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Insights Vol. 4 No. 10: Updates & Other Tidbits

Insights Vol. 4 No. 10: Updates & Other Tidbits

This month, Sheryl Shah, Neha Rastogi, and Nina Krauthamer look briefly at certain timely issues: (i) Swiss nexus requirements to be eligible for treaty benefits, (ii) the impact of technology tax reporting and information sharing, (iii) an I.R.S. pilot program expanding the scope of letter rulings to Code §355 stock and security distributions, and (iv) recent application of the 2016 anti-inversion regulations issued by the Obama Administration under Code §7874.

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O.E.C.D. Receives Public Comments on Proposed Changes to the Model Tax Convention

O.E.C.D. Receives Public Comments on Proposed Changes to the Model Tax Convention

In August, the O.E.C.D. released public comments on proposed changes to the Model Tax Convention.  Beate Erwin and Stanley C. Ruchelman examines the suggestions received by the O.E.C.D. and provides observations on the interplay between the O.E.C.D. proposed changes and existing U.S. approaches to these issues.  Areas covered include whether competent authority agreements can define undefined terms thereby removing the interpretation from local courts, whether a limitation on benefits (“L.O.B.”) clause or a principle purpose test (“P.P.T.”) is the better approach to limit treaty shopping, and whether a home that is leased to others can be a permanent home for purposes of applying the residence tiebreaker provision in a treaty. 

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The 2016 U.S. Model Income Tax Treaty

The 2016 U.S. Model Income Tax Treaty

On February 17, 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department released its 2016 Model Treaty. This month, as we reminisce on the best of 2016, we review significant revisions to the baseline text from which the U.S. initiates treaty negotiations.

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2016 Model Treaty – Limitation on Benefits Revisions

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.

Those who thought that the limitation on benefits (“L.O.B.”) provision under the U.S.-Netherlands Income Tax Treaty was complex will find that the level of complexity in the 2016 Model Treaty has been raised several levels. Some taxpayers will be losers and others will be winners. Philip R. Hirschfeld and Galia Antebi explain how the revised provision will work.

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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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Can B.E.P.S. Survive Without U.S. Support?

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On May 28, 2015, the O.E.C.D. announced the countries that will participate in a meeting to begin substantive work on drafting a multilateral instrument under B.E.P.S. Action 15. Currently, more than 83 countries have expressed interest in joining the discussion, which will take place on November 5 and 6, 2015. The United States was noticeably absent from the list. However, the O.E.C.D. hopes that support will continue to grow in the intervening months and that the meeting may ultimately include as many as 100 countries.

The U.S. Treasury chose not to participate in negotiating a multilateral instrument under B.E.P.S. Action 15. After a careful review of the agenda for the discussion on the multilateral instrument, the U.S. Teasury felt that participation did not seem like a good use of its scarce resources. This decision was prompted by the question, “What is there for U.S. to gain by participating in the discussions?”

Follow-Up Draft of Report on Action 6 (Treaty Abuse) and Public Comments Released

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Comments on the O.E.C.D.’s public discussion draft to the follow-up work on B.E.P.S. Action 6 (the “Follow-Up Draft”) were released on January 12, 2015. Action 6 of the B.E.P.S. Action Plan focuses on preventing treaty abuse and treaty shopping, which the O.E.C.D. has identified as being one of the most important sources of B.E.P.S. concerns.

The Follow-Up Draft modifies the “Report on Action 6 (Prevent the granting of treaty benefits in appropriate circumstances)” and identifies 20 issues on which interested parties may provide comments. It focuses on matters related to the application of the limitation on benefits (“L.O.B.”) rule and principal purpose test (“P.P.T.”) as well as the treaty entitlement of collective investment vehicles (“C.I.V.’s”) and non-C.I.V. funds. The 20 issues identified by the Follow-Up Draft and addressed in the comments are as follows:

Issues Related to the L.O.B. Provision

  • C.I.V.’s: application of the L.O.B. and treaty entitlement,
  • Non-C.I.V. funds: application of the L.O.B. and treaty entitlement,
  • Commentary on the discretionary relief provision of the L.O.B. rule,
  • Alternative L.O.B. provisions for E.U. countries,
  • Requirement that each intermediate owner be a resident of either Contracting State,
  • Issues related to the derivative benefit provision,
  • Provisions dealing with “dual-listed company arrangements,”
  • Timing issues related to the various provisions of the L.O.B. rule,
  • Conditions for the application of the provision on publicly-listed entities, and
  • Clarification of the “active business” provision.

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.

Tax 101: Tax Planning and Compliance for Foreign Businesses with U.S. Activity

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I. INTRODUCTION

The U.S. tax laws affecting foreign businesses with activity in the U.S. contain some of the more complex provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. Examples include:

  • Effectively connected income,
  • Allocation of expenses to that income,
  • Income tax treaties,
  • Arm’s length transfer pricing rules,
  • Permanent establishments under income tax treaties,
  • Limitation on benefits provisions in income tax treaties that are designed to prevent “treaty shopping,”
  • State tax apportionment,
  • F.I.R.P.T.A. withholding tax for transactions categorized as real property transfers,
  • Fixed and determinable annual and periodical income, and
  • Interest on items of portfolio debt.

One can imagine that it is no easy task to identify income that is subject to tax, to identify the tax regime applicable to the income, and to quantify gross income, net income, and income subject to withholding tax. Nonetheless, the I.R.S. has identified withholding tax obligations of U.S. payers as a Tier I audit issue.