TAX, SOCIETY & CULTURE

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Law student tutorial: 8 minutes to construct a better term paper

Published Oct 06, 2019 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Having given students one-on-one tutorials on how to organize their papers so many times that I have lost count, I finally made a tutorial. This is obviously aimed at my own students but as the fall semester gets into full swing and term paper writing projects take shape, others might find it helpful as well so here it is.

Enjoy: 8 minutes and only a few steps to constructing a better paper.





Tagged as: education for students research scholarship writing

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Heyka on Tax Treaty Arbitration and A World Tax Court

Published Feb 22, 2017 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Last fall I via twitter I shouted out two of my students who won the Tax Analysts Student Writing Competition, in the international category:

I posted about the first paper long ago but I inadvertently neglected to post the second.  Correcting that oversight, here it is, available at Tax Analysts: A World Tax Court: The Solution to Tax Treaty Arbitration, by Jake Heyka. Here is the brief abstract by TA:
Jake Heyka examines tax treaty arbitration standards while demonstrating that as a matter of fundamental justice, arbitration should be revamped. He proposes the creation of a world tax court.
Heyka begins by observing that "[t]he institution of international tax treaty arbitration (ITTA) is hotly debated in international business and tax law. While the process is helpful because it pressures governments to resolve contested tax decisions, opponents have called it 'secret and evil.'"
He then makes the provocative observation that "the use of ITTA ultimately frustrates the resolution of tax disputes and should be supplanted by a world tax court." In support of his proposal, Heyka lays out the history and critique of tax treaty arbitration (including by me) and concludes:
Standardizing ITTA will create some procedural certainty but does not guarantee consistent use of those procedures, allow the public to see whether the process is fair, or establish reliable precedent. As Lindencrona and Mattson suggested over 30 years ago, ITTA should be a stepping stone to what the world ultimately needs: a world tax court.
As radical as it may seem, the idea is not far-fetched. World courts exist in many commercial and noncommercial contexts, and those that deal with money rather than crime are followed by many countries and used quite often. Moreover, state authority is regularly ceded to resolve disputes between commercial parties in arbitration courts such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the London Court of International Arbitration, and many other arbitration institutes. A world tax court would merely serve as a place to resolve tax disputes in a similar manner while sustaining the public nature of tax law.
While I am late to post it, Heyka's article remains timely as the inclusion of arbitration in the recently released MLI is sure to keep the issue front and center in international tax discourse. Congrats Jake, and sorry for the delay in posting your accomplishment.

Tagged as: arbitration governance institutions international law McGill OECD scholarship

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Analysis of Canada's Tax Gap Pre-Study

Published Jul 26, 2016 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Further to my last post on the newly released Tax Gap study by the Canada Revenue Agency, the following comes from guest blogger Iain Campbell (ARC, UK):

I hope this comment is not too long but I’ve been following Tax Gap discussions for so long that it’s hard to pass by the chance to comment!

Background
This is an interesting development. Writing from the UK I’m not in regular contact with developments in Canadian tax administration. But I do recall there has been some entertainment over the Tax Gap, with the Parliamentary Budget Officer asking for the CRA to do some work on it - and being rebuffed.

In fact, the CRA has not been keen on preparing a Tax Gap analysis. In 2002 it reported that attempting to estimate overall levels of reporting non-compliance such as the ‘tax gap’ or the total amount of smuggling activity was fraught with difficulty. (CRCA Performance report for the period ending 31 March 2002.) Ten years later the CRA were still not convinced. At the start of 2013 they told the PBO:

The CRA later pointed out “the significant debate about the precision, accuracy and utility of any methodology to calculate the tax gap”. It drew attention to critical comments from the UK Treasury Select Committee, as well as the fact of 52 tax administrations surveyed by the IRS, 33 did not produce one, and the high costs of doing so. (CRA, PBO Information Request IR0102: tax gap estimates, letter 20 March 2013,] and PBO Information Request IR0102: tax gap estimates, letter 1 August 2013.) In 2014 the PBO even threatened to take legal action in order to compel production.
But in the recent election there was a promise to undertake such a study, ending this long standing reluctance to follow the example of other countries, including the USA and UK.  And following the Panama Papers the Revenue Minister said in January a tax gap study would be done. The new Canadian study comprises a 31pp paper on a conceptual study of the Canadian tax gap and an 11pp study on the Canadian GST/HST, which gives a gap of 5.5% in 2000 and 6.5% in 2014. (It explicitly references the decision announced by the Minister of National on 11 April.)

Basis of study – what’s in and what’s out
The conceptual study does, to an outsider, seem to spend a lot of time in not saying a great deal. It seems to add qualification to qualification, caveat after caveat, so that at times I wondered if the CRA really wanted to publish anything at all. Gus O’Donnell is the UK civil servant who wrote the Report that led to the UK Customs and Excise combining with the Inland Revenue to form HM Revenue and Customs. In that Report he surely got it down to a few words: “Making estimates of the tax gap is methodologically and empirically difficult, although easier for indirect taxes where tax can typically be related to consumption. Direct tax gaps are particularly difficult to estimate because the aggregate figures for income, for example, are built on tax data.”

The CRA's conceptual study refers a lot to the HMRC papers and policies on calculating the Tax Gap. But in some of the key areas it dances around what might be difficult decisions e.g., whether to report the gross tax gap, or, as in the UK, the gap after action to tackle non-compliance.

Avoidance
More controversially, the UK includes tax avoidance.  This is a good illustration of its overall approach.


On the other hand, academics and members of the accountancy profession have argued the opposite, that any estimate should not include avoidance as referenced by the “spirit of the law”. For example, during a Treasury Select Committee Hearing on The Administration and Effectiveness of HMRC, Judith Freedman (Professor of Tax Law, Oxford University) commented “I really take issue with the spirit of the law part, because either you have law or you don’t have law and the law has to state what it is.”

The Canadian paper discusses this option and concludes “the appropriate treatment of tax avoidance is less clear”. It seems Canada has decided to not include avoidance in its definition: “In general the CRA’s approach to the tax gap encompasses non-compliance related to non-filing, non-registration (in the case of GST/HST), errors, under-payment, non-payment, and unlawful tax evasion” (p29).  There seems to be no explicit position on avoidance but, although I doubt it will happen, “under-payment” is potentially broad enough to include under-payment via avoidance.

Other “Gaps”
Another area the study did not address is what the IMF and EU call the “tax policy gap”. I agree with this decision (which mirrors the UK). The IMF would widen the definition and use of the Tax Gap approach. It suggests including the effects of policy choices that lead to reduced revenues. In a study on the UK Tax Gap it refers to the impact of compliance issues on revenue as “the compliance gap” and the revenue loss attributable to provisions in tax laws that allow an exemption, a special credit, a preferential rate of tax, or a deferral of tax liability, as the “policy gap” (para 68).  As part of this they recommend tax avoidance schemes deemed legal through litigation should be considered part of the policy gap, not the compliance gap, and this distinction should be made clear.

A similar point was made by an EU report on VAT. They suggested that a possible link between the policy and the compliance gaps, since using the reliefs and allowances intended by policy could make compliance more difficult. “Reducing the policy gap may often be the simplest and most effective way to reduce the compliance gap. “ (p21)

In my view these kinds of proposals are likely to be very complex, perhaps contentious, and hard to administer. It seems a sensible decision to not refer to them or suggest their inclusion.

Then there are the base erosion issues where tax is avoided through the use of legal structures that make use of mismatches between domestic and international tax, e.g. permanent establishments. The Canadian study nods in the direction of BEPS and then passes by.

What’s the point of working out a Tax Gap?
But putting aside these sorts of issues, or whether “top-down” targeting is better than “bottom-up”, does the size of the hidden or “informal” economy predict the level of GST/VAT underpayment (or is it the other way around?), perhaps the  big $64K question is whether any of this means anything. If there is no clear agreement on the numbers, how they are calculated and their reliability, then is there are any point in preparing them?

The very concept of the tax gap is not universally agreed to be a useful analytical or strategic lever. Apart from the earlier Canadian reluctance, the Australians were slow to go down this road. UK Parliamentarians have been less than keen. In 2012 the Treasury Select Committee said they thought it was essentially a waste of time and resources. Worse, they feared it would misdirect HMRC away from ensuring every taxpayer paid the right amount of tax. Such fears have not died. The current TSC is examining UK corporation tax. Their early work involved scoping the problem and they heard some evidence on the tax gap. Andrew Tyrie (the Chair) seemed less than enthused at the very concept.

I think it has merits. But it ought not to be elevated to some shibboleth. It is one high-level measure of how successfully legislation is being applied, use of resources, etc.  The UK Government’s official position is that that “thinking about the tax gap forces the department to focus attention on the need to understand how non-compliance occurs and how the causes can be addressed—whether through tailored assistance, simpler legislation, redesigned processes or targeted interventions. Measuring the tax gap helps us to understand whether increasing returns from compliance activity reflect improved effectiveness or merely a decrease in voluntary compliance.”

