The proposed global minimum tax: implications for South Africa

Moticoe, Lucky Calvin
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Digitalisation and globalisation have resulted in the free movement of capital and trade between countries and has had a profound impact on the global economy. These global business reforms have brought with them challenges to the international tax laws that have existed more than 100 years without any reforms, therefore, creating an opportunity for base erosion profit shifting (BEPS). These challenges resulted in a need for a co-ordinated effort by the global communities to ensure that business income is taxed where economic activities take place, and international tax laws keep up with the accelerated rate of development in international business. To bring reforms to the international tax laws and level the playing field in international corporate taxation, the OECD and the G20 countries joined forces and developed an Action Plan to address BEPS in September 2013; an action plan that came with 15 recommendations to tackle BEPS to be implemented by interested jurisdictions. Much progress had been made during the years, but one key issue remained outstanding on the BEPS issues; taxing the digital economy. On 08 October 2021, over 135 Inclusive Framework members joined forces and agreed to a two-pillar solution to reform the international tax rules. The two-pillar solution proposed a global minimum tax of 15% to ensure that multinational enterprises pay their fair share of tax where economic activities are conducted. South Africa is one of the jurisdictions that expressed interest in the proposal and is a signatory to the proposal. It is, however, not clear how the global minimum tax will impact South Africa should it decide to adopt this. This report aims to evaluate the impact the global minimum tax will have on South Africa should it decide to adopt, with focus on policy implications, its ability to use tax incentives to attract investment (specific focus on the SEZ programme), and infringement on its tax sovereignty. The results of the report revealed that South Africa might be faced with some tough policy implications that will need careful consideration before the decision to adopt can be made. It was further found that the ability to use tax incentives as a policy instrument to attract investment (under the SEZ programme) may be under a serious threat, considering all the other challenges with which the country is currently faced. The adoption of the proposal will not infringe on the tax sovereignty of the country as it is a voluntary process that countries may chose not to adopt if they so wish.
A research report submitted partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Commerce to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, Wits School of Accountancy, at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022