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Tax treaties are agreements between states that divide up the right to tax cross-border economic activity. They set limits on when, and in some cases at what rate, signatories can tax the income from that economic activity, primarily by imposing restrictions on countries’ ability to tax the foreign direct investment that they receive. There are over 3000 in force worldwide. Tax treaties are commonly referred to as Double Taxation Agreements, because one of their main functions is to prevent companies and individuals from incurring tax in more than one country on the same income.
International efforts to prevent tax treaty abuse and strengthen source taxing rights, together with greater awareness of some of the costs of tax treaties, have led to growing interest in developing countries' tax treaties. Many countries are seeking to assess the costs and benefits of their existing treaty networks, and to develop policies to guide future (re)negotiations. Some argue that tax treaties should be understood and scrutinised as investment incentives, yet efforts to increase transparency over tax incentives have not extended to tax treaties.
The visualisations and dataset on this website provide a means to compare and contrast different treaties in ways that complement analysis of the legal wording. For non-specialist policymakers and others with a stake in tax policy, this is an accessible entry point to understand treaties in comparative context. Part of the reason that tax treaties often receive less scrutiny than other elements of the tax code is that they are obscure technical documents requiring considerable familiarity with domestic and international tax law to interpret them correctly. While analysis using the dataset cannot replace such an analysis, it provides an additional means of investigating how the content of tax treaties varies between countries and over time.
The dataset includes over 2500 bilateral tax treaties, almost 300 amending protocols, 8 multilateral treaties, and certain changes made to these treaties by the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS (MLI). As far as possible, this includes all treaties signed by 118 countries comprising: those that are or were until recently low and lower-middle income countries, all countries in Africa, and all members of the Intergovernmental Group of 24.
The full list of countries is Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Colombia, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Federal States of Micronesia, Gabon, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Samoa, São Tomé and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, The Gambia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, West Bank and Gaza, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Some of these countries may not be mentioned in the accompanying dataset because they had not concluded any tax treaties at the time that it was last updated.
We’ve made every effort to include comprehensive lists of treaties, starting from the information in a database published by the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD) and supplementing this with governments' own lists published online. It has not been possible to code all treaties, because the text was not available, parts vary significantly from the content and structure of the UN and OECD model tax treaties, or they are not published in English, French or Spanish. Treaties that were not coded appear in the results, but without any values attached.
Treaties concluded on or after 1 January 2020 are not included at present, except for MLI modifications. More information is given on the data and documentation page.
Most tax treaty negotiations use as their starting point the OECD and United Nations model tax conventions, and almost all treaties follow a structure based on these models. Treaties based on the OECD model generally impose greater restrictions on a country’s ability to tax inward investment; the UN model makes amendments to the OECD model that leave more of these rights intact. Each of the fields in this dataset is based on a provision of the model treaties: a difference between the UN and OECD models, a clause that is in both models but does not always appear in negotiated treaties, or a value that the models leave open to bilateral negotiations. This was developed in consultation with an advisory group of tax professionals, some of whom were experienced treaty negotiators. The dataset uses a purposive interpretation, which means that we have tried to take account of the intention of non-standard wording, rather than simply checking for the presence of a specific phrase. Each treaty was coded twice, independently, by two different members of the project team. Any disagreements in the coding were then reconciled by the project lead, consulting with the advisory group.
As well as using the dataset to look into the detail of negotiated tax treaties, it can also be used to amalgamate the content of a treaty into an expression of the overall bargaining settlement it contains. These indices are useful starting points for comparing treaties, but they are only a very rough approximation, and we recommend a detailed examination of the text before drawing any firm conclusions.
To create the indices, each clause in the treaty was assigned a value between 0 and 1, where 1 represents a greater taxing right over inward investment. Indices are averages of these values over a particular group of clause, as follows.
The dataset is designed for broad cross-country and cross-time comparisons. Users should bear in mind that such an exercise has implications for appropriate use of the dataset. This includes: