Governments Concerned that Some Corporations Unfairly Claim Losses to Avoid Taxes

August 30th, 2011


PARIS – Due to the recent financial and economic crisis, global corporate losses have increased significantly. Numbers at stake are vast, with loss carry-forwards as high as 25% of GDP in some countries. Though most of these claims are justified, some corporations find loop-holes and use ‘aggressive tax planning’ to avoid taxes in ways that are not within the spirit of the law.

This aggressive tax planning is a source of increasing concern for many countries and they have developed various strategies to deal with it. Working cooperatively, countries can deter, detect and respond to aggressive tax planning while at the same time ensuring certainty and predictability for compliant taxpayers.

Corporate Loss Utilisation through Aggressive Tax Planning, which builds on Addressing Tax Risks Involving Bank Losses (2010), looks at a number of commonly used schemes and identifies three key risk areas: corporate reorganisations, financial instruments and non-arm’s length transfer pricing. Though these are generally used for sound business and economic reasons, some taxpayers use them to obtain undue tax advantages. For example, countries have identified financial instruments that create artificial losses or obtain multiple deductions for the same loss. They have also seen loss-making companies acquired solely to be merged with profit-making companies and loss-making financial assets artificially allocated to high-tax jurisdictions through non arm’s length transactions.

The report outlines strategies to detect and respond to these aggressive tax planning schemes. Detection usually takes place through audits, special reporting obligations on losses, mandatory disclosure rules, rulings, and co-operative compliance programmes. Responses require a comprehensive approach focusing on aggressive tax planning schemes, as well as on their promoters and users. Early engagement between taxpayers and tax authorities in the framework of disclosure initiatives and co-operative compliance programmes also has positive effects, convincing some tax payers not to use or promote certain schemes.

Through the OECD, countries share intelligence on aggressive tax planning schemes and increase international co-operation on detection, responses, and evaluation. Governments should also introduce policies to restrict the multiple use of the same loss and to introduce or revise restrictions on the use of certain losses in the context of mergers, acquisitions, or group taxation regimes. Finally, the report identifies emerging threats for tax revenue, such as aggressive tax planning schemes based on after-tax hedges, and suggests that countries analyse the policy and compliance issues related to them.

Corporate Loss Utilisation through Aggressive Tax Planning is available for journalists on the OECD password-protected website, or on request from the OECD’s Media Division ( 1 45 24 97 00).

For further information, please contact Achim Pross  ( or Raffaele Russo ( from the Centre for Tax Policy and Administration or the OECD’s Media Division ( or + 33 1 45 24 97 00).

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