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Grace Perez Navarro, Peter Green, Oliver Petzold, Sterre Van Buuren, Andre Nakazawa [OECD]

Since 1996, the OECD has led the way on transforming the international tax architecture, leading to a more coherent and cooperative system designed to meet the challenges of the 21st century. In that time, Korea–as a member of both OECD and the G20–has been a key player in this transformation. In 2006, Korea hosted the 3rd FTA (Forum on Tax Administration) plenary meeting involving Heads and Deputy Heads of Revenue Bodies from 35 jurisdictions, resulting in the Seoul Declaration on possible strategies to address shared problems with international tax avoidance. When the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes was mandated by the G20 in 2009 to ensure a comprehensive and robust implementation of the tax transparency standard, Korea was an original member of the Peer Review Group, providing valuable leadership and guidance in evaluating the performance of all relevant jurisdictions in complying with the standard. Korea was also an “early adopter” of the new standard for automatic exchange of financial account information (AEOI), which today accounts for exchange of information on 84 million bank accounts with a total value of EUR 10 trillion.

Korea was again among the group of OECD and G20 countries that brought major changes to the international framework dealing with corporate tax avoidance with the announcement of the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project in 2013. Over the years, this work has improved the substance, coherency and transparency of international corporate tax, culminating in the announcement on 8 October 2021 of a Statement on a Two-Pillar Solution to Address the Tax Challenges Arising From the Digitalisation of the Economy.1

Throughout all of this, Korea and the OECD have co-operated on the OECD-Korea Policy Centre’s Programme on Taxation since 1997, which plays a crucial role in disseminating advanced tax policies and international tax standards to partner economies, including many developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Finally, Korea is also a founding member of the Network on Fiscal Relations (NFR, from 2003), and has chaired the Network for the last decade.

Forum on Tax Administration

The Forum on Tax Administration (FTA) was created in 2002 and brings together tax administrations from 53 OECD and non-OECD countries. The FTA is a forum through which tax administrators can identify, discuss and influence relevant global trends and develop new ideas to enhance tax administration around the world. It also facilitates dialogue with key stakeholders (including business and individual policy makers and financial regulators) and co-operation between countries. Together, FTA member administrations raise over EUR 11.2 trillion a year to fund public services and to deliver government objectives.

Korea has played an active role since the early days of the FTA. In 2006, it hosted the 3rd FTA plenary meeting, involving Heads and Deputy Heads of Revenue Bodies from 35 jurisdictions. It was an opportunity for participants to share their concerns and experiences, but also to reflect together on how best to meet the challenges facing revenue bodies in the 21st century. This plenary meeting resulted in the Seoul Declaration2 on possible strategies to address shared problems with international tax avoidance. It is worth noting that the vast majority of issues currently addressed by the BEPS project or through other CTP initiatives were discussed during this plenary meeting, making the Seoul Declaration the starting point for a number of efforts within the FTA to ensure cooperation between jurisdictions and improve tax transparency and tax compliance. Beyond this founding event, Korea was an active member of the FTA bureau (which has 14 members) until 2014 and provides an annual voluntary contribution to the FTA budget.

Korea also participates in many FTA projects such as Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC), the Large Business and International Programmes and, the Capacity Building Network and Tax Administration 3.0. As part of those projects, the Korean National Tax Service provides country examples and case studies. It also participates in the International Survey on Revenue Administration, which forms the basis for the OECD Tax Administration Series. Membership of the JITSIC entails an active commitment to sharing information and intelligence, as it aims at developing best practices for engagement among tax administrations in order to enhance the quality of interactions and reduce the need for tax administrations to negotiate an engagement framework every time they want to collaborate with another country.

Korea active in enhancing transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes

With the support of the G20, which declared the “end of bank secrecy” in April 2009, the OECD restructured the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (Global Forum), charged with ensuring the effective implementation of the transparency and exchange of information (EOI) standards. By building a global consensus, there are now more than 160 jurisdictions in the Global Forum. So far, the work on transparency has been a great success, resulting in the identification of more than EUR 107 billion of additional tax revenue around the world. In 2019, information on 84 million bank accounts was exchanged, worth almost EUR 10 trillion.

Since 2009, Korea has been an active member of the Global Forum and its working groups, and has been among the frontrunners in the implementation of the EOI Standards, which are the Exchange of Information on Request (EOIR) Standard and the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) Standard. In addition, Korea is a Party to the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, which entered into force in Korea on 1 July 2012.

