On October 19, 2017, Tax Executives Institute (TEI) filed a letter with the Platform for Collaboration on Tax, a joint initiative of the World Bank, OECD, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations, regarding the Platform’s draft toolkit on the taxation of offshore indirect transfers. TEI’s comments focused on the need for the Platform’s toolkit to educate and provide options to nations considering taxing offshore indirect transfers, rather than prescribing a preferred approach, among other things.
The Platform for Collaboration on Tax (the Platform), a joint initiative of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, International Monetary Fund, United Nations, and World Bank, released a document entitled The Taxation of Offshore Indirect Transfers – A Toolkit (the Draft Toolkit or Toolkit) on 1 August 2017. The Draft Toolkit was designed to help developing countries address the complexities of taxing offshore indirect transfers of assets, which the Platform states is a practice by which some multinational corporations try to minimize their tax liability.
The toolkit and TEI’s submission paper are referenced herein for review
Highlights of TEI’s comments include the following points:
- There should be symmetry and neutrality as compared to direct asset transfers
- Status of toolkit is unclear, and is not a source of authoritative guidance
- The goal of the draft toolkit is unclear
- A capital gains tax can distort economic transactions
- Gains and losses should be the subject of the toolkit
- Most indirect transfers are made for economic, not tax, reasons
- The general treaty definition of immovable property seems to have been abandoned with no reason
The toolkit can be applauded for launching a multi-organizational approach with some good ideas, although such ideas should be further challenged and developed prior to an overall vision and detailed rules promulgated
On 22 June 2017, the “Platform for Collaboration on Tax” (the Platform) – a joint effort of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group (WBG) – released a toolkit (the Toolkit) designed to help developing countries address the lack of “comparables” for transfer pricing analyses and better understand mineral product pricing practices.
This Toolkit should also be reviewed by multinationals (MNEs) in developing countries to address the potential lack of comparables to better understand how the tax authorities will approach a transfer pricing audit. The mining supplement is required reading for those working in that industry.
Additional toolkits will be forthcoming:
- TP documentation
- Indirect transfer of assets
- Base eroding payments
- Tax treaty negotiation capacity
- Supply chain management
- BEPS risk assessment
As the first edition of the Toolkit has now been published, it will be interesting to watch developing countries apply the tools prescribed, providing a baseline going forward. All international tax practitioners should be familiar with this latest joint endeavor, as it is an indication of the shared resource approach that is now our future.
EY’s Global Tax Alert provides additional details, and the OECD Toolkit are referenced for review.
The 2016 draft of the UN TP Manual includes India’s latest expression of alignment, as well as differing views from the OECD BEPS Actions 8-10 and 13.
Accordingly, the Indian tax administration is of the view that the guidance flowing from the final report of the BEPS project on Actions 8-10 should be utilized by both the transfer pricing officers (TPOs) and taxpayers in situations of ambiguity in interpretation of the law. However, India has not endorsed the guidance in the BEPS report pertaining to low value adding intra group services under Action 10 and has not opted for the simplified approach. Further, India has endorsed the recommendations contained in the BEPS final report on Action 13, which supported the three-tiered documentation regime comprising a Local File, a Master File and a Country-by-Country Report and has already carried out legislative changes in its domestic law.
India is known for its creativity, non-technical aggressive positions, and the number of years required to appeal initial assessments. Some of these positions, currently in litigation and dispute, have been reiterated as a further stance in their hard line position on transfer pricing to enhance its economic fisc. Accordingly, interested international tax practitioners should be cognizant of these positions, as other countries will surely “look and see” if such positions could also benefit their economic fisc similarly.
EY’s Global Tax Alert is provided for reference.
Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), a UN sponsored initiative, published a report entitled “Engagement Guidance on Corporate Tax Responsibility.” The guidance is investor oriented addressing the conduct of corporate tax responsibility, disclosure, transparency and good tax risk governance. Therefore, this report is a valuable reference to understand today’s trend of tax disclosure and transparency from an investor’s perspective, and how multinationals may be queried in the new world of international tax transparency.
