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World leaders hail agreement on global corporate tax rate

October 8, 2021

Most countries have now signed up to a historic deal to ensure a minimum 15% corporate tax rate. Only four smaller economies are still holding back.

A magnifying glass over accounts illustrates governments' future power to ensure corporates pay up
Multinational companies will now have no other option but to pay taxes to governmentsImage: picture alliance/dpa/Chromorange

A new global corporate tax rate of at least 15% looks set to become a reality in 2023 after Hungary became the last European country to accept a proposal by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

After Ireland and Estonia joined the effort on Thursday, Hungary chose to sign the global tax after clinching a transitional period of 10 years with its own special rate.

The agreement has now been ratified by 136 countries, the OECD said Friday.

Only Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are still holding out from the 140 countries involved in the OECD talks.

What were the reactions?

Negotiations that have been ongoing for four years received a huge boost when US President Joe Biden voiced his support earlier this year.

"Establishing, for the first time in history, a strong global minimum tax will finally even the playing field for American workers and taxpayers, along with the rest of the world," the US president said in a statement.

The US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the agreement would yield "decades of increased prosperity," dubbing it "a once-in-a-generation accomplishment for economic diplomacy."

In a statement issued to reporters, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said it was "another important step towards more tax justice."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it "a question of basic fairness" tweeting that "we owe it to our citizens." 

Global tech giant Google said that the new tax agreement is "an important step forward" and that it hopes "the momentum continues."

But the Swiss Finance Ministry said small economies like its own would find it impossible to bring the tax in by 2023 while Poland voiced concern over investment.

Oxfam criticized the deal for its "complex web of exemptions." The rate of 15% would do "little or nothing to end harmful tax competition," the organization said in a statement.

What is the global tax reform plan?

The US had proposed the minimum corporate income tax of 15% to stop tax havens from competing to attract major companies.

The rate would affect fewer than 10,000 multinational companies, those with an annual turnover of more than €750 million ($890 million).

At a time of economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the OECD said it could boost government coffers by about $150 billion annually. More than $125 billion of corporate profits would also be moved to countries where these big companies generate their revenue.

The OECD said the deal would next go to G20 leaders for approval at the end of the month before being made law by 2023.

jc/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa)