Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

Posts tagged ‘tax best practices’

ATO Tax Risk Guide: Board is an integral player

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has issued comprehensive and detailed rules addressing requirements for a formal tax risk framework, from which a taxpayer’s risk will be measured.  The guidance includes a tax risk management and governance review guide, in addition to appendices for control testing and directorship responsibilities. The risk guide is focused upon Board and Managerial level responsibilities. EY’s Global Alert and ATO’s tax risk guide and appendices are provided for reference:

http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/Australian_Tax_Office_issues_new_guidelines_on_tax_corporate_governance/$FILE/2015G_CM5625_AU%20TO%20issues%20new%20guidelines%20on%20tax%20corporate%20governance.pdf

https://www.ato.gov.au/business/large-business/in-detail/key-products-and-resources/tax-risk-management-and-governance-review-guide/#Boardlevelresponsibilities

https://www.ato.gov.au/business/large-business/in-detail/key-products-and-resources/tax-risk-management-and-governance-review-guide/?anchor=Directorshipresponsibilities#Directorshipresponsibilities

Key actions:

  • Express requirements for Directors
  • Mandatory self-assurance processes for tax governance for which the ATO may rely in assessing risk
  • A lack of requisite tax controls will affect the risk rating
  • Board controls:
    • Formalized tax control framework (Tax strategy document and policies endorsed by Board of Directors)
    • Formalises company director roles / responsibilities for tax risk management
    • Formal evidence of tax risk review and familiarity with tax risk matters
    • Periodic internal control testing, including senior management’s attestation / formal board review of the testing results
  • Managerial level responsibilities:
    • Clearly defined and documented tax compliance and risk management roles / responsibilities
    • Senior management’s active role and governance with objective criteria  to demonstrate Best Practices
    • Identification of significant transactions via a policy, process, risk rating
    • Ensuring data controls are in place
    • Record-keeping policies, including a formal tax record-retention policy
    • Documented internal control framework
    • Documented procedures explaining significant differences between accounting disclosures, financial statements and the tax return
    • Complete and accurate tax disclosures, including compliance risk review and tax return review
    • Tax governance policies addressing legal and administrative changes
  • Appendices
    • A: Testing of controls to test control design effectiveness, with a (comprehensive) example of a walk-through scenario
    • B: Directorship responsibilities, including a penalty regime, and an appointed public officer

The ATO has set forth new expectations and Best Practices for multinational organisations. The Board of Directors for all MNE’s, not only those operating in Australia, should review the new guidelines, as they set the standard for the future to regulate tax risk management.  

Astute Boards will be acting proactively to ensure all controls are in place to effectively manage global tax risk in this brave new world of post-BEPS introspection.

Other countries will surely follow, limited only by current resources.  

Accordingly, the concept of a Tax Risk Officer and additional focus on tax risk management / governance policies (supported by objective testing) are becoming the new norm for which all MNE’s should embrace.  

Legal Entity governance: Best Practice ideas

Maintaining an up-to-date legal entity organization process / document is an important requirement for accurate and timely tax compliance and planning.  Best Practice ideas for consideration include the following:

Governance sign-off process for all changes of a legal entity, including:

  • Stated capital
  • Share premium (Additional paid-in capital)
  • Authorized capital
  • Officers / Directors
  • Tax elections re: tax characterization
  • Change in name or form of entity
  • Trade names / DBA
  • Restructurings / Mergers / Liquidations
  • Articles of Incorporation or Association

Documentation backup supporting all changes during the life of a legal entity, including formation and dissolution

Assigned Legal Entity champion in the organization

Governance process re: authorized users (view/print/edit)

List of authorized users

Guidelines re: providing legal entity data to third parties, including audit requests

Providing updates with distribution on a real-time (electronic) basis

Master Legal Entity Chart, archiving prior versions as permanent files

Permanent file retention of relevant supporting documentation

Listing of nominee shareholders

Legal and tax characterization, if different

Developing legal entity approval and sign-off in a business recommendation, rather than a separate subsequent process

Most organizations have a process to govern legal entity changes and provide contemporaneous information, although all processes merit a creative review to gain additional efficiencies and Best Practices.

Nigeria: New TP Division & Disclosure forms

In concert with the global emphasis on transfer pricing, Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has issued new transfer pricing  (TP) forms to be filed with the annual corporate income tax returns for 2013.  Additionally, a new Transfer Pricing Division has been implemented following Best Practices by other tax administrations.

