Volume 46 (2018) / Issue 12
This article considers the independent agent exception to the dependent agent permanent establishment rule in income tax treaties. The author analyses the impact of group membership on the availability of the independent agent exception under the 2014 and 2017 versions of Article 5(6) the OECD Model Tax Convention. Whereas the 2014 version did not explicitly take into consideration group membership for the application of the independent agent exception, the 2017 update marks a shift in policy as the quasi-exclusivity of the action of an agent on behalf of closely related enterprises now excludes the independent agent exception. After analysing in depth the Commentary on the two versions of Article 5(6) of the OECD Model, the policy reasons justifying this shift are investigated, in particular the possible presumption of tax avoidance that seems to be pinned on multinational enterprises. The author emphasises how the change brought to Article 5(6) relates to the lower threshold for a dependent agent PE under the new Article 5(5), the general principles of transfer pricing, and the additional guidance for the attribution of profits to permanent establishments. The author concludes that the change brought to Article 5(6) is mostly one of principle, but that to the extent that this amendment has a material effect on the taxation of multinational enterprises, it expresses more a tax policy concern than a need to prevent tax avoidance.
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