EY’s Global Tax Alert highlights the recent BEPS developments, including the country-specific Multilateral Instruments (MLIs) with varying changes to its covered treaties and other treaty provisions.
It is noteworthy, at these MLIs approach legislation targets, that it is no longer intuitive as to how a country’s treaty provisions interact with other treaty partners, apart from general guiding principles that will vary as to the relevant details therein.
UN developments; In June 2019, the Report on the Eighteenth Session of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (Committee), which was held by the United Nations (UN) on 23-26 April 2019 in New York, was released. The report describes a number of substantive issues related to tax cooperation in tax matters that were discussed during the session. Among others, the session addressed: (i) the next update of the UN Model Double Taxation Convention between developed and developing countries; (ii) the update of the UN Transfer Pricing (TP) Manual; (iii) dispute avoidance and resolution; and (iv) tax consequences of the digitalized economy.
African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF): In June 2019, the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) issued a paper on “The Place Of Africa In The Shift Towards Global Tax Governance: Can the taxation of the digitalised economy be an opportunity for more inclusiveness?” (the paper). The paper provides an overview of the current international tax governance landscape and inroads towards inclusiveness.
Country updates: Austria, Russia, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, Guernsey, India, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, China, Italy, Myanmar, New Zealand, Panama, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, and Zimbabwe.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have enacted new economic substance requirements that entered into force at the end of April 2019.
In response to EU Code of Conduct Group (COCG) initiatives, the governments of Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands (BVI), Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Mauritius and Seychelles introduced economic substance rules with effect from 1 January 2019. The rules are based on the guidance and requirements issued by the EU and the OECD, and are designed to ensure that companies operating in a low or no corporate tax jurisdiction have a substantial purpose other than tax reduction and an economic outcome that is aligned with value creation. To align with the international standards, the UAE has now enacted substance rules.
To meet the economic substance requirement, companies will generally need to satisfy the following three tests:
The company should be directed and managed in the UAE for the specific activity.
The company’s CIGA should be performed in the UAE.
The company should have an adequate level of qualified employees, premises and annual operating expenditures.
Companies with UAE operations, especially without adequate substance, should review the new rules or administrative penalties or reregistration.
EY’s Global Tax Alert provides additional details for reference.
Not awaiting the OECD’s proposals for which a Workplace will be delivered in 2020, implementation following that several years later, New Zealand seeks to propose a 2-3% Digital Services Tax (DST) in the interim. Public comments will be accepted by July 18th. The Government discussion document and EY’s Global Tax Alert provide details, as referenced herein.
Discussion document highlights:
The Government is committed to ensuring everyone pays their fair share of tax, including digital multinationals. Achieving this will require changes to the current tax rules. There are two options for this:
The first option is to apply a separate digital services tax (DST) to certain digital transactions. A DST taxes at a low rate (for example, 2% to 3%) the gross turnover of certain highly digitalised businesses that are attributable to the country.
The other option is to change the current international income tax rules, which have been agreed to by countries (usually referred to as “the international tax framework”).
In summary, New Zealand is not patient to wait for OECD rules, wishes to implement a transition tax in the interim and plans to repeal this tax with the OECD solution when it becomes effective.
On 31 May 2019, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its document Programme of Work to Develop a Consensus Solution to the Tax Challenges Arising from the Digitalisation of the Economy (the Workplan).
The Workplan describes the planned approach for addressing the tax challenges of the digitalization of the economy that has been agreed upon by the 129 jurisdictions participating in the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). The Workplan was approved at the 28-29 May plenary meeting of the BEPS Inclusive Framework, which brought together 289 delegates from 99 member countries and jurisdictions and 10 observer organizations.
A final report is envisioned for 2020, including:
Pillar One focuses on the allocation of taxing rights, and seeks to undertake a coherent and concurrent review of the profit allocation and nexus rules;
Pillar Two focuses on the remaining BEPS issues and seeks to develop rules that would provide jurisdictions with a right to “tax back” where other jurisdictions have not exercised their primary taxing rights or the payment is otherwise subject to low levels of effective taxation.
Under Pillar One, the first option (i) Modified Residual Profit-Split method would allocate to market jurisdictions a portion of an MNE group’s non-routine profit that reflects the value created in markets that is not recognised under the existing profit allocation rules, or (ii) the fractional apportionment method involves the determination of the amount of profits subject to the new taxing rights without making any distinction between routine and non-routine profit, or (iii) distribution-based approached that would provide a baseline profit attributable to marketing, distribution, and user-related activities. The concept of losses is also to be recognized in the relevant model.
As stated in the workplace, the real risk is that “A further issue is the recognition that if the Inclusive Framework does not deliver a comprehensive consensus-based solution within the agreed G20 time frame, there is a risk that more jurisdictions will adopt uncoordinated unilateral tax measures.”
Additionally, the current workplace is focused on digital tax, although some concepts may creep into discussions of income tax.
A reference to the Workplan is provided for reference.
The OECD recently published its peer review report on treaty shopping re: prevention of treaty abuse under the inclusive framework on BEPS Action 6. A link to the document is included for reference.
Article 6 targeted treaty abuse; Action 15 introduced the multilateral instrument (MLI) to implement BEPS actions. The MLI is the mechanism whereby countries are implementing the treaty-shopping minimum standard.
The first Peer Review shows the effectiveness of implementing the minimum standard for treaty abuse. The intent of Action 6 is to stop treaty shopping in its entirety.
The treaty shopping minimum standard requires countries to include two components in their tax agreements; an express statement on non-taxation and one of three ways to address treaty-shopping. The provisions require bilateral agreement. The 2017 OECD Model Tax Convention includes the following express statement: “Intending to conclude a Convention for the elimination of double taxation with respect to taxes on income and on capital without creating opportunities for non-taxation or reduced taxation through tax evasion or avoidance…”
The three methods of addressing treaty shopping include;
Principal Purpose Test (PPT) alone, or
PPT with a simplified or detailed version of the Limitation on Benefits (LOB) rule, or
Detailed LOB rule with a mechanism to deal with conduit arrangements.
As the MLI’s are agreed, it is important to understand the three methods above, and the express statement which includes reference to the elimination of double taxation, a concept which is sometimes ignored in the pursuit of perceived treaty / tax abuse.
The OECD published the final report on revised guidance to apply the transactional profit split method, as part of BEPS Action 10. This guidance provides the final text, based on comments received.
Additionally, OECD published final guidance for tax administrations for determining the proper approach to apply for hard-to-value intangibles. This text is included as an annex to Chapter VI of the Transfer Pricing Guidelines. This approach should promote consistency and, hopefully, minimize double taxation.
The text of these reports are provided for reference, as they are a must read for transfer pricing professionals.