G20 to talk tax in Tokyo

Tax experts are gathering in Tokyo to thrash out ways to stem a tide of avoidance in the international tax system.


The G20 International Tax Symposium in the Japanese capital this week forms a key part of Australia’s 2014 presidency of the forum that represents the world largest economies.

Australia’s G20 agenda aims to improve growth and build resilience in the global economy, in which taxation plays a major role.

Australian Taxation Office boss Chris Jordan, who will attend the May 9-10 meeting, believes Australia is pioneering a new age of collaboration with the “landmark” gathering.

“We must be able to talk to each other, share information, share intelligence so that we can have a much more global picture of what’s happening,” Mr Jordan told a media briefing on Monday.

Some 230 delegates from 40 countries are registered for the event, beyond the membership of the G20 and the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Treasury’s Barry Sterland, who represents Australia as a G20 finance deputy, concedes there are many difficult issues to be resolved.

“But there is also agreement we do not want a situation where taxpayers exploit gaps and anomalies in the rules to avoid tax,” Mr Sterland said.

The international tax system has come increasingly under pressure through significant changes over the past two decades.

The OECD, through the political clout of the G20, has been working on standardising rules governing where the profits of multinationals should be taxed.

It will provide a further update in Tokyo.

Outcomes from Tokyo will be taken to the G20 finance deputies meeting in June in Melbourne and the G20 finance ministers and central bankers Cairns meeting in September.

Mr Sterland is confident the G20 will take tangible steps later this year that address deficiencies in the system.

Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), a sponsor for the tax symposium, believes risks to economic growth could be significant if consensus is not achieved.

“Countries may end up taking unilateral action that could result in increased uncertainty and double taxation for multi-national corporations,” PwC partner Pete Calleja said in a statement.