OECD – ITALY’S TAX ADMINISTRATION. A Review of Institutional and Governance Aspects. 1. Italy is currently undertaking a series of critically important reforms to improve its long-term growth prospects. The current Government has set out its ambitious reform agenda across many policy areas including education, civil justice, public administration and taxation. Certain reforms have already been made, others are under way and more are in the pipeline. Expectations of effective and decisive government actions are high, in particular regarding the tax system. 2. In this context, and following a request of the Italian Minister of Economy and Finance Pier Carlo Padoan, the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration has carried out a review of the organisational structure and institutional arrangements of Italy’s tax administration, with a focus on the Agenzia delle Entrate (the Revenue Agency) and the Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (the Customs Agency). The review also highlights certain critical issues related to tax compliance and collection which emerged in the course of the work. 3. Several meetings were held with the Italian authorities, namely the Minister of Economy and Finance and the heads and senior managers of the Italian institutions involved in tax administration. Meetings were also held with labour unions, stakeholders and experts in tax matters, including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and their consultants, to gather a broad range of views on Italy’s tax administration (see Annex A for the list of authorities, stakeholders and experts met). 4. A draft of this report was provided to the Italian authorities in January 2016 to check the factual descriptions’ accuracy and finalised shortly afterwards.
OECD ECONOMIC POLICY PAPER N. 16 – THE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF BREXIT: A TAXING DECISION. The Economic Consequences of Brexit: A Taxing Decision Membership of the European Union has contributed to the economic prosperity of the United Kingdom. Uncertainty about the outcome of the referendum has already started to weaken growth in the United Kingdom. A UK exit (Brexit) would be a major negative shock to the UK economy, with economic fallout in the rest of the OECD, particularly other European countries. In some respects, Brexit would be akin to a tax on GDP, imposing a persistent and rising cost on the economy that would not be incurred if the UK remained in the EU. The shock would be transmitted through several channels that would change depending on the time horizon. In the near term, the UK economy would be hit by tighter financial conditions and weaker confidence and, after formal exit from the European Union, higher trade barriers and an early impact of restrictions on labour mobility. By 2020, GDP would be over 3% smaller than otherwise (with continued EU membership), equivalent to a cost per household of GBP 2200 (in today’s prices). In the longer term, structural impacts would take hold through the channels of capital, immigration and lower technical progress. In particular, labour productivity would be held back by a drop in foreign direct investment and a smaller pool of skills. The extent of foregone GDP would increase over time. By 2030, in a central scenario GDP would be over 5% lower than otherwise – with the cost of Brexit equivalent to GBP 3200 per household (in today’s prices). The effects would be larger in a more pessimistic scenario and remain negative even in the optimistic scenario. Brexit would also hold back GDP in other European economies, particularly in the near term resulting from heightened uncertainty would create about the future of Europe. In contrast, continued UK membership in the European Union and further reforms of the Single Market would enhance living standards on both sides of the Channel. April 2016.
SIMPLIFIED REGISTRATION AND COLLECTION MECHANISMS FOR TAXPAYERS THAT ARE NOT LOCATED IN THE JURISDICTION OF TAXATION. A REVIEW AND ASSESSMENT. This paper discusses how the key challenge for jurisdictions seeking to exercise their taxing rights over taxpayers that are not located in the jurisdiction of taxation can be addressed by the use of simplified registration and collection mechanisms. The problem considered by this report – how to collect tax from taxpayers that are not located in the jurisdiction of taxation – is a problem encountered by any tax regime where the jurisdiction asserts taxing rights over a tax base but this jurisdiction has limited power to compel the taxpayer to remit the tax. Although the experience of jurisdictions in addressing this problem has involved primarily consumption taxes, in particular value added taxes (VAT) and retail sales taxes (RST), that experience (and the lessons that can be learned from it) is applicable as well to other tax regimes, whether involving direct or indirect taxes, that confront the same problem. This paper considers two principal approaches to addressing the problem: · Jurisdictions may seek to enlist some other participant involved in the transaction or activity that generates the tax base over which it asserts taxing rights, and over whom it does have enforcement authority to collect the tax or otherwise satisfy the taxpayer’s compliance obligation (e.g., withholding taxes). To this regard, it is shown that, although customers and intermediaries can, in some circumstances, play an important role in the collection of the tax (for example the business customer located in the taxing jurisdiction in the context of a business-to-business transaction or e-commerce marketplaces in the context of business-to-final consumer digital sales), they may be much less efficient in other contexts. Indeed, according to the OECD work (the International VAT/GST Guidelines and the BEPS Action 1 Report Addressing the Challenges of the Digital Economy), customer collection is generally regarded as an inappropriate approach to indirect tax collection in the business-to-consumer (B2C) context given its low level of compliance and its associated costs of enforcement. For analogous reasons, it is also generally recognised that withholding taxes (for example on payment as part of options to address the broader direct tax challenges of the digital economy) are not an effective mechanism for tax collection in the B2C context. · As an alternative, jurisdictions may adopt a taxpayer registration and collection mechanism, and, in light of the absence of enforcement authority over the taxpayer, may seek to make compliance sufficiently easy or attractive to induce taxpayers to comply with their tax obligations. The paper then reviews the simplified registration and collection regimes that jurisdictions have implemented or are about to implement. It is generally recognised that this alternative is more appropriate in the B2C context. Many jurisdictions have implemented (and are in the process of implementing) simplified registration and collection regimes in the B2C context for taxpayers that are not located in the jurisdiction of taxation in the VAT and RST area. Although the evidence regarding the performance of the simplified regimes adopted by jurisdictions is still quite limited, because these regimes generally have only become operational on a widespread basis recently, the best available evidence shows that these simplified regimes work well in practice. According to the most significant experience i.e. the experience in the European Union, a high level of compliance can be achieved and substantial levels of revenue can be collected since there is a concentration of the overwhelming proportion of the revenues at stake in a relatively small proportion of large businesses and since the compliance burden has been reduced as far as possible. Against that background, it is highly likely that an even greater number of jurisdictions will embrace simplified collection regimes in the future, especially in light of the growth of the digital economy and more particularly, B2C digital transactions1 . In the VAT area, simplified registration and collection mechanisms issues are dealt with in the International VAT/GST Guidelines and the Report on Mechanisms for the Effective Collection of VAT/GST. This paper also notes that compliance costs for small and micro-businesses can be relatively high compared to the proportion of revenues collected from such businesses and that the adoption of thresholds may be an appropriate solution to avoid imposing such a disproportionate administrative burden in light of the relatively modest amount of revenues at stake. It also points out that a good communications strategy is essential to the success of a simplified regime (including appropriate lead-time for implementation). The exchange of information and international administrative co-operation should also play a significant role in both encouraging taxpayers to comply and detecting non-compliance. (OECD, 2018, Walter Hellerstein, Stéphane Buydens, Dimitra Koulour).
Countries have used recent tax reforms to lower taxes on businesses and individuals, with a view to boosting investment, consumption and labour market participation, continuing a trend that started a couple of years ago, according to a new report from the OECD.
OECD – COUNTRY-BY-COUNTRY REPORTING. HANDBOOK ON EFFECTIVE TAX RISK ASSESSMENT. Next year will be the first time that tax authorities around the world will receive information on large MNE groups with operations in their country, breaking down a group’s revenue, profits, tax and other attributes by tax jurisdiction. This information has never previously been available to tax authorities and represents a great opportunity for tax authorities to understand the structure of a group’s business in a way that has not been possible before. Country-by-Country Reporting (CbC Reporting) is one of the four minimum standards of the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project to which over 100 countries have committed, covering the tax residence jurisdictions of nearly all large MNE groups. And the pace of implementation of CbC Reporting is impressive. As of today, more than 55 jurisdictions have already implemented an obligation for relevant MNEs to file CbC Reports. Jurisdictions have also moved quickly to ensure that CbCRs can be exchanged between tax administrations. To date, 65 jurisdictions have signed the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement and some jurisdictions have entered into bilateral Competent Authority Agreements to operationalise the exchange of CbCRs with specific jurisdictions. With nine months to go until the first CbC Reports are exchanged, over 1 000 exchange relationships between pairs of jurisdictions have already been created.
