Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

The Senate Economics References Committee has published its interim report entitled “Corporate tax avoidance.”  Part I, “You cannot tax what you cannot see” provides an excellent frame of reference for the discussions therein.

It is worthwhile noting that there is a section “Government Senators’ Dissenting Report” expressing concerns about some recommendations therein; this should be a additional warning sign of the recommendations put forth.  Conversely, there are “Additional Comments from the Australian Greens” fully supporting the report in its entirety.

The final report is due in November 2015, although this interim release provides an indication of the thought trends currently in process by the Australian Tax Office (AT0).  A link to the report is provided for reference:

http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/Corporate_Tax_Avoidance/Report_part_1

Key observations:

  • 17 recommendations provided addressing (1) evidence of, and multilateral efforts to combat, tax avoidance and aggressive minimization, (2) multilateral actions to protect Australia’s revenue base, and (3) capacity of Australian government agencies to collect corporate taxes.
  • Australian government to work with other countries having significant marketing hubs to improve the transparency of information
  • Australian government continues to take the load re: OECD BEPS initiatives; international collaboration should not prevent the Australian Government from taking unilateral action
  • Mandatory tax reporting (transparency) code
  • Existing transparency laws to be identical for private and public companies
  • Public register of tax avoidance settlements reached with the ATO
  • Public excerpts from the Country-by-Country OECD reports, based on the EU’s standards
  • Annual public report on aggressive tax minimization and avoidance activities
  • Section 3.95 discusses a novel concept: “Effective tax borne” effective tax rate formula, a metric that seeks to reflect all of the channel profit derived from business activities involving Australia and the Australian and global tax paid on that channel profit.  Appendix 3 provides additional rules for application of this formula, noting that there has not yet been a consultation with taxpayers or other stakeholders.  The metric envisions that the entire supply chain profit is a profit of the economic group arising from Australian business activities (i.e. intercompany purchases of goods and services from offshore related parties).  Numerator is either the Australian tax paid on business activities by the economic group, or the global tax paid by such group.  Denominator is the total economic profit from business activities which are linked to Australia.  Withholding taxes of economic group profit are includable, whereas royalties and excises are not.  Numerous rules apply for intercompany adjustments.

Australia is still recognized as a leader in the pursuit of the BEPS objectives, using transparency as a weapon to fight ensuing battles.

This report not only extends the strong cry for public disclosure of tax information, it suggests a new concept to examine the effective tax rate of jurisdictions having activities with an Australian related party.  However, it is hopeful the envisaged complexity, cost/benefit and technical nuances of the “effective tax borne” concept are presented to stakeholders with enough time to review, plan and adjust/eliminate the final recommendation accordingly.

As Australia leads, many others follow.  This report is required reading for all interested parties, as the ideas presented have a high probability of appearing in other jurisdictions in a similar form and formulating the same intent for transparency.

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