G20 agrees to push ahead with digital tax

Not everyone is unhappy about the trade war: US garlic producers have welcomed the tariffs as Chinese exporters have all but wiped out garlic growers across the country. (AFP)
Updated 09 June 2019

G20 agrees to push ahead with digital tax

  • Washington is concerned the tax would target US Inernet companies unfairly
  • Many feel low tax burden for big tech firms is unfair

FUKUOKA, Japan: Group of 20 finance ministers agreed on Saturday to compile common rules to close loopholes used by global tech giants such as Facebook to reduce their corporate taxes, a copy of the bloc’s draft communique obtained by Reuters showed.

Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other large technology firms face criticism for cutting their tax bills by booking profits in low-tax countries regardless of the location of the end customer. Such practices are seen by many as unfair.

The new rules would mean higher tax burdens for large multi-national firms but would also make it harder for countries such as Ireland to attract foreign direct investment with the promise of ultra-low corporate tax rates.

“We welcome the recent progress on addressing the tax challenges arising from digitization and endorse the ambitious program that consists of a two-pillar approach,” the draft communique said. “We will redouble our efforts for a consensus-based solution with a final report by 2020.”

Britain and France have been among the most vocal proponents of proposals to tax big tech companies that focus on making it more difficult to shift profits to low-tax jurisdictions, and to introduce a minimum corporate tax.

This has put the two countries at loggerheads with the US, which has expressed concern that US Internet companies are being unfairly targeted in a broad push to update the global corporate tax code.

“The United States has significant concerns with the two corporate taxes proposed by France and the UK,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday at a two-day meeting of G20 finance ministers in the Japanese city of Fukuoka.

“It sounds like we have a strong consensus” about the goals of tax reform, Mnuchin later said. “So now we need to just take the consensus across here and deal with technicalities of how we turn this into an agreement.”

Mnuchin spoke at a panel on global taxation at the G20 after the French and British finance ministers voiced sympathy with his concerns that new tax rules do not discriminate against particular firms.

Big Internet companies say they follow tax rules but have paid little tax in Europe, typically by channelling sales via countries such as Ireland and Luxembourg, which have light-touch tax regimes.

The G20’s debate on changes to the tax code focus on two pillars that could be a double whammy for some companies.

The first pillar is dividing up the rights to tax a company where its goods or services are sold even if it does not have a physical presence in that country.

If companies are still able to find a way to book profits in low tax or offshore havens, countries could then apply a global minimum tax rate to be agreed under the second pillar.

The path to a final agreement is still fraught with difficulty because of disagreement on a common definition of a digital business and on how to distribute tax authority among different countries.

The G7 likely will not issue any communique at a meeting of the world’s leading economic powers next month, according to the official. Still, several finance ministers at the G20 said on Saturday they needed to act quickly to correct unfair corporate tax codes or risk being punished by voters.

“We cannot explain to a population that they should pay their taxes when certain companies do not because they shift their profits to low-tax jurisdictions,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said during the panel discussion.

The US government has voiced concern in the past that the European campaign for a “digital tax” unfairly targets US tech giants.

Earlier this year, countries and territories agreed a roadmap aimed at overhauling international tax rules that have been overtaken by the development of digital commerce. 

Saudi Arabia promotes investment opportunities with Japan’s business leaders  

Updated 52 min 38 sec ago

Saudi Arabia promotes investment opportunities with Japan’s business leaders  

  • Saudi Arabia and Japan exchanged 12 MoUs in the fields of education, science, technology, and banking and finance

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia opened its doors for Japanese investment during a Saudi-Japan business forum held in Tokyo on Wednesday amid growing economic ties between the two nations.  

The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) discussed tourism and entertainment investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia with Japan’s business leaders and government officials during the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum, hosted in partnership with the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).

During the forum, 12 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) were exchanged in fields of education, science, technology, and banking and finance.

The MoUs include Toyobo and Saline Water Conversion Corporation and Arabian Japanese Membrane Company which will aim to manage disposed brine water generated from seawater desalination plants for environmental sustainability.

Two Saudi and Japanese universities signed MoUs for academic exchange on research. While SAGIA signed MoU with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation to enhance investment opportunities.

“Japan is one of Saudi Arabia’s most important economic partners, and businesses from across our countries have a strong track record of working together,” Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Commerce and Investment, Majid Al-Qasabi said at the Forum.

“Today’s Forum reflects the success and strength of this enduring partnership. We established the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030 two years ago, which seeks to drive and facilitate continued private sector involvement by establishing joint-ventures between entities across our respective countries,” he added.

These investments come alongside a broad series of economic reforms, which are enabling rapid growth in foreign investment in Saudi Arabia. This is part of the Kingdom’s efforts to diversify its economy as outlined in Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia has moved up three positions to the 36th place, globally, through its efforts to diversify the Kingdom’s economy, according to the 2019 Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum.

The total number of foreign investor licenses issued in the first half of 2019 was more than double the number issued the same period a year before.

“We believe that the future prosperity of the Kingdom depends on fostering even closer ties with our strategic partners across the globe, and we look forward to welcoming these companies as they take part in the historic transformation of our economy,” Al-Qasabi said. 

Memoranda of Understanding exchanged at the Forum include:

  • University of Tokyo and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) – the academic exchange for research in renewable energy and petrochemicals
  • Kyoto University Institute for Advance Study (KUIAS) and King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST)– to promote the exchange of scientific materials, publications, and information and exchange of faculty members and researchers, students and joint research
  • University of Tokyo and King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) – to collaborate on the research and the next generation of organic and soft electronics and efficient generation of hydrogen
  • Japan Patent Office (JPO) and Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) – to promote the exchange of data and best practices in the field of intellectual property protection including trademarks and patents
  • Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) – to enhance investment opportunities between Japan and Saudi Arabia
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) – a framework for cooperation to enhance investment from Japan to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Toyobo and Saline Water Conversion Corporation and Arabian Japanese Membrane Company – to develop innovative membrane technologies and manage disposed brine water generated from seawater desalination plants for environmental sustainability
  • Sojitz Corporation and AIZAWA Concrete Corporation and Al Saedan for Development – to explore opportunities and utilize 3D printing technology and local materials for housing construction
  • Cyberdyne Group and Abdul Latif Jameel Investments – to collaborate and enhance Cybernic treatment and contribute to the social development of the Kingdom.
  • Saudi-Japan Vision Office Riyadh (VRO) and National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP) – to expand collaboration and enable investments in the field of industry, mining, energy and logistics
  • TBM and SABIC – to build a circular economy using LIMEX
  • Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the National Industrial Clusters Development Program (NICDP) and the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation and Saudi-Japanese Automobile High Institute – to provide support and training for human capacity development for Saudi youth in the automotive sector