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|An aspect of fiscal policy|
Double taxation is the levying of tax by two or more jurisdictions on the same declared income (in the case of income taxes), asset (in the case of capital taxes), or financial transaction (in the case of sales taxes). Double liability is mitigated in a number of ways, for example:
- the main taxing jurisdiction may exempt foreign-source income from tax,
- the main taxing jurisdiction may exempt foreign-source income from tax if tax had been paid on it in another jurisdiction, or above some benchmark to not include tax haven jurisdictions,
- the main taxing jurisdiction may tax the foreign-source income but give a credit for foreign jurisdiction taxes paid.
Another approach is for the jurisdictions affected to enter into a tax treaty which sets out rules to avoid double taxation.
The term "double taxation" can also refer to the double taxation of some income or activity. For example, in some jurisdictions, corporate profits are taxed twice, once when earned by the corporation and again when the profits are distributed to shareholders as a dividend or other distribution. The term is not usually used to refer to the taxation of the same income by different levels of government, such as by federal, state and local authorities.
- 1 International double taxation agreements
- 2 European Union savings taxation
- 3 India
- 4 Australia
- 5 United States
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
International double taxation agreements
It is not unusual for a business or individual who is resident in one country to make a taxable gain (earnings, profits) in another. This person may find that he is obliged by domestic laws to pay tax on that gain locally and pay again in the country in which the gain was made. Since this is inequitable, many nations make bilateral double taxation agreements with each other. In some cases, this requires that tax be paid in the country of residence and be exempt in the country in which it arises. In the remaining cases, the country where the gain arises deducts taxation at source ("withholding tax") and the taxpayer receives a compensating foreign tax credit in the country of residence to reflect the fact that tax has already been paid. To do this, the taxpayer must declare himself (in the foreign country) to be non-resident there. So the second aspect of the agreement is that the two taxation authorities exchange information about such declarations, and so may investigate any anomalies that might indicate tax evasion. While individuals, or natural persons can have only one residence at a time; corporate persons, owning foreign subsidiaries, can be simultaneously resident in multiple countries. Control of unreasonable tax avoidance of corporations becomes more difficult and requires investigation of transfer pricing set for transfer of goods, intellectual property rights, and services, among its subsidiaries.
European Union savings taxation
In the European Union, member states have concluded a multilateral agreement on information exchange. This means that they will each report (to their counterparts in each other jurisdiction) a list of those savers who have claimed exemption from local taxation on grounds of not being a resident of the state where the income arises. These savers should have declared that foreign income in their own country of residence, so any difference suggests tax evasion.
(For a transition period, some states have a separate arrangement. They may offer each non-resident account holder the choice of taxation arrangements: either (a) disclosure of information as above, or (b) deduction of local tax on savings interest at source as is the case for residents).
A recent study by BusinessEurope confirms that double taxation remains a problem for European MNEs and an obstacle for cross border trade and investments. In particular, the problematic areas are limitation in interest deductibility, foreign tax credits, permanent establishment issues and diverging qualifications or interpretations. Germany and Italy have been identified as the Member States in which most double taxation cases have occurred.
Cyprus double tax treaties
Cyprus has completed over 45 Double Taxation Treaties up to today and is also in negotiations with many countries for signing Treaties with them. The main purpose of these treaties is the avoidance of double taxation on income earned in any of these countries. Under these agreements, a credit is usually allowed against the tax levied by the country in which the taxpayer resides for taxes levied in the other treaty country and as a result the tax payer pays no more than the higher of the two rates. Further, some treaties provide for tax sparing credits whereby the tax credit allowed is not only with respect to tax actually paid in the other treaty country but also from tax which would have been otherwise payable had it not been for incentive measures in that other country which result in exemption or reduction of tax.
German taxation avoidance
If a foreign citizen is in Germany for less than a relevant 183-day period (approximately six months) and is tax resident (i.e., and paying taxes on his or her salary and benefits) elsewhere, then it may be possible to claim tax relief under a particular Double Tax Treaty. The relevant 183 day period is either 183 days in a calendar year or in any period of 12 months, depending upon the particular treaty involved.
So, for example, the Double Tax Treaty with the UK looks at a period of 183 days in the German tax year (which is the same as the calendar year); thus, a citizen of the UK could work in Germany from 1 September through the following 31 May (9 months) and then claim to be exempt from German tax.
India has comprehensive DTAAs with 88 countries, out of which 85 have entered into force. This means that there are agreed rates of tax and jurisdiction on specified types of income arising in a country to a tax resident of another country. Under the Income Tax Act 1961 of India, there are two provisions, Section 90 and Section 91, which provide specific relief to taxpayers to save them from double taxation. Section 90 is for taxpayers who have paid the tax to a country with which India has signed DTAA, while Section 91 provides relief to tax payers who have paid tax to a country with which India has not signed a DTAA. Thus, India gives relief to both kinds of taxpayers.
A large number of foreign institutional investors who trade on the Indian stock markets operate from Singapore and the second being Mauritius. According to the tax treaty between India and Mauritius, capital gains arising from the sale of shares are taxable in the country of residence of the shareholder and not in the country of residence of the company whose shares have been sold. Therefore, a company resident in Mauritius selling shares of an Indian company will not pay tax in India. Since there is no capital gains tax in Mauritius, the gain will escape tax altogether. The Protocol for amendment of the India-Mauritius Convention signed on 10 May 2016, provides for source-based taxation of capital gains arising from alienation of shares acquired from 1 April 2017 in a company resident in India. Simultaneously, investments made before 1 April 2017 have been grandfathered and will not be subject to capital gains taxation in India. Where such capital gains arise during the transition period from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2019, the tax rate will be limited to 50% of the domestic tax rate of India. However, the benefit of 50% reduction in tax rate during the transition period shall be subject to the Limitation of Benefits Article. Taxation in India at full domestic tax rate will take place from financial year 2019-20 onwards.
