Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

Archive for May, 2016

EU: CbC marches on

EY’s Global Tax Alert, attached for reference, provides details on the continuing momentum of the country-by-country (CbC) reporting rules in the EU. These rules will certainly be applied by some EU countries in 2016, thus US and other non-EU based multinationals should start to seriously consider options for separate and/or surrogate entity filings in EU and other jurisdictions for the 2016 tax year.

Note, it is likely the continuing transparency momentum will continue and likely to obligate multinationals to more disclosures going forward. Thus, it is imperative the key stakeholders are aligned currently and ongoing.

Global Tax Alert | 25 May 2016
ECOFIN formally adopts directive on country-by-country reporting in the EU
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On 25 May 2016, the Economic and Financial Affairs Council of the European Union (ECOFIN) which is made up of the Finance Ministers of all European Union (EU) Member States unanimously voted in favor of the amendments to the EU directive on exchange of information (the Directive). The revision, that will implement the recommendations of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action 13 on country-by-country reporting, is one of the elements of the European Commission’s Anti-Tax Avoidance package from January 2016.2 According to the ECOFIN, “the principal aim of the directive is to prevent multinationals from exploiting the technicalities of the tax system, or mismatches between different tax systems, in order to reduce of avoid their tax liabilities.”

The Directive requires multinationals to report information on revenues, profits, taxes paid, capital, earnings, tangible assets and the number of employees on a country-by-country basis. This information must be reported for fiscal years starting on or after 1 January 2016, to the tax authorities of the Member State where the group’s ultimate parent entity (UPE) is tax resident. If the UPE is not resident in the EU, the report would have to be filed through a surrogate parent (EU or non-EU based) or the EU based subsidiaries. The Directive would give Member States the option to either require secondary filing for fiscal years starting on or after 1 January 2016 or to defer that obligation to financial years starting on or after 1 January 2017.

The Member States adopted the amendments without discussion, following the agreement reached at the previous ECOFIN meeting held on 8 March 2016. Thus, the details of the Directive remained virtually unchanged to what had previously been reported.3

Next steps
The Directive will require EU Member States to implement a country-by-country reporting obligation in their national legislation in line with the requirements of the Directive within 12 months from the date of its entry into force.

The first reports will have to be filed within 12 months from the end of the fiscal year to which they relate. Member States will have to exchange them within 3 months thereafter, except for the reports relating to fiscal years starting on or after 1 January 2016 where the term would be 18 months after the end of the fiscal year. The European Commission will adopt the necessary practical arrangements for upgrading the existing common platform for automatic exchange in the EU to fit the needs of the new requirements.

Endnotes

1. Council Directive 2011/16/EU of 15 February 2011 on administrative cooperation in the field of taxation.

2. See EY Global Tax Alert, European Commission releases anti-tax avoidance package designed to provide uniform implementation of BEPS measures and minimum standards across Member States, dated 28 January 2016.

3. See EY Global Tax Alert, EU Council publishes updated Draft Directive on implementation of country-by-country reporting, dated 23 March 2016.

Denmark’s TP documentation: OECD+

Denmark has new transfer pricing documentation rules in place, effective for tax year 2016, while country-by-country (CbC) reporting for non-Danish HQ companies is delayed until tax year 2017.

The local transfer pricing file is to include a copy of intercompany arrangements and details of IP re: “DEMPE” functions including the Development, Enhancement, Maintenance, Protection and Exploitation attributes.

The additional details extend beyond the OECD Guidelines and will lead to further complexity re: the ability to efficiently provide globally consistent transfer pricing documentation around the world. This may be followed by other countries as they follow the particular leader at the team, and thus EY”s Alert should be reviewed by interested tax practitioners.

http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/Denmark_issues_stricter_requirements_for_transfer_pricing_documentation/$FILE/2016G_01098-161Gbl_TP_DK%20issues%20stricter%20requirements%20for%20TP%20documentation.pdf

Austria’s CbC / TP rules

The Austrian Ministry of Finance has published its new country-by-country (CbC) and transfer pricing (TP) draft legislative rules, detailed in the referenced EY Global Tax Alert.

The Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on the Exchange of Country by Country Reports is now included in Austrian domestic law. Moreover, the legal requirements stipulated in the European Directive regarding mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation (2011/16/EU) is now national law.

The CbC and TP documentation are effective for the 2016 taxable year. TP documentation can be requested by the tax authorities within 30 days after filing the corporate income tax return. CBC information is required, dependent on the size of the organisation, and is subject to significant penalties for late filing/inaccurate information. Information on surrogate entity filing is also within the draft guidance.

Notification of the CbC filer is required by the end of this year, as in several other countries, requiring all US based multinationals to monitor the EU pending legislation and consider alternatives for filing if the US Final Regulations do not obligate CbC filing for the 2016 tax year.

The BEPS/CbC/transparency impetus is still growing, with no signs of slowing down. Demands for additional transparency are mounting, while the complexity of reporting, and filing, the respective reports is significantly increasing.

http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/Austria_publishes_draft_Transfer_Pricing_Documentation_Law/$FILE/2016G_01054-161Gbl_TP_Austria%20publishes%20draft%20Transfer%20Pricing%20Documentation%20Law.pdf

UK interest consultation

The UK government has updated its October 2015 interest expense consultation paper as of 12 May 2016, and is seeking comments by 4 August, 2016.  The paper outlines the intent of OECD’s BEPS interest guidelines and provides questions for further consideration of limitations re: interest expense going forward.

The UK previously legislated hybrid mismatch arrangements that will be effective 1/1/2017, and the new rules are not expected to be effective until April 2017.  In the interim, taxpayers will not have certainty re: current arrangements and new rules going forward.

Although following the footsteps of the OECD, UK is not afraid to take an aggressive stance as evidenced by its Diverted Profits Tax legislation, intention to adopt BEPS Actions 8-10 re: transfer pricing at an early stage and inserting risk rules in its Manual with a UK tax strategy governance.  This paper is intended to be a future roadmap for UK tax, thus it should be read by all interested parties.

A reference to the paper is provided for reference, and a summary of the questions.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/tax-deductibility-of-corporate-interest-expense/tax-deductibility-of-corporate-interest-expense-consultation

  1. What are your views on when a general interest restriction should be introduced in the UK?
  2. Should an interest restriction only apply to multinational groups or should it also be applied to domestic groups and stand-alone companies?
  3. Are there any other amounts which should be included or excluded in the definition of interest?
  4. How could the rules identify the foreign exchange gains and losses to be included?
  5. If the rules operate at the UK sub-group level, how should any restriction be allocated to individual companies?
  6. Are there items which should be excluded from both the definition of interest and from “tax EBITDA”, as referred to in the section on a fixed ratio rule?
  7. What do you consider would be an appropriate percentage for a fixed ratio rule within the proposed corridor of 10% to 30% bearing in mind the recommended linkages to some of the optional rules described below?
  8. What are your views on including in any new rules an option for businesses to use a group ratio rule in addition to a fixed ratio rule?
  9. What form of de minimis threshold would be most effective at minimising the compliance burden without introducing discrimination or undermining the effectiveness of any rules?
  10. What level should the de minimis threshold be set at, balancing fairness, BEPS risks and compliance burdens?
  11. Should SMEs as defined by the EU criteria be exempted from the rules, in addition or as an alternative to a de minimis threshold?
  12. What is the best way of ensuring that the rules remain effective and proportionate even when earnings are volatile?
  13. In what situations would businesses choose to use the PBP exclusion? How would this differ if no group ratio rule was implemented?
  14. Do you have any suggestions regarding the design of a PBP exclusion, taking account of the OECD recommendations?
  15. Do you have any views on the specific risks that might sensibly be dealt with through targeted rules?
  16. Do you have any suggestions as to how to address BEPS issues involving interest raised by the banking and insurance sectors?
  17. What are the types of arrangement for which transitional rules would be particularly necessary to prevent any rules having unfair or unintended consequences, and what scope would these rules need to be effective?
  18. To what extent do you believe that the new general interest restriction rule should replace existing rules?

