Sunday, October 27, 2013

OECD public meeting on tax-base erosion project: US MNCs hope to 'participate'

Reuters reports that the OECD will have a "public meeting" in Paris on Nov 12-13, at which "companies will get to voice their concerns about the OECD's 'base erosion and profit shifting,' or BEPS, project":
The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), representing about 300 U.S. multinationals, has asked to participate at the hearing, said Carol Doran Klein, USCIB's tax counsel, on Monday.
And here comes a parade of lobbying that will be designed to protect all that is favorable to their clients in the status quo. These are the moments when I really appreciate the amount of transparency we have in US politics thanks to organizations like Open Secrets, the Sunlight Foundation and Muckrock:
A number of U.S. companies, including E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co, (DD.N) and Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O), have raised questions about the BEPS project with members of Congress and the Obama administration, according to corporate lobbying disclosures filed earlier this year.
Remember "raising questions' is like "raising concerns": it doesn't mean the speaker has either a question or a concern; instead it means the speaker has an agenda. The Reuter's story continues:
Under existing international standards, the fees charged [on an inter-company basis] are supposed to be set using an "arm's length" approach, meaning one that replicates market-level values. In practice, fees are often skewed so that profits can be shifted into the low-tax country where the assets are located and out of higher tax countries. 
These practices are legal, but tax fairness activists and some less-developed countries are complaining about them.
Interesting subtext there. The story doesn't give any more detail about the public meeting but here is what the OECD says:
On 12-13 November a consultation, open to the public and press, will be held at the OECD in Paris. If you wish to attend, please contact
Is not public and press redundant? No matter: the point is, this is part of the public consultation portion of the BEPS program.Here is a draft agenda in pdf, and it is fascinating in lineup of both topics and speakers--namely, only two are named right now and one of them has been a long time and trusted voice of business interests against corporate tax transparency, and purveyor of norm framing exercises at the OECD, namely, GE's Will Morris; the other is Michelle Levac, noted as one of the 50 biggest influences in tax by International Tax Review, owing to her role in leading Working Party 6 on transfer pricing. These two get bookend treatment, opening and closing the consultation. All the other speakers are TBD, so this is where the USCIB seeks to gain a foothold. Here is the outline so far:
Programme  Public Consultation on Transfer Pricing Matters  12-13 November 2013  OECD Conference Centre  2 Rue AndrĂ© Pascal, Paris 16th, France  Tuesday 12 November  08:30-09:30 Registration   09:30-09:50 Opening remarks and Ground Rules    Speakers:
Michelle LEVAC, Chair of Working Party No. 6
William MORRIS, BIAC   09:50-11:15 I:  Implementing country-by-country reporting  The BEPS Action Plan directs the OECD to develop and implement a system of country-by-country reporting to tax authorities of high level MNE group financial information.  A large number of questions arise in connection with implementing such a system.  These include:  (i) what information should be reported; (ii) at what time should that information be reported; (iii) to whom should such information be reported; and (iv) how should such information be shared among relevant governments, taking into consideration concerns regarding non-cooperative governments, incomplete treaty information exchange obligations, and the need to protect confidential taxpayer information.
Speakers: to be announced
1.  Information to be reported
2.  Information to be reported
3. Mechanisms for reporting / to whom to report / information sharing   11:15-11:45 Refreshment Break      11:45-13:15 II:  White Paper on Transfer Pricing Documentation  The BEPS Action Plan calls for the OECD to develop rules on transfer pricing documentation.  To initiate that process, the OECD published a White Paper on transfer pricing documentation on 30 July 2013.  The White Paper raises a number of issues on which business has provided comments.  These include: (i) the implementation of a standardised two tier documentation system; (ii) the use and content of a global master file; (iii) mechanisms for limiting early reporting to information useful in risk assessment with subsequent opportunity for governments to obtain detailed information necessary for audit; (iv) the development of materiality standards; (v) implementing consistent documentation formats across countries; and (vi) mechanisms for minimising unnecessary compliance burdens.    Speakers: to be announced  1.  Two tier approach
