Not awaiting the OECD’s proposals for which a Workplace will be delivered in 2020, implementation following that several years later, New Zealand seeks to propose a 2-3% Digital Services Tax (DST) in the interim. Public comments will be accepted by July 18th. The Government discussion document and EY’s Global Tax Alert provide details, as referenced herein.
Discussion document highlights:
The Government is committed to ensuring everyone pays their fair share of tax, including digital multinationals. Achieving this will require changes to the current tax rules. There are two options for this:
- The first option is to apply a separate digital services tax (DST) to certain digital transactions. A DST taxes at a low rate (for example, 2% to 3%) the gross turnover of certain highly digitalised businesses that are attributable to the country.
- The other option is to change the current international income tax rules, which have been agreed to by countries (usually referred to as “the international tax framework”).
In summary, New Zealand is not patient to wait for OECD rules, wishes to implement a transition tax in the interim and plans to repeal this tax with the OECD solution when it becomes effective.
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.
India’s Central Board of Direct Taxes has published a report for comments, due by May 18th.
The Committee has recommended a mixed or balanced approach (“fractional apportionment”) that allocates profits between the jurisdiction where sales take place and the jurisdiction where supply is undertaken. India’s position is that such approach is acceptable in other tax treaties. However, the risk of double taxation is present if this approach is not adopted by other countries. Additionally, the approach differs from the OECD approach, which then introduces more complexity for all multinationals with Indian operations.
India is known for its long appeals, and different approaches to its fisc. Accordingly this report should be reviewed, with a possibility to comment, prior to further actions. This report, and methodologies, will also be closely followed by other countries in this complex and subjective area of PE profit allocations.
EY’s Global Tax Alert provides additional details, for reference.
This 2017 edition of the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines incorporates the substantial revisions made in 2016 to reflect the clarifications and revisions agreed in the 2015 BEPS Reports on Actions 8-10 Aligning Transfer pricing Outcomes with Value Creation and on Action 13 Transfer Pricing Documentation and Country-by-Country Reporting. It also includes the revised guidance on safe harbours approved in 2013 which recognises that properly designed safe harbours can help to relieve some compliance burdens and provide taxpayers with greater certainty.
A link to the Guidelines is attached for reference.
The EU Joint Transfer Pricing Forum recently published a paper illustrating when to use the profit split method (PSM) and how to accomplish the split of profits per the OECD Guidelines. The report is linked as a reference.
The report is a complement to, and supports, the OECD Revised Guidelines on the application of the Transactional Profit Split Method issued in June 2018.
As this method is not simple, and is also a focus on transfer pricing issues in the US, this paper is valuable into the application and concepts of PSM.
Recent international tax developments include the following:
- OECD is progressing on a Digital Strategy, with planned consensus in 2020 (hopefully separate countries will have added patience for a coordinated approach)
- US Previously Taxed Income (PTI) regulations are due this summer/fall
- Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) final regulations were issued, effective March 2019 and expanding the definition of “responsible person”
- India and the US reached agreement to exchange Country-by-Country (CbC) reports, thus alleviating any need to provide separate India CbC reports for US taxpayers
- OECD released a Beneficial Ownership Toolkit (reference attached) to assist developing countries in identification of ultimate beneficial owners
EY’s Global Tax Alert is also attached for reference.
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.