ECOSOC convenes meeting on international cooperation in tax matters

On 7 April, ECOSOC held its special meeting on international cooperation in tax matters. The meeting was held immediately following the 14th session of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (Committee), to facilitate dialogue between the Committee and the Council and to provide input to intergovernmental consideration of tax issues at the United Nations.

Taxation is one of the most important ways in which developing countries can mobilize resources for investment, however, substantial gaps in raising tax revenues persist between developed and developing countries. In this respect, strengthening tax systems – both in terms of tax policies and administration – has emerged as a key development priority both in the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Agenda.

Given the globalized nature of business and finance, there are limits to what countries can do on their own through domestic policies, so the Addis Agenda also emphasizes the importance of international tax cooperation and the need to combat illicit financial flows. The meeting was envisioned as an interactive space for dialogue on these important issues.

The 14th Committee session was the last for the current membership. In light of that, the morning session of the special meeting of ECOSOC highlighted the main accomplishments of the Committee, namely: (i) the update of the United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries (UN Model); (ii) the updated and enhanced United Nations Practical Manual on Transfer Pricing for Developing Countries; and (iii) the forthcoming Handbook on issues related to the taxation of extractive industries in developing countries.

The afternoon began with a discussion on the promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows (IFFs) to foster sustainable development. The session focused on concrete insights on: (i) the impact of IFFs on national sustainable development efforts; (ii) measures that may help reduce IFFs; and (iii) policies and actions that may address the underlying behaviours that give rise to IFFs. Panellists explored national, regional and international initiatives aimed at curbing IFFs.

The final dialogue of the day focused on the work of the inter-agency Platform for Collaboration on Tax (Platform). The Platform, a joint initiative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank Group (WBG) aims at intensifying their cooperation on tax issues.

Platform members outlined the next steps in the Platform’s work, including the preparation of capacity-development toolkits for developing countries. They also discussed plans for the 1st Global Conference of the Platform to be held in February 2018 at UN Headquarters in New York, on the overall theme of “Taxation and the Sustainable Development Goals”. A draft concept note and agenda for the conference have been posted online for comments and feedback.

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