Verrechnungspreismissbrauch

Transfer pricing tax evasion.

Under international finance rules that allowed corporations to assign profits earned by subsidiaries in countries with taxes to subsidiaries in countries without taxes, an online documentary explained, commodities companies could avoid taxes in source countries by having their extracting subsidiary sell the commodity to subsidiaries abroad at prices that did not reflect market prices, moving around on-paper profits and on-paper losses. The tactic is called transfer pricing. Rules supposed to prevent it required among other things that divisions of the same organization deal with each other “at arm’s length,” as if they were not part of the same organization.

Profits from this and other paper shuffles can apparently show up decades later and inflict serious fiscal damage on countries, even countries with the resources to give government auditors enough training to stand up to international corporations’ negotiators. In 2013 Rupert Murdoch’s giant News Corp. appears to have received the “largest cash payout from the Australian Tax Office ever,” a rebate of US$800 million for some on-paper loans to itself made in 1989. The money showed up in News Corp’s U.S. subsidiary’s Q4 2013 accounts as a US$800 million payment from “a foreign tax authority.” The original deduction was estimated by the Australian Financial Review at AU$600 million, but it was decided that News Corp was owed additional interest on it of almost AU$300 million.

The huge payment is being described as a substantial inconvenience or “blowout” to the current Australian federal budget. Last summer then-Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd accused News Corp companies in Australia of running a “ferocious” media campaign against his government, including accusing the Labour government of overspending. Kevin Rudd lost the Australian election to Tony Abbott on 07 Sep 2013.

This is how the tax deduction happened, according to an online 17 Feb 2014 article from the Australian Financial Review:

“In a 1989 meeting, four News Corp Australia executives exchanged cheques and share transfers between local and overseas subsidiaries that moved through several currencies.

“They were paper transactions; no funds actually moved. In 2000 and 2001 the loans were unwound. With the Australian dollar riding high, News Corp’s Australian subsidiaries recorded a $2 billion loss, while other subsidiaries in tax havens recorded a $2 billion gain.

“By last July that paper “loss”, booked against News Corp’s Australian newspaper operations, had become an [A]$882 million cash payout.

“Under a legal arrangement when the company was spun off last June, News was forced to pass all of the tax payout to Mr Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

“News Corp said it had retained $A81 million because it faced income tax charges on the interest payments by the Tax Office. However it seems unlikely to actually pay these funds: News Corp Australia carried another $1.5 billion in tax deductions from a separate paper shuffle that it made when News reincorporated in the US.”

(Fair ECHH noongs price mis BROW chh.)

Im Quellenland Steuern zahlen

“Paying taxes in the source country.” The O.E.C.D. presented its post-Offshore Leaks report on 19 Jul 2013 and announced it wants to enact new rules forcing companies to pay taxes in the countries where the income is earned, disallowing the currently not-illegal practices that shift income to low-tax countries. The G20 countries supported this plan. A “golden era” of “tax arbitrage” may be ending.

Update on 06 Sep 2013: World leaders at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg agreed that in future corporate income will be taxed in the country where it is earned. It will no longer be possible to schubs income around the world, shopping for lower-tax jurisdictions.

(Imm   KVELL en lont   SHTOY ahn   TSOLL en.)

Steuersparmodelle für Grossunternehmen angehen

“Having a go at tax savings models for large companies,” what the EU is doing now that US firms have started testifying before Congress about still-legal systems of international tax loopholes partially revealed by the “Offshore Leaks” data trove.

From the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s description of some results from the 22 May 2013 EU summit in Brussels:

“At their meeting Wednesday the 27 leaders also talked for the first time about actions to be taken against tax savings models for large companies. With an eye on corporations like Apple, Amazon or Google, which avoid taxes on a large scale, British leader David Cameron said it is time to close the loopholes. He said one has to be sure that companies are really paying taxes. France’s president François Hollande demanded action against the ‘corporations’ tax tricks.’ Irish premier Enda Kenny was put under pressure because for years Apple has been using Irish subsidiaries to save billions of euros. Kenny said there aren’t any exception rules for international corporations. Ireland’s rules for taxing companies are ‘transparent and clear.’ The EU commission now plans to submit proposals for closing corporate tax loopholes by the end of 2013.”

(SHTOY ah SHPAH mode elle ah   foor   GROSS oont ah NAME en   ON gay hen.)

Cum-Ex-Geschäfte

“Cum/ex transactions.” A lucrative tax loophole that major German banks have been using. Spiegel reported the story on 28 Apr 2013, saying it had been broken by the Berlin Sunday version of Die Welt (Die Welt am Sonntag, WamS) but so far search results for it online are only turning up in Der Spiegel. The loophole, estimated to have cost the German government 12 billion euros so far, was created by corporate tax reform legislation of the SPD + Green Party coalition in 2002. Though discovered by officials shortly thereafter in 2002, and reported all the way up the chain of command, the loophole was not fixed by Hans Eichel (SPD) or his successor Peer Steinbrück (SPD, currently running against Angela Merkel for chancellor of Germany). Amendments to the law in 2007 made the situation worse, Spiegel reports that WamS reports. Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) appears to have waited several years to fix the problem as well, though now the order appears to have gone out.

The problem was this: under certain circumstances capital gains tax could be reimbursed multiple times. After e.g. stocks or bonds were sold short but before they were bought back to conclude the transaction, German bureaucracy sometimes obscured to whom the stocks or bonds belonged: the person loaning the stock, the short seller or the end customer. The question would be trivial, say financial reporters, were it not for the fact that sometimes if the sale occurred right before a dividend the German IRS would erroneously issue more than one get-your-tax-back certificate for capital gains on the stock. Honest people would ignore the unearned get-your-tax-back certificate, but others would deliberately game the system to get the treasury to reimburse them these taxes even conceivably more than five times, said professor Heribert Anzinger of the University of Ulm.

This looks like the dividend stripping loophole HypoVereinsBank and others were reported in 2012 to have used to extract money from the German fiscus. Etymologically, Wikipedia contributors explain, when a company’s general assembly of shareholders decides to issue a dividend, the dividend is usually issued the day after the assembly meeting, called the “ex day” (“Ex-Dividende”). The day before the ex day is called the cum day, for arcane reasons.

(COOM   ECKS   geh SHEFF teh.)

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