Tax officials and experts grappled with the issue of tax treaties several weeks ago at the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings. This arcane subject has now emerged as a new lightning rod in the debate on fairness in international taxation. As citizens demand that corporations pay their fair share of taxes and some governments struggle to raise enough revenues for basic services, tax treaties present difficult issues.
By Michael Keen
It’s hard to pick up a newspaper these days (or, more likely for readers of blogs, to skim one online) without finding another story about some multinational corporation managing, as if by magic, to pay little corporate tax. What lets them do this, of course, are the tax rules that countries themselves set. A new paper takes a closer look at this issue, which is at the heart of the IMF’s mandate: the way tax rules spill over national boundaries, and what this means for macroeconomic performance and economic development. These effects, the paper argues, are pretty powerful and need to be discussed on a global level.
Follow the money
Take, for instance, international capital movements. Though tax is not the only explanation, the foreign direct investment (FDI) positions shown in Table 1 are hard to understand without also knowing that tax arrangements in several of these countries make them attractive conduits through which to route investments. In its share of the world’s FDI, for example, the Netherlands leads the world; and tiny Mauritius […]