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Tuesday 16 October 2018

Global Insight July 2016

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China's VAT Reforms Continue

The final batch of industries have begun transitioning to China’s VAT regime.

In 2012 China initiated trial reforms of its indirect taxation system, with a goal to shift the country’s services sector 
from business tax, a turnover tax on businesses, to VAT, a turnover tax collected by businesses and ultimately borne by the end user. These reforms began in Shanghai and at first included transportation services and certain modern services, such as logistics, R&D, design, and consulting. Within a year, it became clear that participation in the VAT
system decreased the overall tax burden for most businesses, and ten more provinces were included in the reforms. By 2015 the telecommunications and postal services industries had come on board. Now, as of 1 May 2016, the last of the business tax liable service industries – construction, real estate, financial services and ‘life  services’ – have begun the transition into the VAT programme.

China’s unique VAT system

Indeed China has implemented one of the broadest based VAT systems in the world. For example, no other country is known to include all financial services and all types of real estate transactions in a VAT system. Additionally, five different tax rates (3%, 6%, 11%, 13% and 17%) are used, depending on the goods or the actual services provided. Of note too is that foreign companies doing business in China are generally not allowed to register for VAT or to claim input VAT credits. When a foreign company provides services to a China-based client, VAT applies and the client must act as ‘withholding agent’ to ensure that VAT is paid. It is thus critical that service contracts clearly delineate which party has responsibility for the VAT and how it shall be paid.

Effects on newly joined industries

For the construction and real estate industries, the VAT rate is 11%. While this appears to be a dramatic increase over the 3% and 5% business tax rates prior to reforms, no absolute comparison of rates is possible. Not only does inclusion in the VAT system now allow businesses to claim relevant input VAT against output VAT, but simplified and/or grandfathered tax methods are also in place to aid a smooth transition. Through the transition period, the overall tax burden is expected to be neutral, while long-term effects will likely depend on the commercial particulars of a given operation or project. With respect to the financial and life services industries, both with a 6% VAT rate, the reforms are expected to be generally tax burden neutral, but with tax decreases in some segments. In total, China-based businesses are expected to save nearly a trillion yuan annually as a result of the reforms.

What next?

Finally, although these latest changes essentially complete the VAT reform process, we can expect to see ongoing modifications and adjustments. We can also expect that during the transition, business tax rules will continue to linger, especially where local tax officials see a lack of clarity in the updated regulations.

For more information, contact:

Flora Luo
Nexia TS, China
E: floraluo@nexiats.com.cn

Scott Heidecke
Nexia TS, China
E: scott@nexiats.com.cn

T: +86 21 6047 8716
www.nexiats.com.cn 

Investing in Tanzania

Initiatives by the Tanzanian Government to boost foreign investment in the country have reaped rewards, but the country continues to face a number of challenges.

Over the past 20 years, the Tanzanian Government has implemented major economic reforms to liberalise trade, including enhancing the role of the private sector and creating the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) to promote, facilitate and reduce restrictions on investments. This new institutional and legal framework has generated a steady growth in GDP and resulted in an increased inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI).

In 2014, Tanzania attracted US$2,142m of FDI – a rise of 14.5% – thanks in part to gas discoveries, and the efforts of the TIC. For the first time since the Tanzania economic crisis of 2005-07, the country is once again the leading FDI destination in the East African Community (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda).

In recent years, the Government has sought to attract investment in the mining and agricultural sectors, including the Kilimo Kwanza (Agriculture First) initiative and the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) partnership. Both sectors are eligible for 100% capital expenditure deductions.

Support from the United Nations, particularly UNCTAD and UNDP, in terms of strategic policy advice and practical guidance, is invaluable as the country seeks to implement the New Economic Model and achieve the Tanzania Development Vision 2025.

Addressing the issues

Despite the increasing inflows of FDI, Tanzania needs to attract and retain more investors. To do this it must tackle a number of challenges, including the lack of adequate and reliable power, poor infrastructure and the shortage of designated areas for investment projects, such as farming land and industrial plots. There is also much work to be done on transforming negative perception of Africa as a place to do business.

Some investors are hesitant to invest due to uncertainties around the taxation regime, regulation and compliance, and are unclear about the rules around Public Private Partnerships. Tanzania also faces a lack of skilled labour, fundamental to certain investment sectors.

The Government has made efforts to tackle these challenges in various ways, including attracting infrastructure investment to create quality employment, establishing a land bank to attract investors in the energy sector, and improving awareness of Tanzania’s investment climate and available opportunities.

For more information, contact:

Sujata Jaffer
Nexia SJ, Tanzania
T: +255 221 208 06/7
E: sjaffer@nexiasjtz.com
www.nexiasjtz.com 

Focus on... Australia

Focus on: Australia

As a gateway to the Asia Pacific and with a strong, stable economy, Australia provides excellent, tax efficient investment opportunities for overseas investors.

Australia has a large, diversified economy with 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth. This is unparalleled in the OECD and future economic prospects remain bright. The country is well placed to participate in the growth of the Asia Pacific region through trade, education and other links. Australia is increasingly experiencing investment inflows from China and other key trading partners in its real estate, equity and agricultural markets.

The country’s economy is AAA rated by all three global rating agencies and is forecast to realise average annual real GDP growth of 2.9% per annum between 2016 and 2020.

Strong regulatory environment

Strong government regulation has helped Australia’s financial system to be among the most stable in the world during the past decade. The country ranks very highly on all measures of corporate accountability, legal systems, low corruption, individual rights, and private ownership.

All of this points to a very safe, low risk environment in which to invest and do business.

Favourable taxation for non-residents

  • Most income and capital gains from listed shares and managed funds are tax-free or concessionally taxed for non-residents of Australia.
  • Franked dividends, where there is a tax credit attached to the dividend payment, are tax-free to non- residents. Unfranked dividends are generally subject to withholding tax of 15% and interest income is generally subject to withholding tax of 10%.
  • Foreign income (for example, managed funds invested in international equities, property, etc.) is tax-free
  • Capital gains on these investments are generally tax-free.
  • Of course, taxation applicable in the investor’s country of residence must be factored in and may be affected by double tax agreements.

Structures

  • Assets can be held in the name of the investor or in an Australian resident structure.
  • Discretionary trusts, in particular, can be effective in maximising flexibility regarding income and capital distributions for asset protection purposes, while still maintaining the above favourable tax treatment. 

Other considerations

Companies listed on the Australian stock exchange have traditionally had a high dividend payout in comparison to many other overseas markets – some blue chips are currently paying 6% or more per annum. This dividend yield further supports share prices and suits investors who require the security of income.

Australia has a highly sophisticated financial services sector. Investors can easily access a wide range of direct shares, managed funds and structured products with deep liquidity, transparent reporting and smooth transaction capabilities. The fund management sector is a world leader both in its sophistication and size. It is ranked one of the largest in the world with over $AUD2.6 trillion invested.

Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that there are more than 5,600 managed funds in Australia. It is important to ensure that proper (independent) research is used to select high quality funds to invest in.

From an exchange rate perspective, the current entry point for some foreign investors is favourable with the Australian dollar falling from parity or above with the US dollar in early 2014 to the current trading range in the mid-70s.

A final consideration is that interest rates in Australia are still higher than many other mature economies with bank deposits and government bond yields still positive on a real and nominal basis. For instance, bank and term deposit rates of more than 3% per annum are available.

For more information, contact:

Paul Clements
Nexia Melbourne, Australia
T: +61 3 8613 8815
E: pclements@nexiamelbourne.com.au
www.nexia.com.au 

New international framework set to harmonise intellectual property box tax regimes

The OECD’s latest initiative aimed at restricting the use of low-tax IP box jurisdictions may mean less scope for some countries to attract multinational businesses.

A number of countries currently include intellectual property box-style regimes as part of their corporation tax system. These include Belgium, Cyprus, Italy, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, the Swiss Canton of Nidwalden and the UK. Profits generated by patents and similar intellectual property (IP) that are inside an IP box regime are taxed at a rate usually significantly lower than a jurisdiction’s main rate of corporate tax.

Aspects of existing IP box regimes have been deemed “harmful tax practices” by the OECD’s project to counter Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). Extremely low effective tax rates on IP box profits available in jurisdictions such as Cyprus, Malta and the Canton of Nidwalden have led to some multinationals relocating their IP ownership to these locations to take advantage of these rates, while the economic activity generating that IP is located elsewhere.

The new framework

The OECD’s solution is a new international framework known as the modified nexus approach (MNA). The mechanism of the MNA is to restrict a company’s IP profits eligible for inclusion in an IP box based on the proportion of the company’s R&D expenditure which is incurred directly in creating the IP. In other words, R&D expenditure on IP development subcontracted to group companies or expenditure on the acquisition of IP developed by another party will reduce the proportion of IP profits eligible for the preferential tax rate.

The MNA also restricts the type of IP eligible for an IP box to patents and copyrighted software. Many existing IP box regimes include trademarks that will no longer be qualifying IP under the MNA.

