Tax Focus Group (TFG): Death, life and taxes

Dr Benjamin S. Cortez

“Two things in life are certain – death and taxes.”

The original version of this famous saying is generally attributed (incorrectly as it happens) to Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, in a letter he penned to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789. In fact, The Yale Book of Quotations records that Christopher Bullock, an English actor and dramatist, uttered the following phrase during the 1716 comedic play, The Cobbler of Preston:

“ ’Tis impossible to be sure of anything but Death and Taxes.”

The authors of The Yale Book of Quotations also add that playwright Edward Ward later paraphrased Bullock’s “death and taxes” quote in his 1724 work, The Dancing Devils.

Benjamin Franklin’s exact words are in fact reported to have been the following (translated from the original French):

“Our new Constitution is now established and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Today, we may expand the saying to:

“In this world, nothing is certain, except death and taxes. Sadly, in most cases, they don’t happen in that order!”

Therefore, we members of XLNC’s Tax Focus Group must grapple with our clients’ tax affairs while they are still very much alive. For as long as the effects and after- effects of Covid-19 are felt, which will be for many years, at the forefront of this era will be a raft of increased taxes around the globe to pay for government support on a scale never seen before, and at the same time a raft of fiscal stimulus measures needed to kick-start the world’s economies.

The TFG has busied itself with the consideration of many new, and some not so new, worldwide tax initiatives. During 2021 we have discussed numerous aspects of the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting actions, including Tax on the Digital Economy, Permanent Establishments and the Multilateral Instrument. We’ve taken a hard look at the possible introduction of Wealth Taxes, the impact of the pandemic on Corporate and  Individual Tax Residence, and interpretations of aspects of Double Tax Agreements (DTAs). Aligned to the changing face of world politics, we’ve had an enlightened address from our US associates Buchbinder Tunick & Co on the fiscal and economic changes introduced by the Biden administration while monitoring the somewhat aggressive but generally successful approach of Russia to required changes to certain of their DTAs perceived to be fiscally damaging to the Russian economy and developments regarding the G7 / G20 minimum global tax initiative. While this tax is intended to relate, at the outset, to very large MNEs only, we doubt many will bet against a wider roll-out in the years ahead.

Our September 2021 webinar featured as its central presentation a fascinating look at Estonia’s innovative new e-residency programme. Estonia has for some years now been seen as one of the world’s digital leaders and e-residency has taken Estonia’s international tax competitiveness to another level. The webinar also considered Tax Beneficial Jurisdictions for our High-Net- Worth Individual clients (we will expand on this theme in a future webinar), and International Tax Considerations for Due Diligence in Cross-Border M&A Transactions.

For now, our regular webinars are not only a valuable source of learning, they are also the only way that we as XLNC tax professionals can gather with our colleagues. We fervently and impatiently await the day when we can assemble face-to-face to foster the already special relationships we enjoy on the XLNC platform.

As a final word, per The Grim Reaper in 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey:

“You might be a king or a little street sweeper, but sooner or later you dance with the reaper.”

Until then, while we cannot help our clients avoid this dance, we will be doing our best to ensure that they continue to minimise their collective global taxes, even if they cannot disprove Christopher Bullock, Edward Ward and Benjamin Franklin.


XLNC MAGAZINE | No. 08 | November 2021

Interested in becoming a member of XLNC?

If you are a professional services firm with an international client base and are regarded as one of the leading industry practices in your country, working to the highest standards and providing excellent client service, you meet the basic requirements for XLNC membership.

Become a member