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Finance Monthly speaks to James Butler – experienced practitioner, business adviser to SMEs and Consulting Partner at GBW – an Irish company that wants to make sure that a choice exists for those smaller businesses that require a more hands-on approach than that offered by the larger firms.

 

What are the key services that GBW offers to clients?

We are a mid-tier firm of accountants and business advisers with varying specialties and backgrounds. Our services range from assisting with Audit, Assurance, Taxation and Accounting, through to Business Advisory and Corporate Recovery. Our cross-border service offering, business approach and sector expertise is primarily designed to support Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, or organisations of equivalent scale, with existing or planned international operations.

GBW is an independent member of TGS – a global accountancy and legal network of independent firms specialising in the provision of accounting, audit, tax, business advisory and commercial legal services.

 

Tell us more about TGS?

Not all networks that are part of the group are the same. TGS member firms are all independently owned and share an entrepreneurial approach to their own and clients’ businesses. We have a shared commitment to the highest levels of technical expertise and professional standards. Our clients enjoy a rapid access to quality assured in country experts across the world, via a single point of contact.

We recognise that every client is unique and our cost-effective solutions are tailored to our clients’ unique requirements. Whether they require a full suite of accounting and business solutions or a one-off specialist service, TGS Global can provide precisely what our clients require, no more and no less.

 

You have extensive experience in Insolvency & Corporate Restructuring, and have acted as liquidator in both creditor and member voluntary liquidations. What does your role within GBW entail?

In my role within GBW, I deal with banks and financial institutions in all areas concerning distressed property and non-performing loans. I’ve also been involved in debt management and refinancing for both companies and individuals.

Additionally, I am also an experienced practitioner in taxation and business advice for businesses in the area of the licensed trade, professional services and medical practitioners.

 

 

GBW’s Services:

Audit and Accounting

We aim to help our clients see the audit process as a benefit to their business, not just a cost.

Taxation

Our taxation department has expertise in all categories of taxation, both our corporate to personal clients.

Business Advisory Services

All businesses require planning – form start-ups to mature businesses. Our business advisory experts can assist with the planning and execution.

Accounting

Our Accounts department provides all types of assistance, whether be in-house or out sourced, we have the expertise.

Corporate Finance

If you are selling, buying or merging a business. If you are making an investment or raising finance – we can help with the decision making process.

Forensic and Litigation Support

In today’s changeable economic environment, business disputes are becoming more frequent and litigation is on the increase. At GBW, we draw on the firm’s wide expertise of our accounting professionals to advise our clients in claims assessment and provide independent expert accounting witness services.

Recovery and Restructuring

We are leaders in the provision of insolvency and restructuring services. Our team comprises of insolvency experts, forensic specialists and support staff who work together to provide a comprehensive and complete solution to any restructuring or insolvency project.

 

Website: http://gbw.ie

RSM Malta is a professional services and advisory firm with a strong team of professionals with decades of experience assisting clients from a range of industries. The firm’s goal is to be the firm of choice to leading businesses in Malta, offering an excellent and personalised service.

To hear about Tax in Malta, this month Finance Monthly spoke with Dr Timothy Zammit, who has recently been made partner at RSM Malta within the tax and corporate services unit, after having joined the firm in 2010 as a tax lawyer. Together with a team of professionals, Timothy is responsible for assisting clients with their corporate and tax advisory needs.

 

As a newly appointed Partner at RSM Malta in the tax advisory and corporate services, what are the key services that you assist clients with?

Together with fellow tax partner, George Gregory, and a team of financial and legal professionals, I assist clients with enhancing their fiscal efficiencies through the setting up of companies, special purpose vehicles and corporate restructuring while providing transactional support in acquisitions, mergers and divisions, together with business succession planning while ensuring clients’ full compliance with their tax and corporate obligations. I also advise clients on matters including personal taxation, benefitting from one of the tax residence programmes, taking up residency in Malta and applying for Maltese citizenship.

 

How complex is the tax system in Malta?

Malta’s tax system is fully compliant with EU Directives and also includes a number of elements that are attractive to both businesses and individuals. Malta is the only EU Member State that has maintained the full imputation system while imposing tax according to the nature of the income’s source. A cornerstone of Malta’s tax system is that universal taxing rights are claimed on persons (both individuals and companies) that are both resident and domiciled in Malta. Malta has also been moving towards a system based on final taxation at source, primarily on property transactions, in the past years. It is the interoperation of these complexities that makes Malta such an attractive option.

 

In your opinion, are there any unique advantages of conducting business in Malta from a tax perspective?

While Malta’s corporate tax rate is one of the highest in Europe at 35%, at a time where there is a trend of lowering corporate tax rates, the full imputation system offers a business-friendly environment, while eliminating economic double taxation. Malta’s tax system provides shareholders the right to credit the tax paid by the company to their personal tax liability. Where the shareholders’ tax rate is lower than the 35% corporate tax rate, they may apply for a refund between their applicable tax rate and that of the company. This is available to both residents and non-residents, offering a favourable and business-friendly tax environment.

Malta not only offers an attractive tax regime. The ‘can do’ attitude that is adopted by the authorities in regulating and doing business in general, coupled with the Mediterranean lifestyle gives investors a very appealing option.

 

How do you help your clients mitigate their tax liability whilst remaining fully compliant with tax laws?

When dealing with cross border businesses, an international tax advisor can never only look at the situation in one jurisdiction – as any solution is only a solution if it works in all the right jurisdictions. It is through the availability of reliable professionals globally with the right experience and background being part of RSM, that we may truly assist clients ensuring that they are fully compliant.

 

 You’ve recently been made Partner – what does this mean to you? How will your current responsibilities change? What are the goals that you’re arriving with?

Being made Partner in a firm with 170 professionals is a strong vote of confidence by my fellow Partners that gives me renewed enthusiasm to continue contributing to the firm’s growth and solidifying RSM’s position as the mid-tier firm of choice. My role as Partner comes at a challenging time where the industry is facing a multitude of challenges, ranging from changes to tax systems globally in the light of the financial crisis, BEPS and the trend of full disclosure and exchange of information to the industry disruption that will be caused by technologies such as the Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence in the coming years. The challenge is to be able to help identify and adopt the right approach that will guarantee our clients’ continued future success while ensuring that they are fully compliant with their obligations in all the jurisdictions that they operate.

 

Website: www.rsm.com.mt

Phone: +356 2278 7000

Geordie Bulmer is the UK winner in the Inheritance Tax Planning Adviser of the Year category in Finance Monthly’s 2018 Taxation Awards. We caught up with him this month to hear about his win and his work within inheritance tax planning. 

 

As winner in the Inheritance Tax Planning Adviser of the Year category, how do you feel your character and attitude towards your profession has made you a leader in the tax planning business?

I’ve been advising on various areas of financial tax planning for over 10 years but have specialised in Inheritance Tax planning because I believe it’s an area where I can add real value. My clients are usually over 60 and one of my strengths is being able to make difficult subjects easier to understand. If a sophisticated investor wants a detailed breakdown of how a specific Trust works, then I can present it at their level but many clients are confused by technical jargon and just want to know that the recommended strategy will achieve their objectives.

 

You are also a competitive sky diver; how do you believe your skills, not the practical ones of course, transfer to your work in inheritance tax planning?

I stopped skydiving when my wife got pregnant as I could no longer accept the risk of an accident. There is a risk involved with everything and you have to make sure you’ve covered all potential problems before making a big decision, such as establishing a Trust (or jumping out of a plane).

 

Having joined AISA Professional in 2009, how do you feel the company has developed your winning attributes?

AISA has been winning awards for a number of years now, including International Adviser Excellence in Investment Planning in 2017, so I’m really pleased that we continue to be recognised for our hard work. As a company we aim to follow a planned strategy that we review regularly and this helps us exceed our client’s expectations.

 

What would you say are two major priorities and concerns of your clients?

Although clients would like their estate to pay less inheritance tax, many do not want to completely give up any future access to their capital or an ongoing income. Therefore every situation has to be individually assessed to ensure current objectives and potential future requirements can be achieved.

 

Website: http://aisagroup.org/

Written by Nigel Mellor, Senior Policy Adviser, the Office of Tax Simplification 

On 7 November 2017, the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) laid before Parliament its report entitled Value Added Tax: routes to simplification. The OTS is a small team of independent, expert advisers who undertake detailed research into tax complexity issues typically on behalf of Ministers but it can undertake reviews at its own instigation. The parties consulted for the report included professional bodies, trade associations and micro-businesses through to global corporations. In addition, the team worked closely with HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs. Once a report has been finalised, the OTS then lays it before Parliament and typically the Chancellor gives a formal response to any recommendations which have been made.

The 80-page report contains 23 recommendations of which 8 are described as being core recommendations and 15 are categorised as additional recommendations. In essence, the report can be broken down into three main areas; namely,

 

Registration threshold issues

The UK’s £85,000 VAT registration is often seen as being a tax simplification measure as many small businesses can comfortably operate below this level without needing to register for VAT. The report points out the current threshold is the highest in the EU and the OCED and at present, the average threshold in the EU is around £20,000. The report also highlights the fact that based on submissions received and academic analysis of HMRC data, the threshold is clearly having a distortive impact on business growth. This is considered to be because businesses are deliberately limiting their expansion, for example, by not taking on an extra employee, an extra contract, or closing their doors for a period to keep their turnover below the threshold. The distortions which this creates can clearly be seen in the graph below.

The OTS has therefore recommended that the government should examine the current approach to the level and design of the VAT registration threshold, including consideration of the potential benefits of introducing a smoothing mechanism.

Numbers of entities by turnover band around the registration threshold

Source: HMRC data from 2014/15, when the threshold was £81,000

 

Administration including guidance, rulings, penalties and appeals

The OTS in earlier reviews has highlighted feedback which it has received that practical issues are often the most important to users of the tax system and many contributors identified where improvements could make life easier for businesses.

A range of concerns were expressed to us about the benefit which is obtained from certainty when decisions need to be made about the VAT treatment of goods and services they supply and/or when dealing with one off events such as a complex restructuring. Concerns were also raised with us about the quality of the guidance produced by HMRC, problems relating to penalties (particularly where a business had made a voluntary disclosure), and issues relating to appeals. The OTS has made a number of recommendations in this area so as to try and address some of these concerns.

 

Multiple rates

Goods and services supplied in the UK are by default subject to VAT at the standard rate. There are various exceptions under which the goods or services may be subject to a reduced rate, zero-rated or exempt from VAT. As most readers will be aware, these boundaries can create absurdities and the different treatments can cause complexity and be administratively burdensome. This complexity has arisen over many years and on occasion the treatment has links to how goods were classified for purchase tax.

The OTS recommended that rather than trying to address these complexities in a piecemeal fashion, the time is now right for HM Treasury and HMRC to undertake a comprehensive review of the reduced rate, zero-rate and exemption schedules, working with the support of the OTS.

 

Partial exemption

During the course of the review, it became apparent that many more businesses are now captured by the partial exemption regime than would have been the case when the tax was introduced over 40 years ago. There are many reasons why this has happened including the fact that there is now more diversification by businesses but a contributing factor is that the de minimis limits which are designed to keep smaller businesses out of partial exemption have not been increased for decades. Similarly, many larger businesses expressed concern that when they need to negotiate or renew a partial exemption special method, the process was frequently taking years to obtain approval.

As a way of resolving these issues, the OTS recommended that the government should both increase the de minimis limits and explore alternative ways for businesses incurring insignificant amounts of input tax to be relieved from carrying out partial exemption calculations.

 

Capital Goods Scheme

The Capital Goods Scheme (CGS) requires businesses to consider each year after the purchase or first use of the asset whether the use of the asset has changed. The rules around the necessary adjustments can be quiet complex. The scheme currently captures land and building works in excess of £250,000 as well as computers, aircraft and yachts costing more than £50,000. There are several issues with caused by the complexities of the scheme but the most important is that the threshold for scheme adjustments relating to land and property have not increased since 1990 despite a huge increase in property values. The OTS have recommended that the land and property threshold should be increased and it has also questioned whether the other categories are still needed.

 

Option to tax

The option to tax allows businesses to charge VAT on certain land a property transactions which would otherwise be exempt and this enables a recovery of input VAT on costs associated with that supply. The OTS explored a number of potential changes in relation to this area and it has recommended that HMRC should consider how the record keeping and audit trails for options could be improved for example by handling options to tax on-line.

 

In addition to the core recommendations which have been outlined above, the report has made a number of additional recommendations. These recommendations are explained in more detail in the report and a pdf can be downloaded from the OTS section on the gov.uk website. This can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/657215/Value_added_tax_routes_to_simplification_print.pdf

 

 

To hear about tax in Romania, Finance Monthly reached out to Florica Cira who is the Managing Partner and Founder of FinACo -an accounting and tax advice company.

 

Have there been any recent/upcoming updates or changes to tax rules in Romania?

There have been quite a few changes in Romania in the last few years. Some of them were needed, but others, in my opinion, simply increased the bureaucracy.

2017 was a very dynamic year in regards to changes in the tax rules in Romania. An amendment was published almost every month so tax advisers, accountants, managers, as well as business owners had a busy year.

A lot of things changed in labour taxation:

The main modifications refer to:

The actual labour cost will not change much. However, in some sectors like IT and R&D, where the employees are exempted of income tax, this transfer of taxes will decrease the net salaries with around 7%.

This major change could have a negative impact on companies considering that the budget for the next year was approved beforehand.

In the long run however, these changes could be very beneficial for Romanian social security, since individual insurance will increase. Furthermore, the public funds for future payments to social security could be managed much better.

Still, business managers and owners ask themselves whether the Government guarantees to keep the labour taxation to 2.25% in the next few years.

The period of time for implementation, software updates, discussions, negotiations between employer and employees is very short and involves efforts by both sides.

Additionally, there have also been recent changes in regards to VAT - the so-called “split payment” of VAT which set-up a new method to follow-up collection and VAT payment, starting in 2018. The system implies that VAT tax payers will have the obligation to open a new bank account for managing only VAT payments.  The companies are forbidden to withdraw cash or use this funds for anything that’s not VAT payments. The fines and penalties are extremely high if the rules are not respected.

The Government’s main objective is to increase the level of collection and reduce VAT fraud. However, specialists note that this measure will increase operating cost and cause cash flow issues.

The business sector firmly rejects this new form of bureaucracy and economic experiment, hoping it will not be applied.

As of 1st January 2018, there will be some major changes in regards to corporate tax too. Companies with a total in revenues under € 1mil per year, will pay tax on revenues:

In the last five years, the threshold for this type of taxation has increased from € 65,000 in 2013, € 100,000 in 2016, € 500,000 in 2017 to € 1 mil, as of 1st January 2018.

Because this form of taxation is mandatory, it could have a negative impact on industries with EBITA lower than 6%, as well as on investment projects, where the operating expenses cannot be deducted from the operating profit in the current year or in the next fiscal years.

 

What would you say are the advantages of setting up a business operation in Romania, in terms of tax?

Even though there have been many changes in tax regulations in the last few years, which has created challenges in setting-up a business strategy, there are still some fiscal advantages which are worth mentioning:

-Developers and employees from R&D projects are exempted of income tax on salary. This facility can decrease the labour cost.

-Small companies with a turnover under €1 mil, which report EBITA over 7% has an advantage by paying only 1% to their revenue.

-Companies which invest in equipment are exempted on tax on profit for the value of the investment.

 

What are some of the key challenges of helping clients with tax, accounting and payroll?

The SME sector have grown very quickly in the last years, partially because of the investments made with European Funds. Our role is to assist and help our customers with their goals and to be more competitive and dynamic in a market influenced that is more and more by new technologies, data volume and high speed of reaction. At the same time, a challenge that we face is ensuring that the accounting and reporting standards are respected as well as that the taxes are correctly assessed.

We assist our clients with finding new better solutions to optimise their activity. Some of our projects that we work on include:

-Assisting with setting up ERP systems in compliance with the local accounting and fiscal standards. The challenge is to localise the system, ensure that the reporting criteria is fulfilled, and ensure that the automatic processes are correctly set.

-A lot of small companies have gone through mergers or have split to better organise their activity or to sell the business. Such a project implies team work from managers, lawyers, accountants and advisers.

-Assisting and representing our clients to fiscal audits performed by Tax Authorities on field like: corporate tax, transfer pricing, labour tax, VAT.

-Project-based accounting and management reporting is requested more and more even by small companies, to optimise their cost, to measure and increase their performance.

 

What differentiates FinACo from its Romanian competitors?

We provide integrated services to our clients for projects regarding: accounting, budgeting, consultancy, and tax-related issues.

 

Where do you see the company in 2-3 years?

New technology will challenge us to find a new way of using our knowledge. Booking routine works will be taken over by machines. We must be prepared for new methods like cloud accounting, and learn to be more than an accountant and become an adviser on business environment.

 

Website: http://www.finaco.ro/

The VAT House is a respected and trusted EU VAT specialist based in Belgium. It is internationally known and works for large multinational companies, smaller companies that are expanding their businesses on a global scale, as well as accounting firms. Frank Borger, Partner and lecturer on VAT at several major institutions, tells us about The VAT House’s beginnings, principal services and priorities towards their clients.

 

What is the history behind The VAT House?

Established in 1997, The VAT House has a rich history of advising and supporting large companies and SME’s across Belgium and other European countries. We also assist accounting firms with VAT questions of their clients, large non-profit organisations, and government bodies.

It’s a tough task for businesses to remain up-to-date with domestic VAT laws, European VAT directives and jurisprudence, and the domestic VAT laws in other countries. Managing VAT issues and bringing businesses into line with all the different VAT obligations requires a high level of experience and knowledge.

The VAT House’s mission is to help our clients with this difficult task. It has now 5 partners, which all have a deep knowledge of VAT and an experience of 25-30 years on both national and international level.

 

What are the principal services the company provides and its priorities towards clients?

We have a wide and comprehensive range of services: advice on VAT, negotiations with national and European VAT authorities, performing VAT audits, supervising the implementation of ERP packages for VAT, e.g. helping to determine VAT codes, organising internal VAT training courses for companies and organisations. We are experienced in almost every business sector.

Additionally, we can assist our clients in VAT compliance matters (e.g. VAT registration in Belgium and/or other countries, filing VAT returns in Belgium and/or other countries, filing Intrastat returns, filing VAT refund applications).

Our daily goal is providing our clients with practical solutions at an outstanding price/quality level.

 

Have there been any recent updates or changes to VAT rules in Belgium and the EU?

VAT rules are constantly changing. An important trigger is the so-called VAT gap, which is the overall difference between the expected VAT revenue and the amount actually collected. The VAT Gap measures the effectiveness of VAT enforcement and compliance measures in each EU Member State. It estimates revenue loss due to fraud and evasion, tax avoidance, bankruptcies, financial insolvencies as well as miscalculations. For the EU28 the VAT gap is 12.8 % and amounts €152 billion, of which cross-border fraud is estimated on €50 billion. These figures are a strong motivator for governments to take policy measures to improve VAT compliance and enforcement. The European Commission has recently come up with proposals for a far-reaching reform of the EU VAT system. The proposed VAT reform would also make the system more modern, robust and simpler to use for companies and businesses alike.

In the meantime, it is expected that every EU Member State will take internal action to reduce the VAT gap. Businesses must be aware of that and keep an eye on their VAT position.

 

What are the key issues that your clients face in relation to managing VAT?

One of the main hurdles is definitely the complexity of VAT. As a consumption, tax VAT sits on the skin of the economy. As we know, commercial transactions have become more and more international and complex due to globalisation. VAT rules are moreover not necessary adapted at the same speed as economic life evolves. In that context our clients are happy that they can rely on our knowledge and can trust on our assistance.

 

What are your recommendations for effective management of VAT?

Always keep ahead of problems. In our practice, clients often call for help when transactions occur. In some cases, it is easy to apply the correct VAT solution. But in some cases, it isn’t and it disturbs the commercial relation between trade partners and the tax position of the company can be influenced.

 

What upcoming VAT changes should companies operating in Belgium and the EU be aware of?

One should keep up-to-date with the progression of Brexit talks, as well as the major VAT reform that has been proposed by the European Commission.

 

Contact details:

Email: tvh@vat-house.com

Website: www.vat-house.com

 

To hear about taxation in India, this month Finance Monthly reached out to Shipra Walia – Managing Partner at W S & Co. With her experience in Corporate Taxation & Advisory spanning over 12 years, Shipra is experienced in opining on international tax issues, valuations, ICDS, FATCA, interpretation of treaties, group reorganization options, transfer pricing issues, due diligence, inbound/outbound options and expat taxation. Her tax compliance work includes representation before the tax authorities, including settlement commission.

 

International organisations continue to spend more time and resources managing tax liabilities in both their local and overseas markets. What tax efficient structures are available in India to businesses with international interests?

There are many forms of incorporation in India as per which a person can enter into Indian market:

All of these structures have their different tax forms. Further, India has recently laid down rules and framework for the foreign tax credit adjustments as per which the person doing business in India or with India or Indian entity doing business in other parts of the world will be able to claim hassle free credit / setoff[1] of the taxes paid in other different countries.

 

Is the India’s tax regime more suited to particular types of business? If so what are they and what makes them suited to India?

India is already a hub for the Services Industry. Currently, with the focus of the Indian Government on the concept “Make in India” and with the various time-to-time relaxations provided in the Foreign Direct Investment norms, all businesses have a scope in India.

 

How do you help your clients mitigate their tax liability whilst remaining fully compliant with tax laws?

Planning from the initiation of the transaction is key. It is our foremost intention to keep our clients updated of the new events, news or any changes happening which helps them with planning their business strategy.

 

Can tax saving initiatives be kept up-to-date, especially in light of changing legislation? What happens if a current tax plan is no longer viable because of legislative changes?

Yes, any legislative change gives you enough time to act and adjust accordingly.

However, there may be times when certain changes are made without room for profitable amendments in the on-going initiatives. In such cases, we make sure to help clients with understanding the most profitable option or finding the best way possible.

 

If you could, what would you change about the tax legislation in India?

India’s tax legislation is 60 years old and in my opinion, there are numerous major issues which are either settled by the Apex court or are being amended. However, as India is pacing with the world’s economy, as well as the laws and legislations prescribed by various international authorities, thankfully, the legislation itself keeps on changing almost every year.

 

Website: www.wsco.in

www.shiprawalia.in

 

[1] Subject to the conditions provided and Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement between countries

Odoi Yemoh is the Founder and Executive Director of Reality Capital Management. Established in 2009 and based in Toronto, Canada, the firm offers tax preparation and planning, accounting, payroll, unemployment consulting, personal household budgeting, loan analysis, product management and marketing, as well as QuickBooks training and support.  

 

What would you say are the advantages and challenges of providing effective tax advice in Canada? In your opinion, how complex is the tax system in the country?

Providing effective tax advice in Canada is done through tax planning, which helps Canadians with reducing their income tax burdens through pension income splitting, RRSPs, Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), Open Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA) and many more. There are also other benefits for employers, however, the generally expenses incurred by an employee are not deductible and there are certain specific exceptions. However, depending on the employee’s relationship with their employer, there may be unforeseen tax problems too, such as purchase employment assets, the benefit of using company car, loans from your employer, etc.

Canadian business owners find the tax system unfair because:

The Canadian Government has been imposing strict rules and regulations, which are preventing individuals and business owners from making profits. Individuals gain more from tax saving due to the benefit given to them. This makes it difficult for business owners to create jobs for the young people or strategize their business, because they are taxed based on their revenue and they’d rather lose in tax saving.

 

In what ways has the Canadian tax system transformed throughout the last 2-3 years?

Each year, the Canadian tax system becomes more complicated. The personal income tax was extended to most of the working population at high, progressive rates, and the corporation income tax was raised drastically and applied to excess wartime profits. Through the tax rental agreements, income tax jurisdiction was transferred from the provinces to the Federal Government. The point was to make income taxation the principal source of federal government revenue for financing Canada’s war effort and to lay the basis for financing the post-war welfare state. For a few years, the Federal Government has been mandating to make amends on the tax system for small business owners and this makes us think that there is a legitimate issue in trying to create tax fairness for all Canadian people. The Government has been trying to improve the fairness of Canada's tax system by closing tax loopholes and amending existing rules to ensure that the rich pay their fair share of taxes and that people in similar circumstances pay similar tax.

