The OECD recently published its peer review report on treaty shopping re: prevention of treaty abuse under the inclusive framework on BEPS Action 6. A link to the document is included for reference.
Article 6 targeted treaty abuse; Action 15 introduced the multilateral instrument (MLI) to implement BEPS actions. The MLI is the mechanism whereby countries are implementing the treaty-shopping minimum standard.
The first Peer Review shows the effectiveness of implementing the minimum standard for treaty abuse. The intent of Action 6 is to stop treaty shopping in its entirety.
The treaty shopping minimum standard requires countries to include two components in their tax agreements; an express statement on non-taxation and one of three ways to address treaty-shopping. The provisions require bilateral agreement. The 2017 OECD Model Tax Convention includes the following express statement: “Intending to conclude a Convention for the elimination of double taxation with respect to taxes on income and on capital without creating opportunities for non-taxation or reduced taxation through tax evasion or avoidance…”
The three methods of addressing treaty shopping include;
- Principal Purpose Test (PPT) alone, or
- PPT with a simplified or detailed version of the Limitation on Benefits (LOB) rule, or
- Detailed LOB rule with a mechanism to deal with conduit arrangements.
As the MLI’s are agreed, it is important to understand the three methods above, and the express statement which includes reference to the elimination of double taxation, a concept which is sometimes ignored in the pursuit of perceived treaty / tax abuse.
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.
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.
The OECD provides a comprehensive list of countries that have signed the new multilateral instrument (MLI).
Most importantly, each country’s position on the various positions with other countries can be viewed. While being transparent, this myriad of menu selections will produce an even more complex environment globally. The strive for collaboration is somewhat achieved, based on more than 60 countries executing this document. However, the goal of simplification can certainly be questioned.
OECD’s press release and a link to this list is provided for reference. All international tax practitioners should review this long-awaited document.