Attached are the latest BEPS developments; of particular importance is the International ComplianceAssurance Programme (ICAP). This program is a voluntary program that focuses on the Country-by-Country (CbC) reports to openly discuss tax risks.
This is a welcome collaborative effort between the tax administrations and MNEs, vs. using the CbC reports to draw unfounded assumptions.
Tax audits should also use this approach at the beginning of an audit to foster understanding and risks.
The Council of the European Union (ECOFIN) has published its list of uncooperative tax jurisdictions, numbering 17:
American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, Korea (Republic of), Macao SAR, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates
The listing criteria are focused on three main categories: tax transparency, fair taxation and implementation of anti-BEPS measures.
There are potential counter-measures that could be employed by other jurisdictions, and there is the possibility of other countries aligning such countries on a comparable list. This list will be reviewed annually, thereby expanding or diminishing accordingly.
EY’s Global Tax Alert provides historical context for development of this list.
EY’s Global Tax Alert outlines an excellent presentation of the verbiage contained in the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS (MLI), in addition to specificity re: China’s intent of each of the BEPS Action Items.
The MLI contains four types of provisions. Depending on the type of provision, the interaction with CTAs varies. A provision can have one of the following formulations: (i)”in place of”; (ii)”applies to”; (iii)”in the absence of”; and (iv)”in place of or in the absence of.”
A provision that applies ”in place of” an existing provision is intended ”to replace an existing provision” if one exists, and is not intended to apply if no existing provision exists. Parties shall include in their MLI positions a section on notifications wherein they will list all CTAs that contain a provision within the scope of the relevant MLI provision, indicating the article and paragraph number of each of such provision.
A provision that ”applies to” provisions of a CTA is intended ”to change the application of an existing provision without replacing it,” and therefore may only apply if there is an existing provision. Parties shall include in their MLI positions a section on notifications wherein they will list all CTAs that contain a provision within the scope of the relevant MLI provision, indicating the article and paragraph number of each of such provision.
A provision that applies ”in the absence of” provisions of a CTA is intended ”to add a provision” if one does not already exist. Parties shall include in their MLI positions a section on notifications wherein they will list all CTAs that does not contain a provision within the scope of the relevant MLI provision.
A provision that applies ”in place of or in the absence of” provisions of a CTA is intended ”to replace an existing provision or to add a provision.” This type of provision will apply in all cases in which all the parties to a CTA have not reserved their right for the entirety of an article to apply to its CTAs. If all Contracting Jurisdictions notify the existence of an existing provision, that provision will be replaced by the provision of the MLI to the extent described in the relevant compatibility clause. Where the Contracting Jurisdictions do not notify the existence of a provision, the provision of the MLI will still apply. If there is a relevant existing provision which has not been notified by all Contracting Jurisdictions, the provision of the MLI will prevail over that existing provision, superseding it to the extent that it is incompatible with the relevant provision of the MLI (according to the explanatory statement of the MLI, an existing provision of a CTA is considered “incompatible” with a provision of the MLI if there is a conflict between the two provisions). Lastly, if there is no existing provision, the provision of the MLI will, in effect, be added to the CTA.
China’s intent with respect to its positions for each of the BEPS Actions are also outlined in the EY Global Tax Alert, as such intent would affect over 100 double tax treaties.
New Zealand’s government has announced the introduction of new BEPS compliant rules that will be effective mid-2018. Additionally, the government has taken this opportunity to expand upon the OECD’s rules, in an attempt to ensure that a “fair share of tax” is paid by multinationals doing business in the country.
Acknowledging the OECD’s intent to provide flexibility with its BEPS Actions and subjective language therein, New Zealand is looking for this legislation to impose rules above and beyond the BEPS Actions. For example, anti-PE rules will be introduced that look to Australia’s provisions, which were initially introduced by the UK as diverted profit tax schemes to collect additional tax.
International tax practitioners should review these provisions and plan their tax strategies accordingly, knowing that New Zealand will introduce double taxation sooner vs. later in the global concept.
EY’s Global Tax Alert provides relevant details of New Zealand’s proposals.
EY’s Global Tax Alert provides a succinct summary of the latest OECD and BEPS developments, including:
- G20 and exchange of information upon request standard
- Multilateral instrument, 68 countries moving forward
- Peer reviews on BEPS 4 minimum standards:
- Action 5, harmful tax practices
- Action 6, treaty abuse
- Action 13, country-by-country reporting (CbCR)
- Action 14, dispute resolution
- Action 5 peer reviews of preferential tax regimes
- Action 13, CbCR exchange relationships; important for US MNE’s and similar jurisdictions without obligatory 2016 reporting
- MAP peer reviews
- Discussion drafts on profit splits and attribution of profits re: PE’s; comment period to Sept. 15, 2017
- Branch mismatch forthcoming revisions
- Common reporting standard
- Digital taxation
OECD is still very busy, with a plethora of BEPS follow-up and other activities, although there seems to be continuing flexibility to gain collaboration that will also lead to added complexity and disputes.
The European Commission has proposed a new Directive calling for additional transparency into cross-border arrangements. Initially, this proposal has the liability for such reporting borne by the advisor, however it may apparently be also transferred to the taxpayer. The effective date would be 1//1/2019 with recurring reporting by the EU Member States on a quarterly basis thereafter.
In a common theme when the “transparency’ envelope is opened, the relevant basket of potential transactions is widened from the most aggressive to ordinary tax-planning transactions. Hopefully, if the Directive is adopted, the Member States will use discretion and ask questions about such transactions prior to drawing intuitive conclusions and assessing taxpayers before having all facts and transactional history for consideration.
The potential transactions include arrangements:
- To which a confidentiality clause is attached
- Where the fee is fixed by reference to the amount of the tax advantage derived or whether a tax advantage is actually derived
- That involve standardized documentation which does not need to be tailored for implementation
- Which use losses to reduce tax liability
- Which convert income into capital or other categories of revenue which are taxed at a lower level
- Which include circular transactions resulting in the round-tripping of funds
- Which include deductible cross-border payments which are, for a list of reasons, not fully taxable where received (e.g., recipient is not resident anywhere, zero or low tax rate, full or partial tax exemption, preferential tax regime, hybrid mismatch)
- Where the same asset is subject to depreciation in more than one jurisdiction
- Where more than one taxpayer can claim relief from double taxation in respect of the same item of income in different jurisdictions
- Where there is a transfer of assets with a material difference in the amount treated as payable in consideration for those assets in the jurisdictions involved
- Which circumvent EU legislation or arrangements on the automatic exchange of information (e.g., by using jurisdictions outside exchange of information arrangements, or types of income or entities not subject to exchange of information)
- Which do not conform to the “arms’ length principle” or to OECD transfer pricing guidelines
- Which fall within the scope of the automatic exchange of information on advance cross-border rulings but which are not reported or exchanged
The proposal will be submitted to the European Parliament for consideration; this additional layer of transparent information will also be viewed by other countries as potential tools to uncover similar arrangements. Several “arrangements” are also highly subjective, leading to additional transfer pricing disputes and increased double taxation.
EY’s Global Tax Alert provides additional details for this important proposal:
As the subject of permanent establishment (PE) becomes more controversial amid the ever-changing rules, multinationals (MNEs) should have a proactive partnership relationship with their global mobility service provider, whether in-sourced or outsourced.
Global mobility generally reports through the HR function, thus a silo approach may result without the proactive ability of the tax function to create a cohesive team. The concepts of legal employer, economic employer, intercompany allocations, foreign reporting relationships, contractual arrangements, intercompany agreements, etc. all need to be vetted and challenged for every assignment that may have adverse consequences for the employee and/or the company.
Countries are taking a more aggressive PE approach, thus a standard assignment template and / or agreement may not work in today’s post-BEPS world. India, for example, has very specific rules that dictate a PE without special attention to the control and payment arrangements of the assignment. Assessments may take years to resolve requiring additional cost and time, including the necessity of external advisors.
The organizational structure of significant functions that may cause consequences for a MNE’s tax organization should be reviewed, possibly adding dotted line relationships for global mobility, customs, external communications, etc. At the very least, these related functions should be discussing these potential issues on a regular basis, while forming a mini-university for learning.
As the subject suggests, the organizational structure and reporting relationships should not follow the same-as-last-year approach due to the BEPS evolution around the world.