African countries should consider alternatives to the arm’s length principle. A viable alternative to the arm’s length principle: the unitary taxation (formulary apportionment) approach should be considered. This approach looks in detail at the economic activities resulting into the profits of MNCs for tax purposes. Under this approach, tax authorities in Africa will justifiably impose corporate income taxes on “actual” profits of MNCs accruing form economic activities carried out in their jurisdictions, thereby eliminating the opportunities for base erosion and profit shifting in Africa.
The AfCFTA, as presently negotiated, fails to address the potential tax avoidance likely to arise from the proposed single market. The tax-related non-tariff barriers mentioned in the AfCFTA are limited to subsidies and tax benefits granted by governments to countries. In the absence of any express provision on the allocation of taxable income among countries in the AfCFTA, it may be argued that the AfCFTA has adopted the global tax system, which treats companies in a group as separate from each other.