Notably, the MNA does not prescribe the rate of tax applicable to IP box profits, which remains at the discretion of individual countries.

The OECD requirement is for IP boxes to be MNA compliant from 1 July 2016 from which date existing regimes are closed to new entrants. ‘Grandfathering’ provisions are permitted for a five-year period until 30 June 2021.

Adapt and survive

When the BEPS project was first mooted, many professionals thought it signalled the death knell for existing IP box regimes. However, rather than abolishing their IP boxes, in most cases countries are planning changes to make their regimes compliant with the OECD’s BEPS framework. Several countries without existing IP box regimes (including Ireland, Switzerland and the US) are now proposing to introduce regimes which will be aligned with the OECD framework.

The OECD framework is likely to lead to harmonisation of the model for determining IP box profits between different countries. There may be less scope for countries to achieve a competitive edge in attracting multinationals if all IP boxes look very much the same. Nonetheless, it seems IP boxes are set to stay as a component of a competitive tax regime.

For more information, contact:

James Bramsdon
Saffery Champness, UK
T: +44 (0)20 7841 4269
E: james.bramsdon@saffery.com

Lisa Massey
T: +44 (0)20 7841 4099
E: lisa.massey@saffery.com

www.saffery.com 

India and Mauritius sign landmark protocol to amend long-standing tax treaty

Renegotiated treaty aims to curb tax avoidance and tax evasion on income and capital gains.

Over the last two years, the G20 and OECD nations have come together to address the issue of multinational companies avoiding paying taxes in their jurisdiction by shifting profits. This has culminated in the release of a 15-point Action Plan that will equip governments to address tax avoidance and the problem of base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS). Recently, tax havens have been making the headlines, with Panama and Mauritius being the latest.

Mauritius has historically been a popular jurisdiction for foreign investors investing into India – it accounts for almost 35% of foreign direct investment into India and is the second largest in terms of foreign portfolio investments in India after the US.

The primary reason for this is that under the existing India-Mauritius tax treaty, Mauritius alone has the right to tax capital gains arising in India from any shares/securities in India. The fact that the capital gains are not subject to tax in Mauritius (as it does not levy capital gains tax), resulted in a double non-taxation of capital gains income for investments in India routed through Mauritius. Understandably, India had been attempting to renegotiate the treaty for a while, and Indian tax authorities had even stopped granting the treaty benefits at times for various reasons.

Impact of the protocol

According to the protocol signed in May 2016, India has obtained the right to tax capital gains on the sale of shares in an Indian company. This right is only for investments made on or after 1 April 2017, meaning that investments made earlier are protected. Furthermore, tax on capital gains arising during the transition period (1 April 2017 to 31 March 2019) will be limited to 50% of India’s tax rate, subject to the newly introduced ‘limitation of benefits’ article (which requires the Mauritius resident to pass the main purpose test and bonafide business test). Such shares, once sold on or after 1 April 2019, will be taxed at 100% of the Indian tax rate.

However, the gains from the alienation of other popular instruments such as debentures, bonds, derivatives and interest in a limited liability partnership, continue to be exempt from tax in India even under the amended tax treaty.

Very importantly, with this amendment, the capital gains tax exemption provided to Singapore tax residents under the India-Singapore tax treaty will no longer be available – this was available only while the similar benefit was available under the India-Mauritius tax treaty. India is yet to enter into treaty renegotiations with Singapore.

Accordingly, Mauritius and Singapore residents investing in India need to make note of this landmark update and assess the impact that it may have on their current or future structures.

For more information, contact:

Maulik Doshi
SKP, India
T: +91 22 6730 9000
E: maulik.doshi@skpgroup.com
www.skpgroup.com 

Financial reporting

Investment opportunities for IT start-ups in Armenia

Investment in Armenia’s IT sector has become more attractive in recent years due to a number of investment and tax incentives.

Armenia is the regional leader in the IT and high-tech industries, and is particularly regarded as a hub for software development, industrial computing, electronics and the production of semiconductors. Thanks to the country’s competitive labour market, the number of IT companies has tripled over the past decade and the sector has seen turnover triple in the past five years.

Why start a business in Armenia?

Armenia offers a number of privileges to foreign investors. It’s worth noting that the law on foreign investments stipulates that in the event of amendments to the legislation on foreign investments within five years of the initial investment, a foreign investor can choose whether to apply the legislation active at the time of the investment or the new legislation.