Exchange of information on request: the peer review process

The peer review process evaluates jurisdictions’ compliance with the EOIR standard, through the assessment of the legal and regulatory framework and the implementation of this framework in practice. Korea has been a long-standing member of the Peer Review Group3, which decides on the peer review reports. The Global Forum’s peer reviews have had a substantial impact on the implementation of the EOIR standard around the world and have strengthened governments’ ability to address tax evasion. For example, following the first round of EOIR peer reviews, strict bank secrecy for tax purposes has been eliminated in almost all Global Forum jurisdictions. Many countries have taken measures to eliminate bearer shares entirely or to ensure that their owners can be properly identified.

The Global Forum completed its first round of EOIR reviews in 2016, having assigned overall ratings to over 120 jurisdictions. A second round of reviews began in 2016. The second round includes some enhanced requirements, such as a requirement to ensure the availability of beneficial ownership information, which was mandated by the G20, for all legal entities and arrangements, as well as access to it by tax authorities. This requirement discourages the use of shell companies and other opaque legal arrangements to conceal the real owners’ identity and assists in the fight against other crimes such as money laundering and corruption. As of July 2021, half of the Global Forum’s 162 members have been reviewed under this second round of EOIR peer reviews.

Automatic exchange of information: the peer review process

With the adoption of the AEOI standard in 2014, the Global Forum was charged with promoting its global implementation. The AEOI standard relies on a common set of requirements (the Common Reporting Standard) for financial institutions to share financial account information with their domestic tax authorities, which then exchange that information with their foreign counterparts on an annual basis.

All jurisdictions, other than developing countries that are not financial centres, were required to commit to AEOI and begin the first exchanges by 2017 and 2018. Korea was one of the “early adopters” of this new standard and made its first exchanges in September 2017. There are now about 100 jurisdictions exchanging financial account information automatically with this number expected to grow to over 115 by 2023. In 2019, information was exchanged globally on 84 million bank accounts with a total value of EUR 10 trillion. For its part, Korea has 72 relationships activated to send information under the AEOI Standard this year.

The Global Forum monitors and reviews the implementation of AEOI commitments and lends support to its members, particularly the developing countries, to enable them to effectively engage in and benefit from such exchanges. The first peer review report on the implementation of AEOI was released in 2020. This report4 found that Korea’s legal framework implementing the AEOI Standard is in place and is consistent with the requirements of the AEOI Terms of Reference. This includes Korea’s domestic legislative framework requiring Reporting Financial Institutions to conduct the due diligence and reporting procedures and its international legal framework to exchange the information with all of Korea’s Interested Appropriate Partners. The next step, an evaluation of effectiveness in practice is ongoing and the results will be released in 2022.

Tackling base erosion and profit shifting

In November 2015, two years after the G20 Leaders endorsed the ambitious Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), the BEPS package of 15 measures to tackle tax avoidance was agreed by all OECD and G20 countries and endorsed by G20 Leaders. It was designed to stop countries and companies from competing on the basis of a lack of transparency, artificially locating profit where there is little or no economic activity, or the exploitation of loopholes or differences in countries’ tax systems. Korea was deeply involved with this work as a member of the OECD, and G20 and as a founding member of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS (the Inclusive Framework). Korea has also been a member of the 24-country Steering Group of the Inclusive Framework since January 2020.

Each of the four BEPS minimum standards is subject to peer review in order to ensure timely and accurate implementation and thus safeguard the level playing field. Action 5 addresses harmful tax practices, including rules on preferential regimes and transparency of tax rulings. Action 6 prevents tax treaty shopping, which helps clarify the purpose of tax conventions. Action 13 helps to ensure country-by-country reporting of key data on the operations of multinational enterprises to allow for more effective risk assessment by tax administrations. Action 14 improves the effectiveness of cross-border tax dispute resolution among tax administrations.

Korea has performed well in its assessments under the four BEPS minimum standards. Under Action 5, Korea was found to not have any harmful regimes and was reviewed with no recommendations being made. Under Action 6, no jurisdiction raised any concerns about their tax agreements with Korea, and Korea is in the process of conducting numerous bilateral negotiations to update its tax treaties in line with the Action 6 minimum standard. Furthermore, Korea signed the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS (MLI) in 2017 and deposited its instrument of ratification on 13 May 2020. The MLI entered into force for Korea on 1 September 2020 and is the main tool used to comply with the Action 6 minimum standard. With respect to Action 13, Korea has activated its information exchange network and currently has bilateral exchange relationships in place, which allows it to exchange country-by-country files to bolster tax transparency. Finally, Korea has successfully completed its stage 1 and stage 2 of Action 14 peer reviews, and as a result has made numerous improvements to its framework for dispute resolution.

