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Calls grow for OECD to move tax guardianship to UN

OECD

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) should hand over responsibilities for reviewing global tax systems to the UN.

That is the view outlined to a UK parliamentary group tasked with examining changes to international taxation earlier this month.

Toby Quantrill, principal economic justice advisor at Christian Aid told a session in the House of Commons that the powers of the OECD did not go far enough, particularly in regard to including the views and opinions of less developed nations when devising reform plans.

While admitting that the OECD boasted a great deal of expertise, he said the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters would be more effective.

According to Public Finance International, he said: “Our proposal, and we’re open to better ones, would be to take the existing UN tax committee – which is a committee of experts but which has about one-fiftieth of the resources of the OECD – upgrade it, strengthen it and make that the place where developing countries will meet on an equal footing with all other countries."

The process, he added, could be made similar to the ones implemented to tackle climate change, which is subject to a strategy that brings MPs, the House of Lords and the CIPFA.

Currently, the OECD has been at the forefront of a programme to consider reforms to the international tax rules with a view to tackling ongoing problems such as  base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), where companies exploit loopholes in the global tax system to shift projects to lower-tax jurisdictions.

Reform to the way multinational companies are taxed has become a hot topic on the political agenda since the emergence of several high-profile cases, involving well-known brands like Google and Facebook.

However, Bill Dodwell warned the committee that shifting responsibility away from the OECD would not fully address the concerns.

He told the committee: “Let’s be clear – that if you think companies should pay tax according the location of its customers, then you’re going to be disappointed.

“I personally think that would be a foolish system to move to, not least because if you look at how many people there are in the UK, and look at the growing middle class in Brazil, India and China, if tax is going to be customer based, we’re not going to end up getting a fair return on developments in the UK.”

According to the Treasury, reforms could help to raise an extra £1.3 billion, aiding the government in its objective of raising £50 billion by 2020.

The calls for reform have, however, come against the backdrop of turmoil following the Panama Papers leak, with the OECD reportedly set to convene a meeting of senior tax administration officials this week, with a view to generating ideas for collaborative action.​