 2016)

Penny Sukhraj, former content editor and writer for Accountancy and Accountancy Live, responsible for commissioning and editing news...

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