A link is attached for reference:
- Earnings that rely on tax planning vs. economic activity are vulnerable to tax regulatory changes, earnings risk via strategies are increasing, and some Boards may be unaware of the effect that incentives have on tax planning.
- Corporate sustainability officers should understand tax decisions and their impact on financial results and stakeholders, with alignment between tax strategies and sustainability commitments.
- ” Companies should be able to defend how they allocate profit to each country both to tax authorities and the general public to avoid reputational risk and investor backlash.”
- Before engaging with companies on tax practices, investors should understand various strategies, including IP transfers, financing, marketing service arrangements, principal structures, tax havens, shell companies and tax incentives, that are summarily explained.
- A step plan to engage companies:
- Identify red flags, including a formula to measure tax gap
- Questions for Senior Management/Board re: tax policy, tax governance, managing tax-related risk, effective tax rate, tax planning strategies including structure and IP rights, and country-by-country (CbC) reporting.
Appendices are provided for additional reference of the OECD BEPS project, examples of good tax practices re: disclosures, summary of findings from discussions with Heads of Tax in eight multinational organisations, and a Glossary / Resources.
The report, in providing formulas and explanations, includes educational material for the investor community re: tax strategies and governance, while also providing examples of tax queries and good tax governance by many multinationals.
The report should be used as a metric to assess readiness and alignment for these important topics that may be raised by stakeholders, both internal and external. To the extent such questions have not been a primary focus, this report is an impetus to raise the priority threshold in addressing tax policies, strategies and governance in a very transparent world. Additionally, it is also worthy to review the names of multinationals cited in the report for awareness and recognition.
The UN organized its second workshop on “Tax Base Protection for Developing Countries” on 23 Sept. 2014. The background materials for the workshop provide valuable insights into the roles that developing countries will continue to play, directly or indirectly, as a part of the OECD BEPS Action Plan. The final outcome of the project will be a UN handbook. The topics for the workshop were in parallel with the background materials, focusing on the following topics: (1) Preventing the artificial avoidance of PE status; (2) Neutralizing effects of hybrid mismatch arrangements; (3) Limiting interest deductions; (4) Taxation of capital gains; (5) Preventing tax treaty abuse; and (6) Transparency and disclosure. Additional information, including the background materials, are referenced at the following link:
This workshop, and its continuing developments, are significant in assessing whether the OECD Actions will be followed by developing and non-OECD countries in their recommended form and/or if a simpler, more direct application of international tax rules will be pursued. All interested parties should be aware of these materials and the forthcoming UN handbook.
China’s State Administration of Taxation (SAT) issued an internal circular, instructing tax bureaus to review, and report, companies that have made large service fee or royalty payments between 2004 and 2013. Tax bureaus will submit their findings to the SAT by September 15, 2014, followed by special investigations and potential tax adjustments. The transfer pricing audit period is 10 years, thus the look-back period is within the statute of limitations. The KPMG Tax Alert is provided for reference:
- SAT’s commentary to the UN in April 2014 sets forth stricter guidelines for payment and deductibility than the OECD guidelines suggest (i.e., if the beneficiary is not in need of such services or the provider also benefits, then benefit by the service recipient alone is not justification).
- Additionally, the SAT argues that the definition of shareholder services in the OECD Guidelines is too narrow.
- Payments made to “tax haven” jurisdictions will receive special attention.
- Economic substance in overseas entities will be reviewed.
Service fee and royalty payments are receiving global attention by tax authorities, although this retroactive review and narrow interpretation of deductible payments by the SAT will lead to additional assessments and the risk of double taxation going forward. Multinationals should review transfer pricing documentation with respect to China, including the identification of any duplicative services as well as the benefits received from such services by major jurisdictions.