unctad.org | A session on Multinational Profit Shifting and Illicit Flows? Can We Measure Them?
A session on Multinational Profit Shifting and Illicit Flows? Can We Measure Them?
20 August 2019
Held as part of the International Statistics Institute World Congress
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Key Issues

On 20 August 2019, UNCTAD organized a session on Multinational Profit Shifting and Illicit Flows? Can We Measure Them? The session discussed how official statistics should respond to the urgent need to measure multinational profit shifting and related financial flows in the context of the 2030 Agenda.

The large impact of financial flows related to tax and profit optimization raises the question if GDP and other key economic statistics are still valid as measures of domestic production. The increasing use of intellectual property as capital assets has had a notable impact on the measurement and interpretation of national accounts and balance of payments statistics. Relocation of intellectual property can change the location where exports and income are recorded. The question is then if economic statistics can still be used correctly for designing monetary policy and directing economic policy.

There is a pressing need for better and more information on multinational enterprises and their activities. While we lack statistics to analyse the full picture, several useful indicators of profit shifting have been developed, such as the ratio of profits to compensation of employees and estimates that reallocate multinationals’ profits based on economic activity (production or employment) rather than reported profits. The session discussed ways to make statistics more informative in this regard.

  • Organiser: Steve Macfeely
  • Chair: Fernando Cantu
  • Discussant: Anu Peltola


(STAT/EM/IFF) - 10/09/2019 - 166 KB  


Fernando Cantu
Development Statistics and Information Branch
Division on Globalization and Development Strategies
Covid-19 Advisory
In view of the current situation concerning the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), it has been decided in the public interest to postpone all UNCTAD meetings scheduled in May 2020, including those listed below. New dates will be communicated in due time.
  • Multi-year Expert Meeting on Trade, Services and Development (5 to 6 May 2020)
  • Short course for Geneva-based delegates - Para 166 (8 May 2020)
  • Multi-year Expert Meeting on Investment, Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Productive Capacity-building and Sustainable Development (13 May 2020)
  • UNCTAD ad-hoc meetings
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