Refining Approaches to Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Measures

Understanding Base Erosion: The Challenge of Profit Shifting

Base erosion refers to the phenomenon wherein multinational enterprises (MNEs) exploit cross-border transactions to shift profits to low-tax jurisdictions, thus diminishing the tax base of other countries. This practice often involves manipulating transfer pricing to create deductions in high-tax jurisdictions and income in low-tax ones.

Addressing Base Erosion: The Role of BEAT

The Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT) was introduced as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) to combat base erosion. BEAT targets certain types of cross-border payments made by MNEs to related entities abroad, categorizing them as potential avenues for profit shifting. By taxing MNEs with significant base erosion payments, BEAT aims to mitigate the erosion of the tax base.

Challenges in BEAT Implementation

Despite its intentions, BEAT faces challenges in its execution. One such challenge is the occurrence of false positives, where MNEs not engaged in profit shifting trigger BEAT liability. Additionally, false negatives arise when BEAT fails to capture instances of profit shifting effectively.

Proposed Reforms to Enhance BEAT’s Efficacy

To address these challenges, policymakers could consider reforms to improve BEAT’s effectiveness. This may involve excluding certain deductions that return to the U.S. tax base through other provisions, such as Subpart F income. Furthermore, policymakers could explore means to avoid over-applying BEAT to inbound foreign direct investment, potentially by providing safe harbor for payments to countries with high corporate tax rates.

However, addressing BEAT’s false negatives presents a more complex challenge, as it may require a reassessment of the tax framework and reallocation of resources to more productive endeavors.


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