Armenia's main tax categories are as follows:

  • Corporate (profit) tax – 20%
  •  VAT–20%
  • Personal income tax on employment income (which incorporates*replaces the employer’s social security payments) is between 24.4% and 36%.

Dividend income is exempt from personal income tax (both for residents and non-residents), while dividends payable to foreign companies is taxed at 10%.

It should be noted that Armenia ranked 45th out of 185 countries in the World Bank’s 2015 Ease of Doing Business index. The table below compares some indicators in Armenia with the averages of other countries.

Indicator

Armenia

Europe and Central Asia

OECD countries

Starting and registering a business (number of days)

3

12.1

9.2

Total tax rate (% profit)

20.4

34.9

41.3

Labour tax and contributions (%)

0

21.4

23

Tax privileges for IT start-ups

Brought in in early 2015, a legislative package on state support to the IT sector defines a number of tax incentives for newly-established and start-up IT firms employing up to 30 employees. These include a 0% corporate profit tax and 10% personal income tax for employees (instead of the usual 24.4% to 36%).

These tax incentives are valid until the end of 2019 and are granted on a case-by-case basis by a special commission made up of government officials and IT industry executives. 110 start-ups qualified for them in 2015.

For more information, contact:

Artur Harutyunyan
AN Audit, Armenia
T: +374 10 229021
E: artur.harutyunyan@anaudit.am
www.anaudit.am 

Italy: new provisions on international tax rulings

The Italian tax authorities have given detailed instructions on how to implement new international tax rulings.

International tax rulings allow “companies carrying out multinational activities” the opportunity to conclude a five-year validity agreement with the Italian Revenue Agency, concerning:

a)  transfer pricing

b)  assessment of asset values in case of inbound or outbound transfer of residence

c)  assessment of the existence of a foreign company’s permanent establishment (PE) in Italy

d)  determination of income*loss to be attributed to the foreign company’s PE in Italy

e)  tax treatment of payments of dividends, interest and royalties to/from foreign entities.

The tax ruling request must be submitted to the Agency, either in Milan or Rome (Ufficio Accordi preventivi e controversie internazionali dell’Agenzia delle entrate), regardless of where the applicant is domiciled for tax purposes. Certain information and documents must be provided with each application. Within 30 days, the Agency will inform the applicant of whether the request is admissible or not.

In advance of submitting a tax ruling request it is now possible for the applicant to have a meeting with the Agency to determine whether the information provided is complete, request additional documents or define other steps that need to be taken in the procedure. More than one meeting is possible but the entire procedure must be completed (in principle) within 180 days from when the Agency receives the request. If the Agency requires information from foreign tax authorities then the 180-day period is suspended until the information has been obtained.

The procedure ends with the issuing of a ruling that is binding for both the parties from the fiscal year in which it is signed and for the following four fiscal years.

It is important to note that it is now possible to retroactively apply the effects of the agreement to the fiscal year in which the application was submitted. If the ruling is based on an agreement reached with foreign tax authorities under a double taxation treaty, or if the same factual and legal circumstances existed in previous fiscal years, the applicant can roll back the terms of the ruling and amend its related tax returns, without penalties.

For more information, contact:

Gian Luca Nieddu
Hager & Partners, Italy
T: +39 (02) 7780711
E: gianluca.nieddu@hager-partners.it

Gianfranco Dolci
T: +39 (02) 7780711
E: gianfranco.dolci@hager-partners.it

www.hager-partners.itpage15image28312 page15image28472 page15image28632 page15image28792 page15image28952

SME financial reporting: the Maltese perspective

Malta has a new default accounting framework for small and medium-sized entities

In August 2015, the General Accounting Principles for Small and Medium-Sized Entities (GAPSME) in Malta replaced the General Accounting Principles for Smaller Entities (GAPSE).

GAPSME can be applied for financial reporting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2016 and is the default accounting framework for small and medium-sized entities (SMEs) in Malta. However, through a board resolution, SMEs may still opt to prepare their financial statements in accordance with international financial reporting standards (IFRS).

GAPSME: applicability

GAPSME applies to entities which satisfy two of the three eligibility criteria listed in Table 1 below. It cannot be applied by large and public interest entities (PIEs), which must prepare their financial statements in accordance with IFRS.

Table 1

 

Small

Medium

Balance sheet total (€)

≤ 4 million

≤ 20 million

Total revenue (€)

≤ 8 million

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≤ 40 million

page16image30056

Average number of employees  

≤50

page16image32936

≤ 250

GAPSME presents a simplified financial reporting framework with limited disclosures for these companies. In fact, small companies are only required to prepare a balance sheet, an income statement and notes to the financial statements. A statement of changes in equity, a statement of cash flows and a directors’ report are only required by medium-sized entities.

