Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

Posts tagged ‘UN’

Tax Policy: Interaction of the Main Players & MNE’s

The executive summary of a paper entitled “The Structures and Mandates of Eight International and Regional Organizations That Work on Tax” was published earlier this year by the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC) with the Vienna University of Economics and Business.  The link to the article is referenced herein:

http://www.iticnet.org/file/document/watch/4008

The executive summary provides valuable insights into tax structures and mandates of various organizations, including the IMF, World Bank and the UN.  The two primary sections are entitled “Who are the Main Players in the International Tax Arena” and “How can Business Interact with Different Groupings?”

The first section includes a description of the breadth of activities for the organizations, including  those of the UN that include transfer pricing, exchange of information, cross border VAT issues, taxes in climate change, financial transaction taxes, tax on foreign direct investment, and natural resource taxation.  The second section is very interesting reading, providing insights into how Multinationals (MNE’s) can proactively interact with the various tax policy making bodies.

The topics of tax policy, and interaction between the MNE’s and the relevant organizations, have evolved into very significant issues in today’s changing tax environment.  Roles in a MNE, and the necessity to proactively interact with such organizations has now become a necessity that will derive mutual benefits and win-win relationships.

 

OECD BEPS Action Plan 1: Digital Economy – TEI’s comments

Tax Executives Institute, Inc. (TEI) has submitted comments in response to OECD’s discussion draft on BEPS Action 1: Address the Tax Challenges of the Digital Economy.  The link for the submission is provided for reference:

Click to access TEI%20Comments%20-%20OECD%20Action%20Item%201%20-%20Digital%20Economy%20-%20FINAL%20to%20OECD%2013%20April%202014.pdf

Some of the key comments include:

  • TEI agrees that ring-fencing the digital economy as a separate sector with unique tax rules would be neither appropriate nor feasible.
  • Technology companies face similar challenges as other businesses in moving assets and people, a view not assumed in the Discussion Draft.
  • TEI opposes options set forth in Section VII, including modifications to the PE exemptions, a new nexus standard based on significant digital presence, a virtual PE, and creation of a withholding tax regime on digital transactions.  These options are all generally unworkable.
  • The options set forth above are not aligned with G20’s statement that profits should be taxed where they are located.
  • Other measures noted in the Discussion Draft would aim to restore taxation in both the market country and the country of the ultimate multinational parent.  TEI notes that many of the issues that  these measures are designed to address are the result of deliberate tax policy of the OECD’s Member States.  It is these policies that create the low effective tax rates.

The comments provide thoughtful and practical business considerations that should be considered when formulating principles for international tax policy.  The digital economy issue is very complex, challenging and should be monitored to address proposals by the OECD, Member States and other countries for transformation.

 

 

OECD: Cbc reporting update

The OECD has provided further observations on its country-by-country information template, based on the premise such information is a useful guide in the risk assessment of transfer pricing for relevant jurisdictions.  KPMG has provided a summary of the latest notes by OECD on this topic:

http://www.kpmg.com/Global/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/taxnewsflash/Pages/2014-1/oecd-update-on-transfer-pricing-documentation-country-by-country-reporting.aspx

As this important initiative develops into final form, additional questions that may be asked include:

  • Will this information only be provided to tax authorities both currently and in the future, versus subject to public disclosure?  Will the OECD and/or separate countries’ provide for such legal assurance?
  • Should tax authorities be requested to share results of a risk assessment, based on this data, with the taxpayer prior to any assessments to ensure facts are aligned  to promote efficiencies upon assessment, and potentially in domestic or treaty based appeals?  A possible Best Practice for adoption?
  • How will relevance of the global information impact discussions and determinations in the relevant jurisdiction upon audit?
  • Is a post-adoption survey planned to compare expectations with actual results, providing flexibility for ongoing changes as a risk assessment tool?
  • To the extent that a country has adopted, or will adopt, different rules for global reporting, will the rules prescribed by OECD override, or supplement, domestic law?  What (legal) mechanisms will be put in place to align expectations for domestic and international rules?
  • What alignment is planned for countries utilizing the UN Model Convention?
  • Will this tool be used differently for co-operative compliance engagements and/or joint audits?

Many other questions should be carefully considered, looking at both immediate issues for implementation and long-term effects for taxpayers and tax administrations.

 

 

TEI’s comments: UN TP Manual, Competent Authority & APA’s

TEI has published comments addressing the UN Practical Manual on Transfer Pricing for Developing Countries, in addition to US IRS Notices for revisions to Revenue Procedures setting forth new policies to implement the Competent Authority (CA) and Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) procedures.  References to TEI’s submissions are included for reference:

UN TP Manual key comments:

Click to access TEI%20Comments%20on%20UN%20Transfer%20Pricing%20Manual%20March%202014.pdf

  • Harmonize UN and OECD Transfer Pricing (TP) guidelines to reduce cross-border disputes
  • Risk assessment should be the primary focus, with most multinationals (MNE’s) “low-risk” status due to global and consistent TP policies and documentation
  • First step of tax authorities should be to address overall business, group TP policy and risk control framework
  • Domestic legislation defeats the purpose of a standard international TP guideline
  • Recharacterization by tax authorities should only be permitted in clear cases of abuse
  • TP documentation flexibility must be preserved
  • Burden of proof should reside with tax authorities, with penalty protection granted to taxpayer upon providing sufficient TP documentation
  • Intangible discussion precedes work of the OECD on revision of its Chapter VI Guidelines, reducing likelihood of harmonization
  • Intra-group services and management fees: Consistency of UN and OECD approaches for clarity, in addition to uniform safe harbors
  • TP documentation: “Less is more” approach to assess risk, materiality consideration on a group and country level, global and regional comparables, English language
  • Chapter 10 policy objectives are not aligned with the UN TP Manual and the arm’s-length principle

US Competent Authority key comments to Notice 2013-78 re: revisions to Revenue Procedure:

Click to access TEI%20Comments%20on%20Notice%202013-78%20Revised%20CA%20Revenue%20Procedure%20-%20FINAL%20to%20IRS%20Mar%2010%202014.pdf

  • Opening the CA process to taxpayer initiated adjustments is welcome
  • A new procedure whereby an informal consultation is arranged with taxpayers to discuss its exhaustion of remedies to reduce its foreign tax before claiming a US Foreign Tax Credit (FTC) should not be compulsory.  The timeliness of such advice is also of concern.
  • CA initiated MAP cases and required inclusion of MAP issues that are not a part of the taxpayer’s request for assistance raises many questions.
  • Provision of all information to both CA’s is over broad and may not be mutually relevant.
  • US CA assistance may be denied if a foreign initiated adjustment is agreed to without consulting the US CA: this raises resource and timeliness issues and should also have no impact upon  the merits for claiming a US FTC.

US APA key comments to Notice 2013-79 re: revisions to Revenue Procedure

Click to access TEI%20Comments%20on%20Notice%202013-79%20Revised%20APA%20Revenue%20Procedure%20-%20FINAL%20to%20IRS%20Mar%2010%202014.pdf

  • The Notice reflects prior creation of the Advance Pricing and Mutual Agreement (APMA) program
  • Details are set forth regarding the “pre-filing” process
  • Appendix is included stating the required materials to be submitted for inclusion
  • Rules are provided for when the IRS may cancel or revoke a completed APA
  • Inapplicable information should not be submitted, but a “suitable explanation” why the information is not relevant must be provided
  • The suggested changes will increase information required for application, and time required for APA completion, thereby reducing the likelihood that taxpayers will proceed with an APA request

 

In alignment with the OECD’s BEPS proposals, unilateral country legislation including General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR), and the UN TP Manual principles for developing countries, tax controversies are expected to increase significantly.  Tremendous pressure will be placed on CA assistance around the world, and possibilities for new APA ‘s will be reviewed to reduce inherent uncertainty.

Accordingly, all multinationals and interested parties should read TEI’s excellent comments to better understand the issues to be confronted, with suggestions for thoughtful and practical ideas to achieve mutual objectives for taxpayers and tax authorities around the world.

OECD: BEPS Treaty Abuse proposal released for comment

The OECD invites public comments with respect to Action 6 (Prevent Treaty Abuse) of the BEPS Action Plan.