The Canadian paper says broadly the same things (pp22-24). It talks of providing insight into the overall health of the tax system, of understanding the composition and scale of non-compliance, but warns of their limitations.

If that is how it used then I think it is a useful aid to policy making and how robust is the assurance being provided by the tax administration.


Tagged as: Canada tax gap tax policy

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Evasion, Avoidance, and Bashing Panama in a World of Aggressive Tax States

Published Apr 19, 2016 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

I've talked to a few journalists and commented a bit on the Panama Papers (e.g. here at 6:09 and here) but I've refrained from writing much to date because I am uneasy about a couple of central themes in this story: first, the constant confluence of tax evasion and tax avoidance, which are two completely different phenomena that require two very different responses in my view, and second the bashing of Panama as if only bad things can be done there, so anyone who does anything there from anywhere else must be doing a bad thing.

I am uneasy about this bashing because, although I think there are bad guys doing bad things in Panama, I also think there are bad guys doing bad things all over the world and I don't like Panama being singled out; I am also wary of suggesting that in a world of global trade and investment flows, anything and everything done through or with Panama must eternally be tinged with a sense of wrongdoing. This sense seems to imbue the imagination in the campaigns to "shut down the tax havens." What, exactly, does that mean? Does it mean that some countries, because someone decides they are mostly bad actors, must be effectively cut off from the global financial system and no one must be allowed to transact with or in these countries from the outside? What if most of the world are actually bad actors, each scheming to use its tax system to undermine and undercut the others? That's essentially the vision drawn by the OECD in countering BEPS, so we will run into some problems if we take this reasoning to its logical conclusion. But if this is not the idea behind shutting down tax havens, then what is envisioned, exactly?

Tax justice advocates seem to envision an invasive global regulatory regime in which every person in the world will have all of their assets and financial information catalogued and tagged and made public to everyone else, in order to make sure no one can break any tax rules. If this is being done just for tax--that is, if this is what it takes to make the income tax "work," I am not sure that the income tax is worth all of that trouble and everything given up to achieve it. That includes privacy, which appears to itself have become a suspicious word in certain circles, as if only those doing bad things have a desire to keep anything about their lives private. Let us recall Glenn Greenwald's words on why privacy should not come to be seen as a sinister desire. It is possible to break the tax law like it is possible to break any other law. But is requiring everyone to show all of their assets to everyone else in order to prove no laws have been broken a valid response to this enduring problem? I cannot agree with this Orwellian vision of the world. I also do not think this view is sensible if the issue is really driven by tax. If it is, then surely we can find a less invasive way to fund public goods and services.

This brings me to the evasion/avoidance point, which I find being abused just as much by lawmakers and policy advocates as it is by journalists who don't know any better.

Tax evasion is a crime that involves hiding things from a legal authority. Tax avoidance is not a crime that involves hiding: it is achieved in full view of the legal authorities. The former is a very very difficult problem but is not primarily a tax policy problem. Instead it is primarily a global financial system problem that is created, like most global financial system problems, by virtue of the difficulty of regulating behaviours in a world in which technology has moved us far beyond the frontiers of the nation state.

On the other hand, 'aggressive" tax avoidance (loosely speaking; more analysis here)--that is, avoidance not intentionally allowed by rules such as those to defer tax on retirement savings--is a tax policy issue. Taxpayers and their advisers are always going to cook up new schemes to get around inconvenient tax rules. Knowing this, regulators must decide whether and how to react. They may react with any number of tools that create an infinite call and response loop among regulators, taxpayers, administrators, and judges. These include such things as general and specific anti-avoidance rules, uncertain tax position disclosure, and random audit strategies. None of these things has the first thing to say about how to deal with a corrupt government official who steals money from the public fisc and invests it in US and European stocks and bonds through a maze of trusts and companies formed in other jurisdictions. It's just a totally different problem.

I know and understand that bad guys are always lurking around to defeat the tax law, as they are in any regulatory field. I don't have any special insights about how to deal with corruption and criminality. But in my experience with tax, when a government moves to "crack down" on bad guys, the really serious criminals--including government officials themselves--all too often escape while everyone else finds themselves increasingly tracked, surveilled, and treated like criminals even as the resources to cope with fixable tax policy flaws diminish. I don't have any answers for these worries.

Tagged as: evasion governance offshore tax policy

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Please Give: Passionate Plea for IRS Funding from Former IRS Commissioners

Published Nov 11, 2015 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

The IRS faces constant funding pressure from Congress, despite becoming a victim of constant mission creep thanks to Congressional mandates (ACA and FATCA in particular). Over the years many have pled with Congress to stop underfunding the agency. The latest comes from seven former commissioners, who note that not least among the reasons to fund the IRS is the need to spend money on cyber security as the IRS fends off one million hacking attempts each week.

That's a lot of hacking because of course the payload is enormous. FATCA has surely expanded the payload significantly by developing an enormous database of personal information attached to bank account numbers and detailed account activity on a global scale. Even a small breach of security with respect to that vault will be disastrous for the taxpayers involved.

The commissioners also suggest that the IRS workload is going to increase due to BEPS. BEPS is expected to result in more treaty-based conflicts among jurisdictions, so I expect more competent authority hours will be needed. But it's likely also the case that country-by-country reporting requirements will add another enormous treasure trove of information to the database, further increasing the payload.

At minimum, Congress has simply got to fund security for this massively expanding taxpayer information database.

November 9, 2015

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Chairman
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
113 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Harold Rogers
Chairman
U.S. House Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
2406 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington D.C. 20515

The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski
Vice Chairwoman
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
503 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Nita M. Lowey
Ranking Member
U.S. House Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
2365 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515 
Subject: IRS Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2016
Dear Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairwoman Mikulski, Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey: 
We are all former Commissioners of the Internal Revenue Service. Over the last fifty years we served during the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush.

We are writing to express our great concern about the proposed reductions by the House and Senate in appropriations for the Internal Revenue Service for the current fiscal year that will end on September 30, 2016. We understand that the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate have proposed to reduce the FY 2015 IRS appropriation of $10.9 billion by $838 million and $470 million, respectively, for the current fiscal year. If Congress were to reduce the IRS appropriation for the current year, it would represent yet another reduction in the IRS appropriation. The appropriations reductions for the IRS over the last five years total $1.2 billion, more than a 17% cut from the IRS appropriation for 2010. None of us ever experienced, nor are we aware of, any IRS appropriations reductions of this magnitude over such a prolonged period of time. The impact on the IRS of these reductions is that the IRS has lost approximately 15,000 full-time employees through attrition over the last five years, with more losses likely in the current fiscal year unless Congress reverses the funding trend. These staffing reductions come at a time when the IRS workforce is aging, with nearly 52% of IRS employees now over the age of 50 and 24% already eligible to retire. Three years from now, 38% of IRS employees will be eligible to retire. This loss of IRS knowledge and experience is alarming, particularly in light of the fact that, out of a present workforce of about 85,000 employees, the IRS has only about 3,400 employees under the age of 30 and only 384 employees under the age of 25 due to hiring freezes for budgetary reasons at the IRS since 2010 and periodically from 2005 to 2010. Over the last fifty years, none of us has ever witnessed anything like what has happened to the IRS appropriations over the last five years and the impact these appropriations reductions are having on our tax system.

These reductions in IRS appropriations are difficult to understand in light of the fact that, at the same time these reductions have occurred, the Congress repeatedly has passed major tax legislation to substantially increase the IRS workload. Most recently the Congress passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, two major new programs, each of which significantly expands the IRS' tax administration burdens. The IRS personnel reductions come at a time when the IRS is stretched to the breaking point to cope with tax enforcement challenges attributable to global and domestic changes that are impacting our tax system. Increasingly, the United States is facing tax challenges as the result of efforts that are taking place in the international tax arena to deal with the tax non-compliance that is accompanying the continued globalization of business and investment activities. The most recent tax changes to address international tax non-compliance are proposed in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Report. Regardless of one's view of these proposed changes, it is clear that the IRS will be substantially impacted by changes and challenges of other countries who adopt them.

Additionally, increasing incidents of identity theft and refund fraud are being perpetrated against our tax system by large, sophisticated organized crime syndicates around the world. These criminals seek to file false returns and claim fraudulent refunds using personal taxpayer data obtained from sources outside the IRS. At the same time, many unlicensed, unregulated return preparers are preparing and filing fraudulent tax refund returns. Every time there is an information technology hacking event in the public or private sectors in which Social Security numbers are stolen, the likelihood exists for additional identity theft and refund fraud. The growing refund fraud challenge to our tax system is especially alarming to us because of the need, which is fundamental to our tax system, for the IRS to be able to assure taxpayers who are paying their fair share of taxes that other taxpayers are doing the same thing. To emphasize the seriousness of refund fraud, the Government Accountability Office earlier this year placed identity theft and refund fraud on its list of "high risk areas" in the federal government, a sure sign to each of us that the IRS should have more, not fewer, enforcement resources to deal with this threat to the integrity of our tax system,

To place the impact on our tax system of the Congressional IRS appropriations reductions over the last five years in its proper context, Congress almost annually over the last 25 years has passed legislation that has imposed additional burdens on IRS tax collection and administration under our revenue laws. During this time, the Congress also repeatedly added more and more socio-economic incentives to the tax code and called upon the IRS to administer these new socio-economic programs, including healthcare, retirement, social welfare, education, energy, housing, and economic stimulus programs, none of which is related to the principal job of the IRS to collect revenue. At the same time, Congress passed even more legislation to pay for these tax spending programs. The result is that almost 30 years after the 1986 Tax Reform Act, our tax laws are a mess. Our tax laws have become so difficult for taxpayers to understand that 80% of all individual taxpayers now use paid consultants or software to prepare their income tax returns. Because of insufficient IRS resources in FY 2015, an average of more than 60 percent of the taxpayers who called the IRS for assistance in preparing their returns during the last filing season were unable to reach an IRS assistor, even after many taxpayers had remained on the telephone for more than 30 minutes before they were automatically cut off because of the volume of calls, which the reduced numbers of IRS assistors were unable to handle. Equally serious are the cybersecurity threats illustrated by the problem that occurred earlier this year involving unauthorized attempts to access taxpayer information using the IRS' Get Transcript online application. Separately, the IRS continues to experience about one million attempts each week to hack into its main information technology systems. Although the IRS has so far successfully thwarted these attacks and its main systems remain secure, all of this astonishes us and emphasizes to each of us that the IRS taxpayer assistance and IRS information technology resources are severely underfunded, especially when compared to the increasing cybersecurity budgets of private sector companies.

It is clear to each of us that the IRS appropriations reductions over the last five years materially and adversely affect the ability of the IRS to assist taxpayers who are trying to comply with their tax obligations, as well as the ability of the IRS to detect and deter taxpayers who have not complied with their tax obligations. Recently, we understand that the IRS estimated a direct annual revenue loss to the Federal government in tax enforcement at $6 billion last year and $8 billion this year, due to such appropriations reductions. Historically, for every dollar invested in IRS tax enforcement, the United States received $4 or more in return, and we understand that continues to be true today.

The Congressional Budget Office in its June 2015 Long-Term Budget Outlook projected future fiscal challenges to the United States because of the large and increasing size of our national debt and rising future operating deficits attributable to an aging U.S. population and rising healthcare costs. It, therefore, is imperative that our tax system in the future operate at an optimal level in order to maximize the revenues the IRS collects. For that to happen, the IRS must be able to assist taxpayers who are trying to comply with their tax obligations, and at the same time be able to enforce the tax laws against those taxpayers who have not complied with their tax obligations. In short, because of our country's fiscal and other challenges, our tax system must work and work well to collect the taxes that are owed.

Some have argued that the IRS can solve these problems by simply becoming more efficient. This argument ignores the reality that the IRS is already, by far, the most efficient tax collection agency among large countries in the world. The OECD recently released its bi-annual analysis of tax administration across the developed world and reported, based on 2013 statistics which don't reflect the most recent IRS budget cuts, that the amount the IRS spends to collect a dollar in taxes is approximately half the average amount spent by all OECD countries. Germany, France, England, Canada and Australia all spend as much as two to three times the amount the IRS does to collect a dollar of revenue.

In light of the foregoing, we fail to understand how it makes any logical sense to continue to reduce, rather than increase, the IRS budget for FY 2016 in order to optimize the IRS' ability to provide taxpayer service and to enforce the tax laws to increase revenue collections. To put it succinctly, we do not understand why anyone with present and projected debts and annual losses as large as those of the United States would refuse to pay for telephone assistance to people trying to fulfill their tax obligations, would turn their back on $8 billion annually in additional revenue, or would fail to make an investment that offers a return equal to at least four times the amount invested. For these reasons, we respectfully call upon each of you to support and work to accomplish the passage of an IRS appropriations request for FY 2016 that is substantially in excess of the appropriation for the IRS in FY 2015.

Mortimer M. Caplin (1961-64)

Sheldon S. Cohen (1965-69)

Lawrence B. Gibbs (1986-89)

Fred T. Goldberg, Jr. (1989-92)

Shirley D. Peterson (1992-93)

Margaret M. Richardson (1993-97)

Charles O. Rossotti (1997-2002)

Tagged as: FATCA governance information institutions IRS US

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Friends with Tax Benefits: Apple's Cautionary Tale

Published Oct 15, 2015 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Over the summer, I wrote a column on the ongoing EU state aid investigation into Ireland's tax practices involving Apple. The recent news that Ireland plans to cut its corporate tax rate again, dropping to just 6.5% for IP-driven companies, reminded me that I neglected to post this article, so here it is. Abstract:

Apple recently disclosed to shareholders a potentially material impairment to its earnings: an ongoing investigation by the European Commission into Ireland’s tax ruling practices. Ireland may be forced to retroactively impose additional taxes on Apple, going back as much as a decade (and possibly beyond), if the Commission decides that the Irish Tax Authority granted Apple a prohibited subsidy, referred to as “fiscal state aid,” in contravention of EU law. But the impact of this investigation may be felt well beyond Europe. Against the backdrop of the OECD’s project on base erosion and profit shifting, the Commission’s investigation about whether Ireland gave Apple unfair benefits is fundamentally an interrogation into what, if anything, governments can or should do to stop the strategic use of national tax systems to lure international trade and investment. The Commission’s inquiry into Apple is thus a cautionary tale for both tax planners and tax authorities, whose confidence in past practices must give way as traditional compromises and well-worn assumptions suddenly become subjects of intense renegotiation on the global stage.
Tax competition and cooperation continue to duke it out: BEPS is one battleground, state aid is another. If in policing internal practices, the EC finds that tax favours like Ireland's are anti-competitive as to other EU countries, then surely they are also anti-competitive as to the rest of the world. Even though the relevant treaty (TFEU) is unique and distinct, the principle that tax favours constitute state aid might open the door for disputes beyond the EU, for example in the context of other bilateral or multilateral trade agreements.

Side note: in writing this column, I compared the successive Apple disclosure statements to watch the language change in response to the EC inquiry, which unfolded as follows:

1st EC letter to Ireland: June 2013
Additional info request: October 2013
Additional info request: January 2014
EC letter informing Ireland of investigation: March 2014.

In the column I suggest we can trace this correspondence in Apple's tax disclosure. Because it was a brief discussion I didn't lay out the disclosure changes in full but here they are (through the time of the column; not updated since), interesting in terms of revealing management's decisions about what shareholders need to know in order to make informed investment choices. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Apple's share price appears immune to the news to date. It is hard to imagine the size a clawback would need to be in order to have a material impact.

10K Oct 2012, 10Q Jan 2013, 10Q Apr 2013 [identical provisions]
The Company could be subject to changes in its tax rates, the adoption of new U.S. or international tax legislation or exposure to additional tax liabilities. The Company is subject to taxes in the U.S. and numerous foreign jurisdictions. Current economic and political conditions make tax rates in any jurisdiction, including the U.S., subject to significant change. The Company’s future effective tax rates could be affected by changes in the mix of earnings in countries with differing statutory tax rates, changes in the valuation of deferred tax assets and liabilities, or changes in tax laws or their interpretation. The Company is also subject to the examination of its tax returns by the Internal Revenue Service and other tax authorities. The Company regularly assesses the likelihood of an adverse outcome resulting from these examinations to determine the adequacy of its provision for taxes. There can be no assurance as to the outcome of these examinations.

10Q Jul 2013
The Company could be subject to changes in its tax rates, the adoption of new U.S. or international tax legislation or exposure to additional tax liabilities. The Company is subject to taxes in the U.S. and numerous foreign jurisdictions, including Ireland, where a number of the Company’s subsidiaries are organized. Due to economic and political conditions, tax rates in various jurisdictions may be subject to significant change. Current economic and political conditions make tax rates in any jurisdiction, including the U.S., subject to significant change.  The Company’s future effective tax rates could be affected by changes in the mix of earnings in countries with differing statutory tax rates, changes in the valuation of deferred tax assets and liabilities, or changes in tax laws or their interpretation, including in the U.S. and Ireland. The Company is also subject to the examination of its tax returns and other tax matters by the Internal Revenue Service and other tax authorities and governmental bodies. The Company regularly assesses the likelihood of an adverse outcome resulting from these examinations to determine the adequacy of its provision for taxes. There can be no assurance as to the outcome of these examinations. If the Company’s effective tax rates were to increase, particularly in the U.S. or Ireland, or if the ultimate determination of the Company’s taxes owed is for an amount in excess of amounts previously accrued, the Company’s operating results, cash flows, and financial condition could be adversely affected.

