Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

Archive for the ‘OECD / UN’ Category

US int’l developments: CbC exchange

EY’s Global Tax Alert, referenced herein, provides a summary of the latest US international tax developments, including the exchange of BEPS related information.

US recently finalized two model competent authority agreements that will be used for exchanging country-by-country (CbC) reports. One model will apply to information exchanged under US tax treaties, the other will be used with US tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs). A tax treaty or TIEA serves as the legal basis for the exchange of tax information in the CbC reports.

Most importantly, the US has two requirements for countries exchanging CbC reports under OECD’s Action 13: (1) a legal instrument authorizing the exchange, and (2) adequate data security.  With respect to the security prerequisite, this presents uncertainty as to which countries are not considered to have the requisite security.  However, will this “list” be communicated in advance so MNE’s are in compliance with that country’s laws requiring the submission of CbC data?  This should be a forethought, rather than an afterthought, to the process.

Click to access 2017G_01247-171Gbl_Report%20on%20recent%20US%20international%20tax%20developments%20-%2017%20March%202017.pdf

BEPS update: transparency

The latest BEPS updates are detailed in EY’s Global Tax Report, with the underlying premise of transparency.

Summary:

OECD: On 5 December 2016, the OECD released an updated version of the Guidance on the Implementation of Country-by-Country Reporting, providing flexibility for notification filing dates for countries not requiring a country-by-country (CbC) report for 2016.

Belgium: New innovation deduction covering patent and other IP rights.

EU: Proposal for hybrid mismatch rules with non-EU countries

Norway: Adoption and regulations for CbC reporting

UK: Interest limitation rules, among other provisions

US: CbC Form 8975 released

From a MNE perspective, it is increasingly apparent that deductions to, and benefits from, tax haven countries are under attack and substance is the key to business and tax decisions.  

(CbCR).http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/The_Latest_on_BEPS_-_19_December_2016/$FILE/2016G_04446-161Gbl_The%20Latest%20on%20BEPS%20-%2019%20December%202016.pdf

Luxembourg: CbC reporting

The draft country-by-country (CbC) law has been forwarded to Parliament, in alignment with the EU Directive for 2016 tax year reporting.

A surrogate parent entity should file a CbC report with the Luxembourg tax authorities in one of the following cases:

  • The ultimate parent entity (UPE) is not obliged to file a CbC report in its country of residence,
  • The UPE is obliged to submit a CbC report, but there is no automatic exchange of CbC reports between Luxembourg and the country of residence of the UPE or
  • The UPE is obliged to submit a CbC report,and there is automatic exchange of CbC reports, but due to systematic failure, no effective exchange of information takes place.

As the terminology includes “obliged” vs. voluntary filings in some countries, the filing entity and disclosure rules should be reviewed.  Additionally, there are significant penalties for late/non-filing.

 

The EY Global Tax Alert, linked for reference, provides additional details.

Click to access 2016G_02418-161Gbl_TP_Luxembourg%20introduces%20draft%20law%20on%20country-by-country%20reporting.pdf

OECD’s Multilateral Instrument: TEI comments

Tax Executives Institute, Inc. (TEI) has recently submitted comments in response to OECD’s public discussion draft on Action 15 re: technical issues for the upcoming Multilateral Instrument.

A link to TEI’s excellent comments are provided for reference:

Click to access TEI-Comments-BEPS-Action-15-Tax-Treaty-Related-Measures-June-29-2016.pdf

Highlights:

  • Mandatory binding arbitration was not included, thus the increase in MAP cases seem inevitable.
  • A “baseball” type of arbitration is recommended.
  • All MAP cases should be eligible for arbitration.
  • All signatories should adopt the Action 14 minimum standard.
  • Countries should have the ability to choose what treaty-related BEPS measures it will adopt.
  • Countries should have the ability to choose what treaty partners and relevant tax treaties would apply for various BEPS provisions.
  • The modified provisions are only effective upon official ratification.
  • A new peer process should be adopted for treaty interpretation.

The multilateral instrument is key to the consistent application of BEPS Actions, and the well-written TEI comments are highly recommended for all interested parties.

BEPS update

EY’s Global Tax Alert provides recent developments for BEPS by Australia, Austria, Belgium, EU, Germany, Iceland, India, Niger, and Romania.