The revised DTAA between India and Cyprus signed on 18 November 2016, provides for source based taxation of capital gains arising from alienation of shares, instead of residence based taxation provided under the DTAA signed in 1994. However, a grandfathering clause has been provided for investments made prior to 1 April 2017, in respect of which capital gains would continue to be taxed in the country of which taxpayer is a resident. It also provides for assistance between the two countries for collection of taxes and updates the provisions related to Exchange of Information to accepted international standards.
The India-Singapore DTAA at present provides for residence based taxation of capital gains of shares in a company. The Third Protocol amends the DTAA with effect from 1 April 2017 to provide for source based taxation of capital gains arising on transfer of shares in a company. This will curb revenue loss, prevent double non-taxation and streamline the flow of investments. In order to provide certainty to investors, investments in shares made before 1 April 2017 have been grandfathered subject to fulfillment of conditions in Limitation of Benefits clause as per 2005 Protocol. Further, a two-year transition period from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2019 has been provided during which capital gains on shares will be taxed in source country at half of normal tax rate, subject to fulfillment of conditions in Limitation of Benefits clause.
The Third Protocol also inserts provisions to facilitate relieving of economic double taxation in transfer pricing cases. This is a taxpayer friendly measure and is in line with India’s commitments under Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan to meet the minimum standard of providing Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) access in transfer pricing cases. The Third Protocol also enables application of domestic law and measures concerning prevention of tax avoidance or tax evasion. Interestingly, Singapore’s investment of $5.98 billion has over taken Mauritius’s investment of $4.85 billion as the single largest investor for the year 2013-14.
In principle, an Australian resident is taxed on all worldwide income, while a non-resident is taxed only on Australian-sourced income. Both legs of the principle offer an opportunity for taxation in more than one jurisdiction. To avoid double taxation of income by different jurisdictions, Australia has entered into double taxation avoidance agreements (DTAs) with a number of other countries, under which both countries agree on which taxes will be paid to which country. For example, in the case of royalties, the DTA with the United States says that the US will tax Australian residents at the rate of 5%, and Australia will tax it at normal rates (i.e., 30% for companies) but give a credit for the 5% already paid. For Australian residents, this ends up working out the same as if the money had been earned within Australia - whilst still providing a 5% credit to the US.
U.S. citizens and resident aliens abroad
The U.S. requires its citizens to file tax returns reporting their earnings wherever they reside. However, there are some measures designed to reduce the international double taxation that results from this requirement.
First, an individual who is a bona fide resident of a foreign country or is physically outside the United States for an extended time is entitled to an exclusion (exemption) of part or all of their earned income (that is, personal service income, as distinguished from income from capital or investments). That exemption is $100,800 for 2015, pro-rated. (See IRS form 2555.)
Second, the United States allows a foreign tax credit by which income tax paid to foreign countries can be offset against U.S. income tax liability attributable to any foreign income not covered by this exclusion. This can be a complex issue that often requires the services of a tax advisor. The foreign tax credit is not allowed for tax paid on earned income that is excluded under the rules described in the preceding paragraph (i.e. no double dipping).
Double taxation within the United States
Double taxation can also happen within a single country. This typically happens when subnational jurisdictions have taxation powers, and jurisdictions have competing claims. In the United States a person may legally have only a single domicile. However, when a person dies different states may each claim that the person was domiciled in that state. Intangible personal property may then be taxed by each state making a claim. In the absence of specific laws prohibiting multiple taxation, and as long as the total of taxes does not exceed 100% of the value of the tangible personal property, the courts will allow such multiple taxation.
Also, since each state makes its own rules on who is a resident for tax purposes, someone may be subject to the claims by two states on his or her income. For example, if someone's legal/permanent domicile is in state A, which considers only permanent domicile to which one returns for residency but he or she spends 7 months of the year (say April–October) in state B where anyone who is there longer than 6 months is considered a part-year resident, that person will then owe taxes to both states on money earned in state B. College or university students may also be subject to claims of more than one state, generally if they leave their original state to attend school, and the second state considers students to be residents for tax purposes. In some cases one state will give a credit for taxes paid to another state, but not always.
Taxation of corporate dividends
In the United States, the term "double taxation" is also used to refer to dividend taxation. It refers to the taxation of dividend income when received by a shareholder that had been previously taxed at the corporate level.
Foreign shareholders are subject to a 30% tax on the dividends, called the branch profits tax. Foreign corporations are subject to United States income tax on their "effectively connected income", and are also subject to the branch profits tax on any of their profits not reinvested in the U.S.
- Darren Rykers (2009): A Critical Analysis of how Double Tax Agreements can facilitate Fiscal Avoidance and Evasion; The Taxpayer and the Lotus, 17 Nov.2009.
- Gio Wiederhold (2013): Valuing Intellectual Capital, Multinationals and Taxhavens; Springer Verlag, 2013, Chap.4.
- "Announcement: server inaccessibility - European Commission". Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- See (17) and (18) of above, for a "temporary" period, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg may apply a withholding tax to non-resident accounts rather than exchange information.
- Double Taxation Cases Outside the Transfer Pricing Area, December 2013
- "Double Taxation Avoidance agreement (DTAA) with South Korea". Press Information Bureau. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- "Publication 54 (2015), Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad". Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- Robert Carroll (2010) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-05. Retrieved 2012-02-19.