The OECD report to G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, resulting from the recent meeting in Riyadh this month, is attached for reference.
The report highlights that BEPS will continue to be a focus through 2025, indicating the increased transparency and reporting that is envisioned.
The recent issues of Pillar One and Two reflecting digital and global minimum taxation are addressed, based on the perception that these methodologies are a “must have” and not a “nice to have,” in the face of unilateral taxation efforts already underway.
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.
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.
As time for implementation of the Multilateral Instrument (“MLI”) draws near, it may be time to refresh the history and current status of this instrument.
Reference links are provided for The Multilateral Convention, Guidance for the Development of Synthesised Texts published by the OECD in November 2018, and Status of the Parties to a MLI as of December 21, 2018. An extract from the
An extract from the Synthesized Texts is provided as context:
This Guidance has been prepared to provide suggestions to Parties to the MLI for the development of documents they could produce to help users of the MLI to understand its effects on tax agreements it covers and modifies (the “Covered Tax Agreements”). The objective is to present in a single document and for each covered tax agreement: the text of a Covered Tax Agreement, including the text of relevant amending instruments; the elements of the MLI that have an effect on the Covered Tax Agreement as a result of the interaction of the MLI positions of its Contracting Jurisdictions; and information on the dates on which the provisions of the MLI have effect in each Contracting Jurisdiction for the Covered Tax Agreement. Such documents would be referred to as “synthesised texts”.
To ensure clarity and transparency for the application of the MLI, Parties that intend to develop documents setting out the impact of the MLI on their Covered Tax Agreements should be as consistent as possible. This Guidance sets out a suggested approach for the development of synthesised texts. The Guidance also suggests sample language that could be included in the synthesised texts. At this stage, the sample language includes: a sample general disclaimer on the synthesised texts; a sample disclaimer on the entry into effect of the provisions of the MLI; for each MLI Article, “sample boxes” of the provisions of the MLI that could modify the covered tax agreements; and sample footnote texts on the entry into effect of the provisions of the MLI.
As the New Year draws near from a personal perspective, it is also a New Year for birth of the MLI and its impact on worldwide tax treaties.
OECD has updated guidelines for several aspects of Country-by-Country (CbC) reporting, including:
Dividends included in pre-tax book income
Definition of revenues and taxes paid
Aggregate data in one jurisdiction/eliminations
Treatment of major shareholdings / ownership by multiple groups
Short accounting periods
Parent surrogate filing
As the 2017 CbC report is almost due for US calendar-year taxpayers, it is imperative to review the OECD guidelines to ensure year-to-year consistency, with relevant statements attached for transparency.
A link to the guidelines is attached for reference.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on 30 August released a fourth round of stage 1 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action 14 peer reports on improving tax dispute resolution mechanisms. The reports assess each country’s efforts to implement the Action 14 minimum standard.
Valuable insights from these reports can be gained, especially if a taxpayer is under audit where some of these questions/uncertainties may arise. The peer reports are performed on a desk audit basis, with other parties comments considered by OECD.
Some insights are APA rollbacks, granting of MAP in all/certain transfer pricing cases, etc. Reference links are provided.
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
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.
The attached link provides access to an invaluable transfer pricing (TP) handbook which is an excellent resource for all international tax practitioners/advisors.
With the advent of the BEPS era and new/novel approaches to arms’s-length pricing are voiced, this resource is a great desktop reference with experience gained by the authors in both applying TP principles as well as teaching those principles to tax administrations in developing economies.
Examples and “boxes” of summary content are provided in the handbook, in addition to a discussion on TP disputes that is inevitable with BEPS Actions and unilateral actions (both legislative and “soft law”) being applied across the world.
A summary of the chapter titles provides a summary of the details therein:
TP, Corporate strategy, and the Investment Climate
The International Legal Framework
Drafting a TP Legislation
Applying the Arm’s-Length Principle
Selected Issues in TP
Promoting Taxpayer Compliance through Communication, Disclosure Requirements, TP Documentation, and Penalties
The latest BEPS updates are detailed in EY’s Global Tax Report, with the underlying premise of transparency.
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.