A summary of the OECD press release, the OECD proposal and Best Practice comments are included herein for reference:

Click to access treaty-abuse-discussion-draft-march-2014.pdf

The Action Plan identifies treaty abuse, and in particular treaty shopping, as one of the most important sources of BEPS concerns. Action 6 (Prevent Treaty Abuse) reads as follows:

Action 6 

Prevent treaty abuse

Develop model treaty provisions and recommendations regarding the design of domestic rules to prevent the granting of treaty benefits in inappropriate circumstances. Work will also be done to clarify that tax treaties are not intended to be used to generate double non-taxation and to identify the tax policy considerations that, in general, countries should consider before deciding to enter into a tax treaty with another country. The work will be co-ordinated with the work on hybrids.

The Action Plan also provided that “[t]he OECD’s work on the different items of the Action Plan will continue to include a transparent and inclusive consultation process” and that all stakeholders such as business (in particular BIAC), non-governmental organisations, think tanks, and academia would be consulted.

As part of that consultation process, interested parties are invited to send comments on this discussion draft, which includes the preliminary results of the work carried out in the three different areas identified in Action 6:

A. Develop model treaty provisions and recommendations regarding the design of domestic rules to prevent the granting of treaty benefits in inappropriate circumstances.

B. Clarify that tax treaties are not intended to be used to generate double non-taxation.

C. Identify the tax policy considerations that, in general, countries should consider before deciding to enter into a tax treaty with another country.

These comments should be sent on 9 April 2014 at the latest (no extension will be granted). The comments received by that date will be examined by the Focus Group at a meeting that will be held on the following week.

Public Consultation:

Persons and organisations who intend to send comments on this discussion draft are invited to indicate as soon as possible, and  by 3 April at the latest, whether they wish to speak in support of their comments at a public consultation meeting on Action 6 (Prevent Treaty Abuse), which is scheduled to be held in Paris at the OECD Conference Centre on 14-15 April 2014. Persons selected as speakers will be informed by email by 4 April at the latest.

This meeting will also be broadcast live on the internet and can be accessed on line. No advance registration is required for this internet access.

General observations of proposal:

The OECD proposal provides a three-pronged approach:

  • Treaty statement re: anti-avoidance rule and treaty shopping opportunities
  • Specific anti-abuse rule based on Limitation of Benefit (LOB) provisions
  • General anti-abuse rule

Other OECD recommendations include comments re: Permanent Establishment (PE), tax policy, and broad General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR) interpretation (including allowance of domestic GAAR provisions notwithstanding the relevant double tax treaty).  The GAAR proposal provides that obtaining a treaty benefit was one of the main purposes of any arrangement or transaction that resulted directly or indirectly in that benefit.  Note this GAAR proposal supplements the LOB provisions.

Proposals are also introduced to address tax avoidance risks via changes to domestic laws.  Such risks include thin capitalization, dual residence, arbitrage transactions (including timing differences), and transfer mispricing.  Intentions of the UN Model Convention are also introduced for analogous interpretation.  

The proposal notes that treaties should not prevent application of domestic law provisions that would prevent transactions re: CFC rules and thin capitalization.

Finally, the OECD proposal indicates that the treaty should clearly state that prevention of tax evasion and tax avoidance is a purpose of the tax treaties.

The proposal, in alignment with the overall OECD BEPS proposals, is targeted at avoidance of double non-taxation, without a balanced commentary and measures addressing the risk of double taxation.  Additionally, the terms “tax evasion” and “tax avoidance” are used in tandem within the proposal, although such terms are literally construed as having significantly two separate meanings and relative intent.  Finally, the allowance of domestic GAAR provisions in addition to, or in lieu of, treaty provisions and EU Parent-Subsidiary guidelines will promote additional uncertainty re: subjective interpretations of broad proposals that will ultimately lead to increased tax disputes, double taxation and the loss of multilateral symmetry.

This proposal has tremendous significance in the transfer pricing arena that must be seriously considered and reviewed in its entirety, including the possibility for early comment to ensure OECD consideration.

OECD: Comparable Data draft released for comment

The OECD has released a paper for comment discussing four possible approaches to addressing concerns on utilization of comparable transactions for transfer pricing analysis.  Written comments should be provided by 11 April 2014.  The following link is provided for reference:  

Click to access transfer-pricing-comparability-data-developing-countries.pdf

The paper will be discussed in two parallel sessions on the last day of the Global Forum on Transfer Pricing meeting of 26–28 March 2014. 

This paper sets out and briefly discusses four possible approaches to addressing the concerns over the lack of data on comparables expressed by developing countries.