Furthermore, the Inclusive Framework continues to advance the work originally started under Action 1 of the BEPS project, which addresses the tax challenges arising from digitalisation. As a member of the Steering Group, Korea has played a major role in shaping the historic two-pillar deal5 that was agreed by 136 member jurisdictions including all OECD and G20 countries in October 2021. After years of intense work and negotiations, 136 member jurisdictions of the Inclusive Framework, representing more than 90% of worldwide GDP, finalised the key elements of international tax reform designed to address the tax challenges of globalisation and the digitalisation of the economy. The two-pillar solution to these challenges, embedded in this historic agreement, will ensure that large multinational companies pay their fair share everywhere and brings much needed tax certainty and stability to the international tax system. The two-pillar solution will be delivered to the G20 Finance Ministers meeting in Washington, D.C. on 13 October, followed by delivery to the G20 Leaders Summit in Rome on 30-31 October.

Network on Fiscal Relations across Levels of Government

The OECD Network on Fiscal Relations is the premier international body devoted to improving fiscal relations across levels of government. It follows a work plan set by member countries and helps members answer practical questions about fiscal decentralisation by undertaking cross-country policy analysis. The Network benefits its members by inter alia sharing best practices, providing international comparisons, undertaking cross-country studies and publishing the flagship Fiscal Federalism series, the 2021 version of which Korea is helping to fund.

Korea is a founding member of the Network on Fiscal Relations (NFR, from 2003), and has chaired the Network for the last decade. Korean institutions, notably the Korean Institute for Public Finance (KIPF) and Presidential Commission on Autonomy and Decentralisation, have collaborated with the NFR to organise wide-ranging conferences, seminars and workshops. These activities have often resulted in joint publications with Korea addressing all aspects of Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations. Moreover, the Network plans to release its next flagship double-volume Fiscal Federalism around the time of the Korea’s 25th anniversary.

OECD-Korea Policy Centre

Korea and the OECD have cooperated since 1997 on the OECD-Korea Policy Centre’s Programme on Taxation. This joint venture plays a crucial role in disseminating advanced tax policies and international tax standards among partner economies, including many developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The support of the Korea Policy Centre is critical to deliver successful capacity building seminars in the Asia-Pacific, in particular in the context of the OECD’s Global Relations Programme in Taxation. The OECD-Korea Policy Centre offers a venue where the OECD organises face-to-face training events on taxation issues for tax officials, primarily those from non-OECD economies from the region.

The workshops engage expert trainers in the dissemination of OECD standards and work on the full range of international taxation matters, including exchange of information, implementation of BEPS minimum standards, and tax treaties. These activities also played an important role in supporting countries in the region to better appreciate some of the complexities and technical aspects underlying the work on the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy.

Since its launch, the OECD-Korea Policy Centre has hosted approximately 113 weeks of workshops for more than 3000 officials from Asia-Pacific economies. Since 2018, the Centre organised over 15 events involving more than 500 tax officials. In the past year, the Centre has also collaborated by co-hosting virtual classes and webinars for tax officials, by providing support with preparatory activities (e.g. organising preparatory sessions, setting videoconference tools, etc.) and during the virtual event.

Table 1. The OECD-Korea Policy Centre in the last four years

Number of workshop

Total days of training

Number of participating countries

2018

7

36

27

2019

6

30

32

2020

1 (virtual workshop)

5

13

2021 (first half)

3

6

58

TOTAL

17

77

130

In addition, Korea supports capacity building programmes through voluntary contributions. In 2022-2023, the OECD and the OECD-Korea Policy Centre Programme on Taxation plan to continue their long-term partnership by carrying out a training programme that combines face-to-face and virtual training. The Korea Programme on Taxation will play a critical role in continuing to support countries in the region to understand the issues, participate in and implement the work related to the agreed Inclusive Framework two-pillar solution to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy.

Notes

3.

Korea was a member of the PRG from 2009 to 2016 and participates again from 1 January 2019.

4.

OECD (2020), "Korea", in Peer Review of the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information 2020, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/62a5545b-en.

5.

OECD (2021), Statement on a Two-Pillar Solution to Address the Tax Challenges Arising from the Digitalisation of the Economy – October 2021, OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/tax/beps/statement-on-a-two-pillar-solution-to-address-the-tax-challenges-arising-from-the-digitalisation-of-the-economy-october-2021.pdf.

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