Skip to Main Content

Elizabeth Stevens Weighs in on BEPS and OECD

May 11, 2020, Tax Notes

Over 10 years ago, the U.N. said it wanted to tax the internet. The organization had a straightforward tax in mind, preferably a small levy on all data sent through the internet. The idea was that the tax would impose minimal costs on individual users but rake in billions of dollars around the world. Those proceeds would pay for internet development in poorer regions.

. . .

“In what other sector is the OECD as an organization so important? I don’t think in the trade sphere, certainly not for peacekeeping,” Caplin & Drysdale Member Elizabeth Stevens told Tax Notes. “I don’t think the OECD is the key player among international organizations in any other area aside from tax.”

. . .

Then came BEPS. In 2013 the OECD decided to address BEPS via a massive package of 15 action plans tackling the digital economy, transfer pricing, and more. At first, BEPS was a collaboration between the OECD and G-20, but the project later opened up to any country that agreed to adhere to BEPS standards — that new coalition became the OECD/G-20 inclusive framework on BEPS. Was BEPS a success? In some ways, yes. “There were countries participating in the OECD dialogue through what is now the inclusive framework that had always been rule takers, they were never rule makers, but now they had a voice in the rule-making process. And that new inclusiveness makes a big difference,” Stevens said.

“While not every one of the BEPS reports is a clear, cogent, and easy read, I think a lot of the work the organization did was really superlative, given that it was able to get consensus on those documents from such a large group of countries,” Stevens said. She also pointed to the scores of minimum standards, best practices, and recommendations that came out of BEPS as a sign of the organization’s capability and effectiveness.

. . .

“With BEPS we had defined actions: Here’s the problem, here’s what we’re going to do about it. Now we have something where not everyone even agrees on what the problem is. I think the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration would benefit from more defined, focused projects that leverage its technical expertise,” Stevens said. “Historically, there’s been a policy decided within the G-20 or among various countries, and the OECD gets a mandate for technical implementation. This time they’re tasked with coming up with a policy and brokering agreement on it in addition to working out the technical details. That’s a pretty tough job.”

For the full article, please visit Tax Notes’ website (subscription required).


About Caplin & Drysdale
Celebrating our 55th Anniversary in 2019, Caplin & Drysdale continues to be a leading provider of legal services to corporations, individuals, and nonprofits throughout the United States and around the world. We are also privileged to serve as legal advisors to accounting firms, financial institutions, law firms, and other professional services organizations.

The firm's reputation over the years has earned us the trust and respect of clients, industry peers, and government agencies. Moreover, clients rely on our broad knowledge of the law and our keen insights into their business concerns and personal interests. Our lawyers' strong tactical and problem-solving skills -- combined with substantial experience handling a variety of complex, high stakes, matters in a boutique environment -- make us one the nation's most distinctive law firms.

With offices in New York City and Washington, D.C., Caplin & Drysdale's core practice areas include:
For more information, please visit us at
Washington, DC Office:
One Thomas Circle NW
Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005
New York, NY Office:
295 Madison Avenue
12th Floor
New York, NY 10017


This communication does not provide legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship with you or any other reader. If you require legal guidance in any specific situation, you should engage a qualified lawyer for that purpose. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Attorney Advertising
It is possible that under the laws, rules, or regulations of certain jurisdictions, this may be construed as an advertisement or solicitation.
© 2022 Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered
All Rights Reserved.