• Expanding access to data sources for comparables, including steps to improve the range of data contained in commercial databases, expand developing country access to such databases, and improve access to comparables data in developing countries with a significant number of sizeable independent companies.

• More effective use of data sources for comparables, including guidance or assistance in the effective use of commercial databases, the selection of foreign comparables, whether and how to make adjustments to foreign comparables to enhance their reliability, and alternative approaches to finding comparables.

• Approaches to identifying arm’s length prices or results without reliance on direct comparables, including guidance or assistance in making use of proxies for arm’s length outcomes, the profit split method, value chain analysis, and safe harbours, an evaluation of the impact, effectiveness and compatibility with the arm’s length principle of approaches such as the so called “sixth method”, which is increasingly prevalent particularly in developing countries in Latin America and Africa, and a review of possible anti-avoidance approaches.

• Advance pricing agreements and mutual agreement proceedings, including a review of developing country experiences with the pros and cons of advance pricing agreements and negotiations to resolve transfer pricing disputes, as well as guidance or assistance with respect to mutual agreement proceedings.

The paper is timely, relevant and addresses practical and administrative concerns addressed by developing countries, as well as discussion of the arm’s-length principle.  The items addressed should be considered in addressing Best Practices for transfer pricing documentation methodologies by taxpayers and tax authorities.

TP Compensating Adjustments: Update

A Report on Compensating Adjustments, issued by the EU Joint Transfer Pricing Forum in January 2014, provides a practical solution to address different approaches by EU Member States.  The Glossary of the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines defines a “compensating adjustment” as “an adjustment in which the taxpayer reports a transfer price for tax purposes that is, in the taxpayer’s opinion, an arm’s length price for a controlled transaction, even though this price differs from the amount actually charged between the associated enterprises.  This adjustment would be made before the tax return is filed.”  In general, an adjustment is made at a later time to the transfer prices set at the time of a transaction.

A link to this report, and an excellent article by CGMA, are provided for reference:

Click to access jtpf_009_final_2013_en.pdf

http://www.cgma.org/magazine/news/pages/20149479.aspx

Highlights of the Report:

  • Compensating adjustments are enacted using one of two approaches, an ex-ante (arm’s length price setting approach), or ex-post (arm’s length outcome testing approach).  The ex-post approach generally involves testing, and possible adjustment, of transfer prices at year-end, prior to closing the books or filing the tax return.
  • When both Member States apply an ex-post approach and require compensating adjustments, a risk of double taxation, or double non-taxation, may arise.
  • An ex-post approach by one Member State, with an ex-ante approach by a separate Member State, presents conflicts on making such adjustments.
  • Guidance by the OECD is limited, with reference to the Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) to resolve disputes.  Member States use their discretion re: application of compensating adjustments.
  • A practical solution is described for transactions in which (i) profits are calculated symmetrically, and (ii) a compensating adjustment initiated by the taxpayer should be accepted if various conditions are met.  However, if the Member States have less prescriptive rules for such adjustments, those rules are to apply.
  • Upward as well as downward adjustments should be accepted.
  • The practical solution provided should not limit a tax administration’s ability to make a subsequent adjustment and has no bearing in a MAP procedure.
  • The adjustment should be made to the most appropriate point in an arm’s length range, with reference to OECD guidance.

The subject of compensating adjustments is an important topic in addressing potential double taxation, or double non-taxation.  The Report is timely, offering practical guidance for Member States to achieve consistency, although only within the EU.

It will be interesting to follow this topic, and future guidance, by the OECD, as well as commentaries from EU Member States, UN, and other interested parties.  The practical solution will be most effective if adopted in principle, or in legislation, by the EU Member States, with other countries referring to such guidance to resolve challenging transfer pricing issues fairly and effectively.

