Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Cover of Policy Paper 132
Policy Papers

Should Developing Countries Sign the OECD Multilateral Instrument to Address Treaty-Related Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Measures?

November 13, 2018
Download PDF

The Multilateral Instrument (MLI) is a groundbreaking mechanism to update the network of thousands of bilateral tax treaties that make up the international tax system. It aims to reduce opportunities for multinational corporations to reduce their tax burden through base erosion and profit shifting. While the MLI was not designed primarily to address the priorities of developing countries in relation to the international tax system, it nevertheless offers a means to tackle practices such as “treaty shopping” and companies avoiding setting up taxable “permanent establishments.” The extent to which this potential is realized depends on the choices made both by developing countries and by their treaty partners since changes are only operational if both parties choose compatible options. Failure by major economies to adopt the minimum standards in the MLI or to apply these in their treaties with developing countries would create major gaps and inconsistencies in the tax treaty system. This paper argues that developing countries should sign up to the MLI, but that they can afford to take a wait-and-see approach to selecting and finalizing options, while reviewing the options selected by other countries and building capacity for implementation. Developing countries should also be cautious about entering into new tax treaties to be sure that provisions are in their favour.

Rights & Permissions

You may use and disseminate CGD’s publications under these conditions.