'Ambitious' but 'pragmatic': OECD head defends global tax deal after G20 approval

OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann says a global deal reached on taxing rights and a minimum corporate tax is a broad consensus that represents an ambitious but pragmatic approach to the issue.

Mathias Cormann said he hoped both pillars of deal would be in place in 2023

Mathias Cormann, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. (Francois Mori/The Associated Press)

The head of an organization representing some of the world's richest countries says a new global tax deal represents an ambitious but pragmatic approach to making multinational corporations pay their fair share, defending against criticisms that it does not go far enough.

"In the end, people will have their views, but this is a massive and historically significant reform which will make our international tax arrangements fairer and work better in a digitalized and globalized world economy," Mathias Cormann, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, said in an interview Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

Member nations of the Group of 20 backed the global tax deal at a summit in Rome on Saturday. The deal, which was agreed to in principle by 136 countries earlier this month, includes changes to allow countries to tax profits of multinational companies even when those companies have no physical presence in their countries, as well as a minimum corporate tax rate of 15 per cent.

But the deal has been criticized, in Canada and elsewhere, for not going far enough to rein in multinational corporations. Oxfam International called the deal a "mockery of fairness," because of exceptions that can shield some income and are phased out over a 10-year period.

Cormann pushed back against those criticisms on Sunday, saying the world needed to be "ambitious, but you've also got to be pragmatic."

WATCH | OECD head discusses global tax deal, climate change fight:

G20 leaders endorse 15% minimum global corporate tax

1 year ago
Duration 5:45
OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann joins CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton to discuss a global corporate tax as G20 leaders formally endorse the plan in Rome. The plan will set a minimum tax rate of 15 per cent and requires digital giants like Amazon and Google to pay taxes on profits in countries where they make money.

"You know, we could have aimed for this, that and whatever and not have had an outcome," Cormann told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.

"Nobody's helped by having conversations going on for another 10 years that ultimately don't lead to an outcome."

Group targeting 2023 implementation

Cormann said the deal would reallocate the right to tax about $125 billion US in profits, while the minimum corporate tax is expected to bring in $150 billion US from multinational corporations.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who pushed strongly for the agreement, told CBC's The House earlier in October that based on a preliminary analysis, the federal government expected Canada would get about $4.5 billion in additional revenue if the deal went into place.

Cormann is facing a tight timeline to implement the two pillars of the global agreement. He said he is looking to have the details finalized by next March so that it can go into effect in 2023.

The minimum corporate tax deal must be implemented by individual legislation in each signatory country, but Cormann said his group was working on model legislation with a goal of having that available next month and the pillar in place in 2023 as well.

The deal is expected to face some resistance in the United States, where Republican senators could slow or stop changes to tax treaties required to implement the agreement. American tech companies such as Google and Facebook are some of those corporations targeted by the deal.

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.

With files from Rosemary Barton and Tyler Buist

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