Tax avoidance strategies: Int’l human rights law violations? – IBA report

The facilitation of tax avoidance strategies could constitute a violation of international human rights law, according to a new report by the International Bar Association.

http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=4A0CF930-A0D1-4784-8D09-F588DCDDFEA4

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows, Poverty and Human Rights was convened to reflect upon these pressing questions from the perspective of international human rights law and policy. This innovative report:
  • provides a detailed overview of tax abuses and secrecy jurisdictions
  • investigates the links between tax abuses, poverty and human rights
  • draws on case studies from Brazil, Jersey and the SADC region
  • evaluates responsibilities and remedies to counter tax abuses affecting human rights
  • delivers unique recommendations for states, business enterprises and the legal profession

For the purposes of this report, tax abuses include the tax practices that are contrary to the letter or spirit of domestic and international tax laws and policies. They include tax evasion, tax fraud and other illegal practices − including the tax losses resulting from other illicit financial flows such as bribery, corruption and money laundering. The term ‘tax abuse’ also includes tax practices that may be legal, strictly speaking, but are currently under scrutiny because they avoid a ‘fair share’ of the tax burden and have negative impacts on the tax revenues and economies of developing countries.

This report covers developments in international tax cooperation on issues such as automatic exchange of information, and base erosion and profit-shifting. It also assesses trends in international development policy which are increasingly focused on strengthening good tax governance in developing countries – thereby reducing dependency on foreign aid and improving development outcomes. It demonstrates the evolution of international human rights law and policy, whilst highlighting tax abuses as a pressing human rights concern.

The Task Force’s goals and objectives are:

1. To publish an innovative report containing findings and a set of recommendations on the interaction between illicit financial flows, poverty and human rights.

2. To widely disseminate the report with the view of pushing the issue of tax evasion and human rights onto global policy agendas, and sustaining discussion thereafter.

3. To incite multi-level policy changes in the area of tax evasion and economic, social and cultural rights adjudication to help end global poverty.

The report cites the following topics for relevance in its comprehensive discussion:

  • OECD BEPS Action Plan
  • OECD Anti-Bribery Convention
  • OECD “Tax Inspectors Without Borders” initiative (refer to 9 June posting)
  • G8 and G20 countries
  • US FATCA rules
  • US Dodd Frank legislation
  • UK House of Commons
  • UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • EU Accounting and Transparency Directives
  • Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) (39 countries have signed up)

This report provides interesting insights into the complex relationship of international taxes and non-tax principles and objectives, for which all international tax executives should be aware.  Appendices of the report provide suggested recommendations for States, international business  and the legal profession to help combat today’s conflicts.

 

Corruption assessment: a component of Global (Tax) Risk Framework

The Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ...

The Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of UN. Target date: 2015 http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s tax environment of increased transparency highlights the need to integrate an assessment of corruption into the Global Risk Assessment, including the Tax Risk Framework.  Proper governance includes monitoring perceptions, and actual cases, of corruption globally.  Brief summaries, with links, have been provided for Transparency International and the Global Portal on Anti-Corruption for Development, with additional references and recent articles, for reference.  The Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International is included in the first link.

Today the Transparency International movement includes more than 100 independent national chapters and partners around the world, which take action in support of our mission “to stop corruption and promote transparency, accountability and integrity at all levels and across all sectors of society”.

http://issuu.com/transparencyinternational/docs/cpi_2012_report/1?e=2496456/2010281

Transparency International calls on the United Nations to adopt a governance goal and governance targets for its post 2015 development priorities

http://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/transparency_international_calls_on_the_un_to_make_governance_a_priority_fo

The Global Portal on Anti-Corruption for Development is a one-stop-shop for information and knowledge specialized on anti-corruption for sustainable development. It aims to support the work of development/governance practitioners, anti-corruption bodies, researchers, civil society organizations and the donor community by facilitating easy access to information, cutting-edge knowledge and practical tools on anti-corruption at the global, regional and country level.

The Anti-Corruption for Development web portal is a unique and pioneering UN web platform that provides open access to information and knowledge related to the latest efforts to address corruption prevention against today’s development challenges: human rights, gender equality and empowerment, climate change and natural resource management, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Post-2015 Development Agenda, illicit financial flows and transitional contexts, among others.

http://www.anti-corruption.org/index.php/en/about

The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) has asked the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to resign forthwith for misleading President Goodluck Jonathan on the damaging level of corruption in the country.

CNPP’s demand came as an aftermath of President Jonathan’s remarks in which he referred to a World Bank report from the minister placing corruption as third in the ranking of problems confronting the country.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201310010283.html

Industry’s leading third party management software provider advises oil and gas companies to fundamentally re-think supply chain compliance.

With the realization that corruption is undermining development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), experts are lobbying the UN to adopt goals and targets on good governance and transparency in the post-2015 development agenda.

