Swiss See Opening for Tax Competition as G-20 Talks Advance

Global proposals to make multinational corporations pay more tax haven’t yet tackled deductions, leaving Switzerland and other low-tax countries room to maneuver.

“Calculation of taxable profit has to happen according to international rules, and these haven’t been decided yet,” Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said after attending a meeting of Group of 20 finance chiefs in Venice.

“Here lies the crux and here also lies the room to maneuver that Switzerland and other countries now have -- what counts as corporate profit and what isn’t,” Maurer told reporters in Bern on Saturday.

While Switzerland is among 132 countries supporting a deal for a minimum corporate levy of ‘’at least 15%” and new rules for reapportioning revenue from the world’s biggest companies, a few countries not in the G-20, including Ireland, have voiced concern that their strategy of using low taxes to attract businesses is under threat.

The stated deadline of 2023 for implementing the reform is ambitious, Maurer said.

Apart from its banking industry, Switzerland is home to food group Nestle SA as well as drugmakers Roche Holding AG and Novartis AG. The proposal to reform corporate tax has raised concern in Switzerland that the country could become less attractive as a base for global corporations. Swiss officials are due to present a plan for managing the changes next year.

“We face a tax reform that will on balance worsen the tax advantages Switzerland can offer and we have to play all our cards that determine which are important for a business location,” Maurer said. “Here we have good cards.”

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