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Vad utgör ett missbruk av skatteavtal? En studie av OECD:s och Sveriges syn på skatteflykt vid skatteavtalstillämpning

Lundgren, Carl-Johan LU (2015) LAGM01 20152
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
Ett skatteavtals huvudobjektiv är att förhindra juridisk dubbelbeskattning för att främja den globala ekonomin. Detta har under en längre tid ansetts innebära stora möjligheter för skattesubjekt att minska, eller totalt undgå, skattebelastning. Sådana förfaranden medför skadliga effekter på den fiskala miljön och den globala ekonomin i stort. Den inneboende slitningen mellan å ena sida främjandet av den globala ekonomin genom möjligheten till gränsöverskridande handel, och å andra sidan de möjligheter det innebär för skatteflyktsupplägg är utgångspunkten för diskussionen i detta arbete.

Arbetet är ämnat att undersöka tillämpligheten av internrättsliga general-klausuler på skatteavtalsförhållanden, vad som utgör ett missbruk av... (More)
Ett skatteavtals huvudobjektiv är att förhindra juridisk dubbelbeskattning för att främja den globala ekonomin. Detta har under en längre tid ansetts innebära stora möjligheter för skattesubjekt att minska, eller totalt undgå, skattebelastning. Sådana förfaranden medför skadliga effekter på den fiskala miljön och den globala ekonomin i stort. Den inneboende slitningen mellan å ena sida främjandet av den globala ekonomin genom möjligheten till gränsöverskridande handel, och å andra sidan de möjligheter det innebär för skatteflyktsupplägg är utgångspunkten för diskussionen i detta arbete.

Arbetet är ämnat att undersöka tillämpligheten av internrättsliga general-klausuler på skatteavtalsförhållanden, vad som utgör ett missbruk av skatteavtal ur OECD:s perspektiv och hur skatteflyktslagen förhåller sig till det som framkommit kring OECD:s syn på missbruk. Undersökningen av OECD:s syn utmynnar i ett förslag för en användbar, internationellt gångbar missbruksdefinition. Valet av en utgångspunkt i OECD:s material motiveras av organisationens tydligt internationella förankring och att dess arbete därför torde ge en god bild av synen på missbruk internationellt.

Tillämpligheten av internrättsliga generalklausuler på skatteavtals-förhållanden är omdebatterad. Enligt OECD är en sådan tillämpning oproblematisk och alltid gångbar. Denna syn delas av ett stort antal stater, samtidigt som ett fåtal andra stater inte anser så vara fallet. Även inom doktrin är tillämpligheten av internrättsliga generalklausuler omdebatterad och stöd för båda syner finns återgiven. Ur svensk synvinkel framstår det som tydligt att skatteflyktslagen kan tillämpas på skatteavtal, särskilt med hänvisning till rättstillämpningen på området.

En, enligt mig, möjlig definition av vad som utgör missbruk av skatteavtal ur OECD:s perspektiv presenteras i uppsatsen. Kortfattat kan sägas att ett missbruk av skatte-avtal föreligger då det huvudsakliga syftet med ett förfarande varit att uppnå skatteavtalsfördelar och detta förfaranden måste anses stå i strid med den specifika avtalsbestämmelsens syfte (om detta kan identifieras) eller det primära syftet bakom skatteavtalets ingående. Till ledning för ett sådant fastställande kan inkomstens karaktär granskas. Framstår det som att beskattning sker i en stat utan verklig anknytning till inkomsten kan detta vara en indikation på att förfarandet strider mot syftet.

Skatteflyktslagen är enligt min mening förenlig med den definition av som vaskats fram ur OECD:s kommentarer och rapporter i uppsatsen. Den avgörande punkten vid en bedömning kring skatteflyktslagens tillämplighet ligger i domstolens syn på avtalstolkning. En friare tolkning av syftet bakom lagstiftningen torde leda till skatteflyktslagens tillämplighet. Medan en bokstavstrogen tolkning i större utsträckning torde leda till det motsatta. Rättstillämparen tycks kluven på området och skattesubjekt borde enligt min mening anstränga sig för att uppnå ett förfarande som inte kan anses ha
skatteavtalsfördelar som sitt huvudsakliga syfte och inte förlita sig till en tolkning av avtalets syften till skattesubjektets fördel. (Less)
Abstract
The main objective of a tax treaty is the avoidance of juridical double taxation in order to further the development of the global economy. Tax treaties has, however, for a long time been known to function as a vehicle for taxpayers to reduce or all together avoid taxation. Such arrangements or schemes cause adverse effects to the fiscal environment and the global economy at large. The inherent divergence between the development of cross border investment and business on the one hand, and the possibility for tax avoidance schemes on the other, is the starting point for the discussion presented in this thesis.

The thesis’ aim is to examine whether the application of domestic general anti-avoidance rules (GAARs) is consistent with tax... (More)
The main objective of a tax treaty is the avoidance of juridical double taxation in order to further the development of the global economy. Tax treaties has, however, for a long time been known to function as a vehicle for taxpayers to reduce or all together avoid taxation. Such arrangements or schemes cause adverse effects to the fiscal environment and the global economy at large. The inherent divergence between the development of cross border investment and business on the one hand, and the possibility for tax avoidance schemes on the other, is the starting point for the discussion presented in this thesis.

The thesis’ aim is to examine whether the application of domestic general anti-avoidance rules (GAARs) is consistent with tax treaty obligations, what constitutes tax treaty abuse from the perspective of the OECD, and how the Swedish general anti-avoidance clause corresponds to the view of the OECD in regard to treaty abuse. The examination of the view of the OECD results in a proposal for a useful, internationally functioning definition of what constitutes an abuse of tax treaties. The selection of material in this thesis, centred around the publications of the OECD, is motivated by the organisation’s international character, and as such it is well positioned to give an international view of tax treaty abuse.

The application of a domestic GAAR in tax treaty circumstances is a highly debated subject. According to the OECD such application is unproblematic and in accordance with the obligations posed on states by tax treaties. This view is shared by a great number of states, meanwhile a smaller number of states is of an opposing view. Within the field of tax treaty research there are also diverging opinions on the subject. From a Swedish perspective it seems clear that the domestic GAAR is in accordance with Sweden’s treaty obligations.

An, according to me, plausible definition of what constitutes an abuse of tax treaties from an OECD perspective is presented in the thesis. In short, an abuse of tax treaty law is at hand when the principal purpose of an arrangement was the obtaining of treaty benefits, and that arrangement must be considered to violate the purpose of the treaty provision relied upon by the taxpayer (if such a purpose can be identified) or the main purpose of the tax treaty. Guidance on how to determine whether the arrangement is in accordance with the treaty purpose, can be found in the character of the taxable income. If the income appears to lack a real link to the state of taxation, this could be an indication of an arrangement in violation of the treaty purpose.

The Swedish GAAR is in my opinion in accordance with the abovementioned definition of abuse. The crucial point of determining whether an arrangement is in violation of the treaty lies in the interpretation of the purposes of tax treaties by the Swedish courts. A freer, less textual interpretation from the court will probably result in a ruling in the tax authorities’ favour. Whereas the opposite will be the case if the court relies on a more textual, formal interpretation method. The adjudicator seems to be unsure of which approach is the correct. In my view, the tax payer is therefore best served by efforts made to create an arrangement considered to be driven by other goals than tax treaty benefits. Arguing the arrangement’s treaty purpose conformity is an uncertain strategy. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Lundgren, Carl-Johan LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
What Constitutes a Tax Treaty Abuse? A Study of the Views of the OECD and Sweden with Regard to Tax Treaty Tax Avoidance
course
LAGM01 20152
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
social and welfare law, tax treaty abuse
language
Swedish
id
8514344
date added to LUP
2016-01-29 12:50:18
date last changed
2016-02-02 09:15:24
@misc{8514344,
  abstract     = {The main objective of a tax treaty is the avoidance of juridical double taxation in order to further the development of the global economy. Tax treaties has, however, for a long time been known to function as a vehicle for taxpayers to reduce or all together avoid taxation. Such arrangements or schemes cause adverse effects to the fiscal environment and the global economy at large. The inherent divergence between the development of cross border investment and business on the one hand, and the possibility for tax avoidance schemes on the other, is the starting point for the discussion presented in this thesis. 

The thesis’ aim is to examine whether the application of domestic general anti-avoidance rules (GAARs) is consistent with tax treaty obligations, what constitutes tax treaty abuse from the perspective of the OECD, and how the Swedish general anti-avoidance clause corresponds to the view of the OECD in regard to treaty abuse. The examination of the view of the OECD results in a proposal for a useful, internationally functioning definition of what constitutes an abuse of tax treaties. The selection of material in this thesis, centred around the publications of the OECD, is motivated by the organisation’s international character, and as such it is well positioned to give an international view of tax treaty abuse. 

The application of a domestic GAAR in tax treaty circumstances is a highly debated subject. According to the OECD such application is unproblematic and in accordance with the obligations posed on states by tax treaties. This view is shared by a great number of states, meanwhile a smaller number of states is of an opposing view. Within the field of tax treaty research there are also diverging opinions on the subject. From a Swedish perspective it seems clear that the domestic GAAR is in accordance with Sweden’s treaty obligations. 

An, according to me, plausible definition of what constitutes an abuse of tax treaties from an OECD perspective is presented in the thesis. In short, an abuse of tax treaty law is at hand when the principal purpose of an arrangement was the obtaining of treaty benefits, and that arrangement must be considered to violate the purpose of the treaty provision relied upon by the taxpayer (if such a purpose can be identified) or the main purpose of the tax treaty. Guidance on how to determine whether the arrangement is in accordance with the treaty purpose, can be found in the character of the taxable income. If the income appears to lack a real link to the state of taxation, this could be an indication of an arrangement in violation of the treaty purpose.

The Swedish GAAR is in my opinion in accordance with the abovementioned definition of abuse. The crucial point of determining whether an arrangement is in violation of the treaty lies in the interpretation of the purposes of tax treaties by the Swedish courts. A freer, less textual interpretation from the court will probably result in a ruling in the tax authorities’ favour. Whereas the opposite will be the case if the court relies on a more textual, formal interpretation method. The adjudicator seems to be unsure of which approach is the correct. In my view, the tax payer is therefore best served by efforts made to create an arrangement considered to be driven by other goals than tax treaty benefits. Arguing the arrangement’s treaty purpose conformity is an uncertain strategy.},
  author       = {Lundgren, Carl-Johan},
  keyword      = {social and welfare law,tax treaty abuse},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Vad utgör ett missbruk av skatteavtal? En studie av OECD:s och Sveriges syn på skatteflykt vid skatteavtalstillämpning},
  year         = {2015},
}