In October 2015, final recommendations on Base Erosion and Profits Shifting (BEPS) were released, setting in motion epochal changes that will impact the global effective tax rate (ETR) of multinational enterprises (MNE) in the coming years.

Country-by-Country Reporting (CbCR) is the first, almost globally adopted output of the BEPS process currently facing MNEs. It raises some potentially far-reaching questions with respect to traditional operating models and supply chain structures, and also affects the future of cross-border dispute resolution. Harnessing the potential upsides and downsides of these and the other evolutions will be a driver of the future ETR of MNEs.

View the five-minute video below, in which McDermott lawyers discuss the implications of Country-by-Country Reporting for MNEs.

Adoption of the base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) action items in specific countries can be expected to alter traditional multi-national enterprises (MNE) tax strategy processes. In this regard, it is appropriate to note that tax authorities and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) often seem to overlook, or conveniently ignore, that MNE strategies are often a function of the rules established by countries to develop their own tax base (at the expense of other countries). In other words, countries, in their respective self-interests, grant incentives of various sorts to encourage economic investment. MNEs take advantage of these incentives to minimize their tax liabilities, which the BEPS process views as, somehow, inappropriate behavior of MNEs denuding the tax base of other countries.

Like water going downhill, MNE planning strategies will utilize the most efficient path to achieve desired objectives. This is a fiduciary duty to shareholders. Effective tax rates are a major expense of all MNEs, which need to be managed as effectively as possible in a competitive world. For example, if Country A offers an incentive such that MNE #1 makes an investment in Country A, as opposed to Country B which offers no such incentive, the net result is that jobs and economic activity are created in Country A not B. Country B may perceive that its tax has been eroded. But who has done this? Country A via its incentive or MNE #1?

International tax disputes arise when Country B challenges the activity of MNE #1 asserting that it should have been paying tax in Country B. If there is a treaty between Countries A and B, there could be a mutual agreement procedure (MAP) proceeding. If that proceeding stalls for whatever reason, then all parties would benefit from processes that would lead to resolution.

The transparency demanded by the Country-by-Country (CbC) package and related matters evolving on a unilateral country basis (seeking, once again, to attract tax base away from other countries) will create new opportunities and paradigms for MNE effective tax rate strategies. It may be that these evolutions will drive planning and acquisition strategies toward treaty or non-treaty protected corporate structures designed to: (i) take advantage of new opportunities created by the new  regimes; and (ii) minimize transfer pricing exposures, imposition of exit or other taxes on the movement of intangibles or other assets, and so on. As these strategies evolve, the net result may not be an outcome that was anticipated by organizers of the BEPS project. This was certainly the case with respect to design of our current international tax system just after World War I.

These evolutions in the international tax world reflect, not surprisingly, what is evolving in the global political world. The popular press regularly addresses what is often described as globalism vs. populism, which reflects an apparent trend of voters and governments to focus less on the global good and more on local needs. The same phenomenon appears to be evolving in the world of cross-border taxation, which may be evolving as it did in 1926: idealistic visions of a globalized tax order (BEPS) vs. realism-populism on a CbC basis. Countries seem to be reacting to the former (BEPS) as they did to the League of Nations (The League) in 1926. The League assumed there would be consistent adoption of tax policy throughout the world, but countries pursued agendas to achieve their respective objectives. In contrast to the policies incorporated in the BEPS final actions, countries seem to be pursuing their own policies. Several countries have adopted, or are considering, an incremental tax on what are deemed excessive profits in other countries (the diverted profits tax or its equivalents in the UK, India, France and so on), declaring that taxes so collected are not subject to treaty relief (it is up to other countries to provide relief from double taxation). The US may be seriously addressing border adjustability, territorial, and related elements, as the EU is evolving toward the formulary allocation mechanism (the “CCCTB”). These are all elements that will need to be framed in MNE effective tax rate (ETR) strategy evolution (including compliance and controversy realities).

In short, our global tax world is plainly in a state of transition. The ultimate reality may be far different than was anticipated by the BEPS process.

