Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

Delve into the intricate world of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting – a hot topic in today's global economy. This comprehensive guide explores the nitty-gritty of this complex legal concept, from its fundamentals and implications to the varied techniques employed by multinational corporations. Discover the OECD's role in tackling this issue and learn about the strategic Action Plan that has been developed to combat it. Furthermore, you'll gain a breadth of understanding on its significant impact on the sphere of Business Law. Brace yourself for a journey into the captivating heart of international tax jurisprudence.

Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

Create learning materials about Base Erosion and Profit Shifting with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    Understanding Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

    A growing phenomenon in international taxation is known as Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, or BEPS. Underneath this term lies a complex landscape of economic and legal principles. The aim of this section is to shed light on the fundamentals of this phenomenon, explain its definition, and dive deep into its causes and implications.

    The Fundamentals of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

    The concept of base erosion and profit shifting extends from the international tax policy framework. It serves to minimise gaps and mismatches in tax rules which could potentially allow multinational companies to artificially shift their profits to low or no tax regions, thereby reducing their overall tax obligations.

    Base Erosion: This refers to the process by which companies reduce their tax base (the amount on which tax is payable) using various business strategies such as deducting expenses in one jurisdiction whilst declaring income in another.

    Profit Shifting: In contrast, profit shifting involves manipulating inter-company transactions to shift profits from high-tax jurisdictions to low-tax jurisdictions.

    A multinational corporation operating in Country A (with a high corporate tax rate) and Country B (with a low corporate tax rate) can utilise Base Erosion and Profit Shifting strategies. For instance, it can make intercompany loans from the parent company in Country B to the subsidiary in Country A. The interest payments from the subsidiary are deductible expenses in Country A, thereby reducing the profits subject to the high tax rate. Meanwhile, the interest income received by the parent company in Country B is subject to the lower tax rate.

    Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Definition

    In the realm of international taxation, Base Erosion and Profit Shifting is broadly defined as tax planning strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations where there is little or no economic activity, resulting in little or no overall corporate tax being paid.

    Causes and Implications of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

    Multiple factors contribute to Base Erosion and Profit Shifting. Some key contributors include differences in national tax laws, the existence of tax havens, and the international nature of business operations. These factors can lead to a variety of significant impacts.

    CauseImplication
    Differences in National Tax LawsLack of uniformity may be exploited by multinationa companies to reduce their tax liabilities.
    Existence of Tax HavensMay facilitate the shifting of profits to low or no tax jurisdictions, leading to minimal tax payments.
    International Nature of Business OperationsMakes it more complex to apply national tax rules, thereby providing more opportunities for Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.

    The implications of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting are widespread and alarming. They include loss of tax revenues for governments, and consequently for public goods and services. Moreover, this phenomenon distorts economic decision-making and compromises the fairness of tax systems by enabling multinational corporations to gain advantages over domestic companies.

    The Example and Techniques of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

    To fully grasp what base erosion and profit shifting is, let's examine a practical example of how it works and explore several of the techniques used to put these tax strategies into play. Understanding these methods will help to identify how multinational corporations use BEPS to reduce their tax obligations.

    Practical Example of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

    A multinational corporation (MNC), operating in multiple countries, can utilise an interesting strategy to erode its taxable base within a high-tax jurisdiction, and shift profits to a low-tax one. The key here lies in the concept of transfer pricing.

    Transfer Pricing: This refers to the prices at which an enterprise transacts with other enterprises under the same ownership or control. These transactions can be manipulated to suit the overall tax planning strategy of the MNC.

    Imagine a case where the MNC has two subsidiaries, Subsidiary A in a high-tax jurisdiction and Subsidiary B in a low-tax jurisdiction. Subsidiary A manufactures a product and sells it to Subsidiary B. If the transfer price (at which the product is sold to Subsidiary B) is manipulated to be artificially low, it reduces the profits in the high-tax jurisdiction (where Subsidiary A is located) and increases profits in the low-tax jurisdiction (where Subsidiary B is located). Hence, overall tax paid by the MNC is lowered.

    Various Techniques of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

    Being a sophisticated practice, diverse techniques have emerged for optimising tax strategies. Most exploits differing tax regulations, legislations or treaties. The most predominant strategies include:

    • Transfer pricing: As mentioned above, this is the most commonly used BEPS technique. It involves manipulating prices of goods or services traded between related party entities to shift profits to low tax jurisdictions.
    • Strategic location of Intellectual Property (IP): Companies often locate their IP in a low tax jurisdiction, and then charge high licensing fees to subsidiaries in high tax jurisdictions. This strategy allows a significant portion of the profits to be shifted to where the IP is registered.
    • Use of Hybrid Mismatch Arrangements: This technique exploits differences in the tax treatment of entities or instruments under the laws of different tax jurisdictions. A classic example here is that of 'Double Dipping' where a company seeks to get the tax benefit in both jurisdictions for the same expense.
    • Treaty Shopping: Here, a company takes advantage of tax treaties between different countries to reduce its tax burden. It involves structuring operations in a way to benefit from favourable tax treaties, often using a third (low tax) jurisdiction.

