Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the UK tax authority, has published revised guidance on the Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) in its International Manual (INTM). DLA Piper’s detailed publication is referenced herein.
The revised guidance, together with the supplementary Statement of Practice, provides detailed information on the following:
- Eligibility for MAP
- Access to MAP
- Submitting a MAP request
- Time limits
- Protective MAP requests
- MAP and domestic relief
- Mutual agreement
- Methods of relief and
Multinationals ought to consider more proactive use of the improved MAP, taken together with similar developments in other countries around the BEPS minimum standards, as a viable compliance risk management tool. Although double taxation is often a precondition in transfer pricing cases that end up in MAP, it is important to note that all issues concerning taxation not in accordance with tax treaties are eligible for MAP.
As the MAP process is acknowledged to be inefficient, ineffective and time-consuming, the OECD will establish a peer review process to monitor performance of countries’ in resolving Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) cases. The reviews should be ready in 2017.
Paascal Saint-Amans, director of the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, has stated: “I don’t know how successful the (BEPS) project will be in the long term, but what is for sure is that we have fed the political beast – the G-20 leaders and finance ministers – and they still have a lot of appetite. They are asking us for more. They need some more blood.”
The OECD’s Working Party 1 and the Forum on Tax Administration have started the peer review process under BEPS Action 14. Reviews will consist of checking number of cases, time needed to resolve, etc.
OECD believes this is a game-changer due to new accountability. However, without full transparency into what countries are doing, or not doing, how effective will the new peer review process be? The level of transparency should be commensurate with the transparency demanded from multinationals. It is hopeful this process will be a revolution for MAP, although many practitioners will be adopting a wait-and-see attitude.
The European Commission has recently released a public consultation on improving double taxation dispute resolution mechanisms, with comments accepted through 10 May 2016. It is a process / Best Practices approach to enact future efficiencies. A summary story and consultation links are provided for reference:
- Double or multiple taxation by EU Member States is recognized as a barrier to operate freely across borders.
- A legislative proposal is expected by the end of 2016, following the comment period.
- The Mutual Agreement Process (MAP) currently is not bound to reach a solution.
- The EU Arbitration Convention (re: transfer pricing cases and permanent establishment profit attribution) is acknowledged as a current process, but limited in scope.
- The last such public consultation (2010) resulted in an arbitration provision, although it has not been mandated in double tax conventions.
- Stakeholders’ views are requested on the relevance of removing double taxation, EU objectives and proposed solutions.
This document is pivotal in establishing practical and efficient EU dispute resolution mechanisms ongoing, and all interested parties should submit thoughtful input.
The proposal, as noted, would only be effective between EU Member States, not between one Member State and another non-EU jurisdiction or between non-EU jurisdictions. The EU has been a strong proponent in leading global best practices in the post-BEPS environment. Therefore, global consistency of the EU approach is also encouraged, especially by countries having no such dispute mechanism.
Additionally, other countries’ need to rethink sovereignty arguments in trying to evade / negate the effect that such transparent measures would have on their ability to address local tax practices.
The UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters concluded their October meeting with several important milestones discussed. A summary of the meeting is provided, and a reference to the Handbook on Selected Issues in Protecting the Tax Base of Developing Countries are provided for reference:
- A new Article was adopted re: fees for technical services that will become a part of the new UN Model Double Tax Convention (DTC).
- A new practical Manual for the Negotiation of Bilateral Tax Treaties between Developed and Developing Countries was adopted.
- Subcommittee on Exchange of Information presented a draft “Code of Conduct” that will be updated in the October 2016 session.
- The Committee also welcomed the work of UN DESA’s Financing for Development Office in the area of capacity-building, including the production of a “Handbook on Selected Issues in Protecting the Tax Base of Developing Countries.”
- Two new subcommittees were formed:
- Royalties re: updated Article 12 UN Model and commentary
- Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) to review and propose updates to UN Model
On the heels of the OECD BEPS Guidelines, the UN developments will pave the way for many developing countries that lack the time and/or resources for implementation. Accordingly, additional withholding taxes for services and withholding sources will be revealed to extract monies at source. As a result, the UN initiatives are paramount to monitor and review accordingly.
These initiatives will also provide greater capacity for global disparity, with the BEPS Guidelines and UN changes in periods of transition re: domestic legislative actions around the world.
The Indonesian Ministry of Finance has issued updated MAP guidelines, evidencing focus by the Indonesian Tax Office (ITO) on multilateral dispute resolution. This regulation is the third MAP related guidance, with the inclusion of additional restrictions. A link to KPMG’s Tax News Flash is provided for reference:
- The MAP process will be terminated when the Indonesian tax court “deems” that it has conducted sufficient hearings.
- A tax audit for the MAP years may be conducted, without clarity if such audit is restricted to the MAP issues.
- A concurrent Indonesian MAP request is required for a MAP request by another country’s tax authority.
- MAP does not postpone the obligation to pay the tax, unlike domestic legislation.
Indonesia is uniquely interpreting the tax treaty to limit the opportunity for MAP appeals, while introducing additional subjectivity in the rules via vagaries of the Indonesian tax court’s hearing process. Most importantly, it will be important to consider the MAP process upon the commencement of an Indonesian audit due to ongoing uncertainties.
Notably, this guidance is being issued prior to the finalization of the OECD dispute resolution guidelines that will most likely result in inconsistent guidelines for MAP.