Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

Details of Canada’s initiative to develop its own Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) action plan are outlined in its 2014 Federal Budget, with a link to KPMG’s comments on the Budget referenced herein.

http://www.kpmg.com/Ca/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/TNF/Pages/tnfc1408.pdf

Highlights of the tax initiatives include proposals to expand existing anti-avoidance rules for thin capitalization, and a back-to-back loan provision.  Additionally, the Budget has requested comments, by June 2014, to the following questions for a framework to develop its own BEPS Action Plan:

  • What are the impacts of international tax planning by multinationals on other participants in the Canadian economy?
  • Which of the international corporate income and sales tax issues identified in the OECD BEPS Action Plan should be considered the highest priorities for examination and potential action by the government?
  • Are there other corporate income tax or sales tax issues related to improving international tax integrity that should be of concern to the government?
  • What considerations should guide the government in determining the appropriate approach to take in responding to the issues identified?
  • Would concerns about maintaining Canada’s competitive tax system are alleviated by coordinated multilateral implementation of base protection measures?
  • What actions should  the government take to ensure the effective collection of sales tax on e-commerce sales to Canadian residents by foreign vendors?

The Budget also addressed the treaty shopping consultation paper released in August 2013, which TEI provided comments thereto (refer to 14 January 2014 post).  The government’s position is that  a domestic law re: treaty shopping is preferable to a treaty-based approach.  This proposed rule would be included in Canada’s Income Tax Convention Interpretation Act, thus applicable to all of Canada’s treaties.  Comments on this position are to be submitted within 60 days.  General provisions of this rule are summarized for reference, with a separate link provided for KPMG’s Submission on Canada’s Consultation on Treaty Shopping in December 2013 :

http://www.kpmg.com/Ca/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/kpmg-submission-to-treaty-shopping-consultation.pdf

  • The domestic treaty-shopping rule is a “general purpose” provision, versus a “limitation on benefits” approach.
  • A tax treaty benefit is denied for relevant treaty income if it is reasonable to conclude that one of the main purposes for undertaking a transaction, or a transaction that is part of a series of transactions or events, that results in the benefit was for the person to obtain such benefit.
  • It relies on the conduit presumption for tax treaty benefits, absent proof to the contrary.  Safe harbour presumptions are provided for this test.

With the OECD working aggressively to finish the BEPS Action Plan items timely, including the recent draft of a Country-by-Country Reporting template for comment, it is hoped that new international principles and documentation standards being developed are not adopted earlier, and unilaterally, by countries each changing such rules based on its sole interpretation and discretion, which later are effected into local legislation.

Most importantly, multinationals and other interested parties should monitor BEPS related provisions in countries proposing separate legislation, in addition to that proposed by the OECD.  To the extent the OECD’s principles differ from separate country legislation, international tax challenges will significantly increase, with additional likelihood of double taxation.

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