Click to access 2016G_01449-161Gbl_The%20Latest%20on%20BEPS%20-%206%20June%202016.pdf

Highlights:

  • Australia: Local File is OECD +, going beyond OECD’s recommendations, including transactional detail.  This development is proving that global consistency is a rapidly fading ideal, as countries legislate what they think benefits them the most.  Unfortunately, this adds to the cost, time and complexity of preparing global reports.
  • Austria: Transfer pricing documentation draft regulations follows the OECD.
  • Economic and Financial Affairs Council of the European Union (ECOFIN): EU Member States Finance Ministers, envision adopting the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive on 17 June 2016, subject to amendments.  Legal agreement was also reached on adoption of the Directive on the exchange of non-public country-by-country tax information.  Conclusions were also adopted on the European Commission communication on an external tax strategy and tax treaty abuse measures.
  • Germany: Transfer pricing technical draft introducing transfer pricing documentation standards as recommended by the OECD.  Master File and Local File documentation requirements introduced.
  • India: A 6% Equalization Levy (EL) to apply on gross payments for certain digital services received by a nonresident.
  • Niger: Thin capitalisation rules introduced.
  • Romania: To become a BEPS Associate and participate in the OECD’s framework.

As the above developments note, BEPS guidelines and intent remains very strong in the global community, with many changes already made and many more to come.

 

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:

Click to access 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.

EU Tax Avoidance Package: Automatic exchange of CbC reports

The EU Tax Avoidance Package contains a proposed amended EU Directive that would include CbC reporting as an automatic element of exchange of information between Member States.

Highlights:

  • The proposal expands the current Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) requirements in the EU.
  • The country-by-country (CbC) reporting would be encased in a legal instrument that would ensure certainty for companies within the EU.
  • “There is an urgent current demand for coordinated action in the EU on this matter of international political priority.”
  • On the basis of information in the CbC report, the mandatory CbC exchange would be accessible to those Member States in which “one or more entities of the MNE Group are either resident for tax purposes, or are subject to tax with respect to the business carried out through a permanent establishment of an MNE Group.”
  • Member States shall prescribe penalties in line with this proposal.
  • Member States shall adopt and publish, by 31 Dec. 2016, legislative provisions to comply with this Directive , and shall apply those provisions from 1/1/2017.

The proposal also addresses reporting by Surrogate Entities, although restricted to EU Member States.

This proposal pushes the EU initiative of being the global leader in post-BEPS implementation and providing direction for the rest of the world.  Accordingly, the proposal may be precedent setting for other jurisdictions and mandatory reading to understand CbC expectations and perceptions.

 

CbC Surrogate: A reporting trap!

OECD’s BEPS Action 13 provides for a Surrogate Entity substitution concept if the headquarter jurisdiction of a multinational does not provide for country-by-country (CbC) reporting for the 2016 tax year.  The concept is ideal, if a CbC reporting country considers this Surrogate Entity concept in its legislation.

A review of CbC legislative actions by different countries reveals that such legislation will be inconsistent and will require the multinational to file separate CbC reports in various countries, irrespective of its choice of appointing a surrogate country that has an extensive tax treaty network with exchange of information provisions.  

For example, the legislative language of Spain does not provide for the Surrogate Entity concept, thereby requiring a Finnish (and possibly U.S., dependent on Final Regulations) based multinational to file the 2016 Spanish CbC report in Euros.  One of the Spanish tax authority representatives recently expressed an opinion that no advance rulings/arrangements will be acceptable for CbC Surrogate Entity filing: The law is the law.

Several issues for consideration by a multinational thinking of a Surrogate include:

  • Every country’s CbC adopted legislation will require review to determine if a Surrogate filing is acceptable.
  • For countries that will require a local filing, adoption of such country’s CbC rules will be required re: content, timing, reporting currency, etc.
  • Upon conclusion of the dynamic review, the CbC template may require adaptation for  local filings of countries that have OECD + CbC legislation, adding details beyond those prescribed in BEPS Action 13.   
  • Most countries have penalties (fines/civil/criminal) applicable for failure to file a CbC report.

The definition of a Surrogate Entity, in addition to BEPS Action 13, are included for reference.

Click to access beps-action-13-country-by-country-reporting-implementation-package.pdf

The term “Surrogate Parent Entity” means one Constituent Entity of the MNE Group that has been appointed by such MNE Group, as a sole substitute for the Ultimate Parent Entity, to file the country-by-country report in that Constituent Entity’s jurisdiction of tax residence, on behalf of such MNE Group, when one or more of the conditions set out in subsection (ii) of paragraph 2 of Article 2 applies.

European Commission: Full speed ahead

The European Commission has clearly announced it’s intent to be the global leader in advancing OECD’s BEPS initiatives, with some proposals exceeding the scope / intent of the OECD.

Copies of the following documents are provided for reference, with subsequent posts addressing highlights of significant initiatives.  It is important to distinguish the documents between Proposals for a Council Directive, Communications, Studies and Recommendations.  

  1. Anti Tax Avoidance Package
  2. Proposal for a Council Directive re: tax avoidance practices
  3. Proposal for a Council Directive re: automatic exchange of information
  4. Annex to automatic exchange of information proposal
  5. Communication on an External Strategy for Effective Taxation
  6. Annexes to the external strategy communication
  7. Communication re: Tax Avoidance Package
  8. Study on Structures of Aggressive Tax Planning & Indicators
  9. Recommendation on implementation of measures against tax treaty abuse

The documents are required reading for all international tax practitioners, as they highlight the complex post-BEPS world and the trend indicators for the near future.  We can assume that some of these developments will proceed for action very quickly, thereby imputing a doctrine that “time is of the essence.”

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/taxation/company_tax/anti_tax_avoidance/index_en.htm

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=COM:2016:26:FIN&from=EN

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:89937d6d-c5a8-11e5-a4b5-01aa75ed71a1.0014.03/DOC_1&format=HTML&lang=EN&parentUrn=COM:2016:25:FIN

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:89937d6d-c5a8-11e5-a4b5-01aa75ed71a1.0014.03/DOC_3&format=HTML&lang=EN&parentUrn=COM:2016:25:FIN

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:b5aef3db-c5a7-11e5-a4b5-01aa75ed71a1.0018.03/DOC_1&format=HTML&lang=EN&parentUrn=COM:2016:24:FIN

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:b5aef3db-c5a7-11e5-a4b5-01aa75ed71a1.0018.03/DOC_3&format=HTML&lang=EN&parentUrn=COM:2016:24:FIN

Click to access swd_2016_6_en.pdf

Click to access taxation_paper_61.pdf

Click to access c_2016_271_en.pdf

OECD Multilateral pact is signed

Thirty-one countries have signed the OECD’s multilateral competent authority agreement (MCAA) for the automatic exchange of country-by-country (CbC) reports, excluding the U.S.

The signatory countries are:

  1. Australia
  2. Austria
  3. Belgium
  4. Chile
  5. Costa Rica
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Denmark
  8. Estonia
  9. Finland
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Greece
  13. Ireland
  14. Italy
  15. Japan
  16. Liechtenstein
  17. Luxembourg
  18. Malaysia
  19. Mexico
  20. Netherlands
  21. Nigeria
  22. Norway
  23. Poland
  24. Portugal
  25. Slovak Republic
  26. Slovenia
  27. South Africa
  28. Spain
  29. Sweden
  30. Switzerland
  31. UK

The position of the US, noticeably absent from the list,  is to enter into bilateral agreements with appropriate countries that have safeguards and governance in place, as well as countries that have an income tax treaty or tax information exchange agreement in effect.

OECD BEPS Action 13 provided models for the recommended CbC reporting options; a multilateral agreement, a double tax convention model and a model based on a tax information exchange agreement.

It will be critical to monitor the development of the CbC exchange process, in addition to timing mismatches and the necessity to identify a surrogate country, with additional complexities to consider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Global BEPS update

EY’s Global Tax Alert summarizes recent BEPS developments around the world:

Click to access 2016G_CM6166_The%20Latest%20on%20BEPS%20-%2018%20January%202016.pdf

Highlights:

  • Australia’s client experience roadmap re: its multinational anti-avoidance law (MAAL)
  • Belgium’s adverse State Aid ruling by the European Commission re: its excess profit tax rulings, which is expected to be appealed
  • Chile’s new sworn statement / tax disclosures (highlighted in a recent post)
  • Finland’s draft proposal for country-by-country (CbC) reporting and transfer pricing documentation in a Master / Local file context
  • Greece’s circular identifying preferential tax regimes
  • Korea’s draft decree for transfer pricing documentation
  • Luxembourg’s IP amendments and adoption of the EU Parent-Subsidiary Directive’s proposals
  • Netherland’s CbC and transfer pricing documentation requirements
  • Norway’s new rules for interest limitations, participation exemption regime inapplicable for hybrid instruments, and CbC reporting requirements
  • Panama to announce its decision, in March, for adoption of the OECD BEPS recommendations

The trend for recent BEPS updates reflects an expansion of definitive actions into unilateral measures, decisions whether / when to adopt OECD’s BEPS recommendations, new disclosures, subjective anti-avoidance rules with inherent complexity, and each country’s expression of intent re: BEPS Actions coupled with local add-on documentation requirements.

Monitoring of the global developments in the post-BEPS era has introduced new challenges, requiring additional resources and thought processes for documenting transfer pricing methodologies and the business aspect of significant transactions.

TAXE’s term ends; a new committee carries on

The term for European Parliament’s special committee on tax rulings and other measures (TAXE) has ended, and the European Parliament has introduced a similar committee for an additional six-month term.  The new committee shall also have 45 members.

As with TAXE, one of the powers of the new committee is “to analyse and assess aggressive tax planning carried out by companies established or incorporated in the Member States, also regarding the third-country dimension including the exchange of information with third countries in this respect.”

A link to the announcement is provided for reference:

Click to access 20151202RES05870.pdf

This new committee signifies EU’s continued focus on aggressive tax planning and transparency, with many countries following its lead.

