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What a global minimum corporate tax means for Singapore

David Sandison, Singapore Practice Leader & Head of Tax, Grant Thornton Singapore comments from a Singapore perspective:

On whether the global minimum corporate tax is good for Singapore:

There is no doubt that a targeted 15% minimum rate gives Singapore more flexibility when set against its headline corporate tax rate of 17% than previously seemed to be the case when the US were proposing 21%. However, it is of little help in the context of the array of tax incentives it provides, which can offer rates well below that. I think you could say the deal is “less negative” than previously proposed plans, which would effectively remove any tax incentives Singapore may offer.

I can’t see where any notion of positive creeps into the equation. But if we are looking for any negatives from what happened over the weekend it is that this initiative is now in danger of being steamrollered through by the “big boys”, without due consideration of the consequences, subtleties, or complexities (and there are many, many of these that have yet to be thought through), and of turning into unmitigated shambles.


On how policymakers in Singapore and the region are likely to respond:

At a simplistic level, it is likely to mean that the tax incentives we have grown up with may soon be a thing of the past. It simply does not make sense to be offering reduced tax rates to businesses from the countries that adopt this practice, if it means that they then help themselves to what Singapore otherwise would have in the absence of the incentive. So, if company A pays 5% tax on its Singapore profits, it will (or its head office - or someone – will) pay an additional 10% tax “back home”. Logically, Singapore and other Southeast Asian economies that offer incentives will be largely compelled to start charging full corporate tax rates and taking it all. I am not sure where that gets anyone.

If each country moves towards a 15% tax rate, the home country will not have any extra to collect. So, depending on how things play out, the countries pushing for the minimum might not really achieve the supposed objective of increasing their tax base.


On what this means for businesses in Singapore:

It is not clear what direct impact this would have on businesses who do not qualify for tax incentives. But businesses who have just signed up for incentives may find the benefit short lived. It is unlikely that global minimum tax will contain any grandfathering provisions that allow the incentive period to run its course before those profits get taxed at home. Other businesses will, of course, be affected if this causes any reduction in the presence of multinational businesses and, as a result, in the extensive ecosystem of SMEs in Singapore that support them.


Channel NewsAsia: Singapore on Global Minimum Corporate Tax

Segment starts at 12:49. The interview first aired on Channel NewsAsia's Asia Tonight and Singapore Tonight on 8 June 2021.

Experts react to Finance Minister Mr Lawrence Wong's response to the new G7 deal on Channel NewsAsia. David Sandison says that this minimum tax will depend on how it will be calculated and implemented evenly across all countries.

David Sandison, Head of Tax, Grant Thornton Singapore: "If you get tax depreciation in a country which encourages you to invest in productive equipment, that is in its own way tax is a form of tax subsidy. So how do you marry up those things? If you're trying to take away tax subsidies, we're trying to level the playing field so these micro issues all have to be looked at as well."

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