Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

Posts tagged ‘competent authority’

Double Tax disputes: Draft EU Directive

The Council of the European Union has proposed a draft EU Directive, to be in effect by June 30 2019, that would resolve double taxation disputes between Member States.  A summary of the Draft Directive is provided, as well as referenced herein.

This proposal is based upon the foundation of the Union Arbitration Convention (90/436/EEC) re: cross-border tax disputes.

Key points:

  • 3 years, from first notification, to file a complaint by the taxpayer
  • Each competent authority (CA) acknowledges receipt within 2 months
  • Additional 3 months by CA’s to request additional information, by which the taxpayer has 3 months to provide
  • Approx. 6 months later, CA’s decide to accept or reject the complaint; or a CA can decide to resolve unilaterally by which the Directive is terminated
  • Taxpayer may appeal per national rules a rejection of the complaint
  • CA’s try to resolve issue within 2 years, which may be extended by 1 year
  • Upon taxpayer’s request, an Advisory Commission shall be established where the complaint is rejected by not all of the relevant CA’s, or a failure by CA’s to reach agreement.  This request can be denied by a Member State on a case by case basis where a question of dispute does not involve double taxation.
  • Advisory Commission = Chair, 1-2 representatives of each CA, and 1-2 independent persons by each CA
  • Advisory Commission to adopt a decisions within 6 months
  • CA’s may, alternatively, set up an Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission instead of the Advisory Commission; this commission has freedom of techniques to settle
  • Professional secrecy standards are prescribed
  • Advisory or Alternative Commission opines in 3-6 months
  • CA’s shall agree within 6 months of the opinion on how to resolve the complaint; they can decide on a decision that deviates from the opinion or be bound by the opinion
  • Final decision does not constitute a precedent
  •  (Redacted) decision is published and maintained in an online central repository
  • Evaluation of process by June 30, 2024 and issue a report

As the key point summary infers, there are many provisions in the Draft Directive, requiring a proactive effort by the taxpayer and relevant CA’s.  The Directive can be reviewed via the attached link:

http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9420-2017-INIT/en/pdf

OECD’s MAP: Timeline & Best Practices

As the OECD renews its efforts to improve the process of dispute resolution, many practitioners, tax authorities and advisors have concluded that the current Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) process is slow, inefficient and not effective in resolving tax disputes and avoiding double taxation.

However, it is worthwhile to start with a suggested timeline and Best Practices from OECD’s Manual on Effective Mutual Agreement Procedures (MEMAP) published in 2007.  Annex 1 and 2 provide a suggested timeline and 25 Best Practices (summarized below) that are each discussed in MEMAP.  

To the extent these Best Practices and recommendations have not been implemented by countries around the world, one questions what will be the difference this time around?  It seems that the OECD has tried to provide remedies, although many countries do not view these recommendations as a priority or transparency objective to resolve disputes effectively.  

While the effectiveness of dispute resolution mechanisms continue, it would be prudent to  provide the tax authorities, including competent authorities, this Manual as a reinforcement of Best Practices and timelines that should be proactively followed. 

A link to the Manual is provided for reference:

http://www.oecd.org/ctp/38061910.pdf

Appendix 2: Best Practices:

  1. Resolving and publishing issues of interpretation or application
  2. Robust use of Article 25(3) power to relieve double taxation
  3. Principled approach to resolution of cases
  4. Transparency and simplicity of procedures for accessing and using the MAP
  5. Providing complete, accurate, and timely information to the competent authorities
  6. Allowing electronic submissions
  7. Allowing early resolution of cases
  8. Earlier notification of a potential case
  9. Liberal interpretation of time limits and advising of treaty rights
  10. Avoiding exclusion from MAP relief due to late adjustments or late notification
  11. Consideration of MAP assistance for cases described as “tax avoidance”
  12. Countries eliminate or minimize “exceptions” to MAP
  13. Taxpayer presentations to competent authorities
  14. Cooperation and transparency
  15. Face-to-face meetings between competent authorities
  16. Bilateral process improvements
  17. Decision summaries
  18. Recommendation for MAP cases beyond two years
  19. Avoid blocking MAP access via audit settlements or unilateral APAs
  20. Interest relief
  21. Suspension of collections during MAP
  22. Readily available access to a competent authority
  23. Independence and resources of a competent authority
  24. Performance indicators for the competent authority function and staff
  25. Implementing and promoting ACAP and bilateral APA programs

 

 

 

 

Chile: Treaty Requirements

Chile’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued Resolution No. 48, prescribing rules for eligibility from a tax treaty including a sworn statement from the resident country beneficiary.

EY’s Global Tax Alert provides the relevant details:

http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/Chile_issues_guidance_on_statement_required_to_benefit_from_a_Tax_Treaty/$FILE/2015G_CM5654_Chile%20issues%20guidance%20on%20statement%20required%20to%20benefit%20from%20a%20Tax%20Treaty.pdf

Key observations;

  • A certificate of residence is required to be issued by the Competent Authority of the recipient jurisdiction.
  • A sworn / notarized statement must be provided, with the statement date requiring conformity with the month in which amounts are paid.

Failure to provide the requisite documents will allow the IRS to collect the amounts that should have been withheld, absent treaty benefits, in addition to fines.

Countries are placing formalistic and dissimilar requirements to receive treaty benefits, thereby requiring advance planning and awareness of treaty eligibility.  Such mechanisms continue to add to the international tax complexity for obtaining tax treaty benefits.

TEI’s comments: OECD BEPS Actions 10 and 14

Tax Executives Institute, Inc. (TEI) recently published comments re: OECD BEPS Action 10, addressing Low Value-Adding Intra-Group Services, and Action 14 re: Dispute Resolution Mechanisms.  The comments elicit practical considerations, including worldwide consistency, in their well written and reasoned responses.  Although many individuals/organizations have provided comments, TEI’s submissions merit required reading and thoughtful consideration. Links to TEI’s comments are included for reference:

http://www.tei.org/Documents/TEI%20Comments%20BEPS%20Action%2010%20-%20Low%20Value%20Added%20Services%20-%20FINAL%20to%20OECD%2013%20January%202015.pdf

http://www.tei.org/Documents/TEI%20Comments%20BEPS%20Action%2014%20-%20Dispute%20Resolution%20-%20FINAL%20to%20OECD%2015%20January%202015.pdf

Key comments re: Action 10, Low Value-Adding Services

  • Non-global implementation will diminish the intended value of this initiative.
  • A “rebuttable presumption” should replace the “benefits test” for low value -added services.
  • Exclusion of corporate senior management’s services is complex; it may be easier to include such services.
  • A mark-up % of 0-5% should replace 2-5% for flexibility and reflecting cost contribution arrangements.
  • Any percentage within the safe harbour range should be allowable.
  • Guidance should be issued re: coordination of Action 10 and Action 13 re: transfer pricing documentation.
  • Reference to the OECD’s previous work on safe harbours has been omitted, for no stated reason.
  • The safe harbour should be available if the taxpayer’s method is different in another jurisdiction (i.e. APA’s, non-OECD alignment).

Key comments re: Action 14, Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

  • Published MAP guidelines and procedures are welcome, although redacted settlements would also reveal legal basis for outcomes,  and may be used as precedent for taxpayers.
  • KPI’s should be established.
  • Monitoring the MAP process is an excellent proposal suggested in the report.
  • A global dispute resolution mechanism and mandatory binding arbitration should be developed, with arbitration available as a pre-MAP appeal avenue.
  • Deadlines for Competent Authority (CA) requests should be in place, along with penalties for CA if they do not respond timely.
  • Maintaining confidentiality is critical and should be a primary focus, especially for countries initially adopting this process.
  • Transparency of independency for Competent Authorities would improve confidence in the process.
  • Taxpayers should participate in face-to-face meetings to facilitate the process, and a simplified process should initiate MAP assistance.
  • Precluding taxpayers from using MAP, directly or indirectly giving up their rights, is not acceptable.
  • Binding arbitration provisions and/or use of a domestic or treaty-based anti-abuse rule should not preclude MAP.
  • Tax, interest and penalties should be suspended during the MAP process.

The comments on Action 14 are especially critical, as dispute resolution will be a critical factor in ensuring that the BEPS guidelines legislated into law will have consistent, fair and transparent processes to resolve disputes timely and effectively.

Audit Diary = Tax Risk Best Practice

With the increasing complexity of audits, OECD BEPS incentivized unilateral legislation, General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR), and cases proceeding to arbitration, appeals and Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP), a comprehensive tax audit diary will prove to be of valuable reference during the audit, from commencement to final determination and thereafter.

Ideally, this diary could be signed/initialed contemporaneously by the company and tax authorities signifying agreement of the summary.

A tax audit diary may include the following components:

  • Summary of discussions at each audit meeting, including attendees, conclusions, future actions and promised timelines.
  • Paper/electronic copies of all written audit inquiries received, including a date stamp upon receipt.
  • Paper/electronic copies of all written audit inquiries provided, including the date provided to tax authorities.
  • Copies of all reports, including transfer pricing studies, provided.
  • Agreement as to what documents are not to be provided, with mutual consent of the company and tax authorities.
  • Documentation of BEPS related discussions / assessments not yet legislated into domestic law.
  • Summary of discussions re: jeopardy assessments / threats of additional assessments re: Competent Authority filings.
  • References to adequate / inadequate transfer pricing documentation, as a finding of “inadequate documentation” may provide a basis for additional interest, penalties and possible disallowance of treaty benefits, such as MAP.