A high-level anti-corruption panel, co-chaired by UNDP, Transparency International and UNODC, gathered at the UN in New York in late September to highlight the impact of corruption on development and find ways to ensure that anti-corruption is part of the new global development agenda.

Is internal corruption slowing progress in developing countries?

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.

EY 2013 survey: GAAR history/trends & Tax Treaty vs. domestic law application

Click to access GAAR_rising_1%20Feb_2013.pdf

The EY report is invaluable in explaining the origins of a general anti-avoidance rule (GAAR), recent developments and future trends.  It provides a comprehensive background on GAAR, including results from a survey of 24 countries.  The February 2013 report looks at various countries developing GAAR, European Commission recommendations, how and when GAAR measures may be invoked, and what companies can do to mitigate risk in their tax risk management.  One of the many highlights in the report is the comparison of tax treaties and domestic application of GAAR.

Examples of EY insights include the following:

  • GAAR is defined as a set of broad principles-based rules within a country’s tax code designed to counteract the perceived avoidance of tax.
  • Tax law designed to deal with particular transactions of concern are termed as either specific anti-avoidance rules (SAARs) or targeted anti-avoidance rules (TAARs).
  • China had started 248 GAAR cases in 2011, concluding 207 cases with taxes collected of $3.8 billion.
  • Each country will have its own definition of an “abusive” or “avoidance” transaction that could be the target of its GAAR.
  • A tax benefit, transaction or arrangement within GAAR regimes are not unified, thus requiring a close review of each country’s definitions.
  • GAAR independent review panels are developing to oversee its application
  • Virtually all countries have multiple SAAR and/or TAAR provisions, although only a few have been abolished with introduction of a GAAR.
  • Inconsistency of GAAR application to arrangements that have already been subject to one or more SAAR measures in that jurisdiction, including India, China and Chile.
  • China SAT seems to be expanding its beneficial ownership test into an anti-treaty shopping/anti-abuse test, creating more uncertainty.
  • The use of GAAR also extends to benefits provided by tax treaties.  Tax treaties include bilateral anti-avoidance provisions, although several countries are applying unilateral anti-avoidance measures via interpretations of existing treaties or applying domestic law GAAR provisions to treaty benefits.
  • Countries are including in their tax treaties explicit authorization of the application of domestic law anti-avoidance provisions.
  • Approx. 12 of 24 countries surveyed allow their GAAR provisions to override existing tax treaties, unilaterally or applying domestic GAAR.
  • 30% of participants from a 2012 GAAR webcast responded that they do not address GAAR within their tax risk management approach.
  • Best Practice: Use a tax governance framework with documented processes for significant transaction sign-off.
  • Best Practice: New GAAR, SAAR and TAAR proposals should be monitored and factored into the tax life cycle of a multinational business
  • Best Practice: Transaction documents should state the intended purpose of the overall transaction, as well as each step therein.
  • Best Practice: Document alternative positions considered, demonstrating that the final position was the only reasonable position to obtain the commercial objectives, and that there were no transactional steps taken that were explicable only in a tax benefit context.
  • Best Practice: Obtain external advice on significant transactions, including opinions on GAAR.

Several tables include insightful observations, including:

  1. Table 1, GAAR introduction timeline in various countries
  2. Table 2, Burden of proof for each country; taxpayer, tax authority, or shared
  3. Table 3, Examples of 2011-12 tax treaties with reference to application of domestic anti-avoidance rules in the treaty context.
  4. Table 4, Countries providing GAAR rulings/clearances

Additionally, eight questions are posed for a Board to ask in relation to GAAR:

  1. Does the transaction have a valid commercial purpose?
  2. Is the transaction unique and complex?
  3. Is the tax benefit material to the financial statement?
  4. Could the transaction  be undertaken in a different manner, without attracting the potential application of GAAR?
  5. Has an opinion been obtained that the transaction will more likely than not withstand a GAAR challenge?
  6. Is the transaction defendable in the public eye?
  7. What is the corporation’s tax risk profile both globally and locally?
  8. How comfortable is the corporation with litigation if it is required to defend the transaction?

