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The OECD Wants Higher Taxes on Everything

Adam N. Michel

oecd global taxation

A recent G20 proposal for a globally coordinated wealth tax on the world’s billionaires highlights an under‐​discussed risk of the tools being developed by the Organisation for Economic Co‐​operation and Development (OECD). Its new system for international corporate tax harmonization sets a precedent for additional global taxes on individuals and other economic activities.

I’ve written extensively about the fundamental problems with the OECD’s proposals to raise taxes on American businesses and how its plan to rewrite international tax rules will destabilize the global tax system and depress international investment. This current OECD work program is cause enough for Congress to zero out the organization’s US funding and instruct the president to withdraw from the organizing convention.

However, the long‐​run threat of the OECD’s corporate tax project extends beyond corporate taxes. If the Inclusive Framework’s progeny—Pillar One’s redistribution of taxing rights and Pillar Two’s global minimum tax—are seen as successful, it will embolden future efforts, using similar tools, to force global tax increases on personal income, investment wealth, and politically unpopular energy sources.

In a recent article for Geopolitical Intelligence Services, I highlight how international tax activists are already shifting their focus from corporate taxes to other sources of potential revenue. In preparation for the G20 summit hosted by Brazil,

the finance and economy ministers of Germany, Spain, Brazil and South Africa proposed a global minimum tax on the world’s wealthiest families to pay for transnational redistribution and “social justice” programs. The EU Tax Observatory, a European Union‐​funded advocacy group for higher taxes, developed the proposal. France’s finance minister agreed with the thrust of the proposal, saying that “by 2027, we should have a global agreement on … taxation of the wealthiest people.”

Most recently, a group of progressive US lawmakers endorsed the G20 proposal in a letter to President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who has voiced skepticism of the idea. For more on the folly of wealth taxes and their economics, see Cato’s Chris Edwards’ bulletin “Taxing Wealth and Capital Income.” 

The Tax Observatory’s global wealth tax report praises the OECD’s efforts over the past 15 years to reduce administrative hurdles to implementing a global wealth tax. It notes, “the world is in a better situation to successfully implement the proposal” today due to the erosion of financial privacy and increased cooperation on international taxpayer information reporting.

This is the OECD’s long game: incremental reforms that grease the wheels for more intrusive tax and regulatory systems on ever‐​expanding types of economic activity. For the last two decades, the OECD has laid the groundwork for a multi‐​pronged global tax system to support additional wealth redistribution and centralized economic planning.

As I noted in my July 2023 testimony for the Ways and Means Committee:

today’s OECD has largely devolved into a taxpayer‐​funded advocacy group for higher taxes, more intrusive government, burdensome regulation, and climate activism. The OECD’s recent work spans numerous projects that recommend very progressive, primarily government‐​centric interventions in labor markets, housing markets, and private associations…. The OECD has also expanded its work on climate policy…. Its solution is a centralized multilateral tool to ensure that every country meets the OECD’s climate goals.

The OECD doesn’t stop at suggesting new supranational tax schemes; it also recommends higher domestic taxes on Americans at home. Dan Mitchell summarizes the recent recommendation for higher taxes made by the OECD in its Economic Survey of the United States:

OECD bureaucrats think “higher taxes” is the answer for almost any question…. Everything from higher corporate tax rates to increased double taxation of dividends and capital gains. As well as higher individual tax rates, busting the wage‐​base cap, and expanding the death tax…. The bureaucrats also want a carbon tax and an increase in the payroll tax rate.

The Economic Survey also recommends modest spending reforms but pairs them with additional welfare spending, childcare subsidies, and a new paid parental leave entitlement.

The OECD has outlived its useful life. Allowing the OECD’s two‐​pillar tax system to advance without challenge will only encourage those who wish to use similar tactics to implement other, more aggressive global tax hikes. The United States should not fund or be a member of an organization that consistently advocates for one‐​size‐​fits‐​all “whole‐​of‐​government strategies” that increase costs, reduce economic mobility, and limit individual freedom. 

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