International taxation is the study or determination of tax on a person or business subject to the tax laws of different countries, or the international aspects of an individual country's tax laws as the case may be. Governments usually limit the scope of their income taxation in some manner territorially or provide for offsets to taxation relating to extraterritorial income. The manner of limitation generally takes the form of a territorial, residence-based, or exclusionary system. Some governments have attempted to mitigate the differing limitations of each of these three broad systems by enacting a hybrid system with characteristics of two or more.
Many governments tax individuals and/or enterprises on income. Such systems of taxation vary widely, and there are no broad general rules. These variations create the potential for double taxation (where the same income is taxed by different countries) and no taxation (where income is not taxed by any country). Income tax systems may impose tax on local income only or on worldwide income. Generally, where worldwide income is taxed, reductions of tax or foreign credits are provided for taxes paid to other jurisdictions. Limits are almost universally imposed on such credits. Multinational corporations usually employ international tax specialists, a specialty among both lawyers and accountants, to decrease their worldwide tax liabilities.
With any system of taxation, it is possible to shift or recharacterize income in a manner that reduces taxation. Jurisdictions often impose rules relating to shifting income among commonly controlled parties, often referred to as transfer pricing rules. Residency-based systems are subject to taxpayer attempts to defer recognition of income through use of related parties. A few jurisdictions impose rules limiting such deferral ("anti-deferral" regimes). Deferral is also specifically authorized by some governments for particular social purposes or other grounds. Agreements among governments (treaties) often attempt to determine who should be entitled to tax what. Most tax treaties provide for at least a skeleton mechanism for resolution of disputes between the parties.
Systems of taxation vary among governments, making generalization difficult. Specifics are intended as examples, and relate to particular governments and not broadly recognized multinational rules. Taxes may be levied on varying measures of income, including but not limited to net income under local accounting concepts (in many countries this is referred to as 'profit'), gross receipts, gross margins (sales less costs of sale), or specific categories of receipts less specific categories of reductions. Unless otherwise specified, the term "income" should be read broadly.
In order to simplify administration or for other agendas, some governments have imposed "deemed" income regimes. These regimes tax some class of taxpayers according to tax system applicable to other taxpayers but based on a deemed level of income, as if received by the taxpayer. Disputes can arise regarding what levy is proper. Procedures for dispute resolution vary widely and enforcement issues are far more complicated in the international arena. The ultimate dispute resolution for a taxpayer is to leave the jurisdiction, taking all property that could be seized. For governments, the ultimate resolution may be confiscation of property, incarceration or dissolution of the entity.
Other major conceptual differences can exist between tax systems. These include, but are not limited to, assessment vs. self-assessment means of determining and collecting tax; methods of imposing sanctions for violation; sanctions unique to international aspects of the system; mechanisms for enforcement and collection of tax; and reporting mechanisms.
Countries with a residence-based system of taxation usually allow deductions or credits for the tax that residents already pay to other countries on their foreign income. Many countries also sign tax treaties with each other to eliminate or reduce double taxation. In the case of corporate income tax, some countries allow an exclusion or deferment of specific items of foreign income from the base of taxation.
The following table summarizes the taxation of local and foreign income of individuals, depending on their residence or citizenship in the country. It includes 244 entries: 194 sovereign countries, their 40 inhabited dependent territories (most of which have separate tax systems), and 10 countries with limited recognition. In the table, income includes any type of income received by individuals, such as work or investment income, and yes means that the country taxes at least one of these types.
Territorial systems usually tax local income regardless of the residence of the taxpayer. The key problem argued for this type of system is the ability to avoid taxation on portable income by moving it outside of the country. This has led governments to enact hybrid systems to recover lost revenue.
Countries do not necessarily use the same system of taxation for individuals and corporations. For example, France uses a residence-based system for individuals but a territorial system for corporations, while Singapore does the opposite, and Brunei and Monaco taxes corporate but not personal income.
Many systems allow for fiscal transparency of certain forms of enterprise. For example, most countries tax partners of a partnership, rather than the partnership itself, on income of the partnership. A common feature of income taxation is imposition of a levy on certain enterprises in certain forms followed by an additional levy on owners of the enterprise upon distribution of such income. For example, the U.S. imposes two levels of tax on foreign individuals or foreign corporations who own a U.S. corporation. First, the U.S. corporation is subject to the regular income tax on its profits, then subject to an additional 30% tax on the dividends paid to foreign shareholders (the branch profits tax). The foreign corporation will be subject to U.S. income tax on its effectively connected income, and will also be subject to the branch profits tax on any of its profits not reinvested in the U.S. Thus, many countries tax corporations under company tax rules and tax individual shareholders upon corporate distributions. Various countries have tried (and some still maintain) attempts at partial or full "integration" of the enterprise and owner taxation. Where a two level system is present but allows for fiscal transparency of some entities, definitional issues become very important.
Many jurisdictions require persons paying amounts to nonresidents to collect tax due from a nonresident with respect to certain income by withholding such tax from such payments and remitting the tax to the government. Such levies are generally referred to as withholding taxes. These requirements are induced because of potential difficulties in collection of the tax from nonresidents. Withholding taxes are often imposed at rates differing from the prevailing income tax rates. Further, the rate of withholding may vary by type of income or type of recipient. Generally, withholding taxes are reduced or eliminated under income tax treaties (see below). Generally, withholding taxes are imposed on the gross amount of income, unreduced by expenses. Such taxation provides for great simplicity of administration but can also reduce the taxpayer's awareness of the amount of tax being collected.
Tax treaties exist between many countries on a bilateral basis to prevent double taxation (taxes levied twice on the same income, profit, capital gain, inheritance or other item). In some countries they are also known as double taxation agreements, double tax treaties, or tax information exchange agreements (TIEA).
Most developed countries have a large number of tax treaties, while developing countries are less well represented in the worldwide tax treaty network. The United Kingdom has treaties with more than 110 countries and territories. The United States has treaties with 56 countries (as of February 2007). Tax treaties tend not to exist, or to be of limited application, when either party regards the other as a tax haven. There are a number of model tax treaties published by various national and international bodies, such as the United Nations and the OECD.
Treaties tend to provide reduced rates of taxation on dividends, interest, and royalties. They tend to impose limits on each treaty country in taxing business profits, permitting taxation only in the presence of a permanent establishment in the country. Treaties tend to impose limits on taxation of salaries and other income for performance of services. They also tend to have "tie breaker" clauses for resolving conflicts between residency rules. Nearly all treaties have at least skeletal mechanisms for resolving disputes, generally negotiated between the "competent authority" section of each country's taxing authority.
Expanded Worldwide Planning (EWP) is an element of international taxation created in the wake of tax directives from government tax authorities after the worldwide recession beginning in 2008. At the heart of EWP is a properly constructed Private placement life insurance (PPLI) policy that allows taxpayers to use the regulatory framework of life insurance to structure their assets. These assets can be located anywhere in the world and at the same time can be brought into compliance with tax authorities worldwide. EWP also brings asset protection and privacy benefits that are set forward in the six principals of EWP.
Since the London Summit in April 2009, the OECD has been at the forefront of fighting against tax evasion, ending bank secrecy and tax havens, and addressing tax avoidance by multinational corporations. OECD contributions to the G20 on tax have helped to reform, reshape and modernise the international tax architecture. 041b061a72