 

As the Executive Director at Reality Capital, how are you developing new strategies and ways to help your clients?

Reality Capital Management helps clients with accounting, taxation, auditing and financial services with the oversight of experienced accountants. We offer defining the profitability of companies through our financial education courses. Our clients are usually individuals and small businesses including Non-profit organizations in Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and outside of Ontario. Currently, Reality Capital Managements expanded on budgeting and debt consulting courses to the public, allowing students to make valuable financial management decisions. Developing these strategies helps us to serve our current and future clients better.

 

Contact details:
Odoi Yemoh
205-2200 Martin Grove Road
M9V 5H9
Toronto, Ontario.
647-388-5751.

Katia Delfin Diaz is the Managing Director of Brussels-based OmniVAT Consulting. She has been passionate about Tax Law for years and her current role is to assist Belgian and foreign companies to be in line with this complex matter or to optimise the impact of VAT in their business. After working for a few of the Big Four companies, Katia started her own consultancy firm, specialising in VAT, in January 2011. Today, OmniVAT Consulting assists clients from a wide range of sectors in Belgium and across Europe. Finance Monthly speaks with Katia about VAT trends and her tips for effective VAT management.

 

As an expert with 24 years of experience in VAT matters, what are your recommendations for successful management of VAT?

The best piece of advice that I could give is to be up-to-date with this complex and ever-changing matter. VAT regulations evolve quickly and some updates are absolutely necessary. A good VAT manager must follow the evolution of VAT, both on national and European level. It is crucial for companies to be aware of future changes of regulations and laws, in order to amend their internal processes accordingly.

Considering that VAT is a European tax, I recommend following the European Jurisprudence that offers a respectable interpretation of the law through the ECJ cases.

In addition to OmniVAT Consulting, we also organise regular seminars through our VAT Academy. The aim is to update practitioners on direct and indirect tax laws, customs matters and Incoterms. The main sessions are French, but we also organise intra-company seminars in English, Dutch and Spanish upon request.

 

Can you update us on any recent or upcoming updates or changes to VAT rules in Belgium?

This year has been eventful in terms of VAT updates in Belgium. In addition to some slight amendments to the VAT legislation, a few administrative decisions and VAT notes were published in order to help individuals and companies interpret and apply VAT legislation.

One interesting Belgian decision, published this autumn, concerns the application of the VAT exemption on “claims settlement services” rendered by a third party in the name and on behalf of an insurance company. This decision was taken by the Belgian Tax Authorities after the ECJ Court made their decision on the Aspiro case (see C-40/15 arrest dated 17 March 2017).

As of 1st January 2018, the Belgian point of view will follow the conclusion of the ECJ Court - “claims settlement services” made by a subscribing agent in the name and on behalf of a counterparty (insurance company, other subscribing agent, etc.) will have to be subjected to the standard rate of VAT, provided that these are not part of the integrated services. Indeed, Belgian Authorities accepted that the VAT exemption was applied for this kind of services. Furthermore, a transitional period is planned to allow the sector to adapt to the VAT treatment of these services.

The Belgian Tax Authorities underlined that when an individual claim occurs, for example, after 31st December 2017, its assignment to a claims manager will not be exempt from VAT anymore.

 

What are OmniVAT’s mission and key priorities towards its clients?

Typically, clients come to us when they face a VAT problem within the company or during a VAT inspection. Clients also reach out to us when they need a VAT audit of their transactions or when they would like to receive a confirmation of the VAT treatment on a new sales scheme. The optimisation of VAT transactions is an important concern of our clients. They may also have questions on customs regulation or on Incoterms.

Our key priority is the satisfaction of our clients and we do our best to serve them the best way possible. We keep them informed on important VAT changes and we do our best to keep on top of their needs or questions. I’d say that good communication is essential for a successful relationship with customers.

 

 

Website: http://www.omnivat.be

www.vat-academy.be

Following the Panama Papers leak of files from last year, earlier this month, the Paradise Papers leak once again threw light on the world elite’s hidden wealth. 3.4 million confidential documents relating to offshore investments were leaked to Suddeutsche Zeitung, the same German newspaper that took hold of the Panama Papers in April, 2016, which then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and a network of more than 380 journalists. The files reveal that large corporations, heads of state, politicians, celebrities and High-Net-Worth individuals are investing huge amounts of money in offshore tax havens. Surprise, surprise. And whilst about 100 media outlets worldwide are pouring over the findings, that include the Queen’s private estate allegedly being invested in a Cayman Islands fund, as well as offshore dealings by Donald Trump’s cabinet members, advisers and donors, a lot of people have asked the question: “What exactly is the problem considering that tax avoidance is legal?”

Panama Papers vs. Paradise Papers

Of course, as with everything, opinions are divided with many ordinary people finding tax avoidance to be offensive and unfair, while others feel that it is a perfectly fine way to save some of their hard-earned money. However, does the muted response to the Paradise Papers scandal show that we don’t care as much anymore?

Following the leak’s predecessor, the Panama Papers, thousands of people gathered to protest, which immediately resulted in politicians stepping aside and losing their jobs. Iceland’s ex-Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, resigned amid widespread protests and outrage over allegations that his family had sheltered money offshore. In contrast, it seems like this time around, the public anger has been on a much smaller scale. Last year, US President Barack Obama called for international tax reform in the wake of the Panama Papers, whilst admitting that “The problem is that a lot of this stuff is legal, not illegal.” However, whilst some wealthy public figures suffered personally and governments and organizations have put out a handful of fixes in recent years, the system remains perfectly intact.

So, are we all silently waiting for that potential reform, or have we simply come to terms with the fact that tax avoidance is fine and the rich and powerful will continue dodging tax?

The morality of offshore tax havens

It is a fundamental principle of democracy that everyone obeys the law. The law applies to everyone. The law states that we have to pay taxes. Whilst in most cases, putting your money outside of your financial regulations is legal, many argue that dodging taxes is morally wrong. In addition, according to a  letter to world leaders from May 2016, more than 300 economists argue that: “The existence of tax havens does not add to overall global wealth or wellbeing; they serve no useful economic purpose.”

By sheltering trillions of dollars offshore ($10 trillion according to Boston Consulting Group), the world’s top end make their money untaxable, depriving governments of hundreds of billions of dollars of tax revenues each year. Niels Johannesen, an Economics professor at the University of Copenhagen discusses the consequences of this behaviour: “Either a lot of people pay more taxes [to compensate], or there’ll be less public goods - schools, hospitals, and so on.” He also adds: “Given that this offshore wealth is to a large extent owned by the very wealthiest… it is people who should be paying the highest taxes who are evading the most.”

Thus, not only do offshore tax havens not serve any economic purpose, but they’re also immoral and deprive economies of funds that could be used on improving public services. Some politicians are recognising the issue, such as the Leader of UK’s Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, who promised that if his party wins the next General election, it would clamp down on tax havens and end loopholes. The Paradise Papers have once again highlighted the need for this to happen. Yet, the notion that the majority of those involved are ‘getting away’ with tax avoidance, paired with the seeming apathetic response from the public appear to be rather worrying.

By Peter Mills, Tax Assistant Manager at Menzies LLP

Complex new rules restricting corporation tax relief for interest expenses are scheduled to be introduced in November 2017. For companies affected, the introduction of these rules could result in a significant increase in UK tax exposure and they could bring an increased administrative burden as well. Some groups may therefore need to rethink their existing financing arrangements in the UK to ensure they are optimal from both a commercial and tax perspective.

The rules, which are expected to have retrospective effect from 1 April 2017, will be most relevant for UK companies which are members of large international groups but can also affect groups that operate exclusively in the UK.

 

What are the key changes?

 For groups with annual UK net interest expenditure of more than £2m, relief for interest expenditure in the UK will, broadly, be limited to the lower of:

The rules do however include a £2m de minimis limit and therefore groups will always be able to deduct at least £2m of UK interest expense a year.

There are also a number of elections and reliefs which may be applicable in certain circumstances and the rules also allow unused interest allowances and previously disallowed amounts to be carried forward, subject to certain limitations, to alleviate the impact of any timing issues.

 

What do the changes mean?

For UK group companies the corporate interest restriction (CIR) rules could result in a significant increase in UK corporation tax exposure, particularly if they are highly geared, and may fundamentally alter the effectiveness of debt-financing arrangements.

The rules also impose further complex and burdensome computational and reporting obligations, which are likely to place additional strain on group administrative functions.

For a number of UK companies who may have historically operated as single autonomous business units with limited sight or influence over the wider group’s affairs, simply understanding and modelling the implications of the CIR rules could be difficult.

There may also be broader commercial challenges due to the requirement to share detailed (and potentially sensitive) financial data between group companies. For example, where those entities are naturally in competition with one another there may be a natural reluctance to share information in this way.

 

Is it time for simplicity?  

Debt financing has long been a common tool used by global groups to manage their worldwide tax exposure. However, in the face of widening complexity and as the cost of debt finance increases, these new restrictions may leave international groups wondering whether now is the time to reassess and simplify their financing arrangements.

The UK already operates a comparably low rate of corporation tax and there may already be instances where interest income is subject to a higher rate of tax overseas than it is saved in the UK.

It could therefore prove more tax effective for profits to arise in the UK, particularly where a parent entity operates in a jurisdiction which has a similar dividend exemption to the UK. Dividend repatriation could also help to simplify reporting requirements by removing the implications of CIR reporting and reducing the need to consider factors such as transfer pricing, thin capitalisation and withholding taxes.

In the right circumstances, a change of financing arrangements may also not limit the ability for parent entities to withdraw capital, given the UK’s relatively relaxed and generous approach to reducing share capital.

 

Re-evaluating the mix

A number of wider factors should be considered before taking a decision to refinance UK operations. CFOs and/or Boards will need to fully assess the commercial and financial impact of the new rules at jurisdictional and group levels; weighing up the comparable merits of debt and equity as means of financing UK operations. Caution may be needed in scenarios which would result in more of the same income unnecessarily being taxed in two jurisdictions, for example where a parent entity operates in a jurisdiction which taxes dividend income, such as the USA.

As corporate tax regimes around the world strengthen their focus on ensuring tax is ultimately being paid in the right jurisdictions, the benefits of operating a corporate structure with high levels of intercompany debt are decreasing whilst the associated administrative complexity continues to increase.

Depending on their commercial circumstances, now could be the time for groups affected by the new rules to re-evaluate their financing arrangements to ensure their group tax affairs continue to be conducted in an efficient manner.

About the Author

Peter Mills is a tax assistant manager at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP. He specialises in advising corporates and owner-managed businesses on their tax affairs in the UK including corporate transactions, group structuring and managing the impact of changes in the international tax landscape.

 

Website: https://www.menzies.co.uk/

To hear about taxation in Cyprus, this month Finance Monthly reached out to Panicos G. Loizou, a Board Member at KPMG in Cyprus. After obtaining an Honors degree in Economics from the University of Salford, he trained with a big eight practice in Manchester and became a member of the English Institute of Chartered Accountants and subsequently a Fellow member. Panicos has also attended a crash management Course at Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. He is a member of the Institute of Taxation by examinations, and a member of STEP and was recently elected as a member of the Council of STEP, taking full responsibility in January.

 

What are currently the hottest topics being discussed in relation to tax in Cyprus?

The implementation of standards and regulations about exchange of information like CRS and Country by Country reporting, increased the taxpayers’ desire for a last time tax amnesty, aligned with many other jurisdictions. Instead, the Cyprus House of Representatives introduced new legislation which incorporates special arrangements for the settlement of overdue taxes. The legislation has induced a number of tax payers to come forward and declare income and assets not previously reported in their tax returns.

 

What amendments have been made to the tax regulation recently?

Apart from the aforementioned legislation referring to the settlement of overdue taxes, recent amendments include mainly provisions relating to transfer pricing, as well as amending the tax residency definitions for individuals and non-domiciled individuals. These amendments have already arose increased interest by wealthy individuals and families, who are taking necessary steps in order to comply with the provisions of the new legislation. In this way, they will become Cyprus tax residents and at the same time they would be registered with the Tax Authorities for the Non-Dom status.

It is important to pay attention for the revised definition, meaning that the foreign national who is physically present in Cyprus for more than 183 days within a calendar year, will be considered as a Cyprus tax resident and he/she will be subject to taxation in Cyprus on his/her worldwide income. The definition has been amended to also provide that, an individual who does not stay in any other country, for one or more periods exceeding in aggregate 183 days in the same tax year and is not tax resident in any other country for the same year, is deemed as a resident in the Republic in that tax year, if all of the following conditions are met: (i) the individual stays in the Republic for at least 60 days in the tax year, (ii) exercises any business in the Republic and/or is employed in the Republic and/or holds an office with a Cyprus tax resident person at any time during the tax year, and (iii) maintains (by owning or leasing) a permanent residence in the Republic.

 

Do you believe there is potential for further significant legislative development in the tax field in Cyprus?

Yes, indeed, as the Cyprus Government is already fostering the efforts to prepare the new legislation concerning the audiovisual industry. Just to be on the same line, the forms of audiovisual communication include television advertising, sponsorship, teleshopping, product placement, on-demand audiovisual media services and radio broadcasting, which aim the provision of programs in order to inform, entertain or educate the general public. Bound by certain criteria, there would be a number of tax incentives such as “Cash Rebate”, “Tax Credit”, tax reduction for infrastructure and equipment investments and VAT return over eligible expenditure. Moreover, special attention is given by the Authorities to the benefits in kind provisions.

 

In terms of tax structures, what are the advantages for foreign companies wanting to establish a business operation in Cyprus?

Corporate tax of Cyprus tax resident companies is currently imposed at the rate of 12,5% for each year of assessment on the taxable income, derived from sources both within and outside Cyprus. In arriving at the taxable income, deductions on such income and exemptions must be taken into account. All relevant expenses incurred wholly and exclusively for the production of that income are deductible expenses whereas dividends, capital gains or profit from the sale of shares and other securities constitute tax exempt income. Expenses that directly or indirectly relate to tax exempt income are not tax deductible.

 

What actions has Cyprus taken towards remaining competitive as a financial centre?

In the current fluent, economic and political environment, Cyprus takes all appropriate measures to remain competitive as a financial centre. That includes, considering the measures adopted by other competitive countries and undertaking measures in order to attract business and investments through the implementation of tax incentives.

 

Website: https://home.kpmg.com/cy/en/home.html

 

 

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