Taxing issues: Evasion and digital economy

Taxing issues: Evasion and digital economy
File photo: Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo

TACKLING tax evasion and dealing with the fast-growing digital economy were top of the agenda at a conference on taxation yesterday.

Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport, Mrs Josephine Teo, told the event that the tax authorities around the world are acting to address tax dodges more effectively.

Mrs Teo was referring to a project by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that aims to stamp out tax evasion by multinational companies. She said: "Driven by concerns over fiscal deficits, the tax authorities are increasingly taking more aggressive actions when scrutinising cross-border transactions and in dealing with transfer-pricing issues."

The two-day Asia Pacific Regional Tax Conference, which opened at Marina Bay Sands yesterday, also discussed issues arising from the emerging global digital economy.

Mr Philip Baker, QC, from the Field Court Tax Chambers in Britain, noted that the digital economy has changed the world fundamentally, as reflected in new forms of doing business.

While current tax systems have to adapt to it, the digital economy can revolutionise and boost tax collection by enabling a massive exchange of information, Mr Baker said.

He added that source-based and residence-based taxation, when meted out, should not simply benefit powerful nations. It should also encourage rather than undermine trade and investment.

Mrs Eng-Tay Geok Lee, chief executive of the Tax Academy, which organised the event with the International Fiscal Association Singapore, noted that some international tax rules are being re-examined.

On the same note, Mrs Teo said that international tax changes should take global interests into account and cultivate a level playing field across all tax jurisdictions.

She said: "It is critical for the reforms to the global tax system to... accommodate legitimate business models, promote global economic growth and trade, and not be used as a disguise for protectionism."

About 200 people are attending the conference to hear 49 tax practitioners, lawyers, policymakers and academics discuss tax issues.

This article was first published on April 17, 2015.
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