The Appendix of the report provides answers, for each of the 24 countries, to the following queries:

  • Does a GAAR exist?  If so, year of introduction and effective date
  • Can the GAAR be applied retrospectively?
  • Do specific anti-abuse measures exist?
  • Does your country have specific legislation in place related to the indirect transfer of assets?
  • What are the circumstances in which the GAAR can be invoked?
  • Is the burden of proof on the taxpayer or taxing authority?
  • Does your country have a GAAR panel?
  • What is the attitude of the tax authority toward invoking a GAAR?
  • Is a clearance/rulings mechanism available?
  • Can the GAAR override treaties when invoked?
  • What penalties may result from the GAAR being invoked?
  • Provide a summary of key judicial decisions involving GAAR or other anti-abuse legislation.
  • Are there any legislative proposals or open consultations that may affect the future composition of a GAAR?

Prior posts for additional reference:

  • 6 August; U.N. Committee of Experts to address the Manual for Negotiation of Bilateral Tax Treaties in October 2013
  • 21 July; UK Finance Act 2013: GAAR has arrived
  • 19 July; OECD BEPS Report & Action Plan
  • 4 July; Italy: New Co-operative Compliance Program
  • 29 June; Board Oversight and Responsibilities for Tax Risk Management
  • 13 June; OECD: A Framework for Co-operative Compliance
  • 5 June; GAAR: India & International Perspective

This report is a comprehensive review of GAAR and should form a foundation for planning significant transactions and adopting Best Practices within the global Tax Risk Framework.  For example, the eight questions to be posed by the Board could form Best Practices for planning significant transactions.  The report is a valuable tool for regional and global tax teams as the trend of GAAR, and understanding its subjective principles, is becoming more complex in today’s ever-changing tax environment.   

U.N. Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters: update

http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/tax/

The U.N. Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (U.N. Committee ) is responsible for drafting the U.N. model tax treaty and the Practical Manual on Transfer Pricing for Developing Countries.  The U.N. Committee’s work on international tax and transfer pricing developments should be watched closely by the international tax community.  Additionally, developments on important topics should be compared with that of the OECD, including its Revised Draft on Transfer Pricing Aspects of Intangibles (03 August post), White Paper on Transfer Pricing Documentation (31 July post) and the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Action Plan (19 July post).

The attached link provides reference to its provisional agenda for the 21-25 October 2013 session, the appointment of 25 members to the U.N. Committee for a 4-year term expiring on 30 June 3017 and the U.N. Model Double Taxation Convention.

The 9th session of the U.N. Committee will address U.N. Model Tax Convention issues, including the following:

  • Article 4 (Resident): Application of treaty rules to hybrid entities
  • Article 5 (PE), including international VAT cases
  • Article 7 (Business Profits): Force of attraction principles
  • Article 9 (Associated Enterprises): Commentary update
  • Article 26 (Exchange of information)
  • Other topics, including provision on taxation of fees for technical services, issues for the next update of The Practical Transfer Pricing Manual for Developing Countries, and The Manual for Negotiation of Bilateral Tax Treaties between Developed and Developing Countries.

The 25 members were appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and will act in their personal capacity.  A detailed biography of each member is included in the press release; a listing of their name and current position is provided herein for quick reference.

