Politics

130 nations agree to support U.S. proposal for global minimum tax on corporations

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Key Points
  • A group of 130 nations has agreed to a global minimum tax on corporations, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced Thursday, part of a broader agreement to overhaul international tax rules.
  • Yellen did not announce the actual rate at which the GMT would be set, but the Biden administration has pushed for at least 15%.
  • The GMT would effectively end the practice of global corporations seeking out low-tax jurisdictions to move their headquarters.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference, after attending the G7 finance ministers meeting, at Winfield House in London, Britain June 5, 2021.
Justin Tallis | Reuters

WASHINGTON - Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced Thursday that a group of 130 nations has agreed to a global minimum tax on corporations, part of a broader agreement to overhaul international tax rules.

If widely enacted, the GMT would effectively end the practice of global corporations seeking out low-tax jurisdictions like Ireland and the British Virgin Islands to move their headquarters to, even though their customers, operations and executives are located elsewhere.

"For decades, the United States has participated in a self-defeating international tax competition, lowering our corporate tax rates only to watch other nations lower theirs in response. The result was a global race to the bottom: Who could lower their corporate rate further and faster? No nation has won this race," said Yellen in a statement on the accord.  

"Today's agreement by 130 countries representing more than 90 percent of global GDP is a clear sign: the race to the bottom is one step closer to coming to an end," Yellen said.

The deal also reportedly includes a framework to eliminate digital services taxes, which targeted the biggest American tech companies.

In their place, officials agreed to a new tax plan that would be linked to the places where multinationals are actually doing business, rather than where they are headquartered.

VIDEO10:2910:29
Inside the plan for a global minimum corporate tax

Much of the groundwork for adopting a GMT has already been laid by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which released a blueprint last fall outlining a two-pillar approach to international taxation.

The OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, known as BEPS, is the product of negotiations with 137 member countries and jurisdictions.

Yellen's announcement did not include the actual rate at which the GMT would be set, but the Biden administration has pushed for at least 15%.

G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors are scheduled to meet in Venice, Italy, later this month, and the international tax plan is expected to be high on the agenda. 

The GMT agreement represents a key part of what President Joe Biden has called "a foreign policy for the middle class."

The strategy, devised in part by Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan, emphasizes how foreign policy and domestic policy can be integrated into a new middle ground between the traditional conservative and liberal approaches to global affairs.

"Foreign policy for the middle class" aims to ensure that globalization, trade, human rights and military might are all harnessed for the benefit of working Americans, not solely for billionaires and multinational corporations, but not for abstract ideological reasons either.