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Making the UN Tax Committee More Effective for Developing Countries

The UN Tax Committee shapes the rules through which Multinational Enterprises are taxed. Here we provide practical recommendations on how the Committee can be reformed to be made more effective, especially for the interests of developing countries.
  • Opinion by Abdul Muheet Chowdhary (geneva)
  • Inter Press Service

Its function post-COVID has change into much more necessary as nations wrestle to boost income. Despite being under-resourced, it has produced priceless steerage, particularly on the essential query of the digital financial system. As a brand new Membership of the Committee is about to be chosen, this transient offers sensible suggestions on how the Committee could be reformed to be made simpler, particularly for the pursuits of growing nations.

The United Nations is the foremost worldwide group, setup in the aftermath of the Second World War to assist construct a brand new world. One of its six principal organs is the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), tasked with advancing the three dimensions of sustainable improvement – financial, social and environmental. In that sense it performs a serious function in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the world has dedicated to.

Nestled inside ECOSOC is a little-known however vitally necessary subsidiary physique with the considerably archaic and prolonged title of “Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters”, popularly generally known as the UN Tax Committee (UNTC).

The UNTC is accountable for nothing lower than reviewing and recommending requirements on worldwide taxation, notably the guidelines by means of which non-residents, significantly Multinational Enterprises (MNEs), could also be taxed.

As is well-known, in at this time’s world there’s a rising focus of wealth and company consolidation, with one firm even reaching a staggering market valuation of USD 2 trillion. This is juxtaposed with an estimated $427 billion in tax income misplaced every year to worldwide company tax abuse and personal tax evasion. This makes the taxation of those MNEs (and non-residents extra usually) an necessary income for the nations the place they function. 

There can be the side of a stage enjoying area, as a result of if these overseas MNEs don’t pay the rightful taxes due, owing to tax evasion or avoidance, then it leads to a better burden on home companies, resulting in competitors issues. Foreign companies find yourself with extra funds at their disposal by means of which they’ll perform predatory pricing or buyout rivals.

The disruption of native companies has many destructive results, with one in every of them being decreased client demand owing to job losses. This is dangerous even for the overseas MNE because it means much less demand for their items and companies. Thus, non-payment of taxes results in a vicious cycle of financial slowdown, whereas tax compliance means fairer competitors, increased client demand and extra capability of governments to supply public items, resulting in a virtuous cycle of prosperity.

Thus, worldwide tax requirements are of essential significance, as they allow nations to successfully tax MNEs and lift the income wanted for offering public items and financing the SDGs. Improved capability for tax assortment is in truth goal 17.1 of the SDGs.

The UN Tax Committee, housed inside ECOSOC, therefore has a vital function to play for the world at massive. It can be the solely commonplace shaping physique on tax that’s inside a genuinely common group, the UN. The different main physique, the OECD, stays to today a corporation in the end managed by 37 of the world’s richest nations. Hence the UNTC is the solely physique the place growing nations have one thing near a stage enjoying area and the Committee’s membership is sort of evenly divided between developed and growing nations.

Though far much less resourced than the OECD, the UNTC has carried out admirably, producing requirements resembling the UN Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries, Manual for the Negotiation of Bilateral Tax Treaties between Developed and Developing Countries, Practical Manual on Transfer Pricing and Handbook on Selected Issues for Taxation of the Extractive Industries by Developing Countries. These paperwork present much-needed steerage to nations, significantly growing nations, in strengthening their worldwide tax coverage frameworks.

The current periods of the Committee have seen a spurt of exercise as a few of the extra energetic Members, all from growing nations, have taken the lead find options to a few of the burning problems with the day. Nowhere has this been extra obvious than in the taxation of the digitalized financial system, arguably the single most necessary concern in worldwide tax at this time.

The digitalized financial system can not be hived off right into a sector; it’s more and more part of the ‘real’ financial system and as such calls for main adjustments to worldwide tax guidelines. The OECD has been making an attempt for years to discover a answer by means of its “Inclusive” Framework on BEPS, however there is no such thing as a finish in sight as discussions proceed endlessly. Meanwhile growing nations are ever extra careworn for funds, significantly in these instances of recession and COVID-19.

While the OECD, with its monumental assets and Secretariat, continues to wrestle to discover a sensible and acceptable answer, the extra modest UNTC, in its 20th and 21st Session has come out with a easy and reasonable proposal for taxing earnings from Automated Digital Services, one which has been ready solely by growing nation members. That the Committee might present such an answer in a comparatively quick time period with all its constraints is a testomony to its relevance, however extra importantly unfulfilled potential.

These outcomes have occurred not due to the UNTC’s construction however quite regardless of it and could be attributed to the particular person drive and initiative of some Members. However it’s unwise to depend on such people and what’s wanted is a system that facilitates and encourages such outcomes as a matter in fact. Hence, this text seeks to look at how the construction of the UNTC could be improved so it does exactly this and is healthier in a position to fulfil its mandate.

