Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

Posts tagged ‘European Commission’

Intermediary transparency: EU’s wish list

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:

http://www.ey.com/gl/en/services/tax/international-tax/alert–european-commission-proposes-new-transparency-rules-for-intermediaries

EU’s Dispute Resolution: Follow the leader

The European Commission issued a significantly important proposal for a Double Taxation Dispute Resolution; it hopes to remain a leader in this ever-changing international tax arena with a mandate for binding arbitration, as applicable, as one of the leading initiatives.  This proposal would require a unanimous adoption by all EU Member States (although UK’s vote may be considered to be of less significance as time moves on, it still counts).

Other proposals of the three-prong package include a renewed focus on the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) and hybrid mismatches with third countries.  The last initiative is interesting, as the EU now seeks to expand its reach with those countries outside the EU.

Although each proposal is significant as a stand-alone initiative, the Dispute Resolution would provide the most benefit at a critical time for a win-win relationship going forward.

EY’s Global Tax Alert provides further details on this initiative for reference.

http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/European_Commission_announces_proposal_on_double_taxation_dispute_resolution_mechanisms_in_the_European_Union/$FILE/2016G_03538-161Gbl_EC%20announces%20proposal%20on%20double%20taxation%20dispute%20resolution%20mechanisms%20in%20the%20EU.pdf

TEI: European Commission’s VAT Expert Group (re)appointment

As a long-standing advocate of Tax Executive Institute’s (TEI’s) expertise and peer networking for all executive tax members of multinationals, their reappointment as a member of the VAT Expert Group is a sound testament to their advice for the international tax community.

Additionally, TEI’s training programs, and opportunities to be a guest speaker, should be taken advantage of if one has the opportunity.

TEI Appointed as Member to the European Commission’s VAT Expert Group
TEI Staff

On September 30, 2016, the European Commission reappointed TEI as a member of the VAT Expert Group for a three-year term. The VAT Expert Group was established in 2012 for the purpose of “advis[ing] the Commission on the preparation of legislative acts and other policy initiatives in the field of VAT” and “provid[ing] insight concerning the practical implementation of legislative acts and other EU policy initiatives in the field of VAT.” The VAT Expert Group’s next meeting will take place on October 17, 2016 in Brussels.

TEI has participated as a member of the VAT Expert Group since its inception. Allard van Nes will continue to continue to serve as TEI’s primary representative and Lorry G. Limbourg will serve as Mr. van Nes’ alternate. TEI wishes to thank Lynne Clare for her work as the alternate representative during TEI’s prior terms.

EU State Aid: Long term uncertainty

With the recent decision re: Ireland state aid by the European Commission, the litigious stage now commences by Ireland, as the order has been provided to collect the state aid, with interest, from the multinational.

As the relevant rulings were not brought forward for approval upon their commencement by Ireland from the European Commission, the Commission now has the right to consider if such rulings are state aid.

This determination will not probably be final for several years as it progresses through the courts, however it does indicate a further trend of uncertainty re: transfer pricing rulings granted by EU Member States.  Coupled with the intent of BEPS, the legal aspects of transfer pricing may start to sway towards a perceived “intention” for fairness and non-discrimination, with a “fair tax” flag being waved ever more rigorously.

This uncertainty will provide further chaos with new international tax perspectives being displayed in the public domain.

The EY Global Tax Alert is provided for reference.

http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/European_Commission_finds_Ireland_granted_illegal_State_aid_and_orders_recovery/$FILE/2016G_02659-161Gbl_European%20Commission%20finds%20Ireland%20granted%20illegal%20State%20aid%20and%20orders%20recovery.pdf

EU: CbC marches on

EY’s Global Tax Alert, attached for reference, provides details on the continuing momentum of the country-by-country (CbC) reporting rules in the EU. These rules will certainly be applied by some EU countries in 2016, thus US and other non-EU based multinationals should start to seriously consider options for separate and/or surrogate entity filings in EU and other jurisdictions for the 2016 tax year.

Note, it is likely the continuing transparency momentum will continue and likely to obligate multinationals to more disclosures going forward. Thus, it is imperative the key stakeholders are aligned currently and ongoing.

Global Tax Alert | 25 May 2016
ECOFIN formally adopts directive on country-by-country reporting in the EU
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On 25 May 2016, the Economic and Financial Affairs Council of the European Union (ECOFIN) which is made up of the Finance Ministers of all European Union (EU) Member States unanimously voted in favor of the amendments to the EU directive on exchange of information (the Directive). The revision, that will implement the recommendations of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action 13 on country-by-country reporting, is one of the elements of the European Commission’s Anti-Tax Avoidance package from January 2016.2 According to the ECOFIN, “the principal aim of the directive is to prevent multinationals from exploiting the technicalities of the tax system, or mismatches between different tax systems, in order to reduce of avoid their tax liabilities.”

The Directive requires multinationals to report information on revenues, profits, taxes paid, capital, earnings, tangible assets and the number of employees on a country-by-country basis. This information must be reported for fiscal years starting on or after 1 January 2016, to the tax authorities of the Member State where the group’s ultimate parent entity (UPE) is tax resident. If the UPE is not resident in the EU, the report would have to be filed through a surrogate parent (EU or non-EU based) or the EU based subsidiaries. The Directive would give Member States the option to either require secondary filing for fiscal years starting on or after 1 January 2016 or to defer that obligation to financial years starting on or after 1 January 2017.