 

BEPS update; no slowing down

The drive for additional transparency, among efforts by countries to implement anti-avoidance rules that trump tax treaties, continues with the latest round of BEPS updates, as EY’s Global Tax Alert provides added insight:

http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/The_Latest_on_BEPS_-_9_May_2016/$FILE/2016G_00921-161Gbl_The%20Latest%20on%20BEPS%20–%209%20May%202016.pdf

Highlights:

  •  Australian Tax Office (ATO) release of 4 tax alerts for issues of concern, a Diverted Profits Tax (DPT) is to be implemented, hybrid mismatch arrangements will be addressed in legislation, and the effective date for the new/revised OECD’s arms-length principle standards will move forward to 1 July, 2016.
  • Ecuador: the most recently version, as of 1/1 of a taxpayer’s year, of the OECD’s Guidelines will be used as transfer pricing reference absent domestic rules.
  • Hungary: A “modified nexus” IP approach will come into force.
  • Netherlands: The innovation box rules will be amended to comply with OECD’s Action 5 guidelines.
  • New Zealand: Domestic anti-avoidance rules will trump double treaty arrangements.
  • Taiwan: CFC rules will be promulgated.  
  • Turkey: An “electronic place of business” draft legislation would empower taxation.
  • Ukraine: A working group is forming anti-BEPS measures for consideration.
  • US: Treasury is trying to extricate itself from its 1-year lag in obligatory country-by-country (CbC) reporting, although global acceptance is not expected.

The impact of BEPS is still accelerating, although the efforts by countries to avoid treaty provisions will provoke additional disputes and double taxation.  Accordingly, the veil of anti-BEPS legislative efforts overshadows mutual transparency and collecting a fair share of tax while avoiding double taxation.  Thus, all multinationals should be extra vigilant in the new era of international tax for additional documentation and support for significant transactions with low-tax countries.

Australia’s Diverted Profits Tax salvo

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has recently released a consultation paper re: implementation of a Diverted Profits Tax (DPT); comments are due by 17 June 2016.  Although Australia has taken a long look at the DPT in concert with UK’s quickly enacted provisions, it took a breather while the OECD urged restraint on a far-reaching “tax” that may go beyond the intent of the OECD’s Guidelines.  A link to the paper is provided for reference:

http://www.treasury.gov.au/~/media/Treasury/Consultations%20and%20Reviews/Consultations/2016/Implementing%20a%20diverted%20profits%20tax/Key%20Documents/PDF/Diverted-profits-tax_discussion-paper.ashx

The focus of the paper is summarized in the first sentence: “The Government is strongly committed to ensuring that multinationals pay their fair share of tax in Australia.”

Highlights of the proposal:

  • 40% penalty tax (non-deductible) rate, not offset by another jurisdiction’s tax (30% tax rate if an amended tax return is filed)
  • Subjective determination (i.e. reasonable to conclude)
  • Will not operate on a self-assessment basis
  • Pay first, discuss later philosophy, copying UK’s direction (12-month review period and a right to appeal)
  • Effective for years commencing on or after 1 July, 2017
  • Flow chart appendix
  • Efective for transactions that have an effective tax mismatch test (objective test) and insufficient economic substance (subjective test)
  • Draft guidance will be developed in consultation with stakeholders.

All interested parties should review this consultation paper, and provide comments to the ATO for potential changes.  It is interesting to see that transactions failing the effective mismatch test will be left exclusively with subjective determinations for possible assessments by the ATO without the benefit of dual transparency.  Additionally, the philosophy of assess now and discuss later will not be a mechanism to effectively provide more trust by taxpayers as UK, Australia and other jurisdictions are creating unilateral laws to capture taxes payable on income in other jurisdictions, potentially without the right to access treaties, claim an offset in the other jurisdictions and have access to the full process of appeals prior to payment.  As a result, the incidence of double taxation will increase.

It is hopeful the ATO will consider the comments received, and include changes to the current proposal to enhance transparency and mutuality by all parties.

 

 

 

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