    In conclusion, while these tax strategies may not be illegal, they certainly tangle the lines of ethical business behavior and fair taxation. Owing to such consequences, there has been an increasing call for coordinated, international responses to address BEPS.

    OECD's Role in Tackling Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

    The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has taken a pivotal role in addressing the challenge of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). It has been instrumental in devising international standards and measures that aim to mitigate the negative impacts caused by BEPS practices.

    How OECD Addresses Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Issue

    To counter the effects of BEPS, the OECD has adopted a collaborative approach. Their strategy involves the harmonisation of tax rules across countries and the development of an inclusive framework that invites economies worldwide to implement these measures.

    Inclusive Framework: An initiative launched by the OECD/G20 that allows interested countries to work alongside the OECD and G20 countries on the implementation of the BEPS package. It ensures all countries can collaborate on an equal footing. This framework is crucial to the fight against BEPS as it facilitates international cooperation.

    The OECD's flagship project in this realm is the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan. Introduced in 2013, this comprehensive approach comprises 15 action areas that aim to tackle BEPS practices at various levels.

    The Action Plan recognises that the key to mitigating BEPS is through the development of coherent international tax rules that eliminate mismatches and discrepancies between different jurisdictions. It seeks to ensure that profits are taxed where economic activities occur and where value is created, thereby reducing opportunities for tax avoidance.

    OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Actions

    The BEPS Actions are divided into four main categories: establishing international coherence of corporate income taxation; restoring the full effects of international standards; ensuring transparency while promoting increased certainty; and addressing challenges from the digitisation of the economy.

    Let's touch base on a few key actions amongst the fifteen BEPS actions:

    Action 1:Addressing Tax Challenges of the Digital Economy. Recognises that the digital economy is increasingly prevalent and important, offering potential BEPS opportunities. Provides recommendations to counter these.
    Action 2:Neutralising Effects of Hybrid Mismatch Arrangements. Offers policy recommendations to neutralise mismatches in entity and instrument characterization.
    Action 4:Limiting Base Erosion Involving Interest Deductions. Proposes a fixed ratio rule that limits an entity’s net interest deductions to a benchmark net interest to EBITDA ratio.
    Action 13:Transfer Pricing Documentation and Country-by-Country Reporting. Introduces a three-tiered approach to transfer pricing documentation, including global, local and country-by-country reports.

    By working actively to diminish the opportunities for Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, the OECD is instrumental in streamlining international tax laws and promoting a healthier business environment. In so doing, they contribute to bringing about more equitable business practices worldwide.

    Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

    In response to the growing Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) issue, the OECD took a strategic step forward by introducing a comprehensive Action Plan. This blueprint aims to revise the international tax system and minimise the opportunities for large corporations to exploit disparities between national tax rules.

    Comprehensive Overview of the Action Plan

    The Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, released by the OECD in 2013, represents a significant move towards adopting common international approaches to combat BEPS. It is characterised by 15 detailed actions that offer distinct measures to tackle different aspects of BEPS.

    Broadly, these actions can be categorised under few thematic areas:

    • Addressing the digital economy's tax challenges
    • Neutralising the impact of hybrid mismatch arrangements
    • Strengthening Controlled Foreign Company (CFC) rules
    • Restricting interest deductibility to counter BEPS
    • Tackling harmful tax practices more effectively
    • Preventing treaty abuse
    • Realigning the taxation of profits with the substantial activities generating them
    • Introducing transparency through country-by-country reporting

    Each action is backed by a detailed report that provides the context and justification for the action, together with proposed measures and recommendations. Countries are encouraged to adopt these recommendations in their national tax rule architecture.

    Hybrid Mismatch Arrangements: these are complex financial structures that exploit differences in tax laws between countries to shift profits, resulting in low or no taxation.

    Controlled Foreign Company (CFC) Rules: these are legislations enacted by countries to prevent their residents from artificially deferring otherwise taxable income, or from artificially shifting taxable income to a controlled foreign corporation in a low-tax jurisdiction.

    Country-by-Country Reporting: this involves multinational corporations reporting various details of their international operations, including profits, taxes, employees, and activities, on a country-by-country basis. This practice ensures a high level of transparency regarding the corporation's global operations.

    How the Action Plan Combats Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

    The Action Plan combats BEPS by addressing its root causes. Each action corresponds to a specific BEPS issue, providing associated measures to ensure fair tax rules and prevent BEPS. For example, the Plan proposes to address the tax challenges of the digital economy (Action 1) considering that it often allows companies to have a significant economic presence without being liable to taxation.

    To illustrate how the Action Plan combats BEPS, let's consider the measures related to hybrid mismatch arrangements (Action 2). The Plan suggests that countries make taxing changes to deny a deduction or demand inclusion for payments that give rise to hybrid mismatch outcomes, thus tackling this common BEPS technique.

    Similarly, the Plan brings transparency into the operations of multinational corporations through country-by-country reporting (Action 13). This ensures that valuable tax-related information is reported and, most importantly, is accessible by tax authorities to facilitate informed assessments and audits.

    The Action Plan is not only about putting forth ideas, but also fostering international cooperation and dialogue. It encourages countries to engage in dialogue, share experiences, and collaboratively adopt these actions to prevent one-sided measures that could lead to more mismatches. The final aim is to foster a coherent system that ensures 'fair play' in global taxation.

    Significant Impact of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting on Business Law

    Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) has considerable implications for business law. As an international taxation phenomenon, it poses challenges and complexities for both domestic and international tax law systems. The strategies used in BEPS directly manipulate legal loopholes, pointing to a need for significant legal reforms at both national and international levels.

    Base Erosion and Profit Shifting in the Context of Business Law

    Multinational corporations conduct vast cross-border transactions, which can lead to complex tax obligations spread across various jurisdictions. These corporations, in an attempt to minimise their global tax obligations, can resort to BEPS practices which manipulate weaknesses and loopholes in domestic and international tax laws.

    BEPS Practices: These involve tax planning strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to shift profits to low or no-tax locations, resulting in little or no overall corporate tax being paid.

    BEPS originated from the differences and gaps existing in various national tax laws. Given the domestic nature of these regulations, international transactions can create opportunities for BEPS strategies, such as treaty shopping and transfer pricing manipulation. These concerns have led to extensive changes in international business law. From aligning tax rights with significant economic presence to addressing issues related to digitalisation, BEPS has undeniably shaped evolving legal landscapes for multinational businesses.

    For instance, a multinational corporation with operations in a country with high corporate tax rates could set up a subsidiary in a low or no-tax jurisdiction, and then use transfer pricing between the parent company and the subsidiary to shift profits away from the high tax jurisdiction. This action clearly engages significant aspects of business law, including tax law, transfer pricing rules, and regulations surrounding the formation and operation of subsidiaries.

    Legal Implications of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

    In addition to the above examples, BEPS has other far-reaching legal implications. Here are some key areas affected by BEPS:

    • Alteration of Legal Structures: In order to prevent BEPS, countries have had to revise legal structures and rules around taxing rights, transfer pricing, treaty shopping, and more.
    • Increased Complexity of Business Law: The need to prevent BEPS has significantly complicated the field of business law, as it now has to consider increasingly complex tax avoidance strategies and mechanisms.
    • Shift Towards International Cooperation: Given the transnational nature of BEPS, preventing it necessitates greater international cooperation, leading to fundamental changes in the way international tax laws function.

    Importantly, BEPS has led to dynamic changes in international tax governance. It has exposed gaps in the existing systems, necessitating regulatory changes for countries to protect their tax base and ensure a fair playing field. International organisations like the OECD have been instrumental in shaping this transition, introducing action plans and recommendations to mitigate the impacts of BEPS.

    Notably, these changes are not just restricted to tax laws. The implications of BEPS also extend to corporate law, competition law, and administrative law, among others. The nature of multinational corporations and their strategic arrangements for tax minimisation often involve legal structures and operations that touch on these aspects of business law.

    Therefore, understanding the legal implications of BEPS is critical to grasping the larger picture, embodying the interplay between taxation, multinational businesses, and the legal frameworks that govern them.

    Base Erosion and Profit Shifting - Key takeaways

    • Base Erosion and Profit Shifting definition: Tax planning strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations, resulting in little or no overall corporate tax being paid.
    • Causes of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting: Include differences in national tax laws, the existence of tax havens, and the international nature of business operations, which can be exploited by multinational companies to reduce their tax liabilities.
    • Example of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting: A multinational corporation might exploit transfer pricing (the prices at which an enterprise transacts with other enterprises under the same ownership or control) between subsidiaries to reduce tax liabilities; this entails manipulating the price of products or services traded to shift profits to low-tax jurisdictions.
    • Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Techniques: Include transfer pricing, strategic location of Intellectual Property, use of hybrid mismatch arrangements, and treaty shopping.
    • OECD's role and the Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting: The OECD has created an inclusive framework and a comprehensive action plan to combat BEPS. The plan contains 15 actions categorised under thematic areas such as digital economy's tax challenges, hybrid mismatch arrangements, Controlled Foreign Company rules, harmful tax practices, treaty abuse, realignment of the taxation of profits, and country-by-country reporting.
    Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Base Erosion and Profit Shifting
    Learn with 15 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting flashcards in the free StudySmarter app

    We have 14,000 flashcards about Dynamic Landscapes.

    Sign up with Email

    Already have an account? Log in

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is Base Erosion in the context of international taxation?

    What involves the concept of Profit Shifting?

    What are the implications of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting?

    Next

    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Law Teachers

    • 16 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner