Tuesday, June 21, 2016

EU countries tackle tax avoidance

The 28 EU member countries have reached an agreement on a package of measures against tax avoidance. The agreement became definitive last night after the EU ministers of finance reached an agreement last Friday.

The package restricts interest deduction and introduces a levy to prevent that untaxed activities can be transferred to a country with a lower tax rate. It also includes a general anti-abuse clause. Another measure prevents the transfer of passive income to a daughter company with a lower tax rate. Furthermore it also addresses shopping between different fiscal systems.
The package follows earlier OECD agreements and a plan presented by the European Commission at the end of januari. This agreement follows almost five months later. Minister Dijsselbloem, chairman of the council of finance ministers: "The struggle against tax avoidance was one of the subjects at the top of our agenda this half year. It was not easy because the interests and opinion differences were large. But we succeeded in making agreements that me and my 27 colleagues will now transform into legislation in our own countries."
According to the minister it is important for the EU to lead the struggle against tax fraud and tax avoidance. "Large companies honestly paying taxes is crucial for the willingness of citizens to contribute their share as well. Revelations such as LuxLeaks and Panama Papers have hurt citizens' confidence in a fair tax system. I hope that confidence will return now we are closing escape routes for internationally operating companies."
Below the main points from the European tax avoidance guideline:
Limiting interest deduction
Companies can deduct interest over loans from their profit. Large, often internationally operating companies can loan internally which enables them to deduct interest in countries with a high interest rate and let it end up in a country with a low tax rate.
The proposed limitation ensures that companies can deduct a maximum of 30 percent of their gross profit in interest from their profit starting 1 januari 2019. This measure tackles tax base erosion.
Exit levy
The measure ensures that a company can not move its assets to another country untaxed. When moving a company or business (or an intellectual property) a tax must be paid over the value the company has created in the country it leaves, so the value is taxed where it is created.
This ensures that when a company creates an asset and moves it to a low tax haven, tax will need to be paid over the unrealized profits. Example: a pharmaceutical company develops a new medicine in country A and deducts all the cost there. Then before launching the medicine on the market the rights are moved to country B. The exit levy ensures that country A must tax the value created at the moment of transfer.
General abuse prevention measure
The general abuse prevention measure prevents the creation of artificial constructions which have as main purpose to avoid taxation. When international companies use artificial constructions to lower their tax base or transfer profits a member state can use the abuse prevention measure to look through the construction. The measure should prevent abuse where other measures do not apply.
CFC measure
This measure is aimed at controlled foreign companies (CFCs). It prevents movement of passive income to a daughter company in a low tax country. When a company moves capital or intellectual property to a low tax country the mother company must pull the profits from this capital to itself. As a result the member state of the mother company may tax this profit at their tax rate.
Hybrid mismatches
As a result of differences in tax systems countries can have different opinions on the fiscal treatment of a company or loan. This creates the risk that companies can use a double tax deduction or interest or yield is not taxed while the corresponding transfer can be tax deductible. This measure addresses when EU member state allow or refuse such deductions.
The EU member states have asked the European Commission to come up with a proposal by October 2016 to solve this problem for money transfers from and to countries outside the EU in line with tax avoidance measures discussed within the OECD.

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