COUNCIL DIRECTIVE (EU) 2017/952
of 29 May 2017
amending Directive (EU) 2016/1164 as regards hybrid mismatches with third countries
THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,
- Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Article 115 thereof,
- Having regard to the proposal from the European Commission,
- After transmission of the draft legislative act to the national parliaments,
- Having regard to the opinion of the European Parliament(1)
- Having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee(2)
- Acting in accordance with a special legislative procedure,
- It is imperative to restore trust in the fairness of tax systems and allow governments to effectively exercise their tax sovereignty. Therefore, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has issued concrete action recommendations in the context of the initiative against Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS).
- The final reports on the 15 OECD Action Items against BEPS were released to the public on 5 October 2015. This output was welcomed by the Council in its conclusions of 8 December 2015. The Council conclusions stressed the need to find common, yet flexible, solutions at Union level consistent with OECD BEPS conclusions.
- In response to the need for fairer taxation and, in particular, to follow up on the OECD BEPS conclusions, the Commission presented its Anti-Tax Avoidance Package on 28 January 2016. Council Directive (EU) 2016/1164(3)
- Directive (EU) 2016/1164 provides for a framework to tackle hybrid mismatches.
- It is necessary to establish rules that neutralise hybrid mismatches in as comprehensive a manner as possible. Considering that Directive (EU) 2016/1164 only covers hybrid mismatches that arise in the interaction between the corporate tax systems of Member States, the ECOFIN Council issued a statement on 12 July 2016 requesting the Commission to put forward by October 2016 a proposal on hybrid mismatches involving third countries in order to provide for rules consistent with and no less effective than the rules recommended by the OECD report on Neutralising the Effects of Hybrid Mismatch Arrangements, Action 2 — 2015 Final Report (OECD BEPS report on Action 2), with a view to reaching an agreement by the end of 2016.
- Directive (EU) 2016/1164 recognises, inter alia, that it is critical for further work to be undertaken on other hybrid mismatches such as those involving permanent establishments. In view of that, it is essential that hybrid permanent establishment mismatches be addressed in that Directive as well.
- In order to provide for a framework that is consistent with and no less effective than the OECD BEPS report on Action 2, it is essential that Directive (EU) 2016/1164 also include rules on hybrid transfers, imported mismatches and address the full range of double deduction outcomes, in order to prevent taxpayers from exploiting remaining loopholes.
- Directive (EU) 2016/1164 includes rules on hybrid mismatches between Member States and should thus also include rules on hybrid mismatches with third countries where at least one of the parties involved is a corporate taxpayer or, in the case of reverse hybrids, an entity in a Member State, as well as rules on imported mismatches. Consequently, the rules on hybrid mismatches and tax residency mismatches should apply to all taxpayers that are subject to corporate tax in a Member State including to permanent establishments, or to arrangements treated as permanent establishments, of entities resident in third countries. Rules on reverse hybrid mismatches should apply to all entities that are treated as transparent for tax purposes by a Member State.
- Rules on hybrid mismatches should address mismatch situations which result from double deductions, from conflict in the characterisation of financial instruments, payments and entities, or from the allocation of payments. Since hybrid mismatches could lead to a double deduction or to a deduction without inclusion, it is necessary to lay down rules whereby the Member State concerned either denies the deduction of a payment, expenses or losses or requires the taxpayer to include the payment in its taxable income, as appropriate. However, those rules apply only to deductible payments and should not affect the general features of a tax system, whether it is a classical or an imputation system.
- Hybrid permanent establishment mismatches occur where differences between the rules in the jurisdictions of permanent establishment and of residence for allocating income and expenditure between different parts of the same entity give rise to a mismatch in tax outcomes and include those cases where a mismatch outcome arises due to the fact that a permanent establishment is disregarded under the laws of the branch jurisdiction. Those mismatch outcomes may lead to a double deduction or a deduction without inclusion, and should therefore be eliminated. In the case of disregarded permanent establishments, the Member State in which the taxpayer is a resident should include the income that would otherwise be attributed to the permanent establishment.
- Any adjustments that are required to be made under this Directive should in principle not affect the allocation of taxing rights between jurisdictions laid down under a double taxation treaty.
- In order to ensure proportionality, it is necessary to address only the cases where there is a substantial risk of avoiding taxation through the use of hybrid mismatches. It is therefore appropriate to cover hybrid mismatches that arise between the head office and permanent establishment or between two or more permanent establishments of the same entity, hybrid mismatches that arise between the taxpayer and its associated enterprises or between associated enterprises, and those resulting from a structured arrangement involving a taxpayer.
- Mismatches that, in particular, result from the hybrid nature of entities should be addressed only where one of the associated enterprises has, at a minimum, effective control over the other associated enterprises. Consequently, in those cases, it should be required that an associated enterprise be held by, or hold, the taxpayer or another associated enterprise through a participation in terms of voting rights, capital ownership or entitlement to received profits of 50 per cent or more. The ownership, or rights of persons who are acting together, should be aggregated for the purposes of applying this requirement.
- In order to provide for a sufficiently comprehensive definition of associated enterprise for the purposes of the rules on hybrid mismatches, that definition should also comprise an entity that is part of the same consolidated group for accounting purposes, an enterprise in which the taxpayer has a significant influence in the management and, conversely, an enterprise that has a significant influence in the management of the taxpayer.
- It is necessary to address four categories of hybrid mismatches: first, hybrid mismatches that result from payments under a financial instrument; second, hybrid mismatches that are the consequence of differences in the allocation of payments made to a hybrid entity or permanent establishment, including as a result of payments to a disregarded permanent establishment; third, hybrid mismatches that result from payments made by a hybrid entity to its owner, or deemed payments between the head office and permanent establishment or between two or more permanent establishments; lastly, double deduction outcomes resulting from payments made by a hybrid entity or permanent establishment.
- In respect of payments under a financial instrument, a hybrid mismatch could arise where the deduction without inclusion outcome is attributable to the differences in the characterisation of the instrument or the payments made under it. If the character of the payment qualifies it for double tax relief under the laws of the payee jurisdiction, such as an exemption from tax, a reduction in the rate of tax or any credit or refund of tax, the payment should be treated as giving rise to a hybrid mismatch to the extent of the resulting undertaxed amount. A payment under a financial instrument should not, however, be treated as giving rise to a hybrid mismatch where the tax relief granted in the payee jurisdiction is solely due to the tax status of the payee or the fact that the instrument is held subject to the terms of a special regime.
- In order to avoid unintended outcomes in the interaction between the hybrid financial instrument rule and the loss-absorbing capacity requirements imposed on banks, and without prejudice to State aid rules, Member States should be able to exclude from the scope of this Directive intra-group instruments that have been issued with the sole purpose of meeting the issuer's loss-absorbing capacity requirements and not for the purposes of avoiding tax.
- In respect of payments made to a hybrid entity or permanent establishment, a hybrid mismatch could arise where the deduction without inclusion outcome results from differences in the rules governing the allocation of that payment between the hybrid entity and its owner in the case of a payment that is made to a hybrid entity, between the head office and permanent establishment, or between two or more permanent establishments in the case of a deemed payment to a permanent establishment. The definition of hybrid mismatch should only apply where the mismatch outcome is a result of differences in the rules governing the allocation of payments under the laws of the two jurisdictions and a payment should not give rise to a hybrid mismatch that would have arisen in any event due to the tax exempt status of the payee under the laws of any payee jurisdiction.
- The definition of hybrid mismatch should also capture deduction without inclusion outcomes that are the result of payments made to a disregarded permanent establishment. A disregarded permanent establishment is any arrangement that is treated as giving rise to a permanent establishment under the laws of the head office jurisdiction but which is not treated as a permanent establishment under the laws of the other jurisdiction. The hybrid mismatch rule should not apply, however, where the mismatch would have arisen in any event due to the tax exempt status of the payee under the laws of any payee jurisdiction.
- In respect of payments made by a hybrid entity to its owner, or deemed payments made between the head office and permanent establishment or between two or more permanent establishments, a hybrid mismatch could arise where the deduction without inclusion outcome results from the payment or deemed payment not being recognised in the payee jurisdiction. In that case, where the mismatch outcome is a consequence of the non-allocation of the payment or deemed payment, the payee jurisdiction is the jurisdiction where the payment or deemed payment is treated as being received under the laws of the payer jurisdiction. As with other hybrid entities and branch mismatches that give rise to deduction without inclusion outcomes, no hybrid mismatch should arise where the payee is exempt from tax under the laws of the payee jurisdiction. In respect of this category of hybrid mismatches, however, a mismatch outcome would only arise to the extent that the payer jurisdiction allows the deduction in respect of the payment or deemed payment to be set off against an amount that is not dual-inclusion income. If the payer jurisdiction allows the deduction to be carried forward to a subsequent tax period, then the requirement to make any adjustment under this Directive could be deferred until such time as the deduction is actually set off against non-dual-inclusion income in the payer jurisdiction.
- The hybrid mismatch definition should also capture double deduction outcomes regardless of whether they arise as a result of payments, expenses that are not treated as payments under domestic law or as a result of amortisation or depreciation losses. As with deemed payments and payments made by a hybrid entity that are disregarded by the payee, a hybrid mismatch should only arise, however, to the extent that the payer jurisdiction allows the deduction to be set off against an amount that is not dual-inclusion income. This means that if the payer jurisdiction allows the deduction to be carried forward to a subsequent tax period, the requirement to make an adjustment under this Directive could be deferred until such time as the deduction is actually set off against non-dual-inclusion income in the payer jurisdiction.
