Tax loopholes

When the OECD joined the G20 crackdown on tax havens during the economic crisis in 2009, its longstanding work helped to curb this harmful tax practice and implement a global standard of bank transparency. Now the organisation is focusing on another time-honoured malpractice: that of slipping taxable income through fiscal loopholes. Some call this creative accounting, the OECD calls it aggressive tax planning, and because it is hurting government revenue, it is hurting entire economies as well.

In a study of 17 countries, Corporate Loss Utilisation through Aggressive Tax Planning focuses on the losses–real or unreal–that companies claim on tax forms. Due to the financial crisis, global corporate losses have increased significantly, so the numbers at stake are vast, with companies bringing losses forward to future years' profits in order to reduce tax liability. Such loss carry-forwards are as high as 25% of GDP in some countries, the OECD reports. The book addresses both real and artificial losses, as well as the issue of multiple deductions of the same loss, typically by juggling dual-residency status, double-dip leases, or other mismatch arrangements.

Countries have also seen loss-making companies acquired solely to be merged with profit-making companies, and loss-making financial assets artificially allocated to high-tax jurisdictions. This shifting of losses is a case of tax havens in reverse, in which corporations, especially banks, juggle international borders to their advantage. “Losses are of no value in a country with no taxes”, Reuters journalist David Cay Johnston wrote, “but if they can be slipped to a high-tax country where profits are actually earned through economic activity, then the losses are imbued with value.”

How can this be stopped? Early detection via audits, special reporting obligations on losses, mandatory disclosure rules and co-operative compliance programmes can pay off. For instance, the OECD reports that the UK was able to cut off £12 billion in “avoidance opportunities”, thanks to its early disclosure rules.

Among other recommendations, the OECD urges governments to introduce policies restricting multiple use of the same loss and to revise restrictions on the use of certain losses in the context of mergers, acquisitions or group taxation regimes. In short, firm creativity should be directed at business models, and not at the balance sheet.

ISBN 978-92-64-11921-5

For more information on this publication, and details on how to access it, click here

See www.oecd.org/tax

©OECD Observer No 286 Q3 2011




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Editor's choice

  • Composite leading indicators
  • 2015, a year full of dangers? Laurent Bossard, director of the Sahel and West Africa Club, acknowledges that the situation in the region is complex and unstable but refuses to give in to fatalism.
  • The 5th Anti-corruption conference for G20 governments and business in Istanbul on 6 March will address how all businesses can play their part in contributing to growth and investment, and can operate with clean hands in a safe environment.
  • Success story. Discover the story of this young Ethiopian woman who launched a successful business in the footwear industry and became a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Entrepreneurship.
  • Transports in Asia. The Asian Development Bank advocates sustainable transport in a continent where vehicle ownership is perceived as a sign of social success.
  • Vote for your favourite photograph! This World Bank #EachDayISee photo contest aims to display visual stories from all over the world through which people express what they would like to see changed and improved.
  • Why is investment so low in the euro area? This short IMF blog post gives you an insight into the causes of the euro-zone's drastic decline in investment.
  • Have your say! The UN wants to know what matters most to you: pick six global issues in the list and send it to the United Nations.
  • Clear air and healthy lungs: how to better tackle air pollution. From New Delhi to Accra, millions of people breathe polluted air. A new report examines the World Bank’s experience working to improve air quality.
  • The boring secret of great cities. Plenty of things make a city great but what really makes a difference originates in the structure of municipal government according to the OECD's report "The Metropolitan Century".
  • Guinea gets $37.7 million in extra IMF financing to help combat Ebola
  • Towards an international carbon pricing framework? Designing a unified international carbon pricing system could help to move towards a fully functional low-carbon global economy.
  • Putting the global economy on a more virtuous path. Current potential growth rates are well below pre-crisis levels. To avoid stagnation, governments have to put in place robust structural reforms.
  • World Water Day: 22 March 2015 For World Water Day, UN-Water identifies upcoming challenges and sets the theme for the years to come. In 2015, the theme for World Water Day is Water and Sustainable Development.
  • What drives street-based child labour?The ILO, UNICEF, Save the Children and the Lebanese Ministry of Labour launch a first-ever study assessing the scope and characteristics of the increasingly visible phenomenon of one of the worst forms of child labour.
  • No “Grexit”. Speaking to CNBC, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría says he would do everything to make sure Greece does not leave the euro. "Everybody wants Greece to stay in, everybody wants Greece to prosper and to get out of its short-term morass," he told CNBC. Watch the video.
  • engaging citizens
  • Interested in citizen engagement? The World Bank Group offers a four-week online course which aims to teach how citizens can engage in both policymaking and public service delivery.
  • 2.1 million jobs could be created in Europe by 2018 under the three-year investment plan put forward by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, according to the ILO.
  • Become involved in urban flood risk management. This World Bank two-week online forum gives you the opportunity to discuss how to preserve cities from these natural disasters with experts and development leaders.
  • Promoting decent work for migrant workers.This ILO report highlights the need to ensure decent work for migrants, which is part of the global agenda on sustainable development.

Most Popular Articles

Subscribe Now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Poll

What issue are you most concerned about in 2015?

Euro crisis
Unemployment
Global warming
International conflict
Other

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2015