Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tax Auditors Look to Substance in Centralized IP Structures

Excerpt from August 2008 Issue of Practical US/International Tax Strategies by John Henshall (Deloitte & Touche LLP)

In the early 1990s the first businesses transformed corporate efficiency, and profitability, by taking a holistic view of their business and optimizing their supply chain networks—the complex web suppliers, production and R&D facilities, distribution centers, sales subsidiaries, channel partners and customers. Typically the best commercial structure involved a centralization of regional activity into “Principal” company supported by “contract” or “toll” manufacturers and “commissionaire” sales or “simple” distributors, supported by “shared service centers” to take care of back-office functions. Today most multinationals don’t derive a significant proportion of their profits from the physical act of making products but rather from the ideas they generate that lead those products, wherever products are made. As this state of affairs evolved so did the centralized business model and IP planning is now a signifi cant element in any business restructuring.

Business restructurings are by their nature an enormous strain on the organization and they are not undertaken purely for tax reasons. Tax is, however, taken into account when deciding where the centralized entity should locate; in most reorganizations high-tax countries then see high-profit activities moving away. These governments are fearful of the fiscal consequences of the more profitable element of their tax base moving offshore and will audit the transition vigorously.

Read More: Why Is Substance Important?

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