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O.E.C.D. Discussion Drafts Issued Regarding B.E.P.S. Action 2 - Neutralizing the Effects of Hybrid Mismatch Arrangements

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On March 19, 2014, the O.E.C.D. issued two discussion drafts proposing steps to neutralize abusive tax planning through hybrid mismatch arrangements. One report proposed changes in domestic law; the second proposed changes to the O.E.C.D. Model Tax Convention.

The discussion drafts reflect the O.E.C.D.’s attempt to bring “zero-sum game” concepts to global tax planning. In a zero-sum game, transactions between two or more parties must always equal zero (i.e., if one party to a transaction recognizes positive income of “X” and pays tax on that amount, the other party or parties generally must recognize negative income of the same amount, thereby reducing tax to the extent permitted under law). Seen from the viewpoint of the government, tax revenue is neither increased nor decreased on a macro basis if timing differences are disregarded.

If all transactions are conducted within one jurisdiction, the government is the ultimate decision maker as to the exceptions to the zero-sum analysis. For policy reasons, a government may decide to make an exception to a zero-sum game result by allowing the party reporting positive income to be taxed at preferential rates or not at all, while allowing the party reporting negative income to fully deduct its payment. But, when transactions cross borders and involve related parties, taxpayers have a say in what is taxed and what is not taxed.