Less taxing tax

OECD Observer

Who owes what, how and where? Understanding the international array of tax treaties can be a headache for businesses everywhere, not to mention tax authorities. There are 2,500 such treaties in force around the world, covering everything from income tax to pension plan liabilities. No one, be they companies or governments or individuals, likes to be short-changed, which makes global tax such a sensitive issue.

The OECD Model Tax Convention on Income and on Capital helps to disentangle this complex web of conventions, norms and agreements so that decision-makers can get on with the job of negotiating, implementing and interpreting tax conventions between countries. Originally developed to help harmonise OECD country practices, the Convention’s influence has extended to non-OECD countries as well. It has become a reference for officials, as well as business lawyers, company secretaries and chief accountants who must interpret the meaning of these treaties for their clients.

Now an updated version has just been published to take account of new developments and to reflect the experience gained by countries in the application of tax conventions to date. The 2005 edition incorporates the latest changes to the Model Tax Convention which were approved in July 2005–a draft of these changes had been released for public comment in March 2004. These changes reflect a number of issues, in particular the tax treatment of activities related to international shipping and air transport; cross-border issues arising from stock-option plans; pensions; exchange of information, and more.

To make the by now rather hefty Convention even more accessible, a user-friendly electronic version (eMTC) has also been created, complete with desktop feeds and updates. All commentaries, histories, reservations and non-member country positions have been brought up to date. The e-version contains several reports on various aspects of the Convention, and links to the 1963 and 1977 texts. It also includes a list of tax treaties concluded between OECD countries. Fully searchable, eMTC comes with a host of valuable features, including a tool allowing users to personalise the convention with their own appended notes and update alerts. Without it, global taxation would be an even greater burden.

©OECD Observer No 251, September 2005

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