Vol. XL No. 2

Base Erosion and Profit Shifting: How Corporations Use Transfer Pricing to Avoid Taxation

Abstract: In an increasingly global economy, base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) has allowed multinational corporations to utilize their subsidiaries to move assets and profits. As a result, corporations are able to lower their tax bills, but also deprive governments of integral tax funds, while leaving smaller competitors who pay their fair share of taxes at a disadvantage. To combat the effects of BEPS, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has collaborated with the Group of 20 (G20) major economies for the first time to implement an action plan. The BEPS Project seeks to ensure all corporations pay proper taxes to the government of each country in which they operate by addressing issues presented by transfer pricing and profit reporting. As the plan has been developed by the world’s major economies, difficulties arise for developing countries that may not have the resources to implement the plan successfully. Attempts to implement a universal rule face further difficulties given that an array of treaties addressing these issues already exist. To ease the transition, the BEPS Project utilizes safe harbors—sacrificing equity for efficiency in many instances. While the collaborative effort represents a major step forward, and the creation of the plan and first efforts to implement it are certainly beneficial, there is still a lot of work to be done. Questions remain regarding how to properly address BEPS and create a universally fair system for economies and corporations of all sizes.

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