The diary should be included in corporate governance documentation that will provide consistency upon changes in personnel during the course of an audit, including relevant appeals.

Additionally, this diary will be instrumental in providing information to Competent Authority personnel and advisors for clarity of the audit negotiations and discussions, as well as serving as one source of valuable reference for the audit, including similar audits of other legal entities in that jurisdiction, joint audits, etc.

A discussion of a joint audit discussion as a component of the Tax Risk Framework is included in an earlier post dated 25 October 2014 for related reference.

2014 Update to the OECD Model Tax Convention

The 2014 Update, as adopted by the OECD Council on 15 July 2014, includes changes that were previously released for comments, including the meaning of “beneficial owner.”  Numerous additions and deletions to Commentaries on various Articles, including positions of non-member countries, are also included.  A link to the Update is provided for reference:

http://www.oecd.org/tax/treaties/2014-update-model-tax-concention.pdf

Interesting changes:

  • Article 5 Commentary: new views by Germany, Estonia, and Israel.
  • Article 9 Commentary: Hungary (newly added) and Slovenia reserve the right to specify that a correlative (i.e., offsetting) adjustment will be made only if they consider that the primary adjustment is satisfied.
  • The term “beneficial owner” does not have reference to any technical meaning under domestic law, thus it should not be used in a narrow technical sense, rather, it should be understood in its context and in light of the object and purposes of the Convention including avoiding double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion and avoidance.
  • The term “beneficial owner” does not deal with other cases of treaty shopping, which can be addressed in specific anti-abuse treaty provisions, general anti-abuse rules (GAAR), substance-over-form or economic substance approaches.
  • Article 13 Commentary: With respect to paragraph 3.1, Austria and Germany hold the view that when a new tax treaty enters into force, these countries cannot be deprived of the right to tax the capital appreciation which was generated in these countries before the date when the new treaty became applicable.
  • Article 26 Commentary: The Commentary was expanded to develop the interpretation of the standard of “foreseeable relevance” and the term “fishing expeditions,” i.e. speculative requests that have no apparent nexus to an open inquiry or investigation.  The Commentary further provides for an optional default standard of time limits within which the information is required to be provided unless a different agreement has been made by the competent authorities.  The examples provided are to demonstrate the overarching purpose of Article 26 not to restrict the scope of exchange of information but to allow information exchange “to the widest possible extent.”

The Update requires a comprehensive review to determine potential implications, including beneficial ownership restrictions and ways of working by competent authorities.  Such review should distinguish changes to the Articles versus additions or deletions to the Commentary interpreting such Articles.  Note that the OECD BEPS changes will be an addition to this Update.

TEI comments – OECD BEPS Action 2: Hybrid Mismatch Arrangements

Tax Executives Institute, Inc. (TEI) has provided comments on the OECD BEPS Action 2 proposal addressing hybrid mismatch arrangements.  The submission is referenced at the following link:

http://www.tei.org/Documents/TEI%20Comments%20-%20OECD%20BEPS%20Action%202%20Hybrids%20-%20FINAL%20to%20OECD%201%20May%202014.pdf

Some key highlights of Submission:

  • Some suggested solutions are overly broad and administratively unworkable.
  • The comments are not limited to hybrid arrangements that are inappropriate or abusive.
  • Simultaneous adoption by countries is encouraged, versus a question of adoption and / or timing of adoption by countries.
  • Double taxation issues, with Competent Authority requests, may increase.
  • A “bottoms-up” approach, applying only to instruments held between related parties, is recommended, using a 50% or greater rule for related parties.
  • For deductible payments not included in “ordinary income” of the holder’s jurisdiction, the term “ordinary income” should be expanded.
  • Further clarification could be provided by delineating how two countries that simultaneously apply their domestic anti-hybrid instruments can coordinate their application.
  • The impact on financial accounting in application of the hybrid rules should be considered.
  • Recommended rules for hybrids will not always produce uniformity due to differing tax systems (i.e., worldwide or territorial).
  • An anti-abuse rule adopted by the OECD should only apply in narrowly targeted axes of abuse, with strict bright line tests.
  • Bilateral tax treaties are not a tool to address legal tax planning adopted by various countries.

TEI’s excellent comments provide further insight into this significant, and broad, proposal.  Accordingly, they should be reviewed to understand complexities of adopting a complex rule without increasing risks of double taxation, with increased pressures on the Competent Authority process.

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