Domestic implementation of the recommendations set out in the BEPS final reports from 2015 have the potential to significantly impact effective tax rate planning. The immediate issue flows from the new country-by-country transfer pricing documentation regime (CbC). The critical consequence of the CbC regime, as well as many of the other BEPS initiatives, will be an inevitably heightened focus of tax authorities on testing locally reported transfer pricing results on a profit split basis.

Read the full article here.

 

Just over a month has now passed since the referendum in which the United Kingdom voted narrowly to leave the European Union: an event which some have characterized as the greatest potential shock to the UK economy since the Second World War. For most multinational groups considering the potential consequences of Brexit on their tax position, however, the best advice is probably the same as that provided by the famous wartime poster: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

While much remains to be resolved about the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, what has become clear is that it will not happen quickly. The Government has stated that it will not serve formal notice of its intention to leave the European Union before the New Year, which will start a period of negotiation that, under the European Union Treaty, is anticipated to take two years. The United Kingdom is thus likely to remain an EU member state until at least 2019.

Brexit will almost certainly result in some changes to the United Kingdom’s tax landscape, and these may well cause complications for some multinationals.

Read the full article here.

The ABA recently issued comments to the IRS and Treasury regarding the new temporary regulations issued in TD 9738 concerning the aggregation of controlled transactions, under Section 482, which broaden (“clarify”) the scope of intangible value, to include “all the value provided” from a controlled transaction, and such other transactions that may occur before, during or after, that are so interrelated, as to require aggregate consideration. See attached. While the IRS does not explicitly mention goodwill or going concern—except by reference in one example—the regulations are intended to sweep in the consideration of any goodwill, including synergy, value that may relate to such transactions.

Given the inherent difficulty, and the persistent controversy, as exhibited in the past (i.e., the Veritas and Amazon cases) and as certainly more is yet to come (BEPS) in attempting to determine the value of intangibles generally, let alone goodwill, for the sake of good tax administration, the IRS would do well to provide more concrete/ explicit definitions, or at least boundaries, as to what or when this “extra” value may, or may not, be likely to apply.

This broader scope of consideration is now likely to make it easier for the IRS to recast transactions on economic substance or realistic alternatives grounds, leading to more controversy and disputes, not just with taxpayers, but with foreign governments as well.

Country-by Country (CbC) reporting is on the horizon for large US multi-national enterprises (MNE).  As part of the broader Base Erosion Profit Shifting (BEPS) project undertaken by the Group of 20 (G20) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States will soon require the parent entity of large US MNE groups to file with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a new annual report that requires information regarding income earned and taxes paid by the group on a country-by-country basis.  The new reporting requirements would generally apply to US MNE groups with annual revenues of $850 million or more.

Late last December, Treasury published proposed regulations detailing the future reporting process.  Recently, Robert Stack, Treasury deputy assistant secretary (international tax affairs) indicated that Treasury anticipates issuing final regulations by June 30, 2016, which would be effective for US MNEs with tax years beginning after that date. (Stack’s comments are available at Tax Notes, here and here.)  Because the US reporting requirements will go into effect in the middle of 2016, some US MNE groups have expressed concern that other tax jurisdictions may require subsidiaries to file CbC reports.

Both Treasury and the IRS believe that CbC reporting will assist in better enforcement of the US tax laws, though there is some concern that information collected may be too readily shared with other tax jurisdictions that may not safeguard such information as carefully as the United States.  Indeed, the Preamble to the new CbC reporting regulations states that CbC reports filed with the IRS may be exchanged with other reciprocating tax jurisdictions in which the US MNE group has operations, and Treasury expects that the competent authority will enter into competent authority agreements for the automatic exchange of CbC reports under the authority of information agreements to which the US is a party.  The Preamble also provides that information exchanged may not be disclosed or used for non-tax purposes.

Mr. Stack recently affirmed the priority of the confidentiality of information gathered through CbC reporting, stating that the United States would have the right to stop sharing information if the other tax jurisdiction were to disclose it.  The issue of confidentiality of CbC reporting was recently highlighted by efforts in the European Union to provide for the public disclosure of CbC reporting.