There have been significant recent changes in the global tax landscape as highlighted in the OECD annual report on global tax policy reforms published on 5 September 2018. The report noted the impact of major tax reform in a number of countries, notably in the United States, Argentina and France. At the time the US tax reform became effective on 1 January 2018, Goldman Sachs estimated there was US$3.1 trillion of overseas profit kept outside the United States, which highlights the significance of this reform. One aspect of the US tax reform was lowering of corporate taxes, which reflects a global trend, with the average corporate income tax rate across the OECD dropping from 32.5 per cent in 2000 to 23.9 per cent in 2018. Other tax reform trends identified were the lowering of personal income taxes and new excise taxes, to deter harmful consumption, such as sugar taxes.
An area where coordinated tax reform has not materialised, despite being identified as a key area in the BEPS Action Plan in 2015, is in the taxation of the digital economy. The OECD produced an interim report in April 2018, with further work scheduled for 2019, with the aim of arriving at a 'consensus based solution by 2020'. Although there is widespread recognition of the need for change, consensus on how such change should come about has been limited. Some countries, including the UK, have decided to take unilateral action, pending an international solution. The UK's 2018 Autumn Statement announced a digital services tax (DST) to be introduced from April 2020. The proposal is that a 2 per cent tax will apply to the revenues above £25 million of certain digital businesses to reflect the value they derive from the participation of UK users, with consultation on the detail of the legislation to take place between now and the introduction of the tax in the Finance Act 2020. One may conclude that this reflects the UK's view on the likelihood of an OECD solution by 2020. The UK is not alone: Malaysia revealed plans in November 2018 to introduce a consumption tax on the supply of digital services to Malaysian residents from 1 January 2020; Quebec is introducing a digital sales tax in January 2019; and Chile, Uruguay and Colombia all have plans to tax foreign suppliers of digital services. Potentially, as more countries start to fill the vacuum with their own domestic digital taxes, the possibility of conflict with the regimes in other countries arises.
The potential for tax conflict, rather than competition, is not restricted to the digital economy and is much more likely than in recent years. It is possible that 2019 will see some nations retaliate to US tax reforms and also see the US and certain jurisdictions use tariffs and duties as weapons in their trade wars. Brexit is another potential source of tax conflict.
It is hoped that this volume will prove to be a useful guide to the tax rules in the jurisdictions where clients conduct their businesses. Each chapter aims to provide topical and current insights from leading experts on the tax issues and opportunities in their respective jurisdictions. While specific tax advice is always essential, it is also necessary to have a broad understanding of the nature of the potential issues and advantages that lie ahead; this book provides a guide to these.
I should like to thank the contributors to this book for their time and efforts, and above all for their expertise. I would also like to thank the publisher and the team for their support and patience. I hope that you find the work useful, and any comments or suggestions for improvement that can be incorporated into any future editions will be gratefully received.
The views expressed in this book are those of the authors and not of their firms, the editor or the publishers. Every endeavour has been made to ensure that what you read is the latest intelligence.