  1. Mr. Khalid Abdulrahman Almuftah, Deputy Director, Revenues and Tax Dept., Ministry of Economy and Finance, Qatar
  2. Mr. Mohammed Amine Baina, Chief, Division for International Cooperation, Dept. of Taxation, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Morocco
  3. Ms. Bernadette May Evelyn Butler, Legal Adviser, Ministry of Finance, Bahamas
  4. Mr. Andrew Dawson, Head, Tax Treaty Team, HMRC, UK
  5. Mr. El Hadj Ibrahima Diop, Director of Legislation and Litigation Studies, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Senegal
  6. Mr. Johan Cornelius de la Rey, Legal Officer, Legal and Policy Division, South African Revenue Service (SARS)
  7. Ms. Noor Azian Abdul Hamid, Director, Multinational Tax Dept., Inland Revenue Board (IRBM), Malaysia
  8. Ms. Liselott Kana, Head, Dept. of International Taxation, Internal Revenue Service, Chile
  9. Mr. Toshiyuki Kemmochi, Director, Mutual Agreement Procedures, National Tax Agency, Japan
  10. Mr. Cezary Krysiak, Director, Tax Policy Dept., Ministry of Finance, Poland
  11. Mr. Armando Lara Yaffar, Director General, Int’l Affairs, Dept. of Revenue, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, Mexico
  12. Mr. Wolfgang Karl Albert Lasars, Director, International Tax Section, Federal Ministry of Finance, Germany
  13. Mr. Tizhong Liao, Deputy Director General of Tax Treaty, Dept. of International Taxation, State Administration of Taxation, China
  14. Mr. Henry John Louie, Deputy to the Int’l Tax Counsel (Treaty Affairs), U.S. Dept. of the Treasury
  15. Mr. Enrico Martino, Head, International Relations, Dept. of Finance, Ministry of the Economy and Finance, Italy
  16. Mr. Eric Nii Yarboi Mensah, Chief Tax Treaty Negotiator, Ghana Double Tax Treaty Convention Team
  17. Mr. Ignatius Kawaza Mvula, Assistant Director, Zambia Revenue Authority
  18. Ms. Carmel Peters, Policy Manager, Inland Revenue, New Zealand
  19. Mr. Jorge Antonio Deher Rachid, Tax and Customs, Embassy of Brazil, Washington, D.C.
  20. Mr. Satit Rungkasiri, Director General, Revenue Dept., Ministry of Finance, Thailand
  21. Ms. Pragya S. Saksena, Joint Secretary, Tax Policy and Legislation, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Dept. of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, India
  22. Mr. Christoph Schelling, Head, Division for International Tax Affairs, State Secretariat for Int’l Financial Matters, Swiss Federal Dept. of Finance
  23. Mr. Stig B. Sollund, Director General and Head of Tax Law Dept., Ministry of Finance, Norway
  24. Ms. Ingela Willfors, Director, Int’l Tax Dept., Ministry of Finance, Sweden
  25. Mr. Ulvi Yusifov, Head, Int’l Treaties Division, Int’l Relations Dept., Ministry of Taxes, Azerbaijan

It will be interesting to observe the interaction of new U.N. Committee members, and most importantly the initiatives addressed against the backdrop of the OECD’s recent developments.

UN: Practical Manual on Transfer Pricing & Tax Training Initiatives

Click to access UN_Manual_TransferPricing.pdf

This link directs you to the final version of the U.N’s Practical Manual on Transfer Pricing for Developing Countries.  This version corrects minor technical errors in the 2012 version.  The separate country guidance is already attracting controversy since these countries are provided an official platform to express their views on location-specific advantages, etc. that compete with OECD guidelines.

In addition to this document, Alexander Trepelkov, Director of Financing for Development Office (FFDO), U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs has stated three primary initiatives of the FFDO.  The three initiatives will create tax training tools to:

  1. Strengthen developing nations’ capacity to conduct transfer pricing analyses,
  2. Negotiate, administer, and interpret tax treaties, and
  3. Develop tax administration systems.

Transfer pricing analyses initiative:

  • A meeting is being held this week to determine the scope and content of the project, focused on supporting tax administrators apply the arms-length principle to transactions between associated enterprises.

Tax treaty initiative: Training tools in development for tax administrators

  • Fundamentals of tax treaties course, including similarities/differences between the U.N. models, is planned for early 2014
  • Advanced tax treaty course to be developed jointly with the OECD, ensuring materials covering the U.N. model are included
  • A joint project to create training tools on tax treaty administration with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation.

Develop tax administration systems initiative:

  • A joint project with the Inter-American Center of Tax Administrations to develop an empirical method to measure and assess tax administration cost.  Pilot programs are taking place in Costa Rica and Uruguay.

These developments should be closely followed, especially in developing countries that are developing transfer pricing expertise and non-OECD countries that have publicly stated their views in the U.N.’s Practical Manual on Transfer Pricing for Developing Countries.  This insight is also valuable information to review in a pre-audit strategy for such countries, having advance knowledge of their stated positions and differences with OECD methodology.

 

 

 

UN link to source of relevant information

http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/tax/
This site is a valuable resource of information, including the following topics and links to relevant documents:

  • Strengthening UN role in international tax cooperation
  • UN Model Convention
  • Transfer Pricing (including Practical Manual for Developing Countries)
  • Exchange of information on tax matters
  • Manual for the Negotiation of Bilateral Tax Treaties
  • Capacity Building

I invite you, and members of your team, to fully explore the site and use as a basis for international tax training and reference.

This link is also added to my new “Recommended Links” page for future reference.

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