Marlene Nembhard Parker and Fabrizia Lapecorella discuss their partnership as the first co-chairs of the OECD inclusive framework on base erosion and profit shifting and speculate on the future of women leading international tax.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
David D. Stewart: Welcome to the podcast. I’m David Stewart, editor in chief of Tax Notes Today International, This week: women in tax leadership.
On March 1 the OECD announced that Marlene Nembhard Parker would co-chair the BEPS inclusive framework. In this newly created role, she would be joining Fabrizia Lapecorella, who had taken on the leadership of the group just two months prior.
Joining me now is Tax Notes chief correspondent Stephanie Soong Johnston, who recently caught up with the co-chairs to talk about their new roles. Stephanie, welcome back to the podcast.
Stephanie Soong Johnston: Thanks. Good to be here as always.
David D. Stewart: To begin with, could you give listeners some background on the two new co-chairs and what led to the appointment of an additional position?
Stephanie Soong Johnston: Sure. I spoke with Fabrizia Lapecorella, who is director general of finance at the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance. And Marlene Nembhard Parker, who’s chief council for legislation, treaties and international tax matters at Tax Administration Jamaica.
As you mentioned, Lapecorella took over as chair of the inclusive framework on BEPS on January 1. Nembhard Parker was announced as co-chair of the group on March 1, which just happened to be the first day of Women’s History Month. I thought it would be timely to get them both on the podcast.
As you mentioned, this is the first time the inclusive framework has elected two people to lead the group. If you recall my previous appearances on the podcast, the inclusive framework is a group of 141 OECD and non-OECD jurisdictions that was set up in 2016.
It’s committed to implementing BEPS project measures and is setting additional standards to curb corporate tax avoidance. It’s leading the work on implementing the two-pillar global corporate tax reform plan that you’ve heard me talking a million times about so much on this podcast.
This group is technically an enlargement of the OECD’s Committee on Fiscal Affairs, or CFA, which is the OECD’s primary standard setting body for tax issues. The chair of the CFA has always been the chair of the inclusive framework.
Lapecorella herself has been deeply involved in the CFA Bureau since 2012, and was elected to replace Martin Kreienbaum, who is the director [general] of international taxation of the German Ministry of Finance. It’s notable that she is the second woman and the second Italian chair since the CFA’s founding in 1971.
Nembhard Parker has also been a longtime participant in the international negotiations on the world stage, and particularly through the UN Committee of Experts on International Corporation Tax Matters. She’s also co-chair of the CFA’s Advisory Group for Global Dialogue on Tax Matters and is a former member of the inclusive framework steering group.
Now, the co-chair position was created after the OECD sent a report to the G-20 finance ministers in October 2021. That report took stock of developing countries’ progress in the inclusive framework, and recommended that the group’s governance structure should represent developing countries better. So, this co-chair position was a natural fit.
David D. Stewart: All right. Let’s go to that interview.
Stephanie Soong Johnston: Thank you both, Marlene and Fabrizia, for your time today and sitting down with me to speak about the inclusive framework and the new co-chair structure of the framework.
It is Women’s History Month and I think it’s pretty awesome that there are two very strong women in tax leading the very important work that the OECD is doing in the international sphere.
I wanted to get a sense of how you first got involved with the inclusive framework. How do you balance this work with your day job?
Marlene Nembhard Parker: Thank you, Stephanie. And thank you very much for inviting me to spend this time along with my co-chair, Fabrizia, in a different setting. A more relaxed setting, I guess we could say, but it’s always work.
Well, I became involved in the inclusive framework in 2016 as a result of being the person at Tax Administration Jamaica in charge of legislation and international tax matters. It was a part of my job to lead the work of the BEPS measures and the introduction of them into Jamaica.
Jamaica became the 85th member of the inclusive framework in 2016. I, along with my co-delegate, Bevon Sinclair, became the leaders on the work for Jamaica. In international matters, we usually have a technical as well as a legal person in the international forum. So, that was my involvement.
In terms of balancing, I think it’s important to have a supportive tax administration and government behind you. It is a part of your work. The fact that you have their backing as well as their confidence is very helpful, and they allow for the time for you to do both. That has been my experience.
Fabrizia Lapecorella: Well, in some senses my story is very similar to Marlene’s story.
In the sense that I was involved in the exclusive framework as at the beginning when it was established by the OECD and the G-20 in Kyoto in 2016. At the time I was the head of delegation, but since 2012 I was member of the Bureau of the Committee for Fiscal Affairs. When the inclusive framework was established in Kyoto, I became a member of the steering group of the inclusive framework [on BEPS] right from the beginning of this thing.
As to the dealing with the work that is carried out in that very demanding forum and our own domestic work, that is it’s always certainly challenging, but it has become really, really challenging these days, and Marlene I think you can say that I ‘m not exaggerating.
It’s always been demanding, but now it’s extremely challenging. Because the amount of work, the complexity of the technical work, the very high frequency of the meetings that are called on a weekly basis. Sometimes more than one time per week.
We are all aware that we, first of all, have to respond to a political commitment taken by our ministries and we are all aware that we are doing some, so to speak, sort of exceptional work there. We try to do our best.
Stephanie Soong Johnston: I know that the inclusive framework chairship is now co-chairs. There’s one co-chair from developed countries and one from a developing country. That was a key recommendation in a report to the G-20 finance ministers as a way to improve the inclusive frameworks so that developing countries can better benefit from it.
Briefly, how is this co-chairship working in practice? What do you hope that this new arrangement will accomplish?
Fabrizia Lapecorella: Thanks, Stephanie. Well, let me say that I just started. I was appointed last year, but I started in this role as of January this year.
At the end of last year I was invited by the finance minister of Jamaica to take part to a very interesting high-level conference with a number of very committed ministers from developing countries, the brass of the tax officials. I was invited as the Italian representative of the tax administration. So, as representing the Italian G-20 presence, I was asked to report back in that context what was the main accomplishment for the stream of work of the G-20 on tax and development, which I did.
After that conference, the Jamaican ministers actually circulated a very interesting report on the meetings, making very clear what were the expectations of developing countries as a follow-up to the Italian G-20.
Against that background, when I started I actually discussed with the OECD secretariat the right way to propose to colleagues to start with the establishment of co-chair appointed by the other members, selecting a colleague from a known G-20 country.
We launched the procedure and Marlene was elected by all our colleagues.
For me, it was particularly fortunate. We’ve been knowing each other for long. We’ve been together all the time. When sitting at the steering group, we’ve always been sitting together. It is “I” for Italy and “J” for Jamaica. This is also an element that helps, the fact that we know each other very well, and we can rely on each other to do this job.
I think this is more than a signal to developing countries. On the real willingness of making the process, of making inclusive process, that is so challenging for most of them. This is it, I think.
We expect by sharing the responsibility of touring this extremely large forum to be able to reflect as closely as possible, as well as possible, the needs of the very diverse countries and jurisdictions that are sitting out as well.
Stephanie Soong Johnston: It actually warms my heart that you both are already friends, and now you’re co-leading this very large job. I love that you both already have established working relationship and also get along really well. That’s really nice to hear it.
Marlene, would you like to weigh in?
Marlene Nembhard Parker: I will. I want to support a lot of what Fabrizia just said, Stephanie.
The statement of results of that meeting settled some of the challenges that are well known that…
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