- Differences in tax outcomes that are solely attributable to differences in the value ascribed to a payment, including through the application of transfer pricing, should not fall within the scope of a hybrid mismatch. Furthermore, as jurisdictions use different tax periods and have different rules for recognising when items of income or expenditure have been derived or incurred, those timing differences should not generally be treated as giving rise to mismatches in tax outcomes. However, a deductible payment under a financial instrument that cannot reasonably be expected to be included in income within a reasonable period of time should be treated as giving rise to a hybrid mismatch if that deduction without inclusion outcome is attributable to differences in the characterisation of the financial instrument or payments made under it. It should be understood that a mismatch outcome could arise if a payment made under a financial instrument is not included in income within a reasonable period of time. Such a payment should be treated as included in income within a reasonable period of time, if included by the payee within 12 months of the end of the payer's tax period or as determined under the arm's length principle. Member States could require that a payment be included within a fixed period of time in order to avoid giving rise to a mismatch outcome and secure tax control.
- Hybrid transfers could give rise to a difference in tax treatment if, as a result of an arrangement to transfer a financial instrument, the underlying return on that instrument was treated as derived by more than one of the parties to the arrangement. In those cases, the payment under the hybrid transfer could give rise to a deduction for the payer while being treated as a return on the underlying instrument by the payee. This difference in tax treatment could lead to a deduction without inclusion outcome or to the generation of a surplus tax credit for the tax withheld at source on the underlying instrument. Such mismatches should therefore be eliminated. In the case of a deduction without inclusion, the same rules should apply as for neutralising mismatches from payments under a hybrid financial instrument. In the case of hybrid transfers that have been structured to produce surplus tax credits, the Member State concerned should prevent the payer from using the surplus credit to obtain a tax advantage including through the application of a general anti-abuse rule consistent with Article 6 of Directive (EU) 2016/1164.
- It is necessary to provide for a rule that allows Member States to tackle discrepancies in the transposition and implementation of this Directive resulting in a hybrid mismatch despite the fact that Member States act in compliance with this Directive. Where such a situation arises and the primary rule provided for in this Directive does not apply, a secondary rule should apply. Nevertheless, the application of both the primary and secondary rules only apply to hybrid mismatches as defined by this Directive and should not affect the general features of the tax system of a Member State.
- Imported mismatches shift the effect of a hybrid mismatch between parties in third countries into the jurisdiction of a Member State through the use of a non-hybrid instrument thereby undermining the effectiveness of the rules that neutralise hybrid mismatches. A deductible payment in a Member State can be used to fund expenditure involving a hybrid mismatch. To counter such imported mismatches, it is necessary to include rules that disallow the deduction of a payment if the corresponding income from that payment is set off, directly or indirectly, against a deduction that arises under a hybrid mismatch giving rise to a double deduction or a deduction without inclusion between third countries.
- A dual resident mismatch could lead to a double deduction if a payment made by a dual resident taxpayer is deducted under the laws of both jurisdictions where the taxpayer is resident. As dual resident mismatches could give rise to double deduction outcomes, they should fall within the scope of this Directive. A Member State should deny the duplicate deduction arising in respect of a dual resident company to the extent that this payment is set off against an amount that is not treated as income under the laws of the other jurisdiction.
- The objective of this Directive is to improve the resilience of the internal market as a whole against hybrid mismatches. This cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States acting individually, given that national corporate tax systems are disparate and that independent action by Member States would only replicate the existing fragmentation of the internal market in direct taxation. It would thus allow inefficiencies and distortions to persist in the interaction of distinct national measures. This would result in a lack of coordination. That objective can rather, due to the cross-border nature of hybrid mismatches and the need to adopt solutions that function for the internal market as a whole, be better achieved at Union level. The Union may adopt measures, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity as set out in Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union. In accordance with the principle of proportionality, as set out in that Article, this Directive does not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve that objective. By setting the required level of protection for the internal market, this Directive only aims to achieve the essential degree of coordination within the Union that is necessary to achieve its objective.
- In implementing this Directive, Member States should use the applicable explanations and examples in the OECD BEPS report on Action 2 as a source of illustration or interpretation to the extent that they are consistent with the provisions of this Directive and with Union law.
- The hybrid mismatch rules in Article 9(1) and (2) only apply to the extent that the situation involving a taxpayer gives rise to a mismatch outcome. No mismatch outcome should arise when an arrangement is subject to adjustment under Article 9(5) or 9a and, accordingly, arrangements that are subject to adjustment under those parts of this Directive should not be subject to any further adjustment under the hybrid mismatch rules.
- Where the provisions of another directive, such as those in Council Directive 2011/96/EU(4)
- The Commission should evaluate the implementation of this Directive 5 years after its entry into force and report to the Council thereon. Member States should communicate to the Commission all information necessary for this evaluation.
- Directive (EU) 2016/1164 should therefore be amended accordingly,
HAS ADOPTED THIS DIRECTIVE: