Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/16/us-google-britain-tax-idUSBRE94E0WL20130516

In continuing verbal encounters by Google UK before the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), it is interesting to note the following in the above article, supplemented by similar language in the related articles cited below:

  • The company evidently stated that “We are selling, but not closing.”
  • The article cites the fact that a review of LinkedIn profiles revealed sales activities were conducted by employees.
  • The article does not provide the reader a concise description of PE, or its safe harbors in Double Tax Treaties: re: “preparatory and auxiliary activities.”

This arduous lesson in reputational risk reinforces the need to ensure Best Practices are in place for PE, as posted in a prior blog.

It is a very interesting point that LinkedIn profiles were reviewed to further examine potential sales activities carried out in the UK.  A company cannot control the social network profiles of its employees, although it should be very clear in everyone’s job description what is, and is not, allowable for marketing or sales activities.  The Do’s and Don’ts List should be signed annually as a reminder to employees of their responsibilities and limitations in scope.

A company with significant Branch activities should be reviewing how written statements, including emails, are communicated in  discussions of sales, market support or promotional activities.

The statement “We are selling, but not closing” brings a substance vs. form argument into the subjective definition of PE, an argument that is not helpful in forming objective arguments by the company or tax authorities.  Therefore, a company should examine its Best Practices to increase its objective PE evidence, in substance and form, in preparation for controversy.

Does your Tax Risk Policy include any statements re: whistleblower activity, and how such activity should be addressed?

Finally, a company should conduct an annual audit of its significant Branch activities, in possible coordination with internal audit, to further minimize its PE (and reputational) risk on an annual basis.

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