tisdag 4 december 2012


Michael Devereux, director of the Centre for Business Taxation at Oxford university,  har skrivit följande artikel i FT den 3 december.


The best reform of corporation tax would be its abolition

George Osborne is expected to announce a “£10bn tax dodging clampdown” in his Autumn Statement on Wednesday. That follows weeks of growing anger in some quarters at the tax affairs of multinational companies. But even before the debate about corporation tax payments, or the lack of, by Starbucks, it would have been more surprising if the chancellor had been silent on this issue. It is hard to recall a Budget in recent times that did not include an intention to clamp down on tax avoidance.

Most people would accept that tax avoidance schemes designed to exploit defects in legal drafting are abusive and should be closed. But the broader problem is the structure of the international tax system. And that is something that Mr Osborne has limited power to change.

The system that has grown up over the past century imperfectly allocates taxing rights to national governments and is full of contradictions as to where different forms of income are taxed. That gives companies opportunities to choose the form and location of both their activity and their profit.

It also creates a dichotomy for governments, seen clearly in the UK. On the one hand, the government is desperate to stimulate economic activity. Reducing the corporation tax rate to 22 per cent is an attempt to do so by competing for the activity of mobile global companies. On the other, the government would also like to generate tax revenue from mobile activities. If it is increasingly concerned about the latter, what policies are available?

One, apparently favoured by the Public Accounts Committee, is naming and shaming. This works best for household names, such as Starbucks and Amazon, which may suffer from consumer boycotts – but it hardly seems fair to target them because they are well known. Nor does it seem fair to shame companies that are meeting their legal obligations, even if they are taking advantage of the iniquities of the international tax system. Naming and shaming can also undermine the integrity of the tax system – if people are told that others are not paying their fair share of tax, they may be less likely to comply themselves.

A second approach could be to provide greater resources to HM Revenue & Customs. That might be welcome, but it doesn’t address the underlying problem, which lies in the law, not in its enforcement.

What about patching up the system with more anti-avoidance rules?

Comparison has been made with the German system that limits relief on interest deductibility for heavily-indebted companies. The UK has introduced a worldwide debt cap, but has been reluctant to go further on the grounds that its relatively generous treatment of interest gives the UK a competitive advantage. But encouraging UK companies to load up with debt is a dubious way of reconciling collecting tax revenue with maintaining a competitive position. Yet tightening these rules would not, in any case, address the issues identified by the Public Accounts Committee.

Other options for unilateral action are limited by existing international agreements – both bilateral double taxation agreements and EU obligations. For example, it might be tempting to tax royalty payments made by a UK company to a sister company elsewhere. But existing treaties prohibit withholding taxes on royalties within the EU.

If there are no easy fixes in anti-avoidance rules, is there a prospect of fundamental reform? Unfortunately, it does not seem likely. The leading contender for reform is a proposal that has been discussed for more than 10 years for a common consolidated corporate tax base. Companies would calculate only their EU-wide profit, and would not need to divide profit between member states. But the proposal, which would anyway not deal with profit outside the EU and has other disadvantages, shows little sign of being implemented, not least because of UK opposition.

There is one other possibility: that corporation tax may simply wither as governments compete to reduce rates, without finding the political will to reach a better long-term solution to the allocation of international profit. Given the costs to society created by existing corporation taxes, this would at least constitute an improvement.
Här finns mer att läsa.

Ett helt onödigt problem har den 6 december fått ett otillfredsställande lösning i Kammarrätten i Stockholm SvD

EU-kommissionären Algirdas Semeta från Litauen vill skärpa jakten på skatteplanerare och skatteflyktingar. Såvitt gäller jakten på bolagsskatter kan Semeta rekommenderas ett besök i Estland. Estland beskattar inte bolagsvinster (förrän de delas ut) och har därför inga problem med bolagsskatteflykt. Det finns ingen skatt att fly från.

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