The Member States adopted the amendments without discussion, following the agreement reached at the previous ECOFIN meeting held on 8 March 2016. Thus, the details of the Directive remained virtually unchanged to what had previously been reported.3

Next steps
The Directive will require EU Member States to implement a country-by-country reporting obligation in their national legislation in line with the requirements of the Directive within 12 months from the date of its entry into force.

The first reports will have to be filed within 12 months from the end of the fiscal year to which they relate. Member States will have to exchange them within 3 months thereafter, except for the reports relating to fiscal years starting on or after 1 January 2016 where the term would be 18 months after the end of the fiscal year. The European Commission will adopt the necessary practical arrangements for upgrading the existing common platform for automatic exchange in the EU to fit the needs of the new requirements.

Endnotes

1. Council Directive 2011/16/EU of 15 February 2011 on administrative cooperation in the field of taxation.

2. See EY Global Tax Alert, European Commission releases anti-tax avoidance package designed to provide uniform implementation of BEPS measures and minimum standards across Member States, dated 28 January 2016.

3. See EY Global Tax Alert, EU Council publishes updated Draft Directive on implementation of country-by-country reporting, dated 23 March 2016.

EU Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive: Primer

The Anti Tax Avoidance Directive includes six anti-abuse measures to address tax avoidance: interest deductibility, exit taxes, a switch-over clause, general anti-abuse rule (GAAR), controlled foreign company (CFC) rules and a hybrid mismatch framework.  The Directive prescribes a minimum protection for Member States’ corporate tax systems.

A summary of the anti-abuse measures is provided, based upon the European Commission’s presumption and related summary of actions to address such abuses.

Interest

Presumption: Corporate taxpayers incur interest in high-tax jurisdictions, with income reported in low/nil tax jurisdictions, thereby shifting profits.

Summary: Net (of interest income) interest expense is limited to a 10-30% EBITDA basis.

Exit taxes

Presumption: Tax residence is moved solely to benefit from a low-tax jurisdiction.

Summary: Tax on transferring assets cross-border to capture unrealized profits.

Switch-over clause

Presumption: Low-taxed income is moved within the EU to shift profits.

Summary: Foreign income is subject to a tax, with foreign tax credits, vs. an exemption.

General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR)

Presumption: Tax planning schemes are abusive.

Summary: Backstop defense rule for “abusive tax arrangements.”

Controlled foreign company (CFC) rules

Presumption: Income is passive and is shifted to low-tax jurisdictions.

Summary: Reattributes income to a parent company that is taxed at a higher rate.

Hybrid mismatch framework:

Presumption: Double deduction situations due to legal mismatches are being sought.

Summary: Legal characteristics of payment country carries over to recipient country.

 

The detailed rules, which require a unanimity of approval by the Member States, are complex and far-reaching.  The breadth of the rules captures the perceived presumptions stated for each measure, notwithstanding the fact that such measures may also produce economically disadvantageous tax situations (i.e. paying interest from a low-tax to a high-tax jurisdiction), and the possibility of a Member State to legislate rules that move beyond the minimum threshold set forth.

These rules are also being legislated unilaterally outside of the EU Market, such that there may be very broad anti-abuse themes globally with each country having deviations from a general rule that will provide complexity and areas of disagreement for many years.

 

 

 

European Commission: Full speed ahead

The European Commission has clearly announced it’s intent to be the global leader in advancing OECD’s BEPS initiatives, with some proposals exceeding the scope / intent of the OECD.

Copies of the following documents are provided for reference, with subsequent posts addressing highlights of significant initiatives.  It is important to distinguish the documents between Proposals for a Council Directive, Communications, Studies and Recommendations.  

  1. Anti Tax Avoidance Package
  2. Proposal for a Council Directive re: tax avoidance practices
  3. Proposal for a Council Directive re: automatic exchange of information
  4. Annex to automatic exchange of information proposal
  5. Communication on an External Strategy for Effective Taxation
  6. Annexes to the external strategy communication
  7. Communication re: Tax Avoidance Package
  8. Study on Structures of Aggressive Tax Planning & Indicators
  9. Recommendation on implementation of measures against tax treaty abuse

The documents are required reading for all international tax practitioners, as they highlight the complex post-BEPS world and the trend indicators for the near future.  We can assume that some of these developments will proceed for action very quickly, thereby imputing a doctrine that “time is of the essence.”

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/taxation/company_tax/anti_tax_avoidance/index_en.htm

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=COM:2016:26:FIN&from=EN

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:89937d6d-c5a8-11e5-a4b5-01aa75ed71a1.0014.03/DOC_1&format=HTML&lang=EN&parentUrn=COM:2016:25:FIN

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:89937d6d-c5a8-11e5-a4b5-01aa75ed71a1.0014.03/DOC_3&format=HTML&lang=EN&parentUrn=COM:2016:25:FIN

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:b5aef3db-c5a7-11e5-a4b5-01aa75ed71a1.0018.03/DOC_1&format=HTML&lang=EN&parentUrn=COM:2016:24:FIN

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:b5aef3db-c5a7-11e5-a4b5-01aa75ed71a1.0018.03/DOC_3&format=HTML&lang=EN&parentUrn=COM:2016:24:FIN

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/resources/documents/taxation/company_tax/anti_tax_avoidance/swd_2016_6_en.pdf

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/resources/documents/taxation/gen_info/economic_analysis/tax_papers/taxation_paper_61.pdf

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/resources/documents/taxation/company_tax/anti_tax_avoidance/c_2016_271_en.pdf

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