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It’s Time for Cayman Shell Entities to Come Out of Their Shells and Show Economic Substance

It’s Time for Cayman Shell Entities to Come Out of Their Shells and Show Economic Substance

·       It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  The same can be said about economic substance.  In a step to adopt a standardized definition in the context of business arrangements that are typical for Cayman Islands companies, the country enacted the International Tax Cooperation (Economic Substance) Law, 2018 (“E.S. Law”) on December 27, 2018, and issued supplemental guidance on February 22, 2019.  Neha Rastogi and Galia Antebi address relevant aspects of the new rules, including (i) entities that fall within the ambit of the E.S. Law, (ii) entities that are exempt, (iii) identified business activities under the E.S. Law, and (iv) steps that may be taken to meet the economic substance test.

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Insights Vol. 6 No. 1: Updates & Other Tidbits

Insights Vol. 6 No. 1: Updates & Other Tidbits

This month, Rusudan Shervashidze and Stanley C. Ruchelman look at several interesting items, including (i) the publication of draft legislation by the Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey, and Isle of Man calling for the existence of economic substance for resident companies engaged in certain businesses and defining what that means, (ii) the denial of benefits incident to foreign earned income for a military contractor in Afghanistan who maintained a place of abode in the U.S., (iii) an increase in fees charged by the I.R.S. to issue residency certificates, (iv) the establishment of a working group to combat transnational tax crime through increased enforcement collaboration among tax authorities in several countries, and (v) changes to China’s residency rules and the sharing of taxpayer financial information under C.R.S. 

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The Economic Substance Doctrine: A U.S. Anti-Abuse Rule

The Economic Substance Doctrine: A U.S. Anti-Abuse Rule

While the O.E.C.D. and the European Commission have only recently discovered the “principal purpose” test as a tool to combat aggressive tax planning, U.S. case law has enforced an economic substance rule for over 85 years and that rule was codified in 2010.  Fanny Karaman, Neha Rastogi, and Stanley C. Ruchelman explain the hurdles that must be achieved in order for a plan to have economic substance.

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S.T.A.R.S. Transactions – Jury Is In, Foreign Tax Credit Disallowed

S.T.A.R.S. Transactions – Jury Is In, Foreign Tax Credit Disallowed

As a litigation strategy, a large corporation that is important to a community may decide that it is better to pay the tax and demand a jury trial in U.S. District Court as part of its claim for refund, rather than to defer payment while it argues the case before the Tax Court. The basic theory is that the jury will not be sympathetic towards the I.R.S. In a recent jury trial involving Wells Fargo, it found that the strategy did not work when the issue involved a tax shelter knows as a S.T.A.R.S. (structured trust advantaged repackaged securities) transaction. Rusudan Shervashidze and Galia Antebi explain.

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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.

U.K. Implements 25% “Google Tax” on Diverted Profits

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The U.K. has implemented the controversial diverted profits tax on the profits of multinational companies that are “artificially diverted” from activity within the country. This 25% levy became effective on profits arising on or after April 1, 2015. At this point, it is unclear whether the outcome of the Parliamentary election on May 7 will impact the enforcement of the diverted profits tax, which was enacted without thorough examination by Parliament.

U.K. officials claim multinational corporations are manipulating the tax system and have imposed the 25% levy to prevent companies from avoiding a taxable presence in the U.K. This corporate diversions tax is aimed at entities that transfer profits to lower tax jurisdictions, away from the U.K. The diverted profits tax is being called the “Google tax” because it addresses the practices of well-known international entities such as Google Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and Starbucks Corp. that have used the U.K.’s permanent establishment and economic substance rules to craft tax advantages within the bounds of the law. Legislators have held hearings within the last year on how these three companies in particular have been able to generate billions of dollars in revenue in the U.K. but report little or no taxable profits.

The U.K. tax authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (“H.M.R.C.”), introduced a draft of the diverted profits tax last fall and quickly implemented the legislation ahead of the May 7 election. There is great concern about the legislation’s complexity and that its hasty enactment will only result in future revisions, which will further complicate the matter. On the whole, the government is targeting transactions that it does not favor even though they are legal, and the tax itself is being criticized for undermining the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project executed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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.

Economic Substance Around the World

Joint Meeting of the American Bar Association – Section of Taxation: May 2004.

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