2.  Contents of global master file
3. Establishing materiality standards  4. Mechanisms for simplifying compliance (1)
5. Mechanisms for simplifying compliance (2).   13:15-14:30 Lunch break      14:30-16:00 III:  Revised Discussion Draft On Transfer Pricing Aspects Of Intangibles – Definitional Issues And Comparability Factors  On 30 July 2013 the OECD published a Revised Discussion Draft on Intangibles.  In the RDD, the definitional section was changed in some respects.  In addition, a new section of the RDD addresses comparability factors including location savings, features of local markets, assembled workforce, and corporate synergies.   Discussion in the afternoon session will be devoted to definitional issues and to the new section on comparability factors.
Speakers: to be announced
1. RDD changes to the definition of intangibles
2. Usefulness of the term “marketing intangibles”
3. Treatment of goodwill and on-going concern value / Examples 16 and 18   16:00-16:30 Refreshment Break      16:30-18:00 IV:  Revised Discussion Draft On Transfer Pricing Aspects Of Intangibles – Definitional Issues And Comparability Factors  (Continued)    Speakers: to be announced
4.Treatment of location savings and local market features
5. Treatment of Assembled Workforce
6. Treatment of group synergies
7. The financing and guarantee examples / Examples 1 and 2     Wednesday 13 November     09:30-11:00 V.  Revised Discussion Draft On Transfer Pricing Aspects Of Intangibles – Section B Of The RDD Section B of the June 2012 Discussion Draft attracted numerous written comments and was the subject of much discussion at the last business consultation. It has been substantially redrafted.  The approach in the RDD is more transactional in nature, while still emphasising the primary importance of functions performed, assets used and risks assumed.  The morning discussion will focus on the changes to Section B and the related examples     Speakers: to be announced
1. The general approach of new section B.
2. Examples 1 – 3
3. The treatment of outsourcing arrangements
4. The treatment of important functions   11:00-11:30  Refreshment Break      11:30-13:15 VI:  REVISED DISCUSSION DRAFT ON TRANSFER PRICING ASPECTS OF INTANGIBLES – SECTION B    Speakers: to be announced
5. Examples 11 – 14 and footnote 5 on page 63.
6. Treatment of funding for intangible development
7. Guidance on the use of corporate trade names   13:15-14:30 Lunch      14:30-15:15 VII: Other Discussion Draft Topics    Speakers: to be announced
1. Treatment of valuation techniques
2. Guidance on transfer pricing methods
3. Options realistically available / Example 24   15:15-16:00 VIII: Transfer Pricing Aspects Of The Beps Action Plan
The BEPS Action Plan published in July will guide much of the OECD transfer pricing work in the next two years.  The Action Plan contains four substantive transfer pricing areas of work in Actions 4, 8, 9, and 10.   This discussion will provide business an early opportunity to comment on the transfer pricing aspects of the Action Plan and the approach that Working Party No. 6 should take to fulfilling its mandate under the Action Plan.    Speakers: to be announced
1. How should the BEPS Project approach the question of hard to value intangibles / particularly transfers of partially developed intangibles?
2. How should the BEPS Project approach questions of risk allocations that may give rise to separation of income from relevant economic activity?
3. What role should there be for approaches outside the arm's length principle in addressing BEPS issues?        16:00-16:30 Refreshment Break      16:30-17:30 IX:  TRANSFER PRICING ASPECTS OF THE BEPS ACTION PLAN (CONTINUED)    Speakers: to be announced
4. How should the BEPS project approach the topic of recharacterisation of transactions?
5. What should the BEPS project consider in connection with global value chains and profit split approaches?
6.  What should the BEPS work on financial transactions address?    CONCLUDING REMARKS   17:30-18:00 Speakers:
Michelle LEVAC, Chair of Working Party No. 6
William MORRIS, BIAC   18:00 ADJOURN
Perhaps there will be additional public consultation meetings, I do not know. As Lynne LaTulippe taught my tax policy class recently, the consultation process is an often overlooked and in general understudied aspect of norm diffusion and lawmaking. This is one of the many times I wish that I was geographically situated to attend these things. I will be very interested to see how the speaker lineup evolves and would be very grateful to hear about the discussion from anyone who attends.

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