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2016 Model Treaty – Special Tax Regimes

On February 17, 2016, the Treasury Department released its 2016 Model Treaty. The model serves as the baseline from which the U.S. initiates treaty negotiations. Various provisions are discussed in detail in this month’s Insights.

A new provision of the 2016 Model Treaty attacks special tax regimes. Treaty benefits are denied for payments to connected persons who benefit from such provisions. Patent box regimes and regimes that allow for notional interest deductions are specifically targeted. Christine Long and Stanley C. Ruchelman explain.

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2016 Model Treaty – Introduction

On February 17, 2016, the Treasury Department released its 2016 Model Treaty. The model serves as the baseline from which the U.S. initiates treaty negotiations. Various provisions are discussed in detail in this month’s Insights.  

Stanley C. Ruchelman examines several provisions, pointing out various areas of super-complexity that are encountered in the 2016 Model Treaty in order to prevent double non-taxation. This shift in policy is a byproduct of the O.E.C.D.’s B.E.P.S. initiative.

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U.S. Treasury Announces New U.S. Model Income Tax Treaty

On February 17, 2016, the Treasury Department released its 2016 Model Treaty. The model serves as the baseline from which the U.S. initiates treaty negotiations. Various provisions are discussed in detail in this month’s Insights.

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S.T.A.R.S. Transactions – Interest Deduction Allowed but Foreign Tax Credit Disallowed

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In a partial reversal of the I.R.S. position, a U.S. financial institution was allowed to deduct interest expense on borrowings that formed part of a S.T.A.R.S. transaction in Salem Financial, Inc. v. United States. While the Appeals Cout held that the taxpayer could not claim foreign tax credits for the U.K. taxes paid pursuant to the S.T.A.R.S. transaction, it allowed deductions for interest paid on a loan.

Branch Banking & Trust Corporation (“BB&T”), a North Carolina financial holding company, and Barclays Bank PLC (“Barclays”), a U.K. bank were the participants in a financial product transaction BB&T entered into a structured trust advantaged repackaged securities (“S.T.A.R.S.”) transaction with Barclays from August 2002 through April 2007. Generally, the economic benefit of a S.T.A.R.S. transaction is to increase yields on investments by affixing an interest expense deduction and a double dip of foreign tax credits to the total return of the investor. Barclays invented the S.T.A.R.S. transaction structure along with the international accounting firm based in the U.K., KPMG L.L.P.

Action Item 6: Attacking Treaty Shopping

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BACKGROUND

Action Item 6 addresses abuse of treaties, particularly focusing on treaty shopping as one of the most important sources of B.E.P.S. The approach adopted amends the O.E.C.D. Model Convention that borrows from the U.S.'s approach to treaties but expands upon it in a way that can be very helpful to the U.S. and other developed countries if adopted by the C.F.E. next year in their final report. Among other measures, the report recommends inclusion of a Limitation on Benefits (“L.O.B.”) provision and a general anti-avoidance rule called the Principal Purpose Test (“P.P.T.”) to be included in the O.E.C.D. Model Convention. While it is expected the report will be finalized next year, whether countries will adopt the recommendations is the crucial factor that is still unclear.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The key recommendations can be found in Paragraph 14. It contains two basic recommendations:

  • Countries should agree to include in the tax treaties an express statement of the common intention to eliminate double taxation without creating opportunities for non-taxation or reduced taxation through tax evasion or avoidance through use of treaties.
  • Countries should demonstrate their commitment to this goal by adopting an L.O.B. provision and a P.P.T. provision in income tax treaties.

The report also notes that special rules may be needed to address application of these rules to collective investment funds (“C.I.F.’s”). The provision should be supplemented by a mechanism that would deal with conduit arrangements not currently dealt with in tax treaties.