10K Oct 2013, 10Q Jan 2014, 10Q Apr 2014: same as prior

10Q Jul 28 2014
The Company could be subject to changes in its tax rates, the adoption of new U.S. or international tax legislation or exposure to additional tax liabilities. The Company is subject to taxes in the U.S. and numerous foreign jurisdictions, including Ireland, where a number of the Company’s subsidiaries are organized. Due to economic and political conditions, tax rates in various jurisdictions may be subject to significant change. The Company’s future effective tax rates could be affected by changes in the mix of earnings in countries with differing statutory tax rates, changes in the valuation of deferred tax assets and liabilities, or changes in tax laws or their interpretation, including in the U.S. and Ireland. For example, in June 2014, the European Commission opened a formal investigation to examine whether decisions by the tax authorities in Ireland with regard to the corporate income tax to be paid by two of the Company’s Irish subsidiaries comply with European Union rules on state aid. If the European Commission were to take a final decision against Ireland, it could require changes to existing tax rulings that, in turn, could increase the Company’s taxes in the future. The European Commission could also require Ireland to recover from the Company past taxes reflective of the disallowed state aid.

The Company is also subject to the examination of its tax returns and other tax matters by the Internal Revenue Service and other tax authorities and governmental bodies. The Company regularly assesses the likelihood of an adverse outcome resulting from these examinations to determine the adequacy of its provision for taxes. There can be no assurance as to the outcome of these examinations. If the Company’s effective tax rates were to increase, particularly in the U.S. or Ireland, or if the ultimate determination of the Company’s taxes owed is for an amount in excess of amounts previously accrued, the Company’s operating results, cash flows, and financial condition could be adversely affected.

10K Oct 2014: same as prior

10Q Jan 2015
The Company could be subject to changes in its tax rates, the adoption of new U.S. or international tax legislation or exposure to additional tax liabilities. The Company is subject to taxes in the U.S. and numerous foreign jurisdictions, including Ireland, where a number of the Company’s subsidiaries are organized. Due to economic and political conditions, tax rates in various jurisdictions may be subject to significant change. The Company’s future effective tax rates could be affected by changes in the mix of earnings in countries with differing statutory tax rates, changes in the valuation of deferred tax assets and liabilities, or changes in tax laws or their interpretation, including in the U.S. and Ireland. For example, in June 2014, the European Commission opened a formal investigation to examine whether decisions by the tax authorities in Ireland with regard to the corporate income tax to be paid by two of the Company’s Irish subsidiaries comply with European Union rules on state aid. If the European Commission were to take a final decision against Ireland, it could require changes to existing tax rulings that, in turn, could increase the Company’s taxes in the future. The European Commission could also Ireland to recover from the Company past taxes reflective of the disallowed state aid. The Company is also subject to the examination of its tax returns and other tax matters by the Internal Revenue Service and other tax authorities and governmental bodies. The Company regularly assesses the likelihood of an adverse outcome resulting from these examinations to determine the adequacy of its provision for taxes. There can be no assurance as to the outcome of these examinations. If the Company’s effective tax rates were to increase, particularly in the U.S. or Ireland, or if the ultimate determination of the Company’s taxes owed is for an amount in excess of amounts previously accrued, the Company’s operating results, cash flows and financial condition could be adversely affected.

10-Q Apr 28 2015
The Company could be subject to changes in its tax rates, the adoption of new U.S. or international tax legislation or exposure to additional tax liabilities. The Company is subject to taxes in the U.S. and numerous foreign jurisdictions, including Ireland, where a number of the Company’s subsidiaries are organized. Due to economic and political conditions, tax rates in various jurisdictions may be subject to significant change. The Company’s future effective tax rates could be affected by changes in the mix of earnings in countries with differing statutory tax rates, changes in the valuation of deferred tax assets and liabilities, or changes in tax laws or their interpretation, including in the U.S. and Ireland. For example, in June 2014, the European Commission opened a formal investigation to examine whether decisions by the tax authorities in Ireland with regard to the corporate income tax to be paid by two of the Company’s Irish subsidiaries comply with European Union rules on state aid.

As of March 28, 2015, the Company recorded gross unrecognized tax benefits of $4.6 billion, of which $1.6 billion, if recognized, would affect the Company’s effective tax rate. As of September 27, 2014, the total amount of gross unrecognized tax benefits was $4.0 billion, of which $1.4 billion, if recognized, would have affected the Company’s effective tax rate. The Company’s total gross unrecognized tax benefits are classified as other non-current liabilities in the Condensed Consolidated Balance Sheets. The Company had $844 million and $630 million of gross interest and penalties accrued as of March 28, 2015 and September 27, 2014, respectively, which are classified as other non-current liabilities in the Condensed Consolidated Balance Sheets. Management believes that an adequate provision has been made for any adjustments that may result from tax examinations. However, the outcome of tax audits cannot be predicted with certainty. If any issues addressed in the Company’s tax audits are resolved in a manner not consistent with management’s expectations, the Company could be required to adjust its provision for income taxes in the period such resolution occurs. Although timing of the resolution and/or closure of audits is not certain, the Company does not believe it is reasonably possible that its unrecognized tax benefits would materially change in the next 12 months. On June 11, 2014, the European Commission issued an opening decision initiating a formal investigation against Ireland for alleged state aid to the Company. The opening decision concerns the allocation of profits for taxation purposes of the Irish branches of two subsidiaries of the Company. The Company believes the European Commission’s assertions are without merit. If the European Commission were to conclude against Ireland, the European Commission could require Ireland to recover from the Company past taxes covering a period of up to 10 years reflective of the disallowed state aid. While such amount could be material, as of March 28, 2015 the Company is unable to estimate the impact.


The Company is also subject to the examination of its tax returns and other tax matters by the Internal Revenue Service and other tax authorities and governmental bodies. The Company regularly assesses the likelihood of an adverse outcome resulting from these examinations to determine the adequacy of its provision for taxes. There can be no assurance as to the outcome of these examinations. If the Company’s effective tax rates were to increase, particularly in the U.S. or Ireland, or if the ultimate determination of the Company’s taxes owed is for an amount in excess of amounts previously accrued, the Company’s operating results, cash flows and financial condition could be adversely affected.

Tagged as: corporate tax disclosure EU fiscal state aid tax competition tax policy TFEU

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IRS's "Super creditor" status

Published Jun 26, 2014 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Bryan Skarlatos recently testified to the House Ways & Means Committee about the IRS's "Super creditor" status via its federal tax lien power. Given the global nature of the US tax jurisdiction over nonresidents with US person status, the powers of the IRS to seize assets in satisfaction of tax debts is of increasing interest. I think this power is very likely to be ill-understood by those outside the United States. Looking ahead at life under FATCA, consider that soon the IRS will have the information to start assessing tax debts on its global diaspora, and then we will see what happens.

 WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF BRYAN C. SKARLATOS, ESQ.
The Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) is a “Super Creditor” because Congress has given it powers to collect money and property that far exceed those of any ordinary creditor. Typically, a creditor who is owed money cannot just take property of the debtor. Instead, the creditor must first bring a lawsuit, obtain a judgment, and then invoke the power of the court to execute on the judgment by seizing the debtor’s property, usually with the help of a court order or a public servant such as a marshal. In contrast, when taxes are assessed, the Internal Revenue Code automatically creates a lien in favor of the Service in a taxpayer’s property. Then, the Service has the unique and powerful ability to levy on or seize property that is subject to a federal tax lien. In addition, the Service can sue in federal court to collect taxes. 
Assessment 
The first step in the tax collection process is the assessment. In general, the Service cannot attempt to collect from a taxpayer until a tax has been assessed.
The Internal Revenue Code gives the Secretary of the Treasure the authority to assess tax. A tax is assessed when it is recorded as a liability, or account receivable, on the Service’s records. 
Once a tax has been assessed, the Service is required to notify the taxpayer that the tax has been assessed and to demand payment of the tax. The notice and demand for payment must be made within sixty days of the assessment. The notice and demand must be left at the taxpayer’s home or place of business, or sent to the taxpayer’s last known residence. Failure to pay an assessed tax after notice and demand for payment has been made gives rise to a federal tax lien and the Service’s ability to collect through levy or seizure of property. 
Federal Tax Lien 
If any person liable to pay a tax fails to pay after notice and demand, the amount not paid, including interest and penalties, becomes a lien in favor of the United States upon all property and rights to property belonging to such person. The tax lien is the mechanism that gives the Service rights to the taxpayer’s property. However, the lien itself does not transfer any value to the Service. As discussed below, a levy is the tool used to transfer the actual property to the possession of the Service. 
A federal tax lien arises against any person liable for the tax and attaches to any interest in property that the person may have. A tax lien also attaches to any property the taxpayer may acquire in the future. This is another way of saying that the tax lien attaches to after acquired property. 
The law of each individual state determines whether and when a taxpayer has an interest in some type of property. Federal law determines the extent to which the federal tax lien attaches to that interest. For example, the tax lien attaches to a taxpayer’s interest in a joint bank account to the extent that the taxpayer can withdraw money from the account. Similarly, if under state law, one spouse has a right to community property, then the tax lien attaches to that spouse’s interest in community property. Or, if one spouse has an interest in property held as tenants by the entirety, then the federal tax lien can attach to that interest. A federal tax lien attaches to interests in personal or real property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, Social security benefits, alimony (but not child support) payments, beneficial interests in trusts, contingent interests, future interests, and intangibles such as accounts receivable, trademarks, licenses, royalties and franchise rights.  
The federal tax lien relates back to the date of assessment. However, a federal tax lien does not have priority over purchasers for value, holders of security interests, mechanics lienors or judgment creditors until a Notice of Federal Tax Lien (a “Notice of Lien”) is filed. The Service may file a Notice of Lien to obtain priority over these holders of interests through the general rule of “first in time, first in right.” The interest that is perfected first has priority if and when the property rights are sold or seized. 
State law determines where a Notice of Lien must be filed to be effective. Generally, Notices of Lien are filed with clerk of the court in the county where real property is located, with the clerk of the court in the county where the taxpayer is located in the case of personal property, or with the clerk of the federal district court in the district where the real property or taxpayer is located. Filing the Notice of Lien provides constructive notice to anyone else who may hold or acquire an interest in property and gives rise to the “first in time, first in right” rule. 
The Notice of Lien is merely a device that provides deemed notice to other interested parties for purposes of establishing priority. The federal tax lien exists independently from the Notice of Lien and there is no requirement that the Service even file the Notice of Lien. However, if the Service does file a Notice of Lien, it must give the taxpayer written notice that the Notice of Lien is being filed with five days of the filing and give the taxpayer an opportunity to request a Collection Due Process hearing (a “CDP Hearing”) to contest the filing of the Notice of Lien. Requesting a CDP Hearing does not stop the filing of the Notice of Lien; it just gives the taxpayer a forum to request that the lien be lifted. 
Once a federal tax lien arises, it generally is valid until the taxpayer’s liability is satisfied or until the time for enforcing the lien expires. Generally, an assessment may be collected by levy or court proceeding within ten years after the date of assessment. The ten-year period can be extended under limited circumstances.The filing of a Notice of Lien, by necessity, is open to the public and can harm a taxpayer’s credit standing and can affect business relationships by, for example, triggering a default under certain credit agreements, etc. 
Levy and Seizure 
If any person liable to pay a tax fails to do so within ten days after notice and demand, then the Service may collect the tax by levying on all property owned by that taxpayer, or on which there is a federal tax lien for the payment of such tax. Levies and seizures are ways in which the Service takes possession of property or rights to property. Levies and seizures are essentially the same thing. The term “levy” is typically used when the Service takes possession of intangible property or rights to property and the term “seizure” is typically used when the Service takes possession of real or personal property. A levy or seizure is a provisional collection device, meaning that disputes over ownership, priority or even liability for the tax can still be disputed after the levy or seizure. 
Two notices must be issued before the Service can execute a valid levy or seizure. First, the Service may not attempt any collection until ten days after a notice and demand for payment of the tax. This notice and demand can be the same notice and demand that must be made within sixty days after the assessment as described above. Typically, the Service sends two or three notices and demands for payment of taxes before it proceeds with the levy process. 
Second, the Service must notify the taxpayer in writing of its intention to levy on the taxpayer’s property or rights to property at least 30 days before the date of the levy (the “Notice of Intent to Levy”). The Notice of Intent to Levy must be given either in person, left at the taxpayer’s dwelling or usual place of business, or sent by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, to the taxpayer’s last known address.Like the Notice of Tax Lien, the Notice of Intent to Levy must inform the taxpayer of the right to request a CDP Hearing within 30 days of the Notice of Intent to Levy. At the CDP Hearing, the taxpayer can challenge the appropriateness of the collection activity and, in some cases, the validity of the underlying tax liability. If the taxpayer timely requests a CDP Hearing, the Service may not proceed with levy until the CDP Hearing is complete. 
The Service can use a levy to take any property subject to the federal tax lien. This includes just about any kind of property in the possession of the taxpayer or property in the hands of a third party to which the taxpayer is entitled. The Service can levy property from a third party simply by serving the levy on that third party. No special notice or procedure is required to levy property from a third party. 
Typically, a levy only reaches property in possession or rights in existence as of the date the levy is issued. Unlike a federal tax lien which attaches to after-acquired property, most levies do not reach after acquired property. Thus, a levy served on a bank will reach the balance in the account on the day of the levy and does not reach a deposit made the day after the levy. However, there is an exception to this rule. A continuing levy can be issued on salary and wages. A continuing levy is like a vacuum cleaner that continues to sweep up money as it is paid to the taxpayer. 
There are very few types of property that are exempt from a levy. State laws that provide homestead exemptions, protect certain types of retirement accounts, or limit the amount of a person’s salary that can be garnished, do not trump the federal levy laws and are ineffective against the Service’s power to levy. Federal law provides limited exemptions for things like school books, tools of trade, wearing apparel, fuel, provisions, furniture and personal effects, unemployment or workers compensation benefits and a minimum amount of wages.As noted above, the Service typically has ten years from the date of assessment to collect a tax by levy. 
Judicial Proceedings 
In addition to the administrative lien and levy procedures described above, the Service can also request the Tax Division of the Department of Justice to sue a taxpayer in federal court to collect a federal tax liability. Federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction over suits to obtain judgments pursuant to the Internal Revenue Laws. While an assessment and lien are not necessary prerequisites for such suits, there usually is an assessment and related federal tax lien. The Service sometimes uses the judicial remedy to reduce a federal tax lien to judgment when the statue of limitations for collecting administratively by levy is about to expire. If the Service obtains a judgment against the taxpayer, a whole new statute of limitations for collection on the judgment begins to run. 
The Service also uses judicial remedies to sue third parties who have failed to turn over property in response to a levy, to establish liability against a transferee of property, or to recover a refund of taxes that was mistakenly paid to a taxpayer. 
Taxpayer Defenses 
There are many ways that a taxpayer can defend against the collection of taxes. The CDP Hearing requests referred to above are some of the most powerful tools that a taxpayer can use because, while a CDP Hearing request does not stop the filing of a Notice of Lien, it can stop a levy pending the outcome of the CDP Hearing. Of course, if the Service collects money or property improperly, the taxpayer can sue for a refund. 

Tagged as: FATCA IRS jurisdiction tax policy u.s.

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FATCA non-delay delay

Published May 03, 2014 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Treasury playing a little game here: keep driving forward yet refrain from actually imposing FATCA's sanctions, except in those countries it is publicly acceptable to sanction. As an important aside, if there was ever any doubt as to the nature of FATCA's "withholding tax" before, that should now finally be put to rest. This is not a tax, it is an economic sanction to coerce persons outside the jurisdiction to comply with domestic information gathering goals, which can also be used to inflict punishment for other, unrelated offences. But what does it mean for the rule of law and for taxpayer expectations to have the threat of economic sanctions held steady with the release trigger depending on the IRS' 'sense' of taxpayer efforts? How will withholding agents interpret their obligations as of July 1? The below notice will require some very close reading by a great number of people.
Notice 2014-33; 2014-21 IRB 1 
Further Guidance on the Implementation of FATCA
and Related Withholding Provisions

I. PURPOSE

This notice announces that calendar years 2014 and 2015 will be regarded as a transition period for purposes of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) enforcement and administration with respect to the implementation of FATCA by withholding agents, foreign financial institutions (FFIs), and other entities with chapter 4 responsibilities, and with respect to certain related due diligence and withholding provisions under chapters 3 and 61, and section 3406, that were revised in regulations issued earlier this year as referenced in section II of this notice. This notice also announces the intention of the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the IRS to further amend the regulations under sections 1441, 1442, 1471, and 1472, as applicable, to provide: (i) that a withholding agent or FFI may treat an obligation (which includes an account) held by an entity that is opened, executed, or issued on or after July 1, 2014, and before January 1, 2015, as a preexisting obligation for purposes of sections 1471 and 1472, subject to certain modifications described in section IV of this notice; (ii) additional guidance under section 1471 concerning the requirements for an FFI (or a branch of an FFI, including a disregarded entity owned by an FFI) that is a member of an expanded affiliated group of FFIs to be treated as a limited FFI or limited branch, including the requirement for a limited FFI to register on the FATCA registration website; (iii) a modification to the standards of knowledge for withholding agents under § 1.1441-7(b) for accounts documented before July 1, 2014; and (iv) a revision to the definition of a reasonable explanation of foreign status in § 1.1471-3(e)(4)(viii). Prior to the issuance of these amendments, taxpayers may rely on the provisions of this notice regarding these proposed amendments to the regulations.

The transition period and other guidance described in this notice is intended to facilitate an orderly transition for withholding agent and FFI compliance with FATCA's requirements, and responds to comments regarding certain aspects of the regulations under chapters 3 and 4.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Final and Temporary Regulations under Chapter 4

On March 18, 2010, the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act of 2010, Pub. L. 111-147 (H.R. 2847), added chapter 4 to Subtitle A of the Code. Chapter 4 generally requires withholding agents to withhold at a 30 percent rate on certain payments to an FFI unless the FFI has entered into an agreement (FFI agreement) to obtain status as a participating FFI and to, among other things, report certain information with respect to U.S. accounts. Chapter 4 also imposes on withholding agents certain withholding, documentation, and reporting requirements with respect to certain payments made to certain non-financial foreign entities (NFFEs). 
On January 17, 2013, Treasury and the IRS published final regulations under chapter 4 (TD 9610, 78 Fed. Reg. 5873) (final chapter 4 regulations). Following the publication of the final chapter 4 regulations, Treasury and the IRS issued Notice 2013-43 (2013-31 I.R.B. 113) to preview, among other things, a revised timeline for implementation of the FATCA requirements. On February 20, 2014, Treasury and the IRS released temporary regulations under chapter 4 (T.D. 9657, 79 Fed. Reg. 12,812) (temporary chapter 4 regulations) that clarify and modify certain provisions of the final chapter 4 regulations, including incorporating the revised timeline for the implementation of FATCA set forth in Notice 2013-43. The temporary chapter 4 regulations accordingly require that withholding agents (including participating FFIs, qualified intermediaries, withholding foreign partnerships, and withholding foreign trusts) begin withholding with respect to withholdable payments made on or after July 1, 2014, unless the withholding agent can reliably associate the payment with documentation upon which it is permitted to rely to treat the payment as exempt from withholding under chapter 4. On February 20, 2014, Treasury and the IRS also released temporary regulations under chapters 3 and 61, and section 3406 (T.D. 9658, 79 Fed. Reg. 12,726) (temporary coordination regulations), to coordinate those regulations with the requirements provided in the final and temporary chapter 4 regulations.

To date, the IRS has published updated final versions of all forms in the Forms W-8 series and certain instructions to these forms to incorporate the documentation requirements of chapter 4. The IRS expects to publish all of the remaining instructions in this series in the near future.

B. Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs)

During 2012, Treasury first released Model 1 and Model 2 intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) to facilitate the implementation of FATCA and to avoid legal impediments under local law that would otherwise limit an FFI's ability to comply with the requirements under chapter 4. On April 2, 2014, Treasury and the IRS published Announcement 2014-17 (2014-18 I.R.B. 1001), providing that the jurisdictions treated as having an IGA in effect would include jurisdictions that, before July 1, 2014, have reached agreements in substance with the United States on the terms of an IGA and that have consented to be included on the Treasury and IRS lists of such jurisdictions, in addition to jurisdictions that have already signed IGAs. An FFI that is resident in, or organized under the laws of, a jurisdiction that is included on the Treasury and IRS lists as having an IGA in effect is permitted to register on the FATCA registration website and is permitted to certify to a withholding agent its status as an FFI covered by an IGA. As of May 1, 2014, Treasury had signed 30 IGAs, and had agreements in substance with 29 jurisdictions. A complete list can be found on Treasury's website, available at http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/tax-policy/treaties/Pages/FATCA.aspx.
III. TRANSITION PERIOD FOR ENFORCEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF COMPLIANCE

Calendar years 2014 and 2015 will be regarded as a transition period for purposes of IRS enforcement and administration of the due diligence, reporting, and withholding provisions under chapter 4, as well as the provisions under chapters 3 and 61, and section 3406, to the extent those rules were modified by the temporary coordination regulations. With respect to this transition period, the IRS will take into account the extent to which a participating or deemed-compliant FFI, direct reporting NFFE, sponsoring entity, sponsored FFI, sponsored direct reporting NFFE, or withholding agent has made good faith efforts to comply with the requirements of the chapter 4 regulations and the temporary coordination regulations.

For example, the IRS will take into account whether a withholding agent has made reasonable efforts during the transition period to modify its account opening practices and procedures to document the chapter 4 status of payees, apply the standards of knowledge provided in chapter 4, and, in the absence of reliable documentation, apply the presumption rules of § 1.1471-3(f). Additionally, for example, the IRS will consider the good faith efforts of a participating FFI, registered deemed-compliant FFI, or limited FFI to identify and facilitate the registration of each other member of its expanded affiliated group as required for purposes of satisfying the expanded affiliated group requirement under § 1.1471-4(e)(1).

An entity that has not made good faith efforts to comply with the new requirements will not be given any relief from IRS enforcement during the transition period. Further, the IRS will not regard calendar years 2014 and 2015 as a transition period with respect to the requirements of chapters 3 and 61, and section 3406, that were not modified by the temporary coordination regulations. For example, the IRS will not provide transitional relief with respect to its enforcement regarding a withholding agent's determinations of the character and source of payments for withholding and reporting purposes. The transition period for compliance provided in this notice is similar to other transition periods that the IRS has provided when it has introduced or significantly revised due diligence, reporting, and withholding rules. See, e.g., Notice 98-16 (1998-15 I.R.B 12), Notice 99-25 (1999-20 I.R.B 75), and Notice 2001-4 (2001-2 I.R.B. 267).

IV. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN ENTITY OBLIGATIONS ISSUED, OPENED, OR EXECUTED ON OR AFTER JULY 1, 2014

A. Chapter 4 Regulations

Under the chapter 4 regulations, withholding agents (other than participating FFIs and registered deemed-compliant FFIs) are generally required to implement new account opening procedures beginning on July 1, 2014. A participating FFI is required to implement new account opening procedures on the later of July 1, 2014, or the effective date of its FFI agreement, and a registered deemed-compliant FFI is required to implement new account opening procedures on the later of July 1, 2014, or the date on which the FFI registers as a deemed-compliant FFI and receives a global intermediary identification number (GIIN). 
Comments received after the publication of the temporary chapter 4 regulations have indicated that the release dates of the final Forms W-8 and accompanying instructions present practical problems for both withholding agents and FFIs to implement new account opening procedures beginning on July 1, 2014. In consideration of these comments, Treasury and the IRS intend to amend the chapter 4 regulations to allow a withholding agent or FFI to treat an obligation held by an entity that is issued, opened, or executed on or after July 1, 2014, and before January 1, 2015, as a preexisting obligation for purposes of implementing the applicable due diligence, withholding, and reporting requirements under chapter 4. The proposed amendments to the chapter 4 regulations described in this section IV will be available only to obligations held by entities. The proposed amendments to the chapter 4 regulations will not be available for obligations held by individuals because the procedures for documenting individual accounts are less complex than those for documenting entities for chapter 4 purposes and the Form W-8BEN (for withholding agents to document individuals) and its accompanying instructions were published in final form on March 3, 2014.

More specifically, the proposed amendments will allow withholding agents and FFIs to treat any obligation held by an entity that is issued, opened, or executed on or after July 1, 2014, and before January 1, 2015, as a preexisting obligation for purposes of the due diligence and withholding requirements applicable to preexisting obligations described in §§ 1.1471-2(a)(4)(ii), 1.1472-1(b)(2), and 1.1471-4(c)(3), except that an FFI may not apply the documentation exception under § 1.1471-4(c)(3)(iii).

As a result, a withholding agent that treats an obligation described in this section IV as a preexisting obligation will have the additional time provided in § 1.1471-2(a)(4)(ii) or § 1.1472-1(b)(2) in order to document an entity that is a payee or account holder of the obligation to determine whether the entity is a payee subject to withholding under chapter 4. For example, a withholding agent may document an entity that is a payee of an obligation issued, opened, or executed on or after July 1, 2014, and before January 1, 2015, by December 31, 2014, if the payee is a prima facie FFI, or by June 30, 2016, in all other cases (as provided in § 1.1471-2(a)(4)(ii)). A withholding agent would otherwise be required to document the entity by the earlier of the date a withholdable payment is made or within 90 days of the date the obligation is issued, opened, or executed.

An FFI that is a participating FFI or registered deemed-compliant FFI may also treat an obligation held by an entity that is issued, opened, or executed on or after July 1, 2014, and before January 1, 2015, as a preexisting obligation to document the obligation for chapter 4 purposes within the period permitted under § 1.1471-4(c)(3)(ii) as if the effective date of its FFI agreement or the date on which the FFI registers as a deemed-compliant FFI and receives a GIIN is June 30, 2014, and may not exclude such accounts from review under § 1.1471-4(c)(3)(iii).

The proposed amendments to the chapter 4 regulations described in this notice will not otherwise affect the timelines provided in the final and temporary chapter 4 regulations for due diligence, reporting, or withholding and will not modify the starting date for an FFI to implement new account opening procedures with respect to accounts maintained by the FFI that are held by individuals. For example, if a withholding agent treats an obligation held by an entity that is issued, opened, or executed on or after July 1, 2014, and before January 1, 2015, as a preexisting obligation and receives a Form W-8BEN-E from the entity to document its status as a nonparticipating FFI, the withholding agent must begin withholding and reporting under chapter 4 when otherwise required for a preexisting obligation under the chapter 4 regulations.

B. Intergovernmental Agreements

The Model 1 and Model 2 IGAs contain a provision that allows a partner jurisdiction that has entered into an IGA to receive the benefit of certain more favorable terms that are set forth in a later signed IGA, including revisions to the procedures under Annex I of an applicable IGA, unless the partner jurisdiction declines in writing to adopt the update (the "most-favored nation" provision). With respect to FFIs covered by an IGA, Treasury intends to update the due diligence procedures described in Annex I of the Model 1 and Model 2 IGAs to incorporate due diligence procedures consistent with this notice.
Thus, it is expected that Annex I of future Model 1 and Model 2 IGAs will include a new due diligence procedures for an entity account opened on or after July 1, 2014, and before January 1, 2015, to allow an FFI covered by a Model 1 IGA or Model 2 IGA to treat such an account as a preexisting entity account, but without permitting application to such accounts of the $250,000 exception for preexisting entity accounts that are not required to be reviewed, identified, or reported. A partner jurisdiction with an IGA that has been signed or that has reached an agreement in substance will be permitted to adopt the revised due diligence procedures described above pursuant to the most-favored nation provision contained within its IGA, once an IGA with the revised procedures has been signed with another partner jurisdiction.

Annex I of the Model 1 IGA contains a provision that allows a partner jurisdiction to permit a reporting Model 1 FFI to rely on the procedures described in relevant U.S. Treasury regulations to establish whether an account is a U.S. reportable account or an account held by a nonparticipating financial institution. Annex I of the Model 2 IGA contains a provision that allows a reporting Model 2 FFI to rely on the procedures described in relevant U.S. Treasury regulations to establish whether an account is a U.S. reportable account or an account held by a nonparticipating financial institution. Prior to the publication of the proposed amendments to the chapter 4 regulations, a partner jurisdiction may rely on the provisions of this notice to permit a reporting Model 1 FFI to apply the due diligence procedures for documenting entity accounts described in this section IV. Similarly, prior to the publication of the proposed amendments to the chapter 4 regulations, a reporting Model 2 FFI may rely on the provisions of this notice to apply the due diligence procedures for documenting entity accounts described in this section IV.

V. MODIFICATION OF THE STANDARDS OF KNOWLEDGE RULES UNDER CHAPTER 3

A. Background on Reason to Know

The temporary coordination regulations, among other things, revised the reason to know standard under § 1.1441-7(b) to provide that a withholding agent will have reason to know that documentation establishing the foreign status of a direct account holder is unreliable or incorrect if the withholding agent has a current telephone number for the account holder in the United States and no telephone number for the account holder outside the United States, or has a U.S. place of birth for the account holder. See § 1.1441-7(b)(5) and (8). The addition of rules concerning a U.S. telephone number and a U.S. place of birth as U.S. indicia to the standards of knowledge for withholding agents was made in the temporary coordination regulations to coordinate with the standards of knowledge applicable to a withholding agent's reliance on a payee's claim of foreign status for chapter 4 purposes. The temporary coordination regulations also provide a transitional rule to allow a withholding agent that has previously documented the foreign status of a direct account holder for chapters 3 and 61 purposes prior to July 1, 2014, to continue to rely on such documentation without regard to whether the withholding agent has a U.S. telephone number or U.S. place of birth for the account holder. The withholding agent would, however, have reason to know that the documentation is unreliable or incorrect if the withholding agent is notified of a change in circumstances with respect to the account holder's foreign status or the withholding agent reviews documentation for the account holder that contains a U.S. place of birth. See § 1.1441-7(b)(3)(ii).

B. Modification of the Standards of Knowledge

Commentators have noted that the transitional rule for preexisting obligations described in § 1.1441-7(b)(3)(ii) has limited use for withholding agents because it is tied to a withholding agent's reliance on documentation obtained from an account holder prior to July 1, 2014, and may therefore not include cases in which a withholding agent renews a withholding certificate or documentary evidence on or after July 1, 2014, under the requirements of § 1.1441-1(e)(4)(ii)(A) (referring to the time period for renewal of certain withholding certificates or documentary evidence). Commentators further note that because of the extension until December 31, 2014, provided in the temporary coordination regulations for withholding agents to renew withholding certificates and documentary evidence that would have otherwise expired on December 31, 2013, withholding agents will have a significant number of accounts that were documented prior to July 1, 2014, but that will need to be re-documented by December 31, 2014, at which time they will no longer be able to rely on the transitional rule in § 1.1441-7(b)(3)(ii) even if the renewal documentation does not include any information indicating a change in circumstances. See § 1.1441-1(e)(4)(ii)(A) for the extended renewal allowance for withholding certifications and documentary evidence otherwise expiring on December 31, 2013.
Accordingly, Treasury and the IRS intend to amend the temporary coordination regulations to provide that a direct account holder will be considered documented prior to July 1, 2014, without regard to whether the withholding agent obtains renewal documentation for the account holder on or after July 1, 2014 pursuant to the requirements of § 1.1441-1(e)(4)(ii)(A). Therefore, a withholding agent that has documented a direct account holder prior to July 1, 2014, is not required to apply the new reason to know standards relating to a U.S. telephone number or U.S. place of birth until the withholding agent is notified of a change in circumstances with respect to the account holder's foreign status (other than renewal documentation that is required under § 1.1441-1(e)(4)(ii)(A)) or reviews documentation for the account holder that contains a U.S. place of birth. See § 1.1441-7(b)(3)(ii).

VI. REVISION OF THE DEFINTION OF REASONABLE STATEMENT UNDER CHAPTER 4

A. Background on Reasonable Explanation Supporting a Claim of Foreign Status

The final chapter 4 regulations in § 1.1471-3(e)(4)(viii) and the temporary coordination regulations in § 1.1441-7(b)(12) each provide that a withholding agent may rely on the foreign status of an individual account holder irrespective of certain U.S. indicia if, in certain cases, the account holder provides a reasonable explanation supporting the account holder's claim of foreign status. Section 1.1441-7(b)(12) describes a reasonable explanation supporting a claim of foreign status for chapter 3 purposes as either a written statement prepared by an individual or a checklist provided by a withholding agent stating that the individual meets the requirements described in § 1.1441-7(b)(12)(i) through (iv). Section 1.1471-3(e)(4)(viii) also describes a reasonable explanation supporting a claim of foreign status by an individual account holder for chapter 4 purposes, and it is substantially similar to the description under § 1.1441-7(b)(12), except that it limits the contents of a reasonable statement provided by an individual account holder to the explanations permitted on the checklist. Thus, unlike the description provided in the temporary coordination regulations, the description provided in the final chapter 4 regulations does not permit an individual to provide a written explanation other than an explanation that the individual meets the requirements described in § 1.1471-3(e)(4)(viii)(A) through (D).

B. Revision of Reasonable Explanation Prepared by an Individual

Commentators have noted that the description of a reasonable explanation of foreign status in the final chapter 4 regulations differs from the description provided in the temporary coordination regulations. Treasury and the IRS intend to amend the final chapter 4 regulations to adopt the description of a reasonable explanation of foreign status provided in the temporary coordination regulations, which permit an individual to provide a reasonable explanation that is not limited to an explanation meeting the requirements of § 1.1471-3(e)(4)(viii)(A) through (D). 
VII. LIMITED FFIS AND LIMITED BRANCHES

A. Background

The final and temporary chapter 4 regulations require that for any member of an expanded affiliated group (as defined in § 1.1471-5(i)(2)) to obtain status as a participating FFI or registered deemed-compliant FFI, each FFI member of the expanded affiliated group must have a chapter 4 status of a participating FFI, deemed-compliant FFI, exempt beneficial owner, or limited FFI. The final chapter 4 regulations also provide in § 1.1471-4(e)(2)(iv) and (3)(iii) that an FFI or branch of a participating FFI must be registered with the IRS and agree to certain conditions in order to be treated as a limited FFI or limited branch. The conditions for limited FFI or limited branch status include, among other things, that the FFI or branch not open accounts that it is required to treat as U.S. accounts or accounts held by nonparticipating FFIs, including accounts transferred from any member of its expanded affiliate group.
The IRS's FATCA registration website, available at www.irs.gov/FATCA, serves as the primary way for FFIs to register for status as a participating FFI, registered deemed-compliant FFI, or limited FFI. The FATCA registration website allows FFIs that are members of an expanded affiliated group to designate a lead financial institution (Lead FI) to identify member FFIs that will register as participating FFIs, registered deemed-compliant FFIs, or limited FFIs and to perform certain functions with respect to member FFIs. A Lead FI is not, however, required to act as a Lead FI for all FFIs within an expanded affiliated group.

B. Relief from Limited FFI and Limited Branch Restrictions on Account Opening.

FFIs and other stakeholders continue to express strong support for IGAs as a way to facilitate effective and efficient FATCA implementation while avoiding conflicts with local law. While Treasury stands ready and willing to negotiate IGAs based on the published models, commentators have expressed practical concerns about the status of FFIs and branches of FFIs in jurisdictions that are slow to engage in IGA negotiations and that have legal restrictions impeding their ability to comply with FATCA, including the conditions for limited FFI or limited branch status under the chapter 4 regulations. Specifically, comments have noted that the restrictions imposed by the final chapter 4 regulations on a limited branch or limited FFI on opening any account that it is required to treat as a U.S. account or as held by a nonparticipating FFI hinders the ability of an FFI to agree to the conditions of limited status due, for example, to requirements under local law to provide individual residents with access to banking services or to the business needs of the FFI to secure funding from another FFI in the same jurisdiction with similar impediments to complying with the requirements of FATCA.
In response to these comments, Treasury and the IRS intend to amend the final chapter 4 regulations to permit a limited FFI or limited branch to open U.S. accounts for persons resident in the jurisdiction where the limited branch or limited FFI is located, and accounts for nonparticipating FFIs that are resident in that jurisdiction, provided that the limited FFI or limited branch does not solicit U.S. accounts from persons not resident in, or accounts held by nonparticipating FFIs that are not established in, the jurisdiction where the FFI (or branch) is located and the FFI (or branch) is not used by another FFI in its expanded affiliated group to circumvent the obligations of such other FFI under section 1471. This modification is consistent with the treatment of related entities and branches provided in the model IGAs.

C. Registration of Limited FFIs.

Commentators have also stated that certain jurisdictions are explicitly prohibiting an FFI resident in, or organized under the laws of, the jurisdiction from registering with the IRS and agreeing to any status, including status as a limited FFI, regardless of whether the FFI would otherwise be able to comply with the requirements of limited FFI status. Treasury and the IRS intend to amend the final chapter 4 regulations to provide that, if an FFI is prohibited under local law from registering as a limited FFI, the prohibition will not prevent the members of its expanded affiliated group from obtaining statuses as participating FFIs or registered deemed-compliant FFIs if the first-mentioned FFI is identified as a limited FFI on the FATCA registration website by a member of the expanded affiliated group that is a U.S. financial institution or an FFI seeking status as a participating FFI (including a reporting Model 2 FFI) or reporting Model 1 FFI. In order to identify the limited FFI, the member of the expanded affiliated group will be required to register as a Lead FI with respect to the limited FFI and provide the limited FFI's information in Part II of the FATCA registration website. If the Lead FI is prohibited from identifying the limited FFI by its legal name, it will be sufficient if the Lead FI uses the term "Limited FFI" in place of its name and indicates the FFI's jurisdiction of residence or organization. 
By identifying a limited FFI in the FATCA registration website pursuant to this subsection VII.C, the Lead FI is confirming that: (1) the FFI made a representation to the Lead FI that it will meet the conditions for limited FFI status, (2) the FFI will notify the Lead FI within 30 days of the date that such FFI ceases to be a limited FFI because it either can no longer comply with the requirements for limited status or failed to comply with these requirements, or that the limited FFI can comply with the requirements of a participating FFI or deemed-compliant FFI and will separately register, to the extent required, to obtain its applicable chapter 4 status, and (3) the Lead FI, if it receives such notification or knows that the limited FFI has not complied with the conditions for limited FFI status or that the limited FFI can comply with the requirements of a participating FFI or deemed-compliant FFI, will, within 90 days of such notification or acquiring such knowledge, update the information on the FATCA registration website accordingly and will no longer be required to act as a Lead FI for the FFI. In the case in which the FFI can no longer comply or failed to comply with the requirements of limited FFI status, the Lead FI must delete the FFI from Part II of the FATCA registration website and must maintain a record of the date on which the FFI ceased to be a limited FFI and the circumstances of the limited FFI's non-compliance that will be available to the IRS upon request.

VIII. DRAFTING INFORMATION

The principal author of this notice is Tara N. Ferris of the Office of Associate Chief Counsel (International). For further information regarding this notice, contact Ms. Ferris at (202) 317-6942 (not a toll-free call).
For a couple of instant reactions from the compliance industry: KPMG; Deloitte.
In the media: Accounting Today; Reuters.

Tagged as: FATCA institutions tax policy u.s.

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Next Week at NYU: Tax and Corporate Social Responsibility Symposium

Published Mar 18, 2014 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

I'll be taking part in this symposium on corporate taxation next Tuesday at NYU. Here is the description:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014  |  9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
D'Agostino Hall, Lipton Hall 
This symposium will feature two panels, “Should Corporations Pay Tax?” and “Should Corporate Tax Returns Be Public?”   
Participants include Reuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Allison Christians (McGill), Peter Barnes (Duke), Michael Schler (Cravath), Joshua Blank (NYU), Helen Scott (NYU), David Kamin (NYU), and possibly others.   
The event will be co-hosted by the Graduate Tax Program and the NYU Journal of Law & Business.   
It will take place from 9:15 AM to 12:30 PM on March 25th in Lipton Hall, D’Agostino Hall at NYU Law School, located at 110 West Third Street.
Additional info here, including this description:
From the enactment of the corporate excise tax in 1909 to the present, the corporate tax in the United States has generated intense debate.  Topics at the center of this debate have ranged from the fundamental purpose of the tax to moral obligations of corporations to pay tax to tax transparency and accountability.  This half-day symposium will continue the discussion by addressing two questions:  Should corporations pay tax?  And should corporate tax returns be public?  Each panel will feature leading tax and corporate law scholars and distinguished practitioners.  Participation from the audience in the discussion will be encouraged.
My recent writing on these subject includes a short essay entitled "How Starbucks Lost its Social License — And Paid £20 Million to Get it Back" on Starbucks' tax-dodging related image problems in Europe, a book chapter entitled "Tax Activists and the Global Movement for Development Through Transparency," on the global corporate tax transparency movement, and an article article entitled "Drawing the Boundaries of Tax Justice" which analyzes the fundamental justice questions surrounding the taxation of corporations (as well as humans).


Tagged as: conference corporate tax CSR fairness justice tax culture tax policy

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Razin on Tax and Migration Competition

Published Sep 10, 2013 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Assaf Razin and Efraim Sadka have a new paper up on NBER called Migration into the Welfare State, in which they survey the literature on the tax burden of migration and work with available migration and tax policy data to make some assertions about how taxation impacts inward and outward migration.  From the abstract in the paper:

We develop a stylised EU-type model of rich capital-abundant (and productive) countries and poor capital-scarce countries in order to explain a key feature of tax policies and inter- and intra-migration flows. We examine how this model can explain the differences in the tax rates and the generosity of the welfare state, on the one hand, and migration flows, on the other hand, between rich and poor countries, within a union and from the rest of the world. An upward-slopping supply of migrants from outside the union and the relatively low endowment of capital of these migrants gives rise to a fiscal externality.
The jargon-heavy style of this abstract continues through the paper and I cannot say that I really understand some of the arguments. Razin and Sadka seem to conclude that under conditions of tax competition (for example, involving migration from countries outside of the EU), rich countries let in too many immigrants, offer them too many social benefits, and levy too high a tax on capital (which immigrants don't typically pay) to pay for it all, while coordination fixes things (although confusingly the papers seems to suggest that coordination brings down capital gains taxes but intensifies migration flows, so I am not sure). Unfortunately this paper requires too much deciphering and parsing work by the reader (an all-too-common phenomenon with academic papers) and at this time of year there is little hope for that.

A plea to academic authors who write papers on tax topics especially (and a reminder to myself when I look at my own writing): readers need a clear and succinct summary, written in plain, jargon-free language, to help them summon the desire and the mental energy to work through a paper. The more complex and data-filled the paper, the more a return to Zinsser is to be recommended.

Tagged as: labour mobility scholarship tax culture Tax law tax policy

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