Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

The attached letter from the Congressional tax-writing Committees to US Treasury sets the stage for future US BEPS conformity and policy approach.  This letter is especially revealing after the US has declined an invitation to be a member of the ad-hoc group for creating a BEPS Multilateral Instrument, of which over 80 countries have signaled their positive intent.

The letter also questions the positive verbal nods from the US that it has relevant legislative authority to collect the Country-by-Country report, and disseminate it, in accordance with OECD’s intent.

Additionally, the letter confirms that the US strongly adheres to the arm’s length transfer pricing principle, which was in clear evidence during the BEPS proceedings.

Only time will reveal the final answers, however the inward US focus is clearly evident as has been the case for other countries that have already adopted BEPS incentivized legislation that may not conform with OECD’s final guidelines.
The letter is attached for reference, with my highlights for emphasis.

Hatch, Ryan Call on Treasury to Engage Congress on OECD International Tax Project
Lawmakers Push to Ensure Global Tax Law Recommendations Benefit U.S. Interests
June 9, 2015 – PRESS RELEASE
Ryan: BRENDAN BUCK (202) 226-4774
Hatch: JULIA LAWLESS (202) 224-4515

WASHINGTON — In advance of the 2015 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conference on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) taking place this week in the nation’s capital, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) called on Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to work with Congress to ensure the international tax proposals being considered under the BEPS project are beneficial to American workers and job creators.
“As your BEPS discussions continue and proposals are considered, we strongly encourage you to continue engagement with us and to solicit input from the tax-writing committees,” wrote Hatch and Ryan in a letter today. “We have been monitoring, and continue to monitor, the BEPS project, and we understand the significance it carries in the global community and its potential impact on U.S. workers and their multinational employers. We stand ready to work with you as the BEPS discussions conclude and final reports are issued this year so that we reach good outcomes for the United States and U.S. companies and provide an atmosphere within which we can continue to work towards U.S. tax reform.”

The text of the letter is a below and a signed copy can be found here.

June 9, 2015

The Honorable Jacob Lew

Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20220

Dear Secretary Lew:

As the leaders of the Congressional tax-writing committees, we are writing to you about the need for the Treasury Department to remain engaged with Congress as you and your colleagues negotiate and develop proposals with member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and others on fundamental changes in international tax rules under the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project.

Congress is tasked with writing the tax laws of the United States, including those associated with cross-border activities of U.S. companies. Regardless of what the Treasury Department agrees to as part of the BEPS project, Congress will craft the tax rules that it believes work best for U.S. companies and the U.S. economy. Close consultation between Congress and the Treasury Department should inform the BEPS discussions. We expect that as we move forward on U.S. tax reform, U.S. tax policy will not be constrained by any concessions to other nations in the BEPS project to which Congress has not agreed.

As your BEPS discussions continue and proposals are considered, we strongly encourage you to continue engagement with us and to solicit input from the tax-writing committees. We have been monitoring, and continue to monitor, the BEPS project, and we understand the significance it carries in the global community and its potential impact on U.S. workers and their multinational employers. We stand ready to work with you as the BEPS discussions conclude and final reports are issued this year so that we reach good outcomes for the United States and U.S. companies and provide an atmosphere within which we can continue to work towards U.S. tax reform.

We appreciate some of the work that your team has done as part of the OECDs BEPS project, especially efforts to defend and advocate certain long-standing tax principles, such as the arms-length transfer-pricing standard. However, we are troubled by some positions the Treasury Department appears to be agreeing to as part of this project. For example, we are concerned about the country-by-country (CbC) reporting standards that will contain sensitive information related to a U.S. multinational’s group operations. We are also concerned that Treasury has appeared to agree that foreign governments will be able to collect the so-called “master file” information directly from U.S. multinationals without any assurances of confidentiality or that the information collection is needed. The master file contains information well beyond what could be obtained in public filings and that is even more sensitive for privately-held multinational companies. We are also concerned about interest-deductibility limitation proposals on the basis of questionable empirics and metrics.

Some recent press reports have indicated that the Treasury Department believes it currently has the authority under the Internal Revenue Code to require CbC reporting by certain U.S. companies and that Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance on this reporting will be released later this year. We believe the authority to request, collect, and share this information with foreign governments is questionable. In addition, the benefits to the U.S. government from agreeing to these new reporting requirements are unclear, particularly since the IRS already has access to much of this information to administer U.S. tax laws. Therefore, we request that, before finalizing any decisions, the Treasury Department and IRS provide the tax-writing committees with a legal memorandum detailing its authority for requesting and collecting this CbC information from certain U.S. multinationals and master file information from U.S. subsidiaries of foreign multinationals. We also request that you provide a document: (i) identifying how the CbC reporting and other transfer pricing documentation obtained by the IRS on foreign multinationals operating in the United States will be utilized, and; (ii) providing the justification for agreeing that sensitive master file information on U.S. multinationals can be collected directly by foreign governments. In the event we do not receive such information, Congress will consider whether to take action to prevent the collection of the CbC and master file information.

We also have significant concerns about many of the provisions included in several other proposals of the BEPS project, including, among others, modifying the permanent establishment (PE) rules, using subjective general anti-abuse rules (GAAR) in tax treaties, and collecting even more sensitive data from U.S. companies to analyze and measure base erosion and profit shifting. These are but a few of the areas where we recommend that we work together to find consensus and identify a path forward for consideration as part of the BEPS negotiations and, if necessary, Congressional actions.

In the coming months, we look forward to working with you with respect to the BEPS project. In the interim, we want to remind the Treasury Department that it has the ability to refrain from signing on to the BEPS final reports, and we expect you to do just that if doing so protects the interests of the United States and of U.S. persons. Many of the OECD’s BEPS project objectives are sound, and international cooperation – as well as competition – in tax policies is desirable. We trust that you agree, however, that precipitous decisions to impose constraints on U.S. tax policy and added burdens on U.S. companies, especially on the basis of weak empirics and metrics, are not desirable.

Thank you for your attention to these important matters.

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