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Irish Accountants Against EU Tax-Base Proposals

by Robert Lee, for, London

28 December 2006

The Irish Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAI) has expressed serious reservations about EU Commission plans to impose a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base on all Member States, something that is in fact likely to be resisted by the UK and Irish governments.

The Commission convened a meeting of tax experts from the 25 Member States on 12 December to discuss the proposals. ICAI was invited to provide the sole Irish expert representative.

“We have been monitoring the progress of this EU project since its inception. This meeting gave us an opportunity to present directly to Commission Officials,” said ICAI Director of Taxation, Brian Keegan.

“It is fair to say that consensus was not reached on any point, except that adopting any form of common consolidated tax base should be optional for groups of companies – yet another set of tax rules to deal with. Recent comments by EC Commission President Mr Barroso to the effect that a consolidated system of taxation would make life easier for companies are at variance with the views expressed at the expert group. Even if we are to accept that company tax harmonisation is a good thing, the practical difficulties of applying it will outweigh the business benefits of any such regime,” said Mr Keegan.

The EU Commission presented its work to date on the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base to a panel of tax experts and academics for suggestion and comment on 12 December. The following aspects were discussed at the meeting:

  • How to compute Taxable Income;
  • International Aspects, i.e. the interaction of a new tax base with group companies located outside the EU;
  • Personal Scope; in this context, the type of corporate entity to be included as a “company”;
  • Consolidation/Group Taxation, which included how groups are to be defined, and how group relief for losses is to be dealt with;
  • Financial Assets (including participation exemption and dividends);
  • Administrative and Legal Framework, including suggestions that there would be a European Collector General and Revenue audits across several countries;
  • Consolidated Tax Base Sharing Mechanism – how the EU Member States would divide out their share of the corporation tax amongst themselves.

ICAI argued in particular that new definitions for core tax concepts such as residence and Permanent Establishment would dismiss the valuable case law and precedent built up over many years. Businesses need certainty in their dealings. Because something is new, it doesn’t mean it is simpler.

ICAI says that it would be all but impossible to arrive at definitions of which companies should be “in” or “out” because of the variety of types of corporate entity in Europe, and differing approaches as to what structures are tax transparent or not.

The Association argues that a group of companies is not a static entity: companies join, leave or the ownership structure can change. A group could have foreign intermediate holding companies. The implications of these factors in arriving at the appropriate tax share, or for that matter allowing relief for losses, is not being addressed.

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