Transfer Pricing Report

OECD Digital Tax Fix Must Capture Value of Data, Le Maire Says (1)

April 12, 2019, 4:38 PMUpdated: April 12, 2019, 6:04 PM

France will only replace its national digital tax with an OECD solution if the global version also taxes the profits companies make from data, the finance minister said.

“There is really a clear commitment from France that as soon as there is a solution at the OECD level, we will get rid of the national solution,” Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, told Bloomberg Tax April 12.

“I just want to make clear that it must be a taxation on digital activities,” he said. “I mean on profits made on data. So there are many technical options, but France is advocating for very strong and convincing solutions, in which we can say, well, there is a fair and efficient taxation on profits made on data.”

France’s National Assembly approved a bill April 9 that would levy a 3 percent tax on the revenue large companies make from digital activities. The Senate still has to vote on the bill.

The bill would target large companies with 750 million euros ($845 million) in worldwide revenue, and tax revenue from digital activities like targeted online advertising and from “intermediary” platforms that connect buyers and sellers online.

Meanwhile, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is working to find a solution by the end of 2020 that reaches consensus among 129 countries—including the U.S., which has repeatedly said it will oppose any solution that ring-fences digital businesses. The work has been spurred by some countries’ concerns that multinationals, particularly technology companies, aren’t paying their fair share of tax, or aren’t paying it in the right places. But some of the solutions under consideration could affect a much broader range of companies than the technology industry.

France’s unilateral action has been effective at putting pressure on the OECD to accelerate its digital tax work, Le Maire said at an April 12 press briefing at an International Monetary Fund event in Washington.

The OECD will report to the Group of 20 finance ministers in June with updates on its work plan going forward.

The G20 “reiterated our commitment” to seeking a solution to the challenges of taxing the digital economy, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said during the press briefing.

Proposed Solutions

France is advocating for an OECD solution that would impose at least a minimum rate of tax on corporations operating globally—which would help address concerns about multinational companies not paying enough tax.

Other solutions the OECD is considering—which could work in tandem with a minimum tax—would change where companies pay tax by shifting some taxing rights away from countries where companies make or develop goods and services, and to the countries where they sell them.

A U.S. proposal before the OECD achieves this shift by allocating to market countries a greater share of the above-ordinary profits companies make from “marketing intangibles”—the value a brand has in a market. That solution would only satisfy France if it also captured the value digital companies get from a market, Le Maire told Bloomberg Tax.

“We just have to be careful, that behind the intangible goods, we are able to catch also the value created by data,” he said. “There is a risk with the intangible goods that you are catching only brands, and advertising, entertainment, and so on—not catching the value created by data.”

(Updated with additional reporting in the eighth and ninth paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Isabel Gottlieb in Washington at igottlieb@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Meg Shreve at mshreve@bloombergtax.com; Kevin A. Bell at kbell@bloombergtax.com

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