Six tax acronyms every law student should know

Have you ever felt that taxation is a code where people throw around jargons and expect you to decipher? Worst of all, you definitely do not want to come across as ignorant to the interviewer who is the very person standing between you and the coveted training seat that you have been eyeing since the first year of law school?


You have completed hundreds of applications for vacation schemes and training contracts, attended countless law fairs and insight days, spoke to too many recruiters and associates from the firms, completed another hundreds of pre-interview online psychometric tests and assessments and when the day of the interview finally arrives, you do not want to be thrown off by questions on commercial awareness.


Fret not. Here are some of the most important tax acronyms that every law student should know even if they are not planning to become tax lawyers.


1. OECD: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

OECD is an international organisation that focus on building international policies. [1] One of their most important contributions to the global economy is the creation of the Model Tax Convention [2], a model for countries to adapt and conclude bilateral tax treaties which allocate the taxing rights of income and capital for cross-border transactions between both countries.


2. BEPS: Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

You've probably heard about multinational corporations (MNCs) such as Facebook [3], Google [4], and Amazon [5] avoid taxes by shifting profits to offshore vehicles and entities via innovative corporate structures. Legal, yet morally questionable. To make sure that MNCs, and anyone who conduct cross border business, pay their fair share of taxes in the relevant jurisdictions where they do their businesses, the OECD had worked with many countries to introduce an Action Plan in 2013 which contained 15 proposed measures to counteract BEPS. [6] Some of the proposed measures are currently implemented in the UK, and others are still in the midst of negotiation and discussion.[7]


3. TPD: Transfer Pricing Documentation

TPD has a long history dated back to 1995 when the OECD first came up with transfer pricing guidelines. [8] The gist of TPD is that MNCs do not conduct business with only external third parties; they also transfer goods and services among its own entities (aka related party transactions). TPD serves as an internal report which documents the type of related party transactions among its entities as well as the basis of setting the prices of these transactions to ensure that they are comparable to transactions with external third parties (i.e. at arms’ length). Tax authorities often request for copies of the TPD when they conduct transfer pricing audits so MNCs are advised to maintain updated TPD every year.


4. CbCR: Country-by-Country Reporting

This is a report that contains the financial and business information of entities that the MNC operate all around the world. It is usually prepared together with TPD and filed with the relevant tax authority to fulfil filing requirements, depending on where the HQ of the MNC is located. The purpose of this report is for information gathering by the relevant tax authorities.


5. MLI: Multilateral Instrument

Another child of the Action Plan. The MLI is an amendment to the existing bilateral tax treaties that were concluded between countries so as to implement BEPS related measures. [9] It requires both countries to ratify the instrument and enacted into domestic law for the amendments to be legally effective.


6. GloBE: Global Anti-Base Erosion Proposal

The latest embryo of the Action Plan. This is one of the two ‘pillars’ under the OECD proposal back in January 2019 to target MNCs with huge online presence such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple whose profits are not taxable in the jurisdictions which they (obviously) have presence in the digital world. [10] The key idea is to introduce four new rules to grant jurisdictions with additional taxing rights on profits which are outside of its current taxing range. [11] The proposed rules are currently in the consultation stage and targeted to be finalised by mid-2021 for jurisdictions to begin implementation into domestic law. [12]


If you were ever asked about these terms, demonstrate to your interviewer what you know and impress them with your level of commercial awareness. Go and nail that next interview!


Acknowledgements:

[1] https://www.oecd.org/about/

[2] https://www.oecd.org/ctp/treaties/model-tax-convention-on-income-and-on-capital-condensed-version-20745419.htm

[3] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/how-does-facebook-avoid-paying-tax-and-what-will-changes-mean-a6912731.html

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/may/16/google-told-by-mp-you-do-do-evil

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/nov/12/amazon-google-starbucks-diverting-uk-profits

[6] http://www.oecd.org/tax/beps/beps-actions/

[7] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/Tax/dttl-tax-beps-actions-implementation-united-kingdom.pdf

[8] https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/taxation/oecd-transfer-pricing-guidelines-for-multinational-enterprises-and-tax-administrations-2017_tpg-2017-en

[9] https://www.oecd.org/tax/treaties/multilateral-convention-to-implement-tax-treaty-related-measures-to-prevent-beps.htm

[10] https://www.oecd.org/tax/beps/public-consultation-document-global-anti-base-erosion-proposal-pillar-two.pdf.pdf

[11] https://home.kpmg/uk/en/home/insights/2020/10/the-oecd-pillar-1-and-2-blueprints-on-a-page.html

[12] https://www.oecd.org/tax/beps/cover-statement-by-the-oecd-g20-inclusive-framework-on-beps-on-the-reports-on-the-blueprints-of-pillar-one-and-pillar-two-october-2020.pdf


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