A nation’s role in addressing base erosion and profit shifting : balancing sovereignty with international collaboration and coordination

Sadiq, Kerrie (2013) A nation’s role in addressing base erosion and profit shifting : balancing sovereignty with international collaboration and coordination. In 22nd Annual Tax Research Network Conference, 3-4 September 2013, University of Exeter, Exeter. (Unpublished)


The notion of sovereignty is central to any international tax issue. While a nation is free to design its tax laws as it sees fit and raise revenue in accordance with the needs of its citizens, it is not possible to undertake such a task in isolation. In a world of cross-border investments and business transactions, all tax regimes impact on one another. Tax interactions between sovereign states cannot be avoided. Ultimately, the interactions mean that a nation must decide whether to engage in both collaboration and coordination with other nations and supranational bodies alike or maintain an individualised stance in relation to its tax policy. Whatever the decision, there is arguably an exercise in national sovereignty in some form.

In the context of an international tax regime, whether that regime is interpreted broadly as meaning international norms generally adopted by nations around the world or domestic regimes legislating for cross-border transactions, rhetoric around national fiscal sovereignty takes on many different forms. At one end of the spectrum it is relied upon by financial secrecy jurisdictions (tax havens) as a defence to their position on the basis that ‘other’ nations cannot interfere with the fiscal sovereignty of a jurisdiction. At the other end of the spectrum, it is argued that profit shifting and international tax avoidance if not stopped is, in and of itself, a threat to a nation’s fiscal sovereignty on the basis that it threatens the ability to tax and raise the revenue needed. This paper considers a modern conceptualisation of sovereignty along with its role within international tax coordination and collaboration to argue that a move towards a more unified approach to addressing international base erosion and profit shifting may be the ultimate exercise of national fiscal sovereignty.

By using the current transfer pricing regime as a case study, this paper posits that it is not merely enough to have international agreement on allocation rules to be applied, but that the ultimate exercise of national sovereignty is political agreement with other states to ensure that it is governments which determine the allocational basis of worldwide profits to be taxed. In doing so, it is demonstrated that the arm’s length pricing requirement of the current transfer pricing regime, rather than providing governments with the ability to determine the location of profits, is providing multinational entities with the ultimate power to determine that location. If left unchecked, this will eventually erode a nation’s ability to capture the required tax revenue and, as a consequence, may be deemed a failure by nation states to exercise their fiscal sovereignty.

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ID Code: 68434
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Additional URLs:
Keywords: International Taxation, Fiscal Sovereignty, Transfer Pricing, Formulary Apportionment
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Taxation Law (180125)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Accountancy
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 The Author
Deposited On: 14 Mar 2014 00:15
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2014 00:15

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