Author(s): Richard Collier, Giorgia Maffini
Keywords: Corporate income tax; BEPS; tax avoidance; international taxation,UK
In the last few years, the UK has adopted a fiercely competitive business tax policy by reducing the general tax burden on business and expanding individual regimes targeted to mobile factors: CFC rules, interest deductibility rules, and the Patent Box have made the UK very attractive for internationally mobile capital and profits. As the same time, the UK has strongly supported the OECD BEPS project aimed at reducing multinationals’ tax avoidance and, hence, we argue, at eliminating or constraining forms of tax competition among countries based on individual regimes targeted to mobile capital and profits. We claim that, especially in the implementation phase of the BEPS recommendations, there will be tensions between the UK competitiveness agenda and its support for the BEPS. Such tensions will be reconciled by shifting the UK tax competition policy from a mix of rate-based plus individual regimes policy to more of a rate-based approach. In this scenario, the government will have to tighten some specific measures aimed at attracting highly mobile capital and profits, such as the patent box regime and possibly interest deductions. At the same time, it will reduce the tax burden on both mobile and less mobile activities by implementing economy-wide cuts, allowed under BEPS. Most likely, such cuts would come from a further reduction in the headline corporate tax rate and the cuts announced in the July 2015 Budget should be interpreted in this light. Cuts in the headline rate essentially reduce the taxation on profits but they do not take account of the fact that for other decisions such as investment in tangible assets and information and communications technology, other elements of the tax code, such as capital allowances, are more important. To foster real investment, the government could consider an increase in capital allowances. Another option would be the introduction of an Allowance for Corporate Equity (ACE). The interesting feature of the ACE in the context of BEPS is that it reduces the incentive to classify financing instruments as tax-advantaged debt.
Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation and Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policies, Università Bocconi
The paper can be downloaded here.