Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

Posts tagged ‘tax rulings’

US: BEPS Action 5 sharing

 

The IRS has indicated its willingness to share unilateral Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) information to align with BEPS Action 5 re: transparency and substance.

As other jurisdictions have provided taxpayers to submit summary information that will be shared in such exchange, the IRS has not yet indicated such procedures.  Thus, it is advised that any multinational with such rulings attempt to obtain a copy of the information to be shared, prior to the automatic sharing process, to ensure its accuracy.

The EY Global Alert provides additional details of this new development.

Most importantly, any taxpayer with tax rulings should already be looking at the information that could be shared to address potential questions/issues by other tax authorities, especially if there are different transfer pricing arrangements in place.

http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/US_IRS_will_follow_BEPS_Action_5_recommendation_by_exchanging_summaries_of_unilateral_APAs_V2/$FILE/2016US_03632-161US_TP_US%20IRS%20will%20follow%20BEPS%20Action%205%20rec%20by%20exchanging%20summs%20of%20unilateral%20APAs.pdf

TAXE: Final report for Parliamentary actions

The EU Parliament’s resolutions were passed by a vote of 508 to 108, with 85 abstentions.  The proposals call for mandatory country-by-country (CbC) reporting, a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB), defined tax terms and transparency / exchange of tax rulings.  A summary press release and the full report are provided for reference:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/content/20151120IPR03607/html/Parliament-calls-for-corporate-tax-makeover

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2015-0408+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

Key points:

  • Welcomes the EU Parent-Subsidiary Directive amendments, effective at year-end 2015, for a general anti-abuse rule and hybrid mismatches.
  • EU Commission has breached its obligations under Article 108 of the Lisbon Treaty by not launching state aid investigations previously.
  • EU Member States should respect the principle of profits taxation where they are generated.
  • Promote good practices on transfer pricing and the pricing of loans and finance fees in intra-group transactions.
  • Commission to further investigate restrictions of deductions for intercompany royalty payments (i.e. counter profit shifting).
  • All rulings that have an impact on other Member States to be presented in the CbC report, and shared with the Commission and tax administrations.  Rulings to be publicly disclosed in accordance with confidentiality requirements.
  • Mandatory CCCTB, with a deadline for the consolidation element and without any further impact assessments.
  • Develop measures to tackle cross-border VAT fraud.
  • Reform of the Code of Conduct on business taxation.
  • New State Aid guidelines by mid-2017.
  • EU to be a global leader in tax transparency.
  • More extensive CbC report, with intra-group transactions.
  • Accelerate European Tax Identification Number project.
  • Aggressive tax planning is incompatible with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
  • Outgoing financial flows from EU are taxed at least once (i.e. withholding tax).
  • Transition period for developing countries to align with Global Standard on Automatic Information Exchange.

This report is compelling, far-reaching and a resource that will be used worldwide, as most non-EU countries will attempt to follow the ever-increasing EU intensity and propensity for changes in the international tax arena.  Thereby, it is a must read and a learning tool for non-tax executives in multinational organisations, as well as tax advisors, tax administrations and other interested parties.

EU transparency: New Ruling Directive re: tax ruling exchange moves forward

The new EU Directive for the automatic exchange of tax rulings now moves forward for approval, with an effective date of 1/1/2017.  A copy of the press release is provided:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/press-releases-pdf/2015/10/40802203260_en_635797403400000000.pdf

Key observations:

  • Cross-border tax rulings and advance pricing agreements (APAs) will be automatically exchanged between EU Member States.
  • The rulings will be stored in a EU central repository, with access available to the Member States.
  • Rulings issued from 2012 will generally be included in the exchange of information, subject to de minimis thresholds.

This development is now moving forward with a transparency focus, although what information will practically be exchanged may be different dependent on the respective Member State.

Multinationals should review prior rulings subject to this exchange to avoid potential surprises.

