Against the backdrop of new global tax rules developed under the BEPS Action Plan and efforts to advance tax reform in the United States, USCIB members and others from the business community gathered in Washington, D.C. on Monday and Tuesday for the 12th annual OECD International Tax Conference.
Organized by USCIB in concert with the 35-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as well as Business at OECD (BIAC), the conference has grown into an annual must-attend event for tax practitioners, experts and regulators from around the world.
With an eye toward the direction of possible U.S. tax reform, including reduction of the top corporate tax rate from the current 35 percent, Pascal Saint-Amans, director of the OECD’s Center for Tax Policy and Administration, told conference-goers that he expects most OECD economies to adopt corporate tax rates in the 20-30 percent range. Saint-Amans said there may be some exceptions, including in the UK, where top rates may drop below 20 percent.
Other speakers picked up the theme. “The current U.S. system is broken,” said Mark Prater, chief tax counsel and deputy staff director of the Senate Finance Committee, during keynote luncheon remarks. “Tax reform is a difficult political transaction,” he observed, but “the U.S. sits at a crossroads of reform, which is an opportunity that has not been available in a generation.”
Over the course of the two-day conference, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel, participants discussed tax policy trends, current tax reform, tax uncertainty, digitalization, increases in intangible assets, and dealing with tax-related disputes through arbitration. They also focused on transfer pricing as well as the OECD’s new multilateral instrument, signed today in Paris.
“The conference provides a real opportunity for dialogue between business, governments, and the OECD,” said USCIB Vice President and International Tax Counsel Carol Doran Klein. “This year, because the focus is now on BEPS implementation, there was good discussion of opportunities to improve tax certainty, including a pilot International Compliance Assurance Program, Advanced Pricing Agreements and an improved Mutual Agreement Procedure.”
On the multilateral instrument, Will Morris, chair of the BIAC Committee on Taxation and Fiscal Affairs, told Bloomberg BNA: “Many of us in the business community doubted the OECD would get the consensus necessary for a document of this scope and substance. But they have, and [the multilateral instrument] opens the door to changes in the tax treaty process, and to a number of key international tax rules, that are significant.”