Tax Treaty Aggressiveness: Who is Undermining Taxing Rights in Africa?

Authors: Lucas Millán-Narotzky, Javier García-Bernardo, Maïmouna Diakité & Markus Meinzer
Publisher: ICTD
Date: November 2021

Abstract:

Working Paper 125

Tax avoidance strategies by multinational companies rely heavily on tax treaties. Multinational companies can relocate financial activities across countries to ensure the applicability of the most beneficial tax treaties. This ‘treaty shopping’ can be particularly harmful to African countries, impairing their efforts for domestic resource mobilisation and achieving sustainable development goals.

In this paper, we analyse the aggressiveness of tax treaties towards African countries – the extent to which signing tax treaties reduces the taxing rights of African governments. We find that treaties signed with France, Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates reduce withholding tax rates the most, while treaties signed with European countries – and, in particular, the United Kingdom and France – greatly limit other taxing rights, for example, by restricting the scope of permanent establishment definition.