OECD TAX AND DEVELOPMENT. PRINCIPLES TO ENHANCE THE TRANSPARENCY AND GOVERNANCE OF TAX INCENTIVES FOR INVESTMENT IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES. Many countries, developed and developing alike, offer various incentives in the hope of attracting investors and fostering economic growth. Yet there is strong evidence that calls into question the effectiveness of some tax incentives for investment, including in particular tax free zones and tax holidays. Indeed, ineffective tax incentives are no compensation for or alternative to a poor investment climate and may actually damage a developing country’s revenue base, eroding resources for the real drivers of investment decisions – infrastructure, education and security. There is a significant regional competitiveness dimension too, as governments may perceive a threat of investors choosing neighbouring countries, triggering ‘a race to the bottom’ that make countries in a region collectively worse off. Tax base erosion due to tax incentives is compounded by the lack of transparency and clarity in the provision, administration, and governance of tax incentives. The granting of tax incentives for investment is often done outside of a country’s tax laws and administration, sometimes under multiple pieces of legislation. The design and administration of tax incentives may be the responsibility of several different Ministries (e.g., finance, trade, investment). Where various Ministries are involved, they may not coordinate their incentive measures (tax and non-tax) with each other or the national revenue authority, with the result that incentives may overlap, be inconsistent, or even work at cross-purposes. Administrative discretion in the management of incentives can seriously increase the risk of corruption and rent seeking. Despite the widespread use of tax incentives for investment, in general there is inadequate analysis of their costs and benefits in a national context to support government decision-making. There is limited data collected on granted tax incentives, qualifying investments made, direct (and indirect) benefits to the host economy, and the cost of these tax incentives in terms of foregone revenue. Moreover, even information that should be more readily available – lists of tax incentives and beneficiaries – is not always collected or reported. Often missing from the discussion on tax incentives and their harmful effects are the unintended and unforeseen tax-planning opportunities that tax incentives and preferential tax treatments create. As the studies discussed in the box above indicate, tax incentives offered in developing countries result in little additional investment; most investors would have invested without the offer of tax incentives. Even when targeted at new investors, tax incentives are always sought by businesses outside the target group. Existing firms attempt to reconstitute themselves as “new” ones towards the end of their holiday periods so that they can continue to be tax-exempt. Similarly, tax incentives enable opportunities for profits and deductions to be artificially shifted across entities with different tax treatments either domestically or internationally. These tax planning opportunities are commonly exploited by both developed and developing countries; however, their ill effects are especially pronounced in developing countries that have limited capacity to detect and counter the detrimental tax avoidance techniques. These challenges are gaining recognition, particularly in the context of the growing acknowledgement of the importance of mobilising domestic financial resources for development. Several countries, including some developing countries, are making efforts to assess, evaluate, and report foregone revenues as part of tax expenditure reports (which are linked to national budget processes). Internationally, there is an emerging consensus on the need to address the potential downsides of tax incentives for investment. The need is particularly pronounced today as many OECD donor governments, with generally weaker public finances than in the past, are increasingly looking to developing countries to better manage their revenue potential. The importance of addressing the governance of tax incentives was raised in 2011 by the IMF, OECD, UN and World Bank in their joint report to the G-20 on supporting effective tax systems in developing countries (G20 report 2011). For its part, the OECD’s Task Force on Tax and Development has identified the need for a more effective global transparency framework for tax incentives for investment — the purpose of which is to promote transparency in decision-making processes, increase the information available on costs and benefits, to limit discretion and increase accountability. The development of a proposed set of principles (below) is the starting point in an international effort to promote the management and administration of tax incentives for investment in a transparent and consistent manner.