Small groups, which do not exceed any two of the three thresholds in Table 2 below, are exempt from preparing consolidated financial statements.

Table 2

 

Net

Gross

Balance sheet total (€)

≤ 4 million

≤ 4.8 million

Total revenue (€)

≤ 8 million

≤ 9.6 million

Average number of employees  

≤50

What next?

GAPSME’s success in Malta will ultimately depend on its take up by SMEs. Since GAPSME has simplified the financial reporting obligations of these entities, a large number of qualifying companies are expected to apply this reporting framework. However, we need to wait and see the outcome in the years ahead.

For more information, contact:

Manuel Castagna
Nexia BT, Malta
E: manuel.castagna@nexiabt.com

Michelle Vassallo Pulis
E: michelle.pulis@nexiabt.com

T: +356 2163 7778
www.nexiabt.compage16image50832 page16image50992 page16image51152

South Africa publishes draft King Report IV on Corporate Governance

The King Report on Corporate Governance is a ground-breaking code of corporate governance in South Africa. Building on three previous versions issued in 1994, 2002 and 2009, the fourth revision (King IV) was published on 15 March 2016 for public comment.

The first King Report was published in response to the increasing concern over corporate failures and the perceived need for a formal code of corporate governance. It was intended as a code of good practice that emphasised the responsibilities of company directors with regard to corporate governance. The second and third King Reports expanded and built on their predecessors.

The code is non-legislative and is based on principles and practices. However, many of the principles are now embodied as law under the 2008 Companies Act of South Africa. The philosophy of the code consists of the three key elements of leadership, sustainability and good corporate citizenship. It views good governance as essentially being effective and ethical leadership.

Scope of King IV

There have been significant corporate governance and regulatory developments, locally and internationally, since King III was issued in 2009. The new version builds on the King III principles, but is more principle-based and follows an outcome-based rather than rule-based approach. This is in line with current international sentiment which promotes greater accountability and transparency.

Although South African listed companies have generally been applying King III, other entities have experienced challenges in interpreting and adapting King III to their particular circumstances. The King IV Code has been structured as a framework that can be applied more easily across both listed and unlisted companies, profit and non-profits as well as private and public entities. It includes additional guidance to various categories of organisations and sectors such as small and medium entities, non-profit organisations, public sector organisation and entities, municipalities and pension funds.

All principles are phrased as inspirations and ideals that organisations should strive towards to achieve good governance outcomes.

What’s next?

It is envisaged that King IV will be completed in the second half of 2016. Providing for a two-year-period for drafting and another year’s grace period to allow organisations to implement, King IV will probably become effective from mid 2017.

The new version of the King Report offers a more practical and principle-based approach to good corporate governance. If implemented effectively it should provide more transparency as it is simpler and more user- friendly to apply the principles.

For more information, contact:

Inge Theron
Nexia SAB&T, South Africa
T: +27 (0)21 596 5400
E: inge@nexia-sabt.co.za
www.nexia-sabt.co.za 

Enhanced controls on overseas assets held by Spanish residents

Spanish residents must declare overseas assets worth more than €50,000 or face severe penalties.

Since 2012, residents with capital or property outside Spain worth more than €50,000 have been obliged to declare them to the Spanish tax authorities. The measure was introduced as part of the government’s efforts to tackle tax evasion, with severe penalties for late reporting or failing to report assets, which in some instances can be more than the value of the assets concerned.

A number of Spanish residents with assets abroad and caught out by the Panama Papers scandal are claiming that they paid their taxes in Spain.

The rules

The controls apply to individuals and legal entities resident in Spain, as well as to non-resident individuals and legal entities with permanent establishment in Spain, that belong to one of the following groups: holder, representative, authorised, beneficiary, individual or entity with powers of disposal or real beneficial owner.

The owner, beneficiary or authorised signatory of the following three categories of foreign assets must declare them if the total of any category exceeds €50,000:

  1. 1)  Cash held in overseas bank accounts

  2. 2)  Securities, stocks, bonds, financial rights to common shares and financial shares, and life insurance policies

  3. 3)  Real estate and rights over real estate

A ‘Modelo 720’ form must be completed and filed electronically between 1 January and 31 March of the year following the financial year to which the obligation refers. Penalties for failing to comply are as follows:

  • Failure to file form 720 or filing it incorrectly incurs a minimum fine of €1,500 for each category of assets
  • Voluntary, late submission incur a minimum fine of €1,500 for each categoryAn additional penalty of 150% of the unpaid income tax may also levied
  • An additional penalty of 150% of the unpaid income tax may also levied

EU investigation

Since 2015, more than 16,000 sanctions have been made on taxpayers who have not complied with these rules. The EU is currently investigating whether the controls infringe EU law. While we await the outcome, all locals and foreigners with assets abroad should be careful to ensure that they comply with the rules. If in any doubt, seek expert advice.

For more information, contact:

Ricardo Merlo
Audalia Laes Nexia, Spain
T: +34 91 443 0000
E: r.merlo@audalialaesnexia.com
www.audalialaesnexia.com 

Switzerland’s ‘forfait’ or lump sum taxation

Switzerland remains a popular destination, and its tax regime is undoubtedly one of the attractions for internationally mobile individuals.

Foreign citizens residing in Switzerland (and Swiss citizens who return to take up residence after a ten-year period of absence), who do not pursue gainful employment or self-employment in the country, have the option of being taxed according to their living expenses – known as lump sum taxation or ‘forfait’ taxation. Employment in a foreign country does not preclude this option, as long as the individual’s habitual residence, for tax purposes, is in Switzerland.

Lump sum taxation replaces the ordinary basis of Swiss tax, which applies to total worldwide income and assets. Instead, the taxpayer’s cost of living is used as the basis for the tax calculation. The amount of living expenses assessed in practice varies from canton to canton and is normally negotiated with the relevant tax authorities. In all cases, rental costs plus a lump sum allowance for general living expenses form the basis of the calculation.

The following income must be reported to Swiss tax authorities on an annual basis:

  • Income from real estate assets located in Switzerland
  • Patent and licence royalty income
  • Income from Swiss bank accounts (interest)
  • Income from Swiss investments (dividends and interest)
  • Annulty payments from Swiss Insurance policies
  • Swiss investments within funds, even if held in foreign custody accounts

The Swiss tax authorities then prepare a comparative ‘control calculation’ by reference to these sources of income. The tax calculation based on the cost of living may not be lower than the calculation based on the aforementioned income.

Taxpayers subject to lump sum taxation also have the right of recourse to any double tax treaties that Switzerland has negotiated with other countries. However, a number of such treaties (including with Germa ny, Italy and the USA, among others) stipulate that all income from sources in these countries must be properly declared on the Swiss tax declaration and subject to tax, in order to qualify for treaty benefits. Insofar as the taxpayer decides to declare fo reign source income, for example, in order to reclaim foreign withholding tax under the terms of the applicable double taxation treaty, this income will be included in the above mentioned control calculation.

Recent developments

Various cantons in Switzerland have already abolished the lump sum tax or raised the minimum amount of tax payable in recent years. For example, lump sum taxation is no longer possible in the cantons of Zurich, Schaffhausen, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land.

Swiss voters went to the polls to decide on the fate of the lump sum tax at the end of 2014. At the time, approximately 60% of voters decided in favour of maintaining the system.

Revisions to lump sum taxation entered into law with effect from 1 January 2016. They stipulate that a minimum of seven times the rental costs or imputed rental value must now be applied as the tax base for the calculation (at both the cantonal and federal levels), with a minimum value of CHF 400,000. The cantons are also obliged to determine a minimum value at their own discretion.

Despite the recent changes, Switzerland’s forfait regime looks set to stay and will continue to enhance the fiscal attractions of Swiss residency.

For more information, contact:

Patricia Handschin
ABT Treuhandgesellschaft AG, Switzerland
T: +41 (0)44 711 90 90
E: patricia.handschin@abt.ch
www.abt.ch 

UK non-domiciliary reform

Where are we up to and what action can be taken now?

HM Revenue & Customs published a consultation document setting out its proposed reforms to the taxation of non-UK domiciliaries in September 2015 and legislation will be published in 2017. Until then the position is uncertain, but HMRC has confirmed certain matters which may allow some taxpayers to act now before the new rules are introduced. Such action could present long-term tax benefits.

The potential benefits

If you anticipate becoming deemed UK-domiciled under the new regime from 6 April 2017, now is the time to act in order to benefit from an offshore trust structure. If you set up an offshore trust now (i.e. before you become deemed UK-domiciled under the new regime) you should not be taxed on foreign income and/or chargeable gains which are retained in the trust. Furthermore, the trust should also provide an effective shelter from UK inheritance tax (even if you subsequently become UK deemed domiciled under the new regime in the future).

There are, of course, certain asset types that would need to be excluded, such as UK residential property. However, an effective deferral of income and capital gains tax could potentially be achieved with the added benefit of protection from UK inheritance tax.

Act now

Timing is crucial. If you anticipate becoming deemed UK-domiciled under the new regime, steps to establish an offshore trust in order to potentially benefit from tax savings must be taken before the new rules are introduced. Taxpayers in these circumstances should act now to establish their offshore structure.

For more information, contact:

Kevin Loundes
Abacus Trust Company Limited, Isle of Man
T: +44 (0)1624 689608
E: kevin.loundes@abacusiom.com
www.abacusiom.com

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The Common Reporting Standard

A world without secrets

There has been a fair bit of controversy over the impact that FATCA has had on the financial affairs of US persons and the financial institutions that engage them as clients. Then UK FATCA burst on to the scene targeting UK citizens based in the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. And now it seems the rest of us may well need to sit up and start taking notice too. That is because a new global FATCA-style information exchange initiative called the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) is being drawn up by the OECD which will impact individuals of all nationalities.

What is CRS and why now?

The recent leaking of the ‘Panama Papers’ demonstrates the prevalence of the use of far-flung offshore jurisdictions, some constituting little more than a collection of picturesque beaches with fringing palms, as a means of parking funds away from the prying eyes of tax authorities worldwide. Increasing capital mobility across borders in tandem with an unprecedented growth in wealth that has accompanied the booming economies of the emerging world means such jurisdictions have never been more attractive. Indeed, it has never been easier for the wealthy global elite to move money and investments across national borders and hide it abroad to evade taxes.

Against this backdrop, CRS essentially aims to facilitate the ‘automatic’ exchange of information among countries to counter such evasion. The CRS requires jurisdictions to obtain information from their financial institutions and automatically exchange that information with other jurisdictions on an annual basis. It sets out the financial account information required to be exchanged, the financial institutions required to report, the different types of accounts and taxpayers covered, as well as the common due diligence procedures to be followed by financial institutions.

Financial institutions covered by the standard include banks, custodians, brokers, certain collective investment vehicles, trusts and certain insurance companies. The financial information to be reported includes interest, dividends, account balance, income from certain insurance products, sales proceeds from financial assets, and other income generated with respect to assets held in the account or payments made with respect to the account.

Such information is required to be reported for the ‘reportable accounts’ which means accounts held by any individual who is a resident for tax purposes in the reportable country. The standard also requires financial institutions to ‘look through’ passive entities (including trusts and foundations) to report on the relevant controlling persons.

There is no doubt that this will have a huge impact on financial institutions in general, given the wide scope of CRS and the need to identify customers from the participating jurisdictions for whom reporting will be done, as well as customers from jurisdictions which will be adopting CRS in the coming years.

Jurisdictions covered by CRS?

More than 50 jurisdictions (known as the ‘Early Adopters’) across the world have committed to the first exchanges of information under CRS in 2017. These include the UK and its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, as well as tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Seychelles, among others.

Hot on their heels, more than 40 other jurisdictions have committed to the first exchange of information under CRS in 2018. These include key business and banking hubs such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Switzerland. There was an initial hesitation from Panama to commit to CRS, however on 11 May 2016, OECD announced Panama’s commitment, taking the number to 101 jurisdictions. Interestingly, the US has not indicated any commitment to the CRS given that it has already entered into various bilateral Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs) with other participating countries for the implementation of FATCA.

Singapore’s commitment to CRS

As stated above, Singapore has indicated its commitment to CRS in 2018 by signing bilateral Competent Authority Agreements (CAAs) with other jurisdictions.

Indeed, Singapore had, on 1 March 2016, released draft legislative amendments for public consultation. The draft Bill makes clear that the existing Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (AEOI) provisions in the Income Tax Act, which were earlier introduced to implement the Singapore-United States FATCA IGA, will also be applicable to any other AEOI agreement that is in accordance with the CRS. This will enable the signing of CAAs with other jurisdictions to implement AEOI under the CRS.

Upping the ante

The CRS may not necessarily be a game changer in the ever widening pursuit to combat tax evasion, but it does ratchet those efforts up by a significant notch. Suspicious jurisdictions, dodgy dealings and shady structures will always be around. What the CRS aims to do is shine yet another spotlight on the darker corners of our global tax landscape by enabling the sharing of vital information globally among tax administrators. And by the looks of it, such a measure has arrived none too soon.

