Over 500 participants attended the First Global Conference of the Platform for Collaboration on Taxation and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on February 14-16 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The conference was spearheaded by the OECD, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations’ office for Financing for Development (FfD). Participants included governments from over 110 countries as well as representatives across the UN system, multilateral development banks, business and other non-governmental organizations.
This meeting was the latest action pursuant to the FfD Addis Ababa outcomes calling for international cooperation on domestic resource mobilization, in relation to taxation and Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). As such, it aimed to advance global dialogue with relevant stakeholders on how to better design tax policy to achieve the SDGs.
Pascal Saint-Amans of the OECD Tax Policy and Administration Centre was actively involved, reminding the conference in several interventions that the Inclusive Framework on BEPS has been an open and inclusive process, in which dozens of developing country representatives have been involved.
Will Morris, chair of the Business at OECD/OECD Tax Committee stated that the combination of new tax programs, rules and reforms is moving toward enhanced international cooperation and better practice at the local level. He stated that business is rarely the source of obstacles in tax reform; more frequently, disagreements between governments are the source of blockages.
Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment at USAID Karl Fickenscher spoke about the importance of public-private partnership involving the private sector and tax authorities relating to development projects and other SDG areas.
The wide-ranging discussions in main sessions and side events focused on three areas: opportunities to improve international cooperation and advance capacity building on taxation, options to enhance international cooperation for domestic resource mobilization relevant to SDG implementation, and tax policy to motivate SDG-facing choices for environment, health, and energy.
The host organizations confirmed that the Platform will issue “Toolkits” in the coming months for “guidance” purposes. USCIB expects enhanced coordination between the four organizations which have committed to speak with “one voice” when providing taxation advice to developing economies.
Interventions from developing country representatives highlighted continued concerns that they are excluded from global tax policymaking. In this context, USCIB anticipates further proposals to upgrade the UN’s Tax Committee to an intergovernmental body at the next major UN financing forum in April.
“Fighting perceptions of a ‘race to the bottom’ approach by business – the reality is that business seeks equitable and stable tax systems, and level of taxation is one consideration among many,” said Norine Kennedy, USCIB vice president for strategic international engagement, energy and environment, who attended the meetings. “Successful tax reform depends on trust and confidence of citizens, and on transparency. Collaboration among governments, labor organizations and employers’ groups can advance that trust both in taxation and overall economic policy.”
USCIB will continue to monitor developments on these issues in the OECD, UN FfD process, and in further Platform activities through USCIB’s Tax Committee and SDG Working Group.