Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been pursuing measures to address the perceived use of mismatch and arbitrage opportunities between national tax systems designed to transfer profits to low(er) tax jurisdictions. Such action is argued to erode domestic tax bases (base erosion) and moves reported profits (profit-shifting) to locations where there may be little or no related economic activity. Although such planning may be allowable under tax law, there is an increasing perception that it is unfair and undermines the integrity of tax systems globally.
Traditionally, profits recorded by a non-resident company are only taxable in a particular jurisdiction if the economic activities giving rise to those profits are undertaken through a local permanent establishment (PE). A number of factors can contribute to the judgement that a PE exists, such as the existence of an office with staff, retail premises or manufacturing base. A company that operates locally through an agent authorised to conclude contracts on its behalf may also be found to have established PE status. In recent years, there has been increasing concern that globalisation and the digital economy have significantly increased the scope to avoid PE status by supplying goods and services from remote geographical locations. Particular concern attaches to the major global e-commerce businesses. Financial services companies may also in principle offer services without establishing a permanent physical presence in a particular country.
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