Issues Relating to Committee Members


The first and most necessary side of the UNTC’s functioning is the collection of Members, particularly these from growing nations. Having passive Members who don’t or can not carry out their duties successfully signifies that their engagement is decreased to easily approving Committee  paperwork on varied points with out substantively contributing to them.

This is an unlucky end result as a result of though the Members are people serving of their knowledgeable capability, they’re however nominated by nations and the actuality is that they to an extent mirror nationwide experiences. Further, the UNTC is supposed to be a Committee-driven physique and the Members should have as a lot management as attainable and may be capable to drive the Committee’s work. For this, members should be chosen who’re succesful, dedicated and supported.


The Members should have the capability to carry out their duties. For this area data is crucial; candidates should have experience in worldwide tax issues resembling alternate of data or switch pricing. Practical expertise in tax treaties must also be a obligatory qualification. This will be certain that at minimal they’ve the capability to substantively contribute to the Committee’s work.


The Members should even have a observe document which proves their dedication to the concern. This is very necessary in the case of Members hailing from growing nations.


Members of the UNTC are tax officers working with their governments however are nominated of their knowledgeable and particular person capability, therefore their work shouldn’t be counted as “official” in the eyes of their governments. Working for the UNTC is seen as a private accountability and one thing that eats into their official duties. Several instances this trade-off signifies that they’re unable to dedicate sufficient time to their obligations as UNTC Members.

The manner out of that is to make sure that the Committee Members have assist from their governments of their work as UNTC Members and the time spent in that is necessary work is given due recognition and assist by their governments.

It could be good if the home tax administrations can present extra assets and workers to their Members. This will allow them to supply higher inputs and handle their Committee work together with their official tasks.

Thus, it’s endorsed that Member States, particularly these from growing nations, take these standards under consideration when making nominations, in order that they’re placing forth the finest candidates attainable. They should additionally assess whether or not their respective tax administrations will be capable to present them with the requisite assist in order that they’re able to do their finest. The UN can concern tips encouraging nations to observe this method.


Sometimes Committee Members are re-appointed for the subsequent time period. All the aforementioned factors are equally relevant in the case of such reappointments. At current nonetheless the course of shouldn’t be clear. Given the significance of being on the Committee, some standards and procedures needs to be developed on this regard.

Only these Members needs to be reappointed who’ve demonstrated their contributions to the Committee’s functioning. A suggestions mechanism could be devised which additionally takes under consideration the opinion of Observers, civil society and the UNTC Secretariat itself. The UN can share this evaluation with nations when requesting them to appoint or re-nominate candidates.


New members needs to be given an introduction to the committee and the way it works. They don’t have any time to be taught the ‘rules of the game’ and consequently can not perform with full effectivity. Often instances they be part of to search out that many issues have been already pre-decided, resembling the agenda and composition of sub-committees. To stop this and to make sure that they’re knowledgeable of how issues work, it’s endorsed that outgoing members do some handholding for them and share their experiences. This is very necessary for Members from growing nations.

Issues Relating to Committee functioning


The agenda needs to be determined by the Members. It is really helpful that the inputs of UN Member States needs to be solicited in making ready the UNTC agenda.

Number of Meetings

One of the compromise outcomes of the 2015 Addis Ababa convention on Financing for Development was to extend the variety of Committee conferences from two per 12 months as a substitute of only one. However this isn’t in any respect sufficient for the work to get accomplished. As a consequence choices on many pending points are likely to get delayed and their decision is dragged out. Hence, the variety of Committee conferences should be elevated, with the flexibility to have extra Sessions if the work so requires.

Staffing of the Secretariat

The composition of the Secretariat is essential as it really worksfull-time and constantly on the Committee’s work, not like the Members who even have official tasks. So far, the Secretariat workers, particularly for the core work of the Committee, includes largely former OECD officers or officers from developed nations. The actuality of this implies it’s simpler for OECD requirements proposed by developed nation Committee Members to search out their manner into the UN Committee. To stability this, the Secretariat workers ought to have a lot bigger illustration from growing nations. There isn’t any dearth of expertise. 

Another measure on this regard is to decrease the emphasis given to data of a number of UN languages when hiring candidates. It needs to be sufficient for eligible candidates to know just one language. Many nationals of the growing world wouldn’t have the luxurious of studying a number of UN languages, which these in the developed world do. The hiring coverage needs to be subsequently rational and versatile on this regard with a give attention to topic data to stop over-representation of nationals of former colonial powers.


These are some concrete suggestions for bettering the construction of the UNTC so it’s higher in a position to discharge its tasks. The reforms required will not be main however however have the potential to tremendously enhance the Committee’s functioning, which in flip means extra balanced and environment friendly worldwide tax requirements for a world in dire want of funds to fight COVID-19 and finance the restoration.

Abdul Muheet Chowdhary is Senior Programme Officer with the South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI), a part of the South Centre, a Geneva-based intergovernmental group of growing nations.

This article was initially revealed by the South Centre.

© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal supply: Inter Press Service

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