EU Tax Transparency Package-update/delay

EY’s Global Tax Alert highlights recent developments re: the previously announced Tax Transparency Package initiatives of the EU.  Key observations, and a copy of the Alert, are provided for reference:

Key Observations:

  • Definition of “tax rulings” is too broad for effective implementation by the Member States
  • The 10-year time period for rulings seems excessive and burdensome
  • 1/1/2016 implementation deadline to be extended to 12 months from entry into force of the amending Directive
  • OECD Action items should be considered for relevant integration / coordination
  • European Commission would also receive a copy of the rulings, with a central directory to be developed

EU Council Presidency issues report detailing open questions on proposal for automatic exchange of advance cross-border tax rulings and Advance Pricing Arrangements
Executive summary
On 8 June 2015, the Presidency of the EU Council (Latvia) sent a report (The Report) to the Permanent Representatives Committee and the European Council. The Report sets out the current state, as well as a number of open issues and questions, in regard to the 18 March 2015 proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive 2011/16/EU regarding the mandatory automatic exchange of tax information.

That proposal, focusing on the exchange of advance cross-border tax rulings (ATRs) and Advance Pricing Arrangements (APAs), constitutes a key element of the Tax Transparency Package1 issued on the same date. The Tax Transparency Package further contained a proposal to repeal the Savings Directive as well as a Commission communication outlining a number of other initiatives to advance tax transparency.

Detailed discussion
Under the Tax Transparency Package proposal, Member States will be required to automatically exchange information on their ATRs and APAs, with the Commission proposing a strict timeline whereby every three months all Member States would be obliged to report to all other Member States and the Commission on the rulings they have issued during that period.

This report, sent via a secure email system, would contain a pre-defined, standard set of information. The recipient Member States would also have the right to request more detailed information on any of the documented rulings, where the information is relevant to the administration of the tax laws of the Member State. Each year, Member States would have to provide statistics to the Commission on the volume of information exchange on tax rulings.

In addition to this quarterly exchange of information, the proposal also refers to a retroactive application of ten years, whereby the above obligation is extended to rulings issued during the ten years prior to the date on which the proposed Directive takes effect, where such rulings are still valid on the date of entry into force of the Directive.

The instrument under which all such exchange would occur is Directive 2011/16/EU on Administrative Cooperation in the Field of Taxation (DAC).

Open questions and issues detailed in the Report
The Report details that four meetings of the Working Party on Tax Questions have taken place (31 March, 30 April, 21 May and 9 June 2015) since the Tax Transparency Package was published, with the proposals being discussed in detail at each meeting. The Report further sets out a number of open issues and questions raised at those meetings. In the Report, the Presidency asks the Council to discuss these questions, in order to move the proposals forward, and to help the incoming Presidency to draft a compromise text for the DAC that could eventually be tabled for the political agreement of the Council in the autumn of 2015.

Scope and timing of exchange of information
In regard to the scope of definitions of ATRs and APAs, the Report noted that the definitions proposed by the Commission are too broad for a number of Member States. While the objective of the Tax Transparency Package is to cover as wide a scope of ATRs and APAs as possible, some Member States raised concerns that too much room for interpretation (by introducing a distinction between binding and non-binding rulings, for example) would create uncertainty. The Presidency therefore deemed it appropriate, to narrow the scope to ATRs and APAs which are issued to specific taxpayers or groups of taxpayers, with the effect of exempting from automatic exchange the commentaries of tax laws of a general nature.

In terms of the proposal to require the exchange of ten years of ATRs and APAs, the report notes that many Member States believe that this requirement goes beyond what is reasonably required for reasonable tax transparency purposes, as well as creating an overly voluminous administrative burden. The report makes no reference to what time period may be more acceptable to those Member States.

On the starting date of the exchange of new rulings, many Member States argue that at least 12 months would be required to transpose any new rules into national legislation. Therefore, the Presidency deemed it appropriate to bind the starting date of mandatory exchange of information (which was originally set to be 1 January 2016) with the transposition deadline, which would be 12 months from entry into force of the new amending Directive.

Taking OECD work into account

The Report states that a number of Member States have expressed that further work on a Presidency compromise should take into account work conducted at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) level, specifically within Action 5 of the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project and at the Forum on Harmful Tax Practices (FHTP). Action 5 of the BEPS Action Plan calls for a framework for compulsory spontaneous information exchange on rulings to member and associate countries’ preferential regimes, with a view to starting to apply the framework following the FHTP’s Autumn 2015 meeting. The Report further notes that the OECD work currently seems to cover a narrower scope of ATRs and APAs than proposed by the Commission’s proposals. This, in turn, leads the Presidency to aim at an agreement within the EU of a higher standard, in order not to undermine the objectives of the Commission proposal. In that regard, the Report notes that the standard form developed by the FHTP for rulings exchanged could also potentially be used for the automatic exchange of information within the EU, as well as providing inspiration around the potential ”retroactivity” date used.

