Understanding BEPS: From tax avoidance to digital tax challenges

Briefing 21-10-2019

Action to fight corporate tax avoidance has been deemed necessary in the OECD forum and has received further impetus through the G20/OECD Base erosion and profit shifting action plan (known as BEPS). The 2015 BEPS action plan has 15 actions, covering elements used in corporate tax-avoidance practices and aggressive tax-planning schemes. The implementation of the BEPS action plan was designed to be flexible, as a consequence of its adoption by consensus. Recommendations made in BEPS reports range from minimum standards to guidelines, as well as putting in place an instrument to modify the provisions of tax treaties related to BEPS practices. In addition, putting BEPS actions into practice has involved a growing number of countries, so as to provide a more inclusive framework able to involve more countries beyond the OECD and G20 members, and build on cooperation between international organisations. The application of BEPS actions and their follow-up involves issues that remain to be implemented or addressed. Here come in particular issues beyond the avoidance techniques that were addressed in the BEPS action plan, starting with addressing tax challenges of the digital economy, building on the BEPS action1 report that defined a calendar for providing an adaptation of international tax rules to the impact of digitalisation. Based on several intermediary reports, the OECD/G20 inclusive framework on BEPS issued a work programme to develop a consensus solution to the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy. Endorsed in June 2019 by the G20, this programme outlines the steps for modernising international tax rules. An annex to this document outlines the different international fora and instruments relevant to BEPS actions and the countries or organisations that participate in them or apply them. This briefing updates an earlier edition (PE 607.288), of June 2017.