LOB: European Commission takes aim

The European Commission has aimed its sights upon the Limitation on Benefits (LOB) provision between Netherlands and Japan.  Netherlands has been asked to change this treaty provision on the grounds that it is incompatible with EU law.

As the LOB provision is widely used in the US treaty network, as well as many other countries, the impact of this recent development may expand exponentially with global ramifications.  Accordingly, this pursuit should be closely followed.

Deloitte’s summary is provided for reference:

http://www2.deloitte.com/nl/nl/pages/tax/articles/european-commission-challenges-lob-in-treaty-with-japan.html

TAXE: Final report for Parliamentary actions

The EU Parliament’s resolutions were passed by a vote of 508 to 108, with 85 abstentions.  The proposals call for mandatory country-by-country (CbC) reporting, a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB), defined tax terms and transparency / exchange of tax rulings.  A summary press release and the full report are provided for reference:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/content/20151120IPR03607/html/Parliament-calls-for-corporate-tax-makeover

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2015-0408+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

Key points:

  • Welcomes the EU Parent-Subsidiary Directive amendments, effective at year-end 2015, for a general anti-abuse rule and hybrid mismatches.
  • EU Commission has breached its obligations under Article 108 of the Lisbon Treaty by not launching state aid investigations previously.
  • EU Member States should respect the principle of profits taxation where they are generated.
  • Promote good practices on transfer pricing and the pricing of loans and finance fees in intra-group transactions.
  • Commission to further investigate restrictions of deductions for intercompany royalty payments (i.e. counter profit shifting).
  • All rulings that have an impact on other Member States to be presented in the CbC report, and shared with the Commission and tax administrations.  Rulings to be publicly disclosed in accordance with confidentiality requirements.
  • Mandatory CCCTB, with a deadline for the consolidation element and without any further impact assessments.
  • Develop measures to tackle cross-border VAT fraud.
  • Reform of the Code of Conduct on business taxation.
  • New State Aid guidelines by mid-2017.
  • EU to be a global leader in tax transparency.
  • More extensive CbC report, with intra-group transactions.
  • Accelerate European Tax Identification Number project.
  • Aggressive tax planning is incompatible with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
  • Outgoing financial flows from EU are taxed at least once (i.e. withholding tax).
  • Transition period for developing countries to align with Global Standard on Automatic Information Exchange.

This report is compelling, far-reaching and a resource that will be used worldwide, as most non-EU countries will attempt to follow the ever-increasing EU intensity and propensity for changes in the international tax arena.  Thereby, it is a must read and a learning tool for non-tax executives in multinational organisations, as well as tax advisors, tax administrations and other interested parties.

UN: Corp. tax responsibility

Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), a UN sponsored initiative, published a report entitled “Engagement Guidance on Corporate Tax Responsibility.”  The guidance is investor oriented addressing the conduct of corporate tax responsibility, disclosure, transparency and good tax risk governance.  Therefore, this report is a valuable reference to understand today’s trend of tax disclosure and transparency from an investor’s perspective, and how multinationals may be queried in the new world of international tax transparency.

A link is attached for reference:

Click to access PRI_Tax-Guidance-2015.pdf

Key points:

  • Earnings that rely on tax planning vs. economic activity are vulnerable to tax regulatory changes, earnings risk via strategies are increasing, and some Boards may be unaware of the effect that incentives have on tax planning.
  • Corporate sustainability officers should understand tax decisions and their impact on financial results and stakeholders, with alignment between tax strategies and sustainability commitments.
  • ” Companies should be able to defend how they allocate profit to each country both to tax authorities and the general public to avoid reputational risk and investor backlash.”
  • Before engaging with companies on tax practices, investors should understand various strategies, including IP transfers, financing, marketing service arrangements, principal structures, tax havens, shell companies and tax incentives, that are summarily explained. 
  • A step plan to engage companies:
    • Identify red flags, including a formula to measure tax gap
    • Questions for Senior Management/Board re: tax policy, tax governance, managing tax-related risk, effective tax rate, tax planning strategies including structure and IP rights, and country-by-country (CbC) reporting.  

Appendices are provided for additional reference of the OECD BEPS project, examples of good tax practices re: disclosures, summary of findings from discussions with Heads of Tax in eight multinational organisations, and a Glossary / Resources.

The report, in providing formulas and explanations, includes educational material for the investor community re: tax strategies and governance, while also providing examples of tax queries and good tax governance by many multinationals.

Best Practices:

The report should be used as a metric to assess readiness and alignment for these important topics that may be raised by stakeholders, both internal and external.  To the extent such questions have not been a primary focus, this report is an impetus to raise the priority threshold in addressing tax policies, strategies and governance in a very transparent world.  Additionally, it is also worthy to review the names of multinationals cited in the report for awareness and recognition.

 

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