Exemption of bilateral and multilateral APAs with third countries
The Report notes that while all Member States support that APAs should fall under the scope of mandatory automatic exchange of information, a number of delegations believe it is important in certain cases to exclude from the proposed Directive the information exchanged with third countries, where such an APA was agreed to before the entry into force of the revised DAC.

Specifically, the Report notes that:

However, a number of delegations believe it is important, for reasons of legal certainty and under a set of very strict conditions, to exclude from the proposed Directive the information exchanged with third countries when agreeing to bilateral or multilateral APAs with third countries, which have been agreed to before the entry into force of this Directive, under existing international treaties, where those treaties foresee stricter confidentiality standards than would be provided for in Directive 2011/16/EC, once this legislative proposal on automatic exchange of ATRs and APAs has been adopted.

Role of the Commission in the new mechanism
The Report closes with a series of main features with regard to the Commission’s central role in the new rulings exchange mechanism. These include:

The initial information on the ATRs and APAs being communicated not only to other Member States, but also to the Commission
That the Commission would have to develop a central directory, where the information exchanged would be stored and the Commission would have access to all data
That the Commission would, by way of the “comitology”2 procedure, develop a standard form and all other measures and practical arrangements that are required for the first stage of the automatic exchange of information.
Implications
The series of open issues and questions raised at the four successive meetings of the European Commission’s Working Party on Tax Questions reflects the sensitive nature of the issue of tax rulings in Europe. With much debate and discussion due in the coming months in advance of a compromise text for the DAC, the business community should make all efforts to closely monitor developments.

Endnotes
1. See EY Global Tax Alert, European Commission presents a package of tax transparency measures, dated 19 March 2015.

2. Comitology is the process by which EU law is modified or adjusted and takes place within Comitology Committees chaired by the European Commission.

EYG no. CM5538

This is an important development, as the European Commissions’s aggressive timetable and efforts to tackle tax abuse are ameliorated by practical and relevant concerns of practicality and usefulness.  

European Commission: New Action Plan

The European Commission, in its meeting on 27 May 2015, determined that a new Action Plan is needed to address tax abuse and ensure sustainable fisc growth by the Member States.  This follows its proposals on the Tax Transparency Package, including automatic exchange of tax rulings, possible public tax disclosure, and a review of the Code of Conduct.

The new Action Plan will look at integrating BEPS actions within the EU, review the digitalized economy, relaunching the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) initiative and further rules for increased transparency.

The KPMG Euro Tax Flash provides a summary of the new proposals.

http://www.kpmg.com/Global/en/services/Tax/regional-tax-centers/european-union-tax-centre/Documents/eu-tax-flash/etf-249.pdf

It is noteworthy that the EU is proceeding on designed actions in anticipation of, and subsequent to, BEPS actions for the EU Member States.  These actions may form a new set of rules similar to, as well as disparate from, the new OECD Guidelines and the rest of the world.  Other countries will be following these initiatives for similar adoption at a unilateral level, thereby providing a complex multi-layering of anti-abuse rules, transparency initiatives, and tax bases.

The answers to the struggle for fostering a better business environment in the EU market may be much different from an EU and rest of world perspective.

European Commission’s Tax Transparency Package: new era

The European Commission published a package of tax transparency measures on 18 March 2015.  The press release and other documents, linked herein for reference, include a tax transparency communication, Council Directive re: automatic exchange of information and Q and A’s of the comprehensive package. Significant initiatives are included in this package addressing corporate tax avoidance and harmful tax competition in the EU, key components of which are highlighted. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4610_en.htm http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/resources/documents/taxation/company_tax/transparency/com_2015_136_en.pdf http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/resources/documents/taxation/company_tax/transparency/com_2015_135_en.pdf http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4609_en.htm Press release:

  • The concepts of tax evasion, corporate tax avoidance, “pay their fair share,” aggressive tax planning and abusive tax practices are summarily stated, although corollary concepts for avoidance of double taxation and effective dispute resolution are noticeably absent.
  • Tax rulings will be automatically exchanged every 3 months.
  • Feasibility of public disclosure of certain tax information of MNE’s will be examined.
  • The EU Code of Conduct on Business Taxation will be reviewed to ensure fair and transparent tax competition within the EU.
  • The Savings Tax Directive is proposed to be repealed to provide efficiencies and eliminate redundant legislation in the Administration Cooperation Directive.
  • Next steps: The tax rulings proposal  will be submitted to the European Parliament for consultation and to the Council for adoption, noting that Member States should agree on this proposal by the end of 2015, to enter into force 1/1/2016.
  • Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) proposal will be re-launched later this year.

Tax Transparency proposal:

  • Existing legislative framework for information exchange will be used to exchange cross-border tax rulings between EU tax authorities.
  • The Commission will develop a cost/benefit analysis for additional public disclosure of certain tax information.
  • The tax gap quantification will be explored to derive more accuracy.
  • The global automatic exchange of information for tax rulings will be promoted by the EU.

Council Directive (amending Directive 2011/16/EU) re: automatic exchange of information:

  • Mandatory automatic exchange of basic information about advance cross-border rulings and advance pricing agreements (APAs).
  • Article I definition of “advance cross-border ruling:
    • any agreement, communication, or any other instrument or action with similar effects, including one issued in the context of a tax audit, which:
      • is given by, or on behalf of, the government or the tax authority of a Member State, or any territorial or administrative subdivisions thereof, to any person;
      • concerns the interpretation or application of a legal or administrative provision concerning the administration or enforcement of national laws relating to taxes of the Member State, or its territorial or administrative subdivisions;
      • relates to a cross-border transaction or to the question of whether or not activities carried on by a legal person int he other Member Sate create a permanent establishment, and;
      • is made in advance of the transactions or of the activities in the other Member State potentially creating a permanent establishment or of the filing of a tax return covering the period in which the transaction or series of transactions or activities took place.
  • Automatic exchange proposal is extended to valid rulings issued in the 10 years prior to the effective date of the proposed Directive (Article 8a(2)).
  • In addition to basic information exchanged, Article 5 of the Directive should provide relevant authority for the full text of rulings, upon request.
  • EU central repository to be established for submission of information by Member States.
  • Confidentiality provisions should be amended to reflect the exchange of advance cross-border rulings and APAs.

Q and A’s:

  • Corporate tax avoidance, as explained, undermines the principle that taxation should reflect where the economic activity occurs.
  • Standard/template information for the quarterly exchange of information includes:
    • Name of taxpayer and group
    • Issues addressed 
    • Criteria used to determine an APA
    • Identification of Member States most likely to be affected
    • Identification of any other taxpayer likely to be affected
  • Commission could open an infringement procedure for Member States not following the disclosure obligations.
  • Domestic tax rulings are exempt.
  • The EU could be a global standard setter of tax transparency.
  • The EU Code of Conduct criteria are no longer adequate, and it lacks a strong enough mandate to act against harmful tax regimes.

The EU Tax Transparency Package is required reading for all MNE’s and other interested parties, as it is an ambitious effort to provide globally consistent procedures for the exchange of tax rulings/APAs. Additionally, it is interesting to note the EU’s aggressive actions and timing in its efforts to align, as well as expand, the OECD’s efforts to address BEPS Action Items.  These actions are also intended to be a standard for global setting in the new era of international tax transparency.     As a Best Practice, the 10-year look-back provision for rulings implies that MNE’s should have a similar central database for prior, and future, cross-border rulings.  Additionally, this automatic exchange is another element of consideration prior to formally requesting a tax ruling.    

EU ruling request: 2010-2013

In the context of State Aid, aggressive tax planning, tax avoidance and competition for a country’s fair share of tax, the European Commission has broadened its earlier request for taxpayer rulings to include all tax rulings of all Member States from 2010 to 2013.  This initiative introduces additional transparency into the ruling practice of Member States.

Most importantly, the tax cost for denial of tax benefits for previously issued rulings is incurred by the respective companies, not the Member States.  MNE’s can participate, directly and/or indirectly, into the process if such rulings are formally investigated.  A link to the press release is attached for reference:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-2742_bg.htm?locale=FR

This initiative should be monitored by all MNE’s, supplemented by coordinating a list of all such rulings that would be requested for additional review and reference.

%d bloggers like this: