This will be uncharted territory for many multinationals, so financial modeling will be an important tool for a number of reasons. Angus explains that many companies are starting this process by identifying and testing the countries where they think they may have an ETR below 15%. Then, based on the results from that modeling, they are extending the exercise to cover other jurisdictions.
“For many companies, this modeling is an iterative process, starting with the entities in lower-tax jurisdictions, and then expanding to look more broadly throughout the organization,” she says. “This iterative exercise is also proving very helpful for companies as they begin to consider what data they need to develop and maintain in order to comply with the Pillar Two rules.”
Considering the reliance placed upon sustainability tax incentives and the complex nature of calculating GLoBE income, some companies may be hoping the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework introduces a last-minute exemption for sustainability-focused tax breaks. Angus says this is unlikely, but that additional technical guidance on the treatment of tax incentives is being provided.
“It’s very important to the OECD and the Inclusive Framework member jurisdictions that the GloBE model rules be considered final,” she says. “Jurisdictions need certainty to implement the model rules. If they were to make major substantive shifts in the rules now it would be harder for countries to begin to move forward on their legislative processes.” Such shifts could lead to deviations in how the model rules are implemented from country to country, creating a significant risk of overlapping or double taxation.
“However, there is a recognition that agreed interpretive guidance is needed on a whole range of technical matters,” Angus continues. “This includes guidance on technical issues related to the treatment of tax incentives, including the characterization of some tax incentives as qualified refundable tax credits. Technical discussions within the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework led to the release of the first tranche of administrative guidance early in 2023, and work on additional guidance is continuing.”
What next for sustainability incentives?
The implementation of the GLoBE rules makes it likely there will be what Tan describes as an “explosion of ESG cash grants” as jurisdictions search for alternative ways of incentivizing desired sustainability behaviors. Instead of enjoying favorable tax rates, multinationals will most likely get money back for making ESG-appropriate investments.
“Up until recently, many governments may have found tax to be a particularly nimble way to provide incentives,” says Angus. “With Pillar Two, however, jurisdictions may want to seek input from businesses as they determine how they can achieve their objectives in other ways.”
To be sure, grants are already in use, albeit at a relatively low level, in jurisdictions such as Switzerland, the Nordic countries, and Singapore. In the US, many states are using grants to incentivize investment in manpower and training.
Jurisdictions in ASEAN such as Singapore and Malaysia also offer cash subsidies on manpower costs around R&D and capability development, while other jurisdictions may have reduced personal income tax rates for expatriates, so that multinationals can more easily attract the expert talent they require. There are also other areas of facilitation such as customs clearances, acceleration of VAT refunds, employment visas, all of which will be attractive to multinationals looking to invest in an ESG-friendly way.
Jurisdictions may also look for ways to incentivize sustainability behaviors without any money changing hands. For example, for capital expenditure-intensive projects, jurisdictions may sell land or rent property at a discounted rate or issue so-called soft loans, which are made on terms that are very favorable to the borrower.
Preparing for Pillar Two: next steps for multinationals and jurisdictions
With countries already beginning to take action now to implement BEPS 2.0 Pillar Two in 2023 to take effect in 2024, multinationals and jurisdictions should start reassessing their sustainability incentive strategy as soon as possible. Among other things:
- Financial modeling will be a powerful tool for multinationals, helping them conduct a full assessment of the tax incentives they use and calculate whether these incentives reduce their Pillar Two ETR below the 15% threshold.
- Jurisdictions should assess what the GLoBE rules mean for sustainability tax incentivization on a sector-by-sector, region-by-region and business-by-business perspective.
- Jurisdictions should investigate alternative ways to incentivize sustainability behaviors, while multinationals should seek out and potentially relocate activity to jurisdictions where alternative incentives are available.
- As a matter of urgency, multinationals should review what data points they need in order to calculate the specific Pillar Two ETR and set in place the reporting processes necessary for generating and collating this information.