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Transfer Pricing Litigation from A to Z

A number of transfer pricing cases, many with potentially significant precedent value and tax provision consequences, are either at trial or proceeding to trial. Michael Peggs and Cheryl Magat comment on two of the major cases on the Tax Court Docket, Altera and Zimmer. Those who think arm’s length means “do what others do” will be surprised.

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Insights Vol. 2 No. 1: Updates & Other Tidbits

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TAX EVASION INDIAN STYLE: CRIMINAL OR CIVIL OFFENSE?

Judicial authorities in India are recommending that the country adopt a similar position as the United States with respect to offshore bank accounts. While investigating the “black money” held in undeclared Swiss bank accounts by 628 wealthy Indians, two of the judges recommended that tax evasion should constitute a criminal offense and not simply a civil one.

The scandal has been at the forefront of both political discussion and legal debate since there is a fine line that is being straddled between disclosing and punishing these tax evaders versus violating the confidentiality clause from the Indian-Swiss tax treaty. According to the treaty, these account names can only be revealed once charges identifying the specific individual have been filed.

In India, “black money” has always been an obstacle to tax collection. Black money constitutes undeclared income that has been “hidden,” profits from the undervaluation of exports, and earnings from fake invoices or unaccounted-for goods. Black money not only affects the national treasury, but has fueled corruption, too. According to the judges, classifying tax evasion as a criminal offense, and dealing with these lawbreakers more strictly should serve as a deterrent.

HAND IT OVER, MICROSOFT?

In conjunction with its audit of Microsoft’s cost-sharing transfer pricing methods for the 2004-2006 tax years, the I.R.S. has filed a petition for enforcement of an issued summons for 50 types of documents, including those relating to marketing, R&D, financial projections, revenue targets, employees, studies, and surveys.

Insights Vol. 1 No. 11: Updates & Other Tidbits

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B.E.P.S. PROJECT FACES CHALLENGE IN ADDRESSING C.F.C. RULES

The O.E.C.D.’s pending base erosion and profit shifting action plan is due to face a significant challenge as to how to address controlled foreign corporations. Action 3, which strengthens C.F.C. rules, is set to be released in 2015. Currently, European case law restricts the scope of E.U. members establishing C.F.C. regimes.

Stephen E. Shay of Harvard Law School says the U.S. is encouraging the expansion of the C.F.C. rules as a way to solve several of the issues the B.E.P.S. action plan is trying to address, however, these new rules run the risk of being contrary to E.U. jurisprudence. The E.U.’s ability to adopt stringent C.F.C. rules is limited by the Cadbury Schweppes (C-196/04), a 2006 ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Court held that E.U. freedom of establishment provisions preclude the U.K. C.F.C. regime unless the regime “relates only to wholly artificial arrangements intended to escape the national tax normally payable.”

Without resolving the issue among E.U. countries, Action 3 may not be effective in appropriately addressing earnings stripping. However, Shay also added that Action 2, which neutralizes the effects of hybrid mismatch arrangements, so far appears to include an approach that works without C.F.C. rules.

CHARGES LAID AGAINST U.S. CITIZEN FOR MAINTAINING ALLEGED SECRET SWISS BANK ACCOUNTS

Department of Justice announced that charges have been laid against Peter Canale, a U.S. citizen and resident of Kentucky, for conspiring to defraud the I.R.S., evade taxes, and file a false individual income tax return. It is alleged that Canale conspired with his brother and two Swiss citizens to establish and maintain secret, undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland.

In approximately the year 2000, a relative of Canale died and left a substantial portion of assets which were held in an undeclared Swiss bank account to Canale and his brother, Michael. The brothers met with two Swiss citizens, who agreed to continue to maintain the assets in the undeclared account for the benefit of the Canales.

Insights Vol. 1 No. 10: Updates & Other Tidbits

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ISRAEL ANNOUNCES ADOPTION OF O.E.C.D.’S COMMON REPORTING STANDARD

Israel has announced that it will adopt the Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information: Common Reporting Standard (“C.R.S.”) issued by the O.E.C.D. in February 2013.

The C.R.S. establishes a standardized form that banks and other financial institutions would be required to use in gathering account and transaction information for submission to domestic tax authorities. The information would be provided to domestic authorities on an annual basis for automatic exchange with other participating jurisdictions. The C.R.S. will focus on accounts and transactions of residents of a specific country, regardless of nationality. The C.R.S. also contains the due diligence and reporting procedures to be followed by financial institutions based on a Model 1 F.A.T.C.A. intergovernmental agreement (“I.G.A.”).

At the conclusion of the October 28-29 O.E.C.D. Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, about 50 jurisdictions had signed the document. The U.S. was notably absent as a signatory to the agreement. In addition to the C.R.S., the signed agreement contains a model competent authority agreement for jurisdictions that would like to participate at a later stage.

Action Item 15: Developing a Multilateral Instrument to Modify Bilateral Tax Treaties

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AN EXERCISE IN “POINT/COUNTERPOINT”

Implementation of many of the B.E.P.S. Action Items would require amending or otherwise modifying international tax treaties. According to the O.E.C.D., the sheer number of bilateral tax treaties makes updating the current treaty network highly burdensome. Therefore, B.E.P.S. Action Item 15 recommends the development of a multilateral instrument (“M.L.I.”) to enable countries to easily implement measures developed through the B.E.P.S. initiative and to amend existing treaties. Without a mechanism for swift implementation of the Action Items, changes to model tax conventions merely widen the gap between the content of the models and the content of actual tax treaties.

Discussion of Action Item 15 has centered on the following issues:

  • Whether an M.L.I. is necessary,
  • Whether an M.L.I. is feasible, and
  • Whether an M.L.I. is legal.

In the spirit of these ongoing discussions concerning Action Item 15, we offer our commentary in a “point/counterpoint” format.