New Articles

Responding to an Evolving Global Tax Landscape

tax

Responding to an Evolving Global Tax Landscape

Over the last decade, we’ve seen nations start to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of their economies. They want to ensure that multinational enterprises conducting significant business in places where they do not have a physical presence be taxed in such jurisdictions. And, like any tax reform proposal, consensus can be hard to reach because there is so much at stake.

Look no further than the digital tax France aimed at Facebook, Google, and other American technology giants. French lawmakers voted to impose a 3% tax on revenues that companies make from providing digital services to French users. The country estimated that the tax would raise more than $500 million, helping fill a budget hole as more commerce moves online.

Italy, Austria, and Turkey also have imposed their own digital services taxes on large tech firms, and several other European nations, including the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, and Spain, have announced intentions to implement such a tax. These countries are frustrated by failure to reach a consensus on a digital tax across the broader European Union.

The national policies on digital taxes have drawn the ire of many businesses and political leaders at a time of heightened tensions over global trade. After decades of flourishing globalization, the specter of higher taxes threatens to complicate long-standing trade pacts and add complexity to the operations of multinationals.

The French digital tax angered the Trump administration, which threatened to retaliate with tariffs on a range of French goods. The two sides struck a truce last month, where France agreed to suspend the tax.

All the uncertainty isn’t good for tax planning. Businesses must rethink how their operations are being taxed internationally. This will result in strategic conversations that go further than the tax department, affecting the way businesses operate internationally.

Many U.S. multinationals are still coming to grips with Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, which made taxation on global intellectual property much more complex.

In light of these changes, we’ve seen businesses in jurisdictions across the world change their tax strategies to abide by filing laws in their primary country of operations as well as countries they’ve expanded into.

Case by Case: Responding to Evolving Tax Policies

As businesses continue their overseas expansion in 2020 and beyond, it’s imperative to adhere to these policies to ensure compliance with tax filings across multiple jurisdictions. Businesses have made these new policies a priority as they prime themselves to not only respond to tax policy changes, but also anticipate forthcoming changes that may arise in the coming years.

For companies that have already abided by new international tax policies, we are seeing these changes develop in a few different ways.

Take the United States, for instance. Under their hybrid-territorial tax system, companies based in the United States can invest their earnings into lower-tax foreign countries to ultimately see a reduced tax obligation. Digital taxes would serve as a counter to this, taxing American companies for their digital operations within their jurisdictions regardless of lower-tax investments. As such, we see the potential for American companies to adapt their tax filings to retain the lower-tax investment benefits.

Some businesses have had an easier time than others adapting to this policy evolution over the last five years. France, for example, has seen difficulty from foreign companies operating within its jurisdiction as they report to a separate financial tax administration with a completely different set of processes that often aren’t as modern or up-to-date. Now that France has backed down on its digital tax, these difficulties may very well continue.

Moving Forward: What to Expect

But the fight to tax the digital economy isn’t going away. Even some critics have called for a more unified approach, rather than country-by-country legislation.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is trying to get nearly 140 countries to agree on a plan to modernize tax policies to keep pace with the digital economy. But the slow pace of talks has frustrated many nations, and a global agreement may be years away.

For policies that we’ll see moving forward, we can expect businesses will continue to geographically strategize their tax filings for 1) global tax compliance either in response to, or in anticipation of, updated digital tax policies, and 2) maintaining adequate tax revenues in light of increased taxation as a result of these policies.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether a reciprocating effect will occur – that is, if business adaption to digital tax laws encourage the evolution of said laws to further ensure tax compliance. One thing is certain, however, that the only constant in international tax law is change… and businesses need to be proactive in the way they prepare and respond to these changes.

Businesses should take a holistic approach to ensure their global operations are compliant with all jurisdictions they operate within. Whether that constitutes an internal evaluation of present tax filing processes or a consultation with their professional accounting team to determine the best course of action in light of a potential new policy adoption should be to their discretion and may be dependent on the jurisdictions in question.

__________________________________________________________________

Jason Gerlis is Global Head of Consultancy Solutions for TMF Group in the Americas.

How US tax overhaul has led to increased international investment and M&A activity

The limit on interest deductibility is impacting the way that firms finance domestic mergers and acquisitions which is fueling the existing trend for US companies to pursue foreign M&A.

Why invest in foreign companies?

Growing a business internationally has always been attractive to US companies. Businesses are still structuring for tax purposes, however the main reasons for going abroad are now; the desire to find new markets with more customers, access fresh talent and technology and optimize international supply chains. Foreign markets can be an attractive destination for leading US brands given that if you can succeed in the world’s most competitive consumer market you may find you thrive in less developed economies.

 

Deduction changes

With the recent tax reforms in the US, there have been some changes in the way deductions can be applied affecting the financing of domestic mergers and acquisitions. Often mergers are at least partially funded with debt which would be paid off in the form of a dividend. The dividend would be deductible making it a tax efficient way of financing the acquisition.

This deduction has been reduced greatly in the 2018 US tax reform. Companies were previously unrestricted in the amount of interest they could deduct before tax, but now there is a cap deduction of 30% of their 12-month earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). After 2021, the limitation becomes even more constraining by switching to 30% of EBIT only – that is, the deductions for depreciation and amortization are removed from the calculation, lowering the cap even further.

The deduction applies only when acquiring domestically, so not when buying a foreign company. You can still get the full deduction on dividends for a foreign owned corporation. Based on the current interpretation of the legislation, if you are looking to finance via debt, buying a foreign company will still allow you to benefit from this type of funding mechanism.

Why foreign M&A is more attractive

For insights and an introduction to M&A and carve-outs, take a look at the “M&A and Carve Outs from A to Z” eBook.

Other elements of the tax reform are also likely to drive further M&A and make it more likely that US firms look abroad for these acquisitions:

  1. The tax reform was structured to incentivise businesses to bring money back to the US if they are holding historic earnings off-shore. This windfall of foreign held monies will enable some companies to invest more, with a portion of this spending likely to fuel M&A.
  2. Related incentives to bring money back to the US have also reduced the tax on repatriation of future foreign earnings. Meaning that the return of investment for these foreign assets is improved.

What we are hearing from our clients is that US companies will continue to look to the global market as a way of leveraging faster growth and diversifying their business.

TMF Group

TMF USA are experts when it comes to M&A and international expansion, supported by a strong global presence in more than 80 countries worldwide. While there are always challenges when it comes to foreign investment the recent tax reform has introduced a whole new set of considerations. Please get in touch to find out how we can support your business achieve its global ambitions.

Find out how our services allow our international clients to maintain focus on what matters most to them.