Tax Evasion

Rapports sur les politiques en matière de coopération fiscale 17, Juillet 2021

Un albatros autour du cou des pays en développement – Clause NPF dans les conventions fiscales

Par Deepak Kapoor, IRS

L’inclusion dans les conventions en matière de double imposition d’une clause de la nation la plus favorisée (« NPF ») est une incarnation du principe fondamental de la non-discrimination et vise à permettre aux pays signataires de tirer également parti des perspectives en matière de commerce et d’investissement. L’objectif de dispositions telles que les clauses NPF et de non-discrimination dans les conventions fiscales est de favoriser l’équité entre les différents pays signataires. Dans les conventions fiscales conclues entre pays développés et pays en développement, les clauses NPF servent également d’outils de négociation pour obtenir de meilleurs taux d’imposition.

Cependant ces clauses ont aujourd’hui des effets négatifs pour les pays de source des revenus, qui sont pour la plupart des pays en développement. Lorsqu’elles sont appliquées entre deux pays également développés, les clauses NPF ne constituent pas, généralement, une source de danger potentielle, mais lorsque la convention est conclue entre un pays développé et un pays en développement, où l’un des pays reçoit plus d’investissements de l’autre qu’il n’en réalise, le danger est réel. De fait, des difficultés sont apparues récemment en raison d’interprétations divergentes de ces clauses par les tribunaux, qui ont contraint les pays source à appliquer, sur la base des termes contenus dans la clause NPF, un taux d’imposition plus avantageux que celui prévu dans la convention fiscale et à modifier son champ d’application, remettant en cause l’objectif et l’utilité même des clauses NPF.

Il ressort des procédures judiciaires intentées en Afrique du Sud et en Inde que les clauses NPF peuvent aboutir à une réduction de la fiscalité et entrainer une érosion involontaire de la base d’imposition des pays de source des revenus. Le problème réside également dans la rédaction et la formulation ambiguë des clauses NPF, qui entrainent des répercussions négatives inattendues pour les pays ayant pris des engagements dans le cadre de ces conventions. Il est aujourd’hui urgent pour les pays source de procéder à un examen approfondi des clauses NPF figurant dans les conventions fiscales existantes, de la manière dont elles s’articulent entre elles et des retombées négatives qu’elles pourraient avoir sur  d’autres conventions.

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SouthViews No. 230, 25 November 2021

The Place of Multilateralism in Tax Reforms: Exclusionary Outcomes of a Purported Inclusive Framework

By Alexander Ezenagu

Countries have come to accept the wide application of international tax rules in both their domestic and international tax affairs. However, where international tax rules fall short of the legitimate expectations of countries and fail to provide necessary guidance, countries may be compelled to seek other sources of guidance. In this paper, it is argued that in the absence and failure of international tax rules to provide adequate guidance and encourage a fair tax system, countries should not be prohibited from exercising their fiscal sovereignty.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 18, September 2021

Combatting Tax Treaty Abuse: Tools available under the BEPS Multilateral Instrument

 By Kuldeep Sharma, ADIT (CIOT,UK)

The anxiety of taxpayers, consultants and advisors over the consistent application of Principal Purpose Test (PPT) provisions in tax treaties can now be put to rest as tax authorities are expected to consistently read the PPT provisions in conjunction with the preamble, i.e. the key to application of PPT provisions lies in the preamble of the treaty itself. This follows on taking a leaf out of the Preamble to the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (MLI), Vienna Convention, Commentaries on PPT in the respective Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and United Nations (UN) Model Tax Convention (MTC), 2017 and Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) instructions on PPT which abundantly highlight on conjoint application of the preamble in the course of invocation of PPT provisions. Now, the entire focus of extending treaty benefits has shifted to undertaking bonafide transactions and preventing double taxation as against a tendency of securing tax savings through tax avoidance. Therefore, PPT as read with the preamble can clearly be invoked to combat treaty-shopping arrangements, abusive tax planning and abusive tax avoidance arrangements or transactions. At the same time, tax authorities in any part of the world may not be inclined to invoke PPT as read with the preamble in respect of any arrangement or transaction when taxpayers are able to discharge their onus establishing that (below mentioned conditions to be satisfied in tandem):

– genuine business and commercial reasons for a transaction exist;

– a purpose for the transaction cannot be ascribed to non-taxation or reduced taxation through tax evasion or tax avoidance;

– despite no tax advantages, the transaction would be carried out exactly in the same way; and

– it cannot reasonably be considered that one of the principal purposes of the arrangement or transaction is to obtain treaty benefits and that the object and purpose of the treaty is getting defeated.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 17, July 2021

An Albatross Around the Neck of Developing Nations – MFN Clause in Tax Treaties

By Deepak Kapoor, IRS

The Most Favoured Nation (“MFN”) clause in double taxation avoidance conventions epitomises the basic principle of non-discrimination and intends to bring parity in business and investment opportunities among treaty partner countries and jurisdictions. Inclusion of provisions like MFN and non-discrimination clauses in tax treaties are intended to promote equity among treaty partners. In the context of tax treaties between developed and developing countries, the MFN clauses also act as negotiating tools to bargain for better treaty tax rates.

However, lately these clauses have started demonstrating disadvantageous effects for the source countries, which are mostly developing countries. The MFN clauses generally do not appear to be creating potential risks if they are operational between two equally developed countries but when the relationship is between a developed and developing country, where one partner receives more investments from the other than it makes, such risks are inevitable. Lately, problems have started arising due to various interpretations of the MFN clauses by the courts forcing the source countries to extend benefits of reduced rates and restricted scope to treaty partner countries under the MFN rules. Such beneficial interpretations have gone beyond the basic objective and purpose of the MFN clauses.

In light of recent court cases in South Africa and India, it appears that the MFN clauses are creating opportunities for “reduced taxation” and leading to unintended erosion of tax base of source countries. The problem also lies with the ambiguous drafting and formulations of the MFN clauses, which eventually leads to unexpected negative outcomes for countries who have bound themselves with the future commitments. Therefore, a comprehensive review of existing MFN clauses in tax treaties, their cross connections and possible negative spill over effects to other treaties is the urgent need of the hour for the source jurisdictions.

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SouthViews No. 219, 31 May 2021

Opportunities and Challenges: Tax Cooperation and Governance for Asia-Pacific Countries

 By Sakshi Rai

An informal technical meeting was organised on April 8th 2021 by the Secretariat of the High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (FACTI Panel) for tax officials from the Asia-Pacific, to discuss the relevance of the Panel’s recommendations in the context of the region as well as to familiarise tax officials with its final report.

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