OECD – INTERNATIONAL COMPLIANCE ASSURANCE PROGRAMME. PILOT HANDBOOK. WORKING DOCUMENT. Introduction to the ICAP pilot 1. The International Compliance Assurance Programme (ICAP) is a programme for a multilateral cooperative risk assessment and assurance process. It is designed to be a swift and coordinated approach to providing multinational groups (MNE groups) willing to engage actively, openly and in a fully transparent manner with increased tax certainty with respect to certain of their activities and transactions, while identifying areas requiring further attention. ICAP does not provide an MNE group with legal certainty as may be achieved, for example, through an advance pricing agreement, but gives assurance where tax administrations participating in the programme consider a risk to be low. 2. This handbook contains information on a pilot for ICAP, which commences in January 2018 including tax administrations from eight jurisdictions (the participating tax administrations): Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
OECD Economics Department Working Papers N. 1375: LOCAL TAXATION, LAND USE REGULATION, AND LAND USE. A SURVEY OF THE EVIDENCE. This paper surveys the theoretical and empirical research on the relationship between local taxation, land use regulation and land use patterns. The findings can be summarized as follows: 1) In more fiscally decentralized settings, sub-national land use regulation and fiscal policies encourage urban sprawl. In contrast, in more centralized settings, restrictive urban containment policies and a lack of local fiscal incentives for land development tend to generate housing shortages. 2) Certain fiscal instruments affect the type and composition of land development, e.g. the share of residential versus commercial development. Removing local fiscal incentives for certain property types reduces the amount of land allocated for that type and increases its price. 3) In more decentralized settings, local land use policies aimed at containing or modifying urban growth are ineffective since mobile individuals can circumvent local restrictions by sorting into nearby jurisdictions that offer the preferred combination of land consumption and public services. 4) Expanding transportation networks enables households and firms to move to suburban areas, prompting the central city population to shrink and encouraging sprawl, particularly near major highways. 5) In fiscally decentralized settings, sub-urbanization is associated with a growing political power of homeowners. Homeowners tend to get fiscal zoning policies enacted – mainly via minimum lot size restrictions – that selectively attract well-off local taxpayers. Fiscal zoning thus imposes barriers to local development and raises property values, while at the same time facilitating sprawl. Overall, fiscal policy and land use regulation strongly interact, and governments must align those policies carefully to achieve land-use objectives effectively.
This report focuses on aggressive tax planning (ATP) schemes based on after-tax hedging. In general terms, after-tax hedging consists of taking opposite positions for an amount which takes into account the tax treatment of the results from those positions (gains or losses) so that, on an after-tax basis, the risk associated with one position is neutralised by the results from the opposite position. While after-tax hedging is not, of itself, aggressive – being generally a straightforward risk management technique – the report recognises that it can also be used as a feature of ATP schemes. ATP schemes based on after-tax hedging pose a threat to countries’ revenue base: empirical evidence suggests that hundreds of millions of USD are at stake, with a number of multi-billion USD transactions identified by certain countries. ATP schemes based on after-tax hedging originated in the banking sector, but experience shows that they are also used in other industries and, in some instances, also by medium-sized enterprises, thus generating an even bigger threat to tax revenue. It is therefore important that governments are aware of arrangements that use hedging for ATP purposes. The Report follows on from the 2011 OECD Report Corporate Loss Utilisation through Aggressive Tax Planning which recommends countries analyse the policy and compliance implications of after-tax hedges in order to evaluate the appropriate options available to address them. It was prepared by the ATP Steering Group of Working Party No. 10 on Exchange of Information and Tax Compliance of the Committee on Fiscal Affairs (CFA). The report builds on a number of country submissions to the OECD Directory on Aggressive Tax Planning where several ATP schemes based on after-tax hedging have been posted. After having discussed in general terms the notion of hedging as a risk management tool and the effect of taxation on hedging transactions, the report describes the features of ATP schemes based on after-tax hedging that have been encountered by a number of countries. In those schemes, taxpayers use after-tax hedging to earn a premium return, without actually bearing the associated risks, which is in effect passed on to the government. In all of these schemes there is generally no pre-existing exposure to hedge against but rather the exposure is created as part of the relevant scheme. ATP schemes based on after-tax hedging exploit the disparate tax treatment between the results (gain or loss) from the hedged transaction/risk on the one hand, and the results (gain or loss) from the hedging instrument on the other. In some of these schemes, the tax treatment of gains and losses arising from each transaction is symmetrical, while in others the tax treatment is asymmetrical. Other schemes rely on similar building blocks and are often structured around asymmetric swaps or other derivatives. ATP schemes based on after-tax hedging can exploit differences in tax treatment within one tax system and are in that sense mostly a domestic law issue. Any country that taxes the results of a hedging instrument differently from the results of the hedged transaction/risk is potentially exposed. The issue of after-tax hedging also arises in a cross-border context with groups of companies operating across different tax systems, which gives rise to additional challenges for tax administrations.
OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project – PREVENTING THE GRANTING OF TREATY BENEFITS IN INAPPROPRIATE CIRCUMSTANCES
OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project – PREVENTING THE GRANTING OF TREATY BENEFITS IN INAPPROPRIATE CIRCUMSTANCES. ACTION 6: 2015 FINAL REPORT. Action 6 of the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project identifies treaty abuse, and in particular treaty shopping, as one of the most important sources of BEPS concerns. Taxpayers engaged in treaty shopping and other treaty abuse strategies undermine tax sovereignty by claiming treaty benefits in situations where these benefits were not intended to be granted, thereby depriving countries of tax revenues. Countries have therefore agreed to include anti-abuse provisions in their tax treaties, including a minimum standard to counter treaty shopping. They also agree that some flexibility in the implementation of the minimum standard is required as these provisions need to be adapted to each country’s specificities and to the circumstances of the negotiation of bilateral conventions. Section A of this report includes new treaty anti-abuse rules that provide safeguards against the abuse of treaty provisions and offer a certain degree of flexibility regarding how to do so. These new treaty anti-abuse rules first address treaty shopping, which involves strategies through which a person who is not a resident of a State attempts to obtain benefits that a tax treaty concluded by that State grants to residents of that State, for example by establishing a letterbox company in that State. The following approach is recommended to deal with these strategies: • First, a clear statement that the States that enter into a tax treaty intend to avoid creating opportunities for non-taxation or reduced taxation through tax evasion or avoidance, including through treaty shopping arrangements will be included in tax treaties (this recommendation is included in Section B of the report). • Second, a specific anti-abuse rule, the limitation-on-benefits (LOB) rule, that limits the availability of treaty benefits to entities that meet certain conditions will be included in the OECD Model Tax Convention. These conditions, which are based on the legal nature, ownership in, and general activities of the entity, seek to ensure that there is a sufficient link between the entity and its State of residence. Such limitation-on-benefits provisions are currently found in treaties concluded by a few countries and have proven to be effective in preventing many forms of treaty shopping strategies. • Third, in order to address other forms of treaty abuse, including treaty shopping situations that would not be covered by the LOB rule described above, a more general anti-abuse rule based on the principal purposes of transactions or arrangements (the principal purposes test or “PPT” rule) will be included in the OECD Model Tax Convention. Under that rule, if one of the principal purposes of transactions or arrangements is to obtain treaty benefits, these benefits would be denied unless it is established that granting these benefits would be in accordance with the object and purpose of the provisions of the treaty. The report recognises that each of the LOB and PPT rules has strengths and weaknesses and may not be appropriate for, or accord with the treaty policy of, all countries. Also, the domestic law of some countries may include provisions that make it unnecessary to combine these two rules to prevent treaty shopping. Given the risk to revenues posed by treaty shopping, countries have committed to ensure a minimum level of protection against treaty shopping (the “minimum standard”). That commitment will require countries to include in their tax treaties an express statement that their common intention is to eliminate double taxation without creating opportunities for non-taxation or reduced taxation through tax evasion or avoidance, including through treaty shopping arrangements. Countries will implement this common intention by including in their treaties: (i) the combined approach of an LOB and PPT rule described above, (ii) the PPT rule alone, or (iii) the LOB rule supplemented by a mechanism that would deal with conduit financing arrangements not already dealt with in tax treaties. Section A also includes new rules to be included in tax treaties in order to address other forms of treaty abuse. These targeted rules address (1) certain dividend transfer transactions that are intended to lower artificially withholding taxes payable on dividends; (2) transactions that circumvent the application of the treaty rule that allows source taxation of shares of companies that derive their value primarily from immovable property; (3) situations where an entity is resident of two Contracting States, and (4) situations where the State of residence exempts the income of permanent establishments situated in third States and where shares, debt-claims, rights or property are transferred to permanent establishments set up in countries that do not tax such income or offer preferential treatment to that income. The report recognises that the adoption of anti-abuse rules in tax treaties is not sufficient to address tax avoidance strategies that seek to circumvent provisions of domestic tax laws; these must be addressed through domestic anti-abuse rules, including through rules that will result from the work on other parts of the Action Plan. The report includes changes to the OECD Model Tax Convention aimed at ensuring that treaties do not inadvertently prevent the application of such domestic anti-abuse rules. This is done by expanding the parts of the Commentary of the OECD Model Tax Convention that already deal with this issue and by explaining that the inclusion of the PPT rule in treaties, which will incorporate the principle already included in the Commentary of the OECD Model Tax Convention, will provide a clear statement that the Contracting States intend to deny the application of the provisions of their treaties when transactions or arrangements are entered into in order to obtain the benefits of these provisions in inappropriate circumstances. The report also addresses two specific issues related to the interaction between treaties and domestic anti-abuse rules. The first issue relates to the application of tax