For more information, contact:

Lam Fong Kiew
Nexia TS, Singapore
T: +65 6534 5700
E: lamfongkiew@nexiats.com.sg
www.nexiats.com.sg 

Outsourcing: a powerful tool for growing businesses

 

Growing a business is a challenge. It requires a delicate balance between pursuing aggressive growth strategies and hiring quality talent, and controlling costs and managing cash flow.

Outsourcing offers a variety of benefits to start-ups and other growing businesses, including the following.

1) Enhanced focus and quality: Outsourcing enables business owners and executives to focus on core business activities and 
competencies, such as strategic planning, 
product development, sales, marketing, and customer relations, without being distracted by administrative details. What’s more, that focus can be greatly enhanced given the access to highly skilled, innovative people that outsourcing can provide. Trying to support such focus or develop that talent in-house within an acceptable timeline can be cost-prohibitive, if not practically impossible.

2) Reduced costs and capital investments: Often, outside service providers are able to perform tasks more cost efficiently and faster than their clients. And they relieve businesses of the need to invest in the necessary technology, equipment or human resources that might otherwise prove to be barriers to entry for a particular business or market.
Consider this: there are more than 4,600 videos on YouTube about how to fix a leaky faucet. With those and the proper tools, you might just be able to take care of it yourself – if you can afford the required time, tools and patience. Barring that, it’s probably much easier and a lot faster to hire a plumber. (See? You’ve already been outsourcing services for years and never realized it.)

3) Peace of mind: In circumstances where rapid growth is required, companies can face challenges in hiring trustworthy and reliable staff. Outsourcing addresses this, provided you do your homework. It’s important to invest in a comprehensive background check on any outsourcing firm you hire, especially if the firm is based in another country. A thorough inquiry should uncover financial information, litigation history and information about the organization’s reputation in the local and global business communities. An investigative firm with international intelligence contacts can help you obtain pertinent data swiftly and in accordance with local information and privacy laws.

Is outsourcing right for you?

Whether your business would benefit from outsourcing certain functions to a third party depends on the nature of your business. The key is to examine all of your activities to determine which serve core business purposes and which are ancillary to those purposes. Support functions may benefit from outsourcing if someone else can perform them faster, better and cheaper.

For more information, contact:

James Carpp
Rehmann, US
T: +1 989 797 8362
E: james.carpp@rehmann.com

Thomas Murphy
Rehmann, US
T: +1 248 458 7889
E: thomas.murphy@rehmann.com
www.rehmann.com

Advance planning your entrance into global markets

Manufacturers and distributors that conscientiously and assertively develop overseas markets typically have twice the growth rate of those that merely chase opportunities as they arise.

Many companies enter the global market or supply chain to fill a customer’s specific need. While this kind of happy accident can help you get your international feet wet, it comes with considerably more risk. It’s tough to fault a company for taking advantage of any growth opportunity that presents itself, but planning in advance is a far better strategy.

A deliberate, customized export growth plan can give your company three distinct benefits.

1. More control over the terms

When taking a proactive approach to fulfilling the needs and wants of a customer, it is likely you will have more say in how you execute. Customers look for suppliers that provide ideas and answers, and they are often willing to pay a premium to receive it. Conversely, when you wait to be asked to participate, the customer tends to drive the relationship and calls the shots. Many will shop the opportunity among other manufacturers or distributors, turning your value-add product into a commodity.

2. Reduced risk and uncertainty

Entering foreign markets without experience can increase the risk of loss or theft. Unfamiliarity with logistics and customs procedures can create delays that impact the entire supply chain (regardless of size). International transactions can be financially tricky, and if they aren’t managed properly, they can clog up your cash flow. Determine the markets you want to enter, chart the course in advance, and anticipate the constraints you’ll likely encounter, both logistically and financially.

3. Enhanced capacity management and diversification

Many manufacturers struggle with concentrations and diversification. Entering different geographic markets can help offset the volatility of your local market and even out peaks and valleys. And a venture into another hemisphere can create different seasonality opportunities, spreading production into a year-round schedule. 

Planned entry into the global marketplace mitigates risk and can help your company realize a diversification sales plan that drives greater volume and profitability – essential to building your business’s value and sustainability.

Don’t sit back and wait for a customer to escort you on to the international scene. Take charge of your own global destiny and enter it on your terms.

For more on this and other industry issues, download Resiliency and Growth: Fifth Annual Manufacturing and Distribution Outlook.

For more information, contact:

Robert Bishop
CliftonLarsonAllen, US
T: +1 262 898 6576
E: robert.bishop@CLAconnect.com
www.CLAconnect.com

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