A Transfer Pricing Declaration form and Transfer Pricing Disclosure form are released to implement the TP regulations issued in 2012. The Transfer Pricing Declaration form includes information on the company’s directors and parent company, whereas the Transfer Pricing Disclosure form requests information about the company’s performance in relation to the group, in addition to disclosure of zero consideration goods, services, or intercompany loans.

The new disclosures highlight the trend for increased disclosures, for which there should be Best Practices implemented to ensure timely compliance and global consistency of tax reporting positions.

A KPMG summary is included as an insightful reference.

http://www.kpmg.com/Global/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/taxnewsflash/Pages/nigeria-new-transfer-pricing-forms-dedicated-tax-office.aspx

PE Best Practices Risk Review: BEPS Action Plan, OECD & UN Model Conventions

A Permanent Establishment (PE) risk review is an integral component of a global Tax Risk Framework, increasing in importance with issuance of the OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan.  The PE risk review should be monitored on a recurring basis against the backdrop of current and future developments.  The OECD and UN Model Conventions, with related Commentaries, provide insight into the development and current state of international PE guidelines.  The Conventions provide a useful framework to document specific PE criteria, and exceptions thereto, for risk analysis.

Action 6 (Prevent Treaty Abuse) of the BEPS Action Plan states that the definition of PE must be updated to prevent abuses.  Action 7 (Prevent the artificial avoidance of PE status) provides additional PE initiatives.  Actions 6 and 7 are designed to implemented by September 2014 and September 2015, respectively.  It will be paramount to note any changes in the “preparatory or auxiliary” exception.  A link to the BEPS Action Plan is hereby provided for reference:  http://www.oecd.org/ctp/BEPSActionPlan.pdf

Article 5 of the OECD Model Convention provides an outline for PE determination, including a “fixed place of business” standard, building site or installation project criteria, the “preparatory or auxiliary character” exception, dependent agent rules and further exceptions for activities of an independent agent and related entities.  The OECD Model Convention can be accessed at: http://www.oecd.org/tax/treaties/oecdmtcavailableproducts.htm

The OECD Commentaries are required reading to fully comprehend the history, and intended meaning, of Article 5.  Paragraph 2 of the Commentary provides an outline for determination of a “fixed place of business,” consisting of (i) the existence of a “place of business,” (ii) this place of business must be “fixed,” and (iii) the carrying on of the business through this fixed place of business.  Paragraph 24 of the Commentary states that , for application of the “fixed place of business” rule, “the decisive criterion is whether or not the activity of the fixed place of business in itself forms an essential and significant part of the activity of the enterprise as a whole.”  Paragraph 33 further provides that “the authority to conclude contracts must cover contracts relating to operations which constitute the business proper of the enterprise.”

The attached reference provides access to the UN Model Convention, Letter from India (13 Aug 2012), revised commentary on existing Article 5 and definition of PE for comprehensive understanding of the current PE Article.  The UN Model Convention contains an Introduction, Part One (including the Articles), and Part Two with Commentaries.  Paragraph 20 of the Commentaries states that the Commentaries on the Articles are regarded as part of the UN Model Convention, along with the Articles themselves.  Most importantly, Part Two cites differences of the UN and OECD Model Conventions, such as the UN inclusion of a services standard, exceeding 183 days in any 12-month period, that is not within the OECD guidelines.   http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/tax/unmodel.htm

Best Practice ideas for outlining PE risk include:

  • Documenting potential significant PE risks by legal entity, with specific reference to the PE attribute that attracts such risk, such as a fixed place of business or dependent agent.
  • Outlining availability of the preparatory or auxiliary character exception for potential risks.
  • Inclusion of objective and subjective evidence that provides defense for a potential PE determination, including wording from the applicable Convention and Commentaries.
  • Tools available to reduce double taxation upon determination of a PE, such as the Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP).

The above Best Practices should be combined with Best Practice ideas in former posts:

  • 14 April PE Risks: Best Practices for Awareness & Planning
  • 14 July: PwC PE survey: Trends & Challenges

PE determination is increasing in importance in today’s changing tax world, thus a detailed risk matrix is essential to determine current potential risk areas, as well as provide valuable information to assess proposed changes by the OECD and/or UN.

China APA Report 2012: More APAs

http://www.chinatax.gov.cn/n8136506/n8136608/n9947993/n9948014/n12360820.files/n12360827.pdf?goback=%2Enmp_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1#%21

THe 2012 Annual Report outlines China’s Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) process, in addition to statistics for 2005 – 2012.  The agenda of the report includes:

  • APA Program definition and advantages
  • Legislation and Development of APA program
  • APA Procedures
  • Taxpayers’ Rights
  • Statistics and Contacts
  • Appendices, including formal meetings and applications

A Best Practices methodology addressing APA’s should be outlined in the global Tax Risk Framework for every multinational corporation.  This methodology will summarize some of the following points:

  • A description of the decision matrix for an APA and its implementation
  • Preference for unilateral or bilateral APAs
  • Implementation of global/regional/country proactive and/or reactive risk management tools
  • Outline of significant jurisdictions, timelines, work plan, and accountability for implementation
  • Integral coordination with tax counsel, and other functional business units
  • Review plan for an APA methodology in today’s rapidly changing tax environment (evidenced recently by the change in administrative leadership for the India APA program)
  • Review of applicable gaps that may exist to retrieve information readily for proactive, or reactive, APAs

Tax jurisdictions, and MNEs, are increasing their focus on APAs amidst a trend of growing uncertainty and complexity in international transfer pricing principles.  The China APA Report provides good preparation for a better understanding of the complex, and lengthy, preparation needed by all parties to obtain an APA.

The Art of Negotiation: Improve your leadership skills

Negotiation is an art and acquired skill; as such it should be a continuous journey for every tax executive.  Negotiation is used by everyone every day, personally and professionally.  For example, it can be used to develop a win-win result in cross-functional issues with a geographically diverse team or equally in discussions with tax authorities to concisely explain transfer pricing concepts.

In today’s world of tax subjectivity and controversy, negotiation is a requisite (and often neglected) skill for local, regional and global tax teams, as well as other leaders in the business.  Conveying technical tax terms and complicated transactions simply, succinctly and convincingly is a leadership skill that becomes more important as one’s career progresses.  Notwithstanding this necessity, negotiation is a skill that is not an integral part of everyone’s development program.

Books, presentations and conferences are focused on negotiation, and I will pass along some tremendous resources I have used that are easy to read and implement daily.  It is also fun to see  the results!  Gerry Spence, a U.S. renowned trial lawyer, has written the following two books for your consideration:

  • How to Argue and Win Every Time – At Home, at Work, in Court, Everywhere, Every Day
  • Win Every Case: How to Present, Persuade and Prevail – Every Place, Every Time

I highly recommend the above resources, related articles posted herein, and look forward to your ideas on this important leadership topic.

Cover of "How to Argue and Win Every Time...

Cover of How to Argue and Win Every Time

Please ensure you, and your teams, have a negotiation goal for 2013!

GAAR: Poland’s reintroduction

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/resources/documents/taxation/tax_fraud_evasion/com_2012_722_en.pdf

Poland’s Minister of Finance plans to reintroduce a general anti-abuse rule (GAAR).  GAAR was in brief existence from 2003-2004, however the vague principles led to its removal.

The GAAR reintroduction follows the European Commission’s recommendation in December 2012, with a link attached for reference.  The European Commission Initiatives, Section 8, Recommendation on aggressive tax planning, states “The Commission also recommends a common GAAR.  This would help to ensure coherence and effectiveness in an area where Member State practice varies considerably.”

The GAAR proposal would apply to all types of taxes, with a 30% penalty of avoided tax via a “tax avoidance” transaction.  Appeal provisions are envisioned, in addition to advance rulings, although the time and expense for advance certainty may prove to be impractical.  A GAAR Council would provide an “expert” GAAR opinion that is not binding on the tax authorities.

Poland’s GAAR proposal should be analyzed for Best Practices, coupled with insights from prior posts: EY GAAR survey (7 August) and UK Finance Act 2013: GAAR has arrived (21 July).

It is hopeful that Poland will focus on learnings from the original GAAR introduction, as well as gain insight for Best Practices from other countries that have adopted a fair, and effective, GAAR.  It will be important to observe how the new GAAR legislation will correspond, or override, its double tax treaty provisions, and if the burden of proof will reside with the taxpayer and/or the tax authorities.

Most importantly, Best Practices should be continually reviewed, and revised,  for inclusion of new GAAR proposals and principles that are an integral part of the global Tax Risk Framework.  As stated in the European Commission report, each country’s practice is , and will continue to be, significantly different.  Robust documentation, in proactive tax risk management and planning memorandums, will provide directly relevant evidence to defend the subjective principles and guidelines of GAAR.

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