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Treasury Announces Release of 2016 U.S. Model Income Tax Treaty With Info Sharing!

Today February 17, 2016, the Treasury Department issued a newly revised U.S. Model Income Tax Convention (the “2016 Model”), which is the baseline text the Treasury Department uses when it negotiates tax treaties.  The U.S. Model Income Tax Convention was last updated in 2006. 

“The 2016 Model is the result of a concerted effort by the Treasury Department to further our policy commitment to provide relief from double taxation and ensure certainty and stability in the tax treatment of treaty residents,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Tax Affairs Robert B. Stack.  “The 2016 Model includes a number of provisions intended to eliminate double taxation without creating opportunities for non-taxation or reduced taxation through tax evasion or avoidance,” he added.

Many of the 2016 Model updates reflect technical improvements developed in the context of bilateral tax treaty negotiations and do not represent substantive changes to the prior model. 

The 2016 Model also includes a number of new provisions intended to more effectively implement the Treasury Department’s longstanding policy that tax treaties should eliminate double taxation without creating opportunities for non-taxation or reduced taxation through tax evasion or avoidance. 

For example, the 2016 Model does not reduce withholding taxes on payments of highly mobile income—income that taxpayers can easily shift around the globe through deductible payments such as royalties and interest—that are made to related persons that enjoy low or no taxation with respect to that income under a preferential tax regime.  In addition, a new article obligates the treaty partners to consult with a view to amending the treaty as necessary when changes in the domestic law of a treaty partner draw into question the treaty’s original balance of negotiated benefits and the need for the treaty to reduce double taxation.  The 2016 Model also includes measures to reduce the tax benefits of corporate inversions.  Specifically, it denies reduced withholding taxes on U.S. source payments made by companies that engage in inversions to related foreign persons. 

The Treasury Department has been a strong proponent of facilitating the resolution of disputes between tax authorities regarding the application of tax treaties.  Accordingly, the 2016 Model contains rules requiring that such disputes be resolved through mandatory binding arbitration.  The “last best offer” approach to arbitration in the 2016 Model is substantively the same as the arbitration provision in four U.S. tax treaties in force and three U.S. tax treaties that are awaiting the advice and consent of the Senate.

The 2016 Model reflects comments that the Treasury Department received in response to the proposed model treaty provisions it released on May 20, 2015.  The Treasury Department carefully considered all the comments it received and made a number of modifications to the proposed model treaty provisions in response to those comments.

The Treasury Department is preparing a detailed technical explanation of the 2016 Model, which it plans to release this spring.  The preamble to the 2016 Model invites comments regarding certain situations that should be addressed in the technical explanation for the so-called “active trade or business” test of Article 22 (Limitation on Benefits).  See the preamble page 5.  The deadline for public comments on this subject is April 18, 2016.


Article 26 would be broadened to allow information that is received from another State to be used for non-tax purposes.  In fact, the provision now would allow such information to be used for other purposes allowed under an MLAT in force between the two Contracting States that allows for the exchange of tax information.   

Article 26

EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION AND ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANCE

 1. The competent authorities of the Contracting States shall exchange such information as is foreseeably relevant for carrying out the provisions of this Convention or the domestic laws of the Contracting States concerning taxes of every kind imposed by a Contracting State to the extent that the taxation thereunder is not contrary to the Convention, including information relating to the assessment or collection, or administration of, the enforcement or prosecution in respect of, or the determination of appeals in relation to, such taxes. The exchange of information is not restricted by paragraph 1 of Article 1 (General Scope) or Article 2 (Taxes Covered).

2. Any information received under this Article by a Contracting State shall be treated as secret in the same manner as information obtained under the domestic law of that Contracting State and shall be disclosed only to persons or authorities (including courts and administrative bodies) involved in the assessment, collection, or administration of, the enforcement or prosecution in respect of, or the determination of appeals in relation to, the taxes referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article, or the oversight of such functions. Such persons or authorities shall use the information only for such purposes. They may disclose the information in public court proceedings or in judicial decisions. Notwithstanding the preceding sentences of this paragraph, the competent authority of the Contracting State that receives information under the provisions of this Article may, with the written consent of the Contracting State that provided the information, also make available that information for other purposes allowed under the provisions of a mutual legal assistance treaty in force between the Contracting States that allows for the exchange of tax information.

3. In no case shall the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article be construed so as to impose on a Contracting State the obligation:

a) to carry out administrative measures at variance with the laws and administrative practice of that or of the other Contracting State;
b) to supply information that is not obtainable under the laws or in the normal course of the administration of that or of the other Contracting State; or
c) to supply information that would disclose any trade, business, industrial, commercial, or professional secret or trade process, or information the disclosure of which would be contrary to public policy.

4. If information is requested by a Contracting State in accordance with this Article, the other Contracting State shall use its information gathering measures to obtain the requested information, even though that other Contracting State may not need such information for its own tax purposes. The obligation contained in the preceding sentence is subject to the limitations of paragraph 3 of this Article but in no case shall such limitations be construed to permit a Contracting State to decline to supply information solely because it has no domestic interest in such information.

5. In no case shall the provisions of paragraph 3 of this Article be construed to permit a Contracting State to decline to supply information solely because the information is held by a bank, other financial institution, nominee or person acting in an agency or a fiduciary capacity or because it relates to ownership interests in a person.

6. If specifically requested by the competent authority of a Contracting State, the competent authority of the other Contracting State shall provide information under this Article in the form of depositions of witnesses and authenticated copies of unedited original documents (including books, papers, statements, records, accounts, and writings).

7. Each of the Contracting States shall endeavor to collect on behalf of the other Contracting State such amounts as may be necessary to ensure that relief granted by the Convention from taxation imposed by that other Contracting State does not inure to the benefit of persons not entitled thereto. This paragraph shall not impose upon either of the Contracting States the obligation to carry out administrative measures that would be contrary to its sovereignty, security, or public policy.

8. The requested Contracting State shall allow representatives of the requesting Contracting State to interview individuals and examine books and records in the requested Contracting State with the consent of the persons subject to examination.

9. The competent authorities of the Contracting States may develop an agreement upon the mode of application of this Article, including agreement to ensure comparable levels of assistance to each of the Contracting States, but in no case will the lack of such agreement relieve a Contracting State of its obligations under this Article View the 2016 Model and accompanying preamble here.

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