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.
After a long waiting period, with many discussions as to its predicted content, the OECD’s Multilateral Convention pursuant to BEPS Action 15 is ready for prime time. Links to EY’s Global Tax Alert, and OECD’s Explanatory Statement and Multilateral Convention are provided for reference.
The Multilateral Convention is very flexible as to what a country wants, or does not want, within its treaty related provisions to signify its alliance with BEPS Actions.
EY’s Global Tax Alert states: “The tax treaty related BEPS measures covered by the multilateral instrument include (elements of): (i) Action 2 on hybrid mismatch arrangements, (ii) Action 6 on treaty abuse, (iii) Action 7 on the artificial avoidance of the PE status; and (iv) Action 14 on dispute resolution. The substance of the tax treaty provisions relating to these actions was agreed under the final BEPS package released in October 2015. The multilateral instrument does not modify or add to the substance of these provisions. The instrument is solely focused on how to modify the provisions in bilateral or regional tax treaties in order to align these treaties with the BEPS measures.”
Due to the flexibility of the new Convention, this unilateral based process poses many questions as to the consistency of intent for the related BEPS Actions around the world. It is certain that, in the short term, there will be considerable complexity and varying interpretations of what the Convention means. Accordingly, the Explanatory Statement and Multilateral Convention are to be reviewed carefully to understand short and long-term trends in this new era of international tax.
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:
- 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.