Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

The UN Subcommittee on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Issues for Developing Countries has reiterated its request for comments to its BEPS Questionnaire, copied herein for reference.   Additional time is available for comments submitted by 8 August 2014.

The Subcommittee is mandated to draw upon its own experience and engage with other relevant bodies, particularly the OECD, with a view to monitoring developments on base erosion and profit shifting issues and communicating on such issues with officials in developing countries directly and through regional and inter-regional organizations.

Links to the Questionnaire and responses are provided.  Comments from Brazil, Mexico, Singapore, Christian Aid & Action Aid, and the Economic Justice Network and Oxfam South Africa are posted for review.

http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/tax/Beps/index.htm

http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/tax/Beps/BepsIssues.pdf

The wide divide in the role (and perception) of the arm’s length principle for transfer pricing is very apparent in the responses from Singapore and Christian Aid & Action Aid.

Actions 6 &  7: Singapore’s comments: 
“The continued correct application of the arm’s length principle to allocate profits based on function, assets and risks will help to ensure that profits are allocated based on where value is created.”  

“We would like to highlight that the focus on countering BEPS should be to grow the economic pie for every country, and not let the work be sidetracked by protectionism and development of rules for political expedience.”

Actions 8-10: Christian Aid & Action Aid’s comments:
“Transfer (mis-)pricing is a significant challenge to developing countries, and improvements to current rules need to take place to ensure developing countries can seek appropriate tax contributions from Transnational Corporations (TNCs).  The best solution may be outside of the arm’s length principle however, something that the OECD appears to not want to consider.  We believe that there should be more comprehensive research done into alternatives to the arm’s length principle and how effective they may be for developing countries.”

Questionnaire:

Countries’ experiences regarding base erosion and profit shifting issues.

Developing countries are invited to provide feedback by answering the following questions. Feedback (and any questions about the feedback requested) should be sent to taxffdoffice@un.org. The deadline for responses is 8 August 2014.

1. How does base erosion and profit shifting affect your country?

2. If you are affected by base erosion and profit shifting, what are the most common practices or structures used in your country or region, and the responses to them?

3. When you consider an MNE’s activity in your country, how do you judge whether the MNE has reported an appropriate amount of profit in your jurisdiction?

4. What main obstacles have you encountered in assessing whether the appropriate amount of profit is reported in your jurisdiction and in ensuring that tax is paid on such profit?

The Subcommittee have identified a number of actions in the Action Plan that impact on taxation in the country where the income is earned (the source country), as opposed to taxation in the country in which the MNE is headquartered (the residence country), or seek to improve transparency between MNEs and revenue authorities as being particularly important to many developing countries (while recognising that there will be particular differences between such countries). These are:  Action 4 – Limit base erosion via interest deductions and other financial payments  Action 6 – Prevent Treaty Abuse  Action 8 – Assure that transfer pricing outcomes are in line with value creation: intangibles  Action 9 – Assure that transfer pricing outcomes are in line with value creation: risks and capital  Action 10 – Assure that transfer pricing outcomes are in line with value creation with reference to other high risk transactions (in particular management fees)  Action 11 – Establish methodologies to collect and analyse data on BEPS and the actions to address it  Action 12 – Require taxpayers to disclose their aggressive tax planning arrangements  Action 13 – Re-examine transfer pricing documentation

5. Do you agree that these are particularly important priorities for developing countries?

6. Which of these OECD’s Action Points do you see as being most important for your country, and do you see that priority changing over time?

7. Are there other Action Points currently in the Action Plan but not listed above that you would include as being most important for developing countries?

8. Having considered the issues outlined in the Action Plan and the proposed approaches to addressing them (including domestic legislation, bilateral treaties and a possible multilateral treaty) do you believe there are other approaches to addressing that practices that might be more effective at the policy or practical levels instead of, or alongside such actions, for your country?

9. Having considered the issues outlined in the Action Plan, are there are other base erosion and profit shifting issues in the broad sense that you consider may deserve consideration by international organisations such as the UN and OECD?

10.Do you want to be kept informed by email on the Subcommittee’s work on base erosion and profit shifting issues for developing countries and related work of the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters?

Do you have any other comments you wish to share with the Subcommittee about base erosion and profit shifting, including your experience of obstacles to assessing and then addressing the issues, as well as lessons learned that may be of wider benefit?

 

The insightful Questionnaire, as well as commentaries received, reflect the continuing conflict re: transfer pricing principles to be applied by developed and developing countries.  Additionally, unilateral requests for BEPS comments by countries also reflect the tendency to adopt OECD principles as adapted to local needs.

As a result, transfer pricing documentation will be inherently more complex and non-standardized, while controversies between tax authorities and multinational corporations will multiply significantly in magnitude and scope.

 

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