WARSAW: US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will thank Poland for hosting millions of Ukrainian war refugees on Monday, but she has another goal for meetings in Warsaw: persuading Polish leaders to back plans to implement a 15% global corporate minimum tax.
Poland is the lone holdout in the European Union’s implementation plan, having vetoed a compromise in April to launch the 137-country deal reached last October aimed at ending a competitive downward spiral in corporate tax rates.
Poland’s new finance minister, Magdalena Rzeczkowska, has sought a “legally binding” link between the global minimum tax and the other pillar of tax negotiations – a reallocation of some taxing rights for large, highly profitable multinationals to “market countries” where their services and products are sold.
For some countries participating in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s negotiations, that so-called “Pillar 1” plan is the more desired global tax change, allowing them to collect revenue from large US technology giants such as Google owner Alphabet, Facebook owner Meta, Amazon.com and Apple.
But the reallocation pillar was not part of the October deal and is not fully developed.
That more complex plan requires changes to international tax treaties, and Rzeczkowska has expressed concerns that if it fails, the global minimum tax would put undue burdens on European businesses.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, current chair of EU finance ministers, has expressed skepticism over those arguments amid ongoing legal disputes between Poland and the EU.
Yellen is due to meet with Rzeczkowska, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and central bank governor Adam Glapinski.
She also is scheduled to tour a World Central Kitchen facility providing meals to Ukrainian refugees and a Jewish history museum.
A person familiar with OECD tax negotiations told Reuters that Yellen is expected to emphasize the benefits for Poland in adopting the global minimum tax, namely an estimated $2 billion in annual revenue, which could help defray the high costs of hosting Ukrainian refugees.
“Importantly, these revenues are going to be paid by large multinational corporations, not Polish individuals or small businesses,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue and declined to be named.
“It’s going to move investments from countries that are traditional tax havens to countries like Poland that can compete on the basis of their workforces and their economic fundamentals.”
The US Treasury declined comment on Yellen’s specific messages, but has said she will discuss the global minimum tax deal in the Poland meetings.
Yellen will also need to reassure Polish officials about growing uncertainties over US implementation of the global minimum tax, said Manal Corwin, head of KPMG’s Washington national tax practice and a former US Treasury official.
The US Congress needs to approve changes to the current 10.5% US global overseas minimum tax known as “GILTI,” raising the rate to 15% and converting it to a country-by-country system.
The changes were initially included in US President Joe Biden’s sweeping social and climate spending bill, which stalled last year after objections from centrist Senate Democrats.
Prospects for a slimmed-down spending package with the tax changes look increasingly difficult as mid-term congressional elections approach and as lawmakers voice concerns about more spending amid high inflation.
But Corwin said lack of US implementation will likely not halt the other 136 countries from proceeding, especially if Poland can be brought on board with EU implementation.
“If the EU directive is successful, I think the rest of the world is going to move with or without the US changes,” Corwin said.
“So my sense is it’s not as concerning to countries as it might have been before.”
Tax experts say that EU implementation would ultimately put pressure on the United States to adopt the changes because some taxes paid by US multinationals under the system would flow to foreign jurisdictions rather than to the US Treasury.
Yellen, who reversed the Trump administration’s past objections to a global deal on taxing rights, has been successful in persuading holdouts to accept it. This includes Ireland, which agreed to raise its current 12.5% corporate tax rate to the 15% minimum.
“Any place she’s spoken to and lobbied on this, including Ireland, she’s managed to win over, so I would not bet against her on the on the tax deal,” said Josh Lipsky, director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center.