July 2021

  • Bulgaria
    • Bulgaria: National Recovery and Resilience Plan – What to Expect?

      The National Recovery and Resilience Plan, Version 1.3 , is structured in four pillars and is worth 12.6 billion leva.

      The latest version of the Plan, revised by the caretaker Council of Ministers, is available for public discussion before its forthcoming finalization at: https://www.nextgeneration.bg/. The last sanction for making long-term commitments, set as a requirement by EU services, will be expected from the parties in Parliament, said the office of caretaker Deputy Prime Minister for EU Funds Management Atanas Pekanov. The National Recovery and Resilience Plan includes 57 investments and 43 reforms. The concentration of reform efforts is highest in the ''Business Environment'' and ''Low Carbon Economy'' measures within the four pillars. The first pillar, "Innovative Bulgaria", aims to increase the competitiveness of the economy and transform it into an economy based on knowledge and smart growth through measures in the field of education, digital skills, science, innovation, technology and the interrelations between them. This pillar provides for 27.4 per cent of the resources under the Plan. The "Green Bulgaria" pillar focuses on sustainable management of natural resources, allowing a meeting of the current needs of the economy and society, while maintaining environmental sustainability, so that these needs can continue to be met in the long run. This pillar provides for 36.8 per cent of the resources under the Plan. The "Connected Bulgaria'' pillar focuses on increasing the competitiveness and sustainable development of the country's regions, such as improving transport and digital connectivity, as well as promoting local development, based on the specific local potential. This pillar provides for 17.8 per cent of the resources under the Plan. The "Fair Bulgaria" pillar focuses on disadvantaged people. It aims to achieve more inclusive and sustainable growth and shared prosperity for all, as well as put an emphasis on building effective and responsible public institutions sensitive to business needs and the needs of the citizens. This pillar provides for 18 per cent of the resources under the Plan. Under the "Education and Skills" measure of the Plan, most funds (4.5 per cent) will be provided for modernization of educational institutions in order to achieve a more attractive and quality environment for learning and innovation. Under the "Health" measure, 3 per cent of the resources will go into the modernization of the health system in Bulgaria by providing modern and innovative medical equipment for hospitals. Under the "Social Inclusion" measure, most money (5.1 per cent) is provided for ongoing support for deinstitutionalization of care for the elderly and people with disabilities . Under the "Business Environment" measure, most funds (1.3 per cent) will be provided for the construction of a National Complex Centre and a network for monitoring, control and management. Under the "Local Development" measure, most funds (2.4 per cent) will be allocated for a programme for construction/completion/reconstruction of water supply and sewerage systems, including wastewater treatment plants for agglomerations between 2,000 and 10,000 population equivalent. Under the "Transport Connectivity" measure, most funds (2.3 per cent) are planned for the digitalization in railway transport through modernization of safety systems and energy efficiency in railway lines of the main and wide-ranging TEN-T network. Under the "Digital Connectivity" measure, 4.2 per cent of funds will be provided for large-scale deployment of digital infrastructure.

      Source: Novinite

    • Bulgaria News Review (Luglio 2021)

      Aumento dei salari fino al 20%

      Da una recente indagine effettuata tra i datori di lavoro in tutti i settori e le regioni della Bulgaria, è emerso che il Paese sta andando incontro ad un aumento dei salari fino al 20%. Il motivo di tale crescita sta nella mancanza di personale specializzato che si è registrata nell'ultimo anno, soprattutto in settori che si sono rivelati essere strategici durante la pandemia da Covid-19 come l'informatica, la consulenza, il manufatturiero e il commerciale. Dall'indagine sui datori di lavoro è risultato che gli aumenti principali avverranno nelle città di Sofia, Burgas, Varna, con una crescita stimata tra il 10% e il 20%, e Plovdiv, dove si fermerà intorno al 10%. (source: Newsletter Confindustria Bulgaria)

      La Borsa di Sofia apre una sezione per il mercato internazionale

      La Borsa di Sofia (BSE) ha dichiarato di aver aperto la sezione dedicata al mercato internazionale BSE per permettere agli investitori locali di investire direttamente in aziende internazionali rinomate. Sulla lista dei possibili investimenti, figurano nomi quali Apple, Google, Tesla e General Electric Co. insieme ad altre tra le società internazionali tra le più grandi al mondo. Questa strategia renderà la Borsa di Sofia un mercato più attraente, aumentando il numero di strumenti finanziari trattati. (source: Newsletter Confindustria Bulgaria)

      Commissione Europea: il PIL reale della Bulgaria in aumento rispetto alle previsioni

      Secondo le Previsioni Economiche sull'Economia Europea effettuate dalla Commissione Europea, il PIL reale della Bulgaria aumenterà del 4.6% nel 2021 e del 4.2% nel 2022. Ciò è dovuto alla forte ripresa registrata nel primo trimestre che, tuttavia, sarà bilanciata da possibili ulteriori chiusure dovute al basso tasso di vaccinazione nel Paese. A guidare la ripresa saranno i beni industriali non energetici e il settore del cibo confezionato, portando ad un rialzo dell'inflazione, attesa intorno al 2.5% circa. Questo andamento favorevole sarà supportato dall'implementazione del Piano di Recupero e Resilienza. (source: Newsletter Confindustria Bulgaria)

      La Bulgaria è tra i primi 10 Paesi UE per l'aumento dei prezzi delle case

      Secondo i dati registrati dall'Agenzia di Statistica europea, Eurostat, la Bulgaria vede aumentare i prezzi delle case e degli affitti anche nel primo trimestre del 2021. La Bulgaria presenta un aumento del 7,5% sul prezzo degli immobili nel periodo gennaio-marzo 2021, superiore rispetto alla media UE, che si attesta intorno al 6,1%. Con questi dati, il Paese si colloca all'ottavo posto per crescita dei prezzi delle case. Rispetto al quarto trimestre del 2020, la Bulgaria ha visto un aumento del 3,2%, mentre dal 2010 i prezzi delle case hanno raggiunto una crescita esponenziale, attestandosi ad un +40%. (source: Newsletter Confindustria Bulgaria)
    • Bulgaria Confirms Plans to Join Eurozone by 2024

      Bulgaria has reaffirmed its initial goal of adopting the euro from the beginning of 2024, and it has now become clear that the process is planned to pass without a transition period, and the date of adoption of the euro to coincide with its introduction as an official payment currency.

      This is clear from the summary of the National Plan for the Introduction of the Euro in Bulgaria, which was adopted at a meeting of the Coordination Council for Preparation of the Republic of Bulgaria for eurozone Membership, co-chaired by the Governor of the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) Dimitar Radev and Finance Asen Vassilev, announced by the Ministry of Finance (MoF).

      The document is extremely important because it describes the principles, the institutional and legal-regulatory framework for the adoption of the euro, as well as the main activities for the successful introduction of the single currency.

      The indicative date for membership in the monetary union is maintained as January 1st 2024. The conversion will be done by applying the irrevocably fixed exchange rate between the euro and the lev.

      After the introduction of the euro within a month, the lev and the euro will be both legal tender.

      The draft National Plan will be published for public discussion before its submission for consideration by the Council of Ministers.

      The document addresses all the important operational activities and measures that participants in preparation for the introduction of the euro - the private, public sector and citizens - should carry out as part of the process of adopting the single currency.

      It defines the rules for recalculation of prices and other values, explains the procedures for exchanging cash and for converting BGN deposits and loans with fixed and variable interest rates.

      The procedures for the supply and distribution of euro banknotes and coins are indicated as well as the necessary legislative changes are described.

      Source: Novinite

  • China
    • Changes on Expats’ Social Insurance in Shanghai

      We would like to inform you that the 2009 Shanghai Notice, which allows foreign employees to choose whether to contribute or not to the Social Insurance dues, will expire soon, on 15 August 2021.

      According to the PRC Social Insurance Law announced in 2010, all employers and employees in China, including foreigners, are subject to Social Insurance dues. In particular, the rates for company and individual in Shanghai are as below:

        Company Individual
      Endowment 16% 8%
      Medical (including Maternity) 10.5% 2%
      Unemployment 0.5% 0.5%
      Injury 0.16% - 1.52% -

      *The calculation base for the social insurance in Shanghai is announced on July 9th, 2021. The application of this new standard will start in July 2021.

      • The minimum calculation base is CNY 5,975/month and,
      • The maximum calculation base is CNY 31,014/month.

      In Shanghai, this law is exempted by the 2009 Shanghai Notice, issued by the Municipal Human Resource and Social Security Bureau, saying that foreign employees may contribute to the Social Insurance. In practice, foreigners working in Shanghai are able to choose whether to contribute or not, reaching an agreement with the employer.

      As mentioned, the expiration date of the notice is 15 August 2021, so far there is still not any new policy or other extension notice. This means that, after 15 August, unless further extended, the 2009 Shanghai Notice will not be applicable anymore and all employers and foreign employees in Shanghai will be obligated to the Social Insurance dues following the national PRC Social Insurance Law.

    • The Change on Record Filing for External Payments of Trade in Services at Tax Authority

      State Taxation Administration announced on 2nd July about the change on record filing for external payments of trade in services at tax authority. The main contents are:

      1.If a domestic entity or individual needs to make multiple payments for the same contract, it only needs to apply for tax filing when making the first payment.

      2.It does not need to apply for tax filing if foreign investors reinvest in China using lawful income from domestic direct investment.

      3.The tax filing could be done either through E-tax hall or at tax hall on-site.

      In view of this change, we kindly remind that:

      1.If you have completed the tax filing for payment of certain contract before the announcement, and need to make payment for same contract now, there is no need to do tax filing of payment again.

      2.A single external payment not exceeding the equivalent US $50,000 is not required to do tax filing. If multiple external payments are required based on the same contract, tax filing is only required when a single payment exceeds the equivalent amount of US $50,000 for the first time.

      3.If the external payment has not been made, the tax filing form can be canceled or amended. If the external payment has already been made, the tax filing form can only be amended.

    • Shanghai Pudong Plans to Cut Corporate Income Tax Rate to 15% for Key Tech Companies

      The Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council released on July 15, 2021 the Opinions about Supporting High-level Reform and Opening-up of the Pudong New Area and Building a Pioneer Area for Socialist Modernization.   The document proposed to cut enterprise income tax rate to 15% in the first five years for companies in key sectors like integrated circuit, artificial intelligence, biomedicine and civil aviation at designated areas in Pudong.   A core area in Pudong will be zoned to launch preferential corporate income tax policies for venture investment companies. During the pilot period, eligible venture investment companies can be treated as individual investors and exempted from corporate income tax.
    • STA Revises Regulation on the Procedures for Handling Tax Audit Cases

      The State Taxation Administration has revised the Work Rules for Tax Audit, and renamed the work rules into the Regulation on the Procedures for Handling Tax Audit Cases, to be implemented from August 11, 2021.

      In the ninth article, the regulation stresses protection of administrative counterparty's personal information; the 11th article is added to "keep language, audio or video record" of the entire process of law enforcement actions; the 44th article stipulates that the letter of tax administrative penalty should explain the "evidence of unlawful tax activities"; the 51st article is added to stipulate that "an applicant can apply to defer payment of administrative penalty or make installment payment in case of economic hardship. With the approval of the commissioner of the tax bureau, the payment may be deferred or paid in installments ".

    • State Council Proposes to Give IIT Special Additional Deduction to Parents for Their Expenditure for Taking Care of Children Below Three

      The Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council released on July 20, 2021 the Decision about Optimizing Birth Policies and Promoting Long-term and Balanced Population Development, introducing three-child policy and supporting measures.

      The decision proposed to offer IIT special additional deduction to parents for their nursing expenses for children below three years old.

      We suppose in near future official announcement and detailed implementation will be given by the State Taxation Administration.

    • China to Actively Expand Cross-border E-commerce Pilot Zones: MOC

      China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC) on Monday pledged to actively expand the integrated pilot zones for cross-border e-commerce to cultivate new competitive edges in foreign trade.

      Some cities have submitted applications to the State Council for the establishment of new pilot zones and the MOC will join relevant departments in carrying out related work, Ren Hongbin, assistant minister of commerce, told a press conference.

      The MOC also promised to formulate guidelines for the protection of cross-border e-commerce intellectual property rights, optimize the list of cross-border e-commerce retail imports, and facilitate the return and exchange management of cross-border e-commerce import and export.

      China's cross-border e-commerce has been expanding much faster than overall foreign trade, and its share in overall foreign trade has gone up significantly.

      Since 2015, China's State Council has established 105 cross-border e-commerce pilot zones in five batches. The new business model has become a vibrant force driving China's foreign trade growth.

      China's cross-border e-commerce imports and exports reached 1.69 trillion yuan (about 260.9 billion U.S. dollars) in 2020, up 31.1 percent year on year. Over the past five years, China's cross-border e-commerce has grown by nearly 10 times, according to Ren.

      To further spur the growth of foreign trade, China's State Council released guidelines earlier this month on accelerating the development of new forms and models of foreign trade to push forward its upgrading and foster new competitive strengths.

      Source: Xinhuanet

    • Shanghai’s Pudong to Take Lead in China’s Socialist Modernization: Officials

      The Pudong New Area in Shanghai will play a leading role in China's new journey to fully build a modern socialist country in a number of areas, central and local officials said Tuesday.

      Cong Liang, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, said Pudong will lead in fostering the impetus for high-quality development, high-level self-reliance and smooth economic circulation in the country.

      Last week, China issued a guideline to support high-level reform and opening-up of Pudong and build the area into a pioneer of socialist modernization.

      By 2050, Pudong is expected to become an important urban area that is highly attractive, creative, competitive and influential globally, a global model of urban governance and a "shining pearl" of a great modern socialist country, the guideline said.

      To lead China's socialist modernization, Pudong will also promote the implementation of the people-centered development concept and seek high-level institutional supply, Cong told a press conference.

      Pudong shall push forward reform with a focus on key sectors and links, and turn the valuable experiences and good practices into laws and regulations in time, he said.

      Instead of making Pudong a land of preferential policies, the government's supportive measures will give Pudong greater say in reform and development and help build it into a powerful "propeller" for high-level reform and development, Cong added.

      To this end, measures will be rolled out in areas such as financial opening up, technological innovation and customs control, according to the officials present at the press conference.

      Wang Xin, head of the research bureau at the People's Bank of China, said the central bank will support the building of an international financial center in Shanghai, back the municipality in piloting the free use of Chinese currency renminbi (RMB) and facilitate the capital inflow and outflow for corporate trade and investment.

      To attract top global talents, the Pudong New Area will also help overseas workers obtain Chinese permanent residence permits, ease certain employment restrictions and improve certification for international professional qualification, according to Weng Zuliang, secretary of the Pudong New Area Committee of the Communist Party of China.

      Since being designated a new area in 1990, Pudong has undergone a remarkable transformation, becoming a popular destination for investors, innovators, and policy pilots. Its regional GDP surged more than 210 times from 1990 to 2019.

      Source: Xinhuanet

    • China’s H1 Foreign Trade Hits Record High

      China's foreign trade rose 27.1 percent year on year to 18.07 trillion yuan (about 2.79 trillion U.S. dollars) in the first half of the year, the best performance in history, official data showed Tuesday.

      The growth marks an increase of 22.8 percent from the pre-epidemic level in 2019, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said. Exports jumped 28.1 percent from a year earlier, while imports climbed 25.9 percent in yuan terms. In June alone, the country's imports and exports went up 22 percent year on year to 3.29 trillion yuan, marking an increase for the 13th month in a row.

      China's trade with its top three trading partners - the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the European Union, and the United States - maintained sound growth in the first half of the year, said GAC spokesperson Li Kuiwen.

      During the period, the growth rates of China's trade value with the three trading partners stood at 27.8 percent, 26.7 percent and 34.6 percent, respectively. China's trade with countries along the Belt and Road rose 27.5 percent year on year to stand at 5.35 trillion yuan, while trade with countries of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership grew 22.7 percent year on year, GAC data showed.

      China's cross-border e-commerce also maintained steady expansion in the first six months, with the total trade value growing 28.6 percent year on year to reach 886.7 billion yuan, the data showed.

      For the second half of the year, China's foreign trade growth may slow down due to a high base last year, said Li, adding that the foreign trade for the whole year is still expected to maintain rapid growth.

        Source: Xinhuanet
  • Focus Africa
    • Africa in Review by the Numbers (July 2021)

      $100 million
      Amount raised by Chipper Cash, a three-year-old startup that facilitates cross-border payments across Africa, in its Series C led by SVB Capital. This comes only a few months after Chipper Cash raised its $30 million Series B led by Ribbit Capital and Jeff Bezos fund Bezos Expeditions. (TechCrunch)  
      330,000 tonnes
      Volume of cargo that Kenyan Jomo Kenyatta International Airport handled in 2020. This constituted the largest share of Africa's cargo even as its revenue was hit hard by Covid-19 effects, according to a report by The African Airlines Association (AFRAA). (The Star)  
      Number of houses to be built by South African housing company, Property 2000 South Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at a cost of $4.2 billion. The houses will be made available to low and middle-income residents at 30-year low-interest mortgages. (Ethiopia News Agency)  
      $1.19 billion
      Amount raised by African startups since the beginning of 2021 with deals worth $1 million and above accounting for about 95% ($1.14 billion) of it. (Technext)  
      Headcount growth planned by US investment bank Citigroup. This could add close to 100 new employees to Citigroup's businesses across the African continent as it surges past rivals to reclaim the top spot in arranging debt sales in the region. (News24)  
      283 metres
      Height of F Tower, the third tallest building in Africa whose construction begins in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire this month. F Tower follows the Iconic Tower (385m) and the Pinnacle Tower (320 metres) both of which are under construction in Egypt and Kenya, respectively. (Construction Review Online)  
      $26 billion
      Market capitalisation of the Nairobi Stock Exchange, a 39-month-high having added approximately $1 billion in the last month alone on the back of a rally of Safaricom and Equity Bank stocks. (Technext)  
      100,000 tonnes
      Amount of cobalt produced by the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2020, making 71% of the global total, according to Darton Commodities’ review of the market. The DRC’s state cobalt buyer will put in place a price floor of $30,000 a tonne for the cobalt it buys from artisanal miners. (Reuters)  
      Morocco cereal grain yields increase in the 2020/21 season. Experts reported higher yields across several staple crops and the increase is due to a tailored fertiliser programme initiated in this harvest season, as well as above-average rainfall. (Morocco World News)  
      100 million
      Number of COVID-19 vaccine doses a year to be manufactured by South Africa's Biovac to help alleviate Africa's vaccine inequality. The company will 'fill and finish' the Pfizer/ BioNTech mRNA jabs for use across Africa. (The East African)  
      Subscription of the first green bond issued by Nairobi-based property developer Acorn Holdings. The final tranche raised $19.3 million against a target of $13.3 million, a significant vote of confidence for such a bond in Kenya's capital markets. (The Star)  
      Female CEOs of Nigerian banks after two recent appointments of women to the top role. Women now lead 30% of the nation's lenders, moving the industry closer to the the 40% target outlined in the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles. (This Day)   Review by Kili Partners . Powered by Asoko Insight
    • COVID-19 Pandemic: Tanzanian Government Announces Measures to Support Businesses in Private Sector

      The government has announced, through the Bank of Tanzania (BOT), additional measures to reduce the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures are aimed at extending credit to the private sector and lowering interest rates on commercial bank credit extended to the private sector.

      Before the outbreak, the economy was one of the fastest growing economies in the East Africa region, recording average GDP growth of 6.7% between 2010 and 2019, but slowed to an average of 4.8% after the pandemic.

      Proposed policy reforms which took effect on 27 July 2020 are set out below.

      • Reduction of the statutory minimum reserve requirement (SMR) for banks extending credits to the agricultural sector with an interest rate not exceeding 10% per annum.
      • Relaxing the agent banking eligibility criteria by removing the 18-month experience requirement. Applicants will now be required to only possess a national card or national identity card.
      • Limitation of the interest rate paid on mobile money trust accounts to a maximum of the interest rate offered on savings deposit accounts by the relevant bank.
      • The BOT will introduce a special loan (TZS 1 trillion) at a rate of 3% per annum to banks and other financial institutions for lending to the private sector on the condition that the commercial banks will lend at a rate not exceeding 10% per annum.
      • Reduction of the risk weight on loans. The BOT will reduce the risk weight on different categories of loans in the computation of regulatory capital requirements of banks. This measure will provide an opportunity to banks to extend more credit to the private sector than before.
    • Kenya Signs CRS Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on Automatic Exchange of Information

      According to a recent overview published by the Council of Europe, Kenya has joined the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement‎ on Automatic Exchange of Information Agreement (2014) (CRS MCAA) on the introduction of the automatic exchange of information in tax matters on a reciprocal basis.

      The CRS MCAA is a multilateral competent authority agreement, based on Article 6 of the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, as amended by the 2010 protocol, which aims to implement the automatic exchange of financial account information pursuant to the OECD/G20 Common Reporting Standard (CRS) and to deliver the automatic exchange of CRS information by 2018. The text of the CRS MCAA, background information and a list of the 107 signatories can be found here. Further developments will be reported as they occur.

    • United States and South Africa Join Forces against Tax and Financial Crimes

      The US Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) enforcement divisions are joining forces to fight tax and economic crimes affecting both countries. To announce their collaborative effort, the IRS-CI and SARS jointly issued a Press Release, dated 6 July 2021.

      According to the Press Release, the IRS-CI and the SARS are working together to identify, investigate and bring to justice criminals with a nexus to both countries who have committed, among other crimes, international public corruption, cyber fraud, and money laundering. The newly formed partnership has already uncovered emerging schemes perpetrated by promoters, professional enablers, and financial institutions.

      Note: The IRS CI is the only US federal law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over US federal tax crimes. The IRS-CI has special agent attachés who are strategically stationed in 11 foreign countries to build and maintain strong alliances with foreign governments, law enforcement and industry partners.

    • ATAF Issues Statement on Revised Two-Pillar Solution on Taxing Digital Economy

      The African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) has issued a statement on what the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework (IF) on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) two-pillar solution to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy means for Africa.

      The ATAF, in its statement, welcomed this milestone and acknowledged the fact that a global consensus on the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy is of great importance since cooperation and multilateralism are required in developing solutions that will assist all countries in rebuilding their economies in a post-COVID-19 environment.

      In order to ensure that all developments by the IF relating to taxation of the digitalized economy meet the needs of African countries, the ATAF has been providing technical support to its members and actively participated in the ongoing discussions, for example, in the recent release of its proposal on Pillar One on 12 May 2021.

      The key issues in the ATAF's statement are summarized below.

      Pillar One

      The ATAF welcomes the fact the new Pillar One proposals reflect many of their proposed changes that were made to the IF blueprint report released for public consultation in October 2020. The ATAF and its members considered that the proposals in the blueprint were far too complex and resulted in insufficient profits being reallocated to market jurisdictions.

      The ATAF proposed that the reallocation of profits be calculated as a portion of multinational enterprises (MNEs)') total profits instead of its residual profits. This is because of the likely unequitable distribution of profits especially for businesses that do not have a taxable nexus in the market jurisdiction such as digital businesses. In this regard, the quantum to be reallocated would be a return on market sales based on the global operating margin of the MNE group. This proposal was not adopted by the IF according to the statement issued on the two-pillar solution.

      The IF agreed to allocate between 20% and 30% of residual profit - Amount A (profit in excess of 10% of revenue) to market jurisdictions. But in order to result in an equitable and meaningful reallocation of profits to market jurisdictions, the ATAF is of the opinion that at least 35% of residual profit should be allocated to market jurisdictions.

      The ATAF also recommended that the IF consider implementing an elective binding dispute resolution mechanism to be made available to African countries with limited capacity and no or a low level of mutual agreement procedure (MAP) disputes. According to the statement of the IF, there is a proposal to only consider giving an elective binding dispute resolution mechanism for issues related to Amount A for developing economies that are eligible for deferral of their BEPS Action 14 peer review and have no or low levels of MAP disputes.

      Pillar Two

      Much as the ATAF has welcomed the introduction of a global minimum tax rate by the IF, the ATAF together with the African Union continue to advocate for a higher rate of at least 20% instead of the proposed 15%. In their view, a higher rate will be more effective in protecting African tax bases and stem Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) by reducing profit shifting by MNEs.

      The ATAF welcomed the agreement by the IF on the inclusion of the Subject to Tax Rule (STTR) as a minimum standard. Since the suggestions by the ATAF to make source-based rules (i.e. the Undertaxed Payments Rule (UTPR) or STTR) primary rules under Pillar Two so that they have priority over the Income Inclusion Rule have received a lot of resistance from most developed countries, as a minimum standard, developing countries can now require the inclusion of the STTR in bilateral tax treaties with other IF members that apply nominal corporate income tax rates below the STTR minimum rate. The ATAF is, however, calling on the IF to widen the scope of the STTR to cover payments of interest, royalties, capital gains and all service payments instead of only interest, royalties, and a defined set of payments as agreed upon by the IF.

      In conclusion, the ATAF recognizes the need for further work to be done in order to finalize the new Pillar One and Pillar Two rules in order to ensure a more equitable tax allocation and to stem IFFs from Africa and also raises concerns on how these new rules will impact countries that are not members of the IF or on any IF members that choose not to adopt the new rules. ATAF suggests that countries should join the IF at will and no form of political pressure should be exerted on any country to join. Currently, of the 54 African countries, only 24 are members of the IF and four of these countries (i.e. Angola, Congo (Dem. Rep.), Kenya and Nigeria) have not yet joined the new two-pillar plan to reform international tax rules.

  • Hong Kong
    • Hong Kong unemployment rate drops to 5.5 per cent as city brings Covid-19 situation under control

      Hong Kong’s unemployment rate dropped sharply to 5.5 per cent for the three-month period ending in June, easing to a level not seen for more than a year as the economy gathered steam amid a relaxation of social-distancing rules. The rolling figure for April to June was down 0.5 percentage points from the period spanning March to May, the Census and Statistics Department revealed on Tuesday. The rate is the lowest since the beginning of the pandemic last year, when it reached 5.9 per cent in the three months from March to May. During the period to June this year, about 213,000 people were still out of work, about 20,200 fewer than in the preceding quarter. The number of underemployed fell by 10.6 per cent, to 96,000 residents. Unemployment declined across almost all the major business areas. The rate fell by 1.3 percentage points to 10 per cent in the food and beverage sector, by 1.4 percentage points to 7.5 per cent in retail and by 1.4 percentage points to 8.9 per cent in construction. Looking ahead, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said the labour market was expected to “improve further with the continued economic recovery”, adding the HK$5,000 (US$643) e-voucher scheme would also help. “The labour market showed further improvement as the economy continued to recover alongside the stabilisation of the local epidemic situation and the improved external environment,” Law said. As the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the local economy, Hong Kong’s unemployment rate peaked at 7.2 per cent for the three-month period ending in February – the city’s worst jobless level since 2004. The rate has since been gradually improving. In late April, shortly before the end of the fourth wave of infections, the government rolled out a vaccine bubble scheme, further easing restrictions for certain businesses based on the vaccination status of staff and customers. Iris Pang, ING Bank Greater China economist, said the falling jobless rate was expected as many restaurants were hiring back staff and some even expanding business. “The economy is gaining momentum,” she said. “The catering sector is heading for a recovery. The service industry such as playgroups, fitness and beauty centres, and tutorial centres are also hiring people.” But she warned the employment level could not be restored to pre-Covid-19 levels until the government fully opened up the borders, especially with mainland China. Meanwhile, the number of cases related to unemployment under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme fell by 1.1 per cent to 19,461 in June against the previous month. The figure remained 54.6 per cent higher than in January last year, when the pandemic began.   Source: South China Morning Post
    • Tax Issues arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic

      The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions to people’s lives, resulting in changes to the ways in which businesses operate and the locations where people work. Such changes also give rise to certain tax issues, including those relating to tax residence of companies and individuals, permanent establishment (PE), employment income of cross-border employees and transfer pricing. The Inland Revenue Department (IRD)’s general approach to these issues is set out below.

      It will be noted that the IRD’s approach in relation to the tax issues is generally in line with the Updated Guidance on Tax Treaties and the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic (the COVID-19 Tax Treaty Guidance) and Guidance on the Transfer Pricing Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic (the COVID-19 Transfer Pricing Guidance) released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in January 2021 and December 2020 respectively, to which further references may be made. These Guidances should be read together with the Commentary on the Model Tax Convention on Income and on Capital (MTC) and OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and Tax Administrations.

      It has to be stressed that the views expressed below are for general information only. The treatment for each case will be determined on its own facts and circumstances.

      • Tax Residence of Companies
      • Tax Residence of Individuals
      • Permanent Establishment
      • Income from Employment
      • Transfer Pricing

      Tax Residence of Companies

      Restrictions on international travel due to the pandemic may give rise to a change in the locations where senior management hold their meetings or conduct the business of an enterprise and concerns have been raised about the effect of such change on the tax residence of a company. The IRD does not consider that such a temporary change during extraordinary time would in itself alter the tax residence status of a company. In assessing the company’s residence status, the IRD will take into account all relevant facts and circumstances.

      If a company is considered to be a resident of Hong Kong and another jurisdiction simultaneously, the tie-breaker rules under the relevant tax treaty would need to be considered to determine the jurisdiction where a company is regarded as a resident for the purposes of the treaty. As stated in the COVID-19 Tax Treaty Guidance, a company’s place of residence determined by the tie-breaker rules under a tax treaty is unlikely to be affected by the fact that the individuals participating in the management and decision-making of the company cannot travel as a result of a public health measure imposed or recommended by at least one of the governments of the jurisdictions involved.

      Tax Residence of Individuals

      An individual may have to temporarily remain in the host jurisdiction because he is prevented from returning to his home jurisdiction as a result of travel restrictions or other public health measures imposed under the pandemic. Generally, such an individual would unlikely become a resident of the host jurisdiction, and even if he did, he would normally remain a resident of the home jurisdiction under the tie-breaker rules in the relevant treaty. A different approach may, however, be appropriate if the change in circumstances continues after the public health restrictions are lifted.

      Permanent Establishment

      Whether a non-Hong Kong resident person has a PE in Hong Kong within the meaning of a tax treaty or Part 3 of Schedule 17G to the Inland Revenue Ordinance (IRO) (as the case may be) is a question of fact and degree. In determining the issue, the IRD will examine all the relevant facts and circumstances, including the international travel disruption caused by public health measures imposed by governments in response to COVID-19. Given the extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRD is prepared to adopt a flexible approach when determining the issue, having regard to the relevant principles in the COVID-19 Tax Treaty Guidance.

      As explained in the said Guidance, the exceptional and temporary change of the location where employees exercise their employment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as working from home, should not create new PEs for the employers. Similarly, the temporary conclusion of contracts in the home of employees or agents because of the pandemic should not create PEs for enterprises, though a different approach may be appropriate if the employees or agents were habitually concluding contracts on behalf of the enterprises in their home jurisdictions before the pandemic.

      It is important to note that the above views are relevant only to circumstances arising during the COVID-19 pandemic when public health measures are in effect. Where an individual continues to work from home after the cessation of the public health measures, further examination of the facts and circumstances would be required to determine whether a PE exists.

      Income from Employment

      Where an employee resident in another jurisdiction and exercising an employment in Hong Kong is stranded in Hong Kong because of the COVID-19 pandemic; and would otherwise have left Hong Kong and qualified for exemption from salaries tax in Hong Kong under Article 15 of the MTC, the additional days spent by the employee in Hong Kong under such circumstances would be disregarded for the purposes of the 183-day test in Article 15(2)(a). This approach covers situations where the employee is prevented from travelling due to quarantine requirements, certified sickness caused by COVID-19, travel ban imposed by government and cancellation of flights necessitated by government public health measures. It does not, however, cover the situation where the employee, like members of the public, is simply urged to avoid non-essential travel.

      It should be mentioned that at the domestic level, the IRD has no discretion to exclude the days of physical presence in Hong Kong for the purposes of counting days under section 8(1B) of the IRO.

      Transfer Pricing

      The IRD will generally follow the COVID-19 Transfer Pricing Guidance which maintains that the arm’s length principle remains the applicable standard for the purpose of evaluating the transfer pricing of controlled transactions in the face of the pandemic, though due regard must be given as to how the outcomes of the economically significant risks controlled by the parties to the transactions have been affected by the pandemic.

      In view of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economic conditions, it may be appropriate to have separate testing periods for the duration of the pandemic or to include loss-making comparables when performing a comparability analysis. A limited-risk entity could be accepted to have incurred losses if the losses are found to be incurred at arm’s length. The receipt of government assistance may also affect the price of a controlled transaction.

      The IRD will uphold existing advance pricing arrangements (APAs), unless a condition leading to the revocation, cancellation or revision of the APA has occurred. Where material changes in economic conditions lead to the breach of the critical assumptions, taxpayers should notify the IRD not later than one month after the breach occurs.

      Source: Inland Revenue Department

    • Asean nations left ‘exposed’ by global minimum corporate tax seen forging closer ties with China

      The global minimum corporate tax – agreed upon by Group of 20 finance ministers this month – is set to re-chart the course of international investment flows, creating new uncertainties for Southeast Asian nations that have been striving to lure foreign capital and financial expertise.

      Final agreement on the 15 per cent minimum-tax plan, originally agreed to by Group of 7 (G7) developed economies in early June, is not expected until October. It could also be years before it takes effect.

      But its adoption may force nations in the fast-developing Southeast Asian region, still struggling to overcome the impact of coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, to rely more on their domestic consumer markets and their supply of cheap labour for future economic growth, according to analysts.

      Additionally, some say the plan may push certain members to forge closer economic ties with China to consolidate their positions in the global economic landscape.

      The minimum tax has been hailed as a way to improve the fiscal positions of countries ravaged by the pandemic. But it will also hit tax havens in Asia and throughout the world, as well as big multinational companies that have shifted profits to low-tax countries still operating in many high-tax jurisdictions.

      When the G7 proposed the minimum global corporate tax, the 15 per cent rate was a compromise between the United States’ pitch for a 21 per cent rate and the 12.5 per cent plan put forth by a working group of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

      The efforts to end multinational companies’ “race to the bottom” have been endorsed by international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and some developing countries hit hard by the pandemic.

      “Developing and emerging economies are particularly exposed, as tax measures are an important part of the industrial policy and investment promotion toolkit,” the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said in its recent annual report.

      The organisation’s world investment report painted a bleak picture for the Southeast Asian region, as the former investment hotspot reported a 25 per cent fall in net capital inflows, to US$136 billion, last year. However, this performance was better than the average 35 per cent decline worldwide.

      The largest destinations for foreign capital inflows – such as Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam – all recorded declines last year, given supply-chain disruptions and delayed investment plans caused by the pandemic.

      The foreign investment in Singapore fell 21 per cent to US$91 billion, led by a more than 80 per cent drop in manufacturing investment, according to the UN report. Malaysia’s FDI fell by 55 per cent to US$3 billion, while that of Myanmar dropped 34 per cent to US$1.8 billion.

      Most of the Southeast Asian countries are on the safe side of the Western push for a minimum corporate tax. For instance, the Philippines levies the region’s highest corporate tax rate of 30 per cent, followed by 25 per cent in Myanmar, 24 per cent in Malaysia, 22 per cent in Indonesia and 20 per cent in Laos and Vietnam.

      Singapore, however, may lose some of the tax advantages that helped its economy prosper in recent years.

      With a nominal 17 per cent corporate income tax, but a much lower effective rate after including incentives and tax breaks, Singapore was ranked as the 9th largest tax haven in the world in the Corporate Tax Haven Index 2021 compiled by Tax Justice Network, an advocacy group based in the United Kingdom. In Asia, only Hong Kong was considered a bigger tax haven, ranking 7th on the list.

      Singapore, as a financial and shipping centre in Southeast Asia, is home to the regional headquarters of several multinationals, including American giants such as Microsoft, Apple, Actavis, Pfizer, Google, General Electric, Proctor & Gamble and General Motors. It is also increasingly a destination for Chinese companies, such as ByteDance.

      Around 1,800 multinational enterprises in Singapore would meet the revenue criteria, while most of them will have effective tax rates below 15 per cent, according to Singapore’s finance minister, Lawrence Wong.

      “All of these factors will, therefore, become more salient in our ability to attract and retain investments,” he was quoted by The Straits Times as saying at a July 5 parliamentary meeting.

      Jonathan Culver, a tax partner at accountancy Deloitte in Hong Kong, said: “These global tax changes may weaken [Singapore’s] competitive position, but it is likely to remain one of the most attractive hub locations globally.”

      Singapore could also create non-tax incentives to further enhance its attractiveness to foreign investment, and these could be funded by the taxes collected under a domestic minimum tax.

      Many analysts differentiated the country from other tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, given Singapore’s thriving financing and shipping businesses and its role in bridging businesses between the East and the West.

      Simon Poh, an associate professor (practice track) with the National University of Singapore’s business school, said the downside of a global minimum tax is so far limited for Singapore, because only a few large companies will be targeted, and the government can offset higher taxes with non-tax incentives.

      “Many global companies have, over the years, chosen to base their operations in Singapore not entirely due to tax reasons,” he said, citing the city state’s strategic geographical location, global connectivity, political stability, pro-business environment and diverse talent pool.

      Meanwhile, the G20 meeting may encounter some resistance within the European Union, where some countries have tax rates below the G7 minimum, including Ireland at 12.5 per cent and Hungary at 9 per cent, Poh said.

      Singapore was ranked fifth in the 2021 world competitiveness ranking released by the Institute for Management Development. Other Asean countries also performed well: Malaysia placed 25th, Thailand placed 28th, and Indonesia placed 37th.

      Meanwhile, the Doing Business project at the World Bank, which ranks the business environment of 190 economies, put Singapore in second place last year, followed by Malaysia at No 12, Thailand at No 21 and China at No 31.

      G20 member Indonesia is among those having expressed support for the G7 proposal, with finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati joining US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in hailing the “historic opportunity to end the race to the bottom in corporate taxation”.

      Indonesia saw foreign investment fall 22 per cent to US$19 billion last year. Investment from Japan plunged 75 per cent to US$2.1 billion, while that from Singapore shrank nearly 30 per cent to US$4.6 billion.

      Suan Teck Kin, head of research at United Overseas Bank in Singapore, said Asean countries actually have many non-tax advantages, including political stability, cheap labour forces, huge markets and supply-chain resilience.

      “For example, as they are part of RCEP [the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership], there will be huge supply chains for the entire region,” he said. “So, companies want to participate … for other considerations such as access to suppliers in this particular location between China and Asean, and access to labour and land.

      “Also, it is a huge consumer market. They are young and have a high tendency to spend.”

      The region, which is already China’s top trading partner, is set to benefit by attracting global value chain-related investments due to the China-US trade tensions and the associated global supply-chain restructuring, according to a report released in May by the Asean+3 Macroeconomic Research Office, a regional macroeconomic surveillance unit.

      Chinese investment in Asean countries rose 52.1 per cent, year on year, to US$143.6 billion in 2020, with the top destinations being Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam, government data showed.

      Source: South China Morning Post
  • India
    • Parliament passes Factoring Regulation (Amendment) Bill

      The Bill will provide relief to micro, small and medium enterprises and help them, ensuring a smoother capital cycle and healthier cash flow. The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the Factoring Regulation (Amendment) Bill that seeks to open up factoring business to non-bank lenders and thus address the capital needs of small businesses. The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on Monday.
      • The Factoring Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha on September 14, 2020.  The Bill seeks to amend the Factoring Regulation Act, 2011 to widen the scope of entities which can engage in factoring business.
      • Under the Factoring Regulation Act, 2011, factoring business is a business where an entity (referred as factor) acquires the receivables of another entity (referred as assignor) for an amount.   Receivables is the total amount that is owed or yet to be paid by the customers (referred as the debtors) to the assignor for the use of any goods, services or facility.   Factor can be a bank, a registered non-banking financial company or any company registered under the Companies Act.   Note that credit facilities provided by a bank against the security of receivables are not considered as factoring business.
      • Change in the definition of receivables: The Act defines receivables as (all or part of or undivided interest in) the monetary sum which is the right of a person under a contract.   This right may be existing, arise in the future, or contingent arising from use of any service, facility or otherwise.   The Bill amends the definition of receivables to mean any money owed by a debtor to the assignor for toll or for the use of any facility or services.
      • Change in the definition of assignment: The Act defines assignment to mean transfer (by agreement) of undivided interest of any assignor in any receivable due from the debtor, in favour of the factor.  The Bill amends the definition to add that such a transfer can be in whole or in part (of the undivided interest in the receivable dues).
      • Change in the definition of factoring business: The Act defines a factoring business to mean the business of: (i) acquisition of receivables of an assignor by accepting assignment of such receivables, or (ii) financing against the security interests of any receivables through loans or advances. The Bill amends this to define factoring business as acquisition of receivables of an assignor by assignment for a consideration. The acquisition should be for the purpose of collection of the receivables or for financing against such assignment.
      • Registration of factors: Under the Act, no company can engage in factoring business without registering with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).  For a non-banking financial company (NBFC) to engage in a factoring business, its: (i) financial assets in the factoring business, and (ii) income from the factoring business should both be more than 50% (of the gross assets/net income) or more than a threshold as notified by the RBI. The Bill removes this threshold for NBFCs to engage in factoring business.
      • Registration of transactions: Under the Act, factors are required to register the details of every transaction of assignment of receivables in their favour. These details should be recorded with the Central Registry setup under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act, 2002 within a period of 30 days.  If they fail to do so, the company and each officer failing to comply may be punished with a fine of up to five thousand rupees per day till the default continues.  The Bill removes the 30 day time period. It states that the time period, manner of registration, and payment fee for late registration may be specified by the regulations.
      • Further, the Bill states that where trade receivables are financed through Trade Receivables Discounting System (TReDS), the details regarding transactions should be filed with the Central Registry by the concerned TReDS, on behalf of the factor. Note that TReDS is an electronic platform for facilitating financing of trade receivables of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
      • RBI to make regulations: The Bill empowers RBI to make regulations for: (i) the manner of granting registration certificates to a factor, (ii) the manner of filing of transaction details with the Central Registry for transactions done through the TReDS, and (iii) any other matter as required.
    • RBI announces Digital Payments Index

      RBI has announced the Digital Payments Index (RBI-DPI) for March 2021 which stands at 270.59.

      The Reserve Bank of India had earlier announced the construction of a composite Reserve Bank of India – Digital Payments Index (RBI-DPI) with March 2018 as base to capture the extent of digitisation of payments across the country. The index for March 2021 stands at 270.59 as against 207.84 for March 2020, announced while launching the index on January 1, 2021. The RBI-DPI comprises of 5 broad parameters that enable measurement of deepening and penetration of digital payments in the country over different time periods. These parameters are – (i) Payment Enablers (weight 25%), (ii) Payment Infrastructure – Demand-side factors (10%), (iii) Payment Infrastructure – Supply-side factors (15%), (iv) Payment Performance (45%) and (v) Consumer Centricity (5%). