Mr Saint-Amans highlighted to over 50 leading Australian companies the key aspects of the OECD's prolific recent output. This included the landmark 2013 Base Erosion and Profit-Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan, endorsed by the G20 and this month's release of a single global standard for information exchange between tax authorities, and the revised guidance on transfer pricing, and country by country reporting of revenues and profits.
He said there was unstoppable political momentum towards change and that all 15 of the BEPS Action points should be introduced. There could be no half-measures to the reforms, he said. The current international system of tax treaties had done its job in preventing double taxation, but the problem in the digital era was 'double non-taxation'. If action was not taken in full by 2016, emerging countries could walk away from the process.
Mr Saint-Amans said profits and tax had to be realigned, questioning how intellectual property and profits could end up in offshore financial centres, where there was no relevant activity by the company. But he put most of the onus on governments rather than companies, accepting that business had a right to be irritated by some of the public debate over 'fairness' given that rules were being followed, although there had been cases of over-aggressive avoidance.
Rosheen Garnon, National Managing Partner, Tax, said the timescale for change was very tight and that business needed certainty over the various proposals. The event was one of KPMG's best-attended, reflecting the keen business interest in the whole international tax debate.
Mr Saint-Amans is due to take part in the G20 finance ministers meeting in Sydney on 23–24 February, the first of several in Australia in 2014 leading up to the full G20 leaders summit in November.