The United States, Britain and other large, rich nations reached a landmark deal on Saturday to squeeze more money out of multinational companies such as Amazon and Google and reduce their incentive to shift profits to low-tax offshore havens.
Hundreds of billions of dollars could flow into the coffers of governments left cash-strapped by the COVID-19 pandemic after the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies agreed to back a minimum global corporate tax rate of at least 15 per cent, Reuters reported from London.
Facebook said it expected it would have to pay more tax, in more countries, as a result of the deal, which comes after eight years of talks that gained fresh impetus in recent months after proposals from U.S. President Joe Biden’s new administration.
Google said it supported the move to have a global corporate tax rate.
“G7 finance ministers have reached a historic agreement to reform the global tax system to make it fit for the global digital age,” British finance minister Rishi Sunak said after chairing a two-day meeting in London, according to Reuters.
The meeting, hosted at an ornate 19th-century mansion near Buckingham Palace in central London, was the first time finance ministers have met face-to-face since the start of the pandemic.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the “significant, unprecedented commitment” would end what she called a race to the bottom on global taxation. German finance minister Olaf Scholz said the deal was “bad news for tax havens around the world”.
Yellen also saw the G7 meeting as marking a return to multilateralism under Biden and a contrast to the approach of US President Donald Trump, who alienated many US allies.
Ministers also agreed to move towards making companies declare their environmental impact in a more standard way so investors can decide more easily whether to fund them, a key goal for Britain.
Current global tax rules date back to the 1920s and struggle with multinational tech giants that sell services remotely and attribute much of their profits to intellectual property held in low-tax jurisdictions.
Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president for global affairs and a former British deputy prime minister, said: “We want the international tax reform process to succeed and recognise this could mean Facebook paying more tax, and in different places.”
But Italy, which will seek wider international backing for the plans at a meeting of the G20 in Venice next month, said the proposals were not just aimed at US firms.
Yellen said European countries would scrap existing digital services taxes, which the United States says discriminate against American businesses as the new global rules go into effect.
European countries had been concerned that this could exclude Amazon, which has lower profit margins than most tech companies, but Yellen said she expected it would be included.
How tax revenues will be split is not finalised either, and any deal will also need to pass the U.S. Congress. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said he would push for a higher minimum tax, calling 15 per cent “a starting point”.
Google said on Saturday that it supports the work being done to update international tax rules.
“We strongly support the work being done to update international tax rules. We hope countries continue to work together to ensure a balanced and durable agreement will be finalized soon,” Google spokesman José Castañeda said in an emailed statement.