treaties to restrict a Contracting State’s right to tax its own residents. A new rule will codify the principle that treaties do not restrict a State’s right to tax its own residents (subject to certain exceptions). The second issue deals with so-called “departure” or “exit” taxes, under which liability to tax on some types of income that has accrued for the benefit of a resident (whether an individual or a legal person) is triggered in the event that the resident ceases to be a resident of that State. Changes to the Commentary of the OECD Model Tax Convention will clarify that treaties do not prevent the application of these taxes. Section B of the report addresses the part of Action 6 that asked for clarification “that tax treaties are not intended to be used to generate double non-taxation”. This clarification is provided through a reformulation of the title and preamble of the Model Tax Convention that will clearly state that the joint intention of the parties to a tax treaty is to eliminate double taxation without creating opportunities for tax evasion and avoidance, in particular through treaty shopping arrangements. Section C of the report addresses the third part of the work mandated by Action 6, which was “to identify the tax policy considerations that, in general, countries should consider before deciding to enter into a tax treaty with another country”. The policy considerations described in that section should help countries explain their decisions not to enter into tax treaties with certain low or no-tax jurisdictions; these policy considerations will also be relevant for countries that need to consider whether they should modify (or, ultimately, terminate) a treaty previously concluded in the event that a change of circumstances (such as changes to the domestic law of a treaty partner) raises BEPS concerns related to that treaty. This final version of the report supersedes the interim version issued in September 2014. A number of changes have been made to the rules proposed in the September 2014 report. As noted at the beginning of the report, however, additional work will be required in order to fully consider proposals recently released by the United States concerning the LOB rule and other provisions included in the report. Since the United States does not anticipate finalising its new model tax treaty until the end of 2015, the relevant provisions included in this report will need to be reviewed afterwards and will therefore be finalised in the first part of 2016. An examination of the issues related to the treaty entitlement of certain types of investment funds will also continue after September 2015 with a similar deadline. The various anti-abuse rules that are included in this report will be among the changes proposed for inclusion in the multilateral instrument that will implement the results of the work on treaty issues mandated by the OECD/G20 BEPS Project.
IMF/OECD – UPDATE ON TAX CERTAINTY – IMF/OECD Report for the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. July 2018. 1. In response to the call from G20 Leaders, the OECD secretariat and IMF staff produced a comprehensive report on tax certainty (OECD/IMF Report on Tax Certainty, the “2017 Report”). This report identified the sources of uncertainty in tax matters and the various tools that taxpayers and governments could use to reduce it from the perspective of businesses and tax administrations in G20 and OECD countries. The G20 has asked for an update of the 2017 Report to be delivered in 2018. 2. The 2017 report highlighted that tax uncertainty creates a risk of discouraging investment. The OECD survey, for example, suggests that businesses find tax certainty in corporate tax and VAT important for investment and location decisions. The major drivers of tax uncertainty for businesses relate to uncertain tax administration practices, inconsistent approaches of different tax authorities in applying international tax standards, and issues associated with dispute resolution mechanisms. To enhance tax certainty, the report identifies a set of concrete and practical approaches and solutions. These include improving the clarity of legislation, increasing predictability and consistency of tax administration practices, effective dispute prevention, and robust dispute resolution mechanisms. While the 2017 report focused on tax certainty in G20 and OECD countries, it was recognized that it is important also for developing countries, even though the tools to enhance tax certainty in those countries would need to be assessed against their weaker enforcement and lower implementation capacities. 3. This update discusses what has happened since the 2017 report. It elaborates first on developments in OECD and G20 countries. Progress is reported on, for example, implementation of the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project and developments in dispute resolution, such as mutual agreement procedures (MAP) and arbitration. The update also reports on new initiatives, such as the OECD initiatives to mitigate uncertainty in tax treaties, the IMF initiative to address international taxation issues in its surveillance, developments in the treaty relief and compliance enhancement (TRACE) project, and the Forum on Tax Administration (FTA) initiative to improve risk assessment and audit processes. Finally, some initiatives are discussed that were not explicitly mentioned in the 2017 report, but which do matter for tax certainty, such as exchange of information, country-by-country reporting and OECD International VAT/GST Guidelines. 4. The importance of tax certainty for developing countries is reflected in some of the more granular data obtained from the OECD business survey of 2017. Moreover, a workshop in Tanzania in 2017 highlighted the importance of tax certainty for governments in developing countries. Several initiatives are discussed in this update that aim, among others, to enhance tax certainty in developing countries, such as toolkits by the Platform for Collaboration on Tax, Medium-Term Revenue Strategies, the wide array of IMF technical assistance in revenue mobilization (tax policy design, legal drafting, and tax administration), progress made with the tax administration diagnostic assessment tool (TADAT) and the joint OECD/UNDP program on Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB).