Think tank urges UK government to back Biden’s global tax plan

By Gwyn Topham / The Guardian

The UK would reap an extra £4.7 billion (US$6.65 billion) annually by adopting US President Joe Biden’s proposal for a new global minimum corporation tax rate of 21 percent, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Centre for Economic Justice has said.

The think tank has urged the British government to embrace and push for Biden’s proposals at the forthcoming G7 summit, arguing that the global system would be fairer and allow the UK to raise billions in vital revenue.

Biden has set out plans, based on long-gestating proposals by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to force the world’s biggest multinational companies to pay taxes to national governments based on the sales the companies generate in each country, and to establish a global minimum rate to deter firms from shifting profits abroad and to reduce international undercutting on tax.

The US initially proposed a minimum global corporate tax rate of 21 percent, but has since signaled that it could accept a 15 percent minimum.

Five of the other G7 members have already indicated that they will back the proposals, but the UK has yet to do so, despite British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak having set out plans in this year’s budget to raise the UK’s corporation tax rate from 19 percent to 25 percent by 2023.

The IPPR says that the UK, while hosting the G7 meeting in Cornwall this month, could take an opportunity for global leadership by backing a new global minimum rate of 21 percent, and help define a new consensus on fair and transparent taxation and investment, to aid a post-COVID-19-pandemic recovery.

It calculates that a global minimum of 21 percent corporation tax would generate increased UK tax receipts of £4.7 billion, sufficient to fund the rebuilding of the National Health Service and care system — which the IPPR recently costed at £2 billion.

The alternative proposal for a 15 percent rate would only raise approximately half as much — about £9 billion — and would retain “the race to the bottom on tax,” it said.

While opponents have argued that the minimum rate would undermine national sovereignty, the IPPR said that the UK’s sovereignty is more affected by companies that are able to avoid taxation by shifting their profits to offshore havens.

The Biden plan includes proposals to ensure that firms cannot move profits to a country with a lower tax rate.

Companies that pay full taxes in the UK would not face higher bills either, given the new UK corporation tax rate.

Instead, it would prevent multinational firms from offshoring their profits to tax havens, in an unfair advantage over companies operating solely in the UK, the IPPR said.

George Dibb, the head of the IPPR Centre for Economic Justice, said that the UK government, as hosts of the G7 meeting, could shape the global economic consensus, but warned: “The window of opportunity may be narrow. Failure to reach consensus has held these negotiations up for years, until the new US administration kick-started the process again.”

The UK should not miss the opportunity to seize global leadership on the issue,” Dibb said.

“For years, big businesses all around the world have avoided taxes, to the tune of [US]$500 billion per year, at the expense of all those domestic businesses that do pay their fair taxes,” IPPR senior economist Carsten Jung said.

“Fixing this will restore the level playing field for all UK businesses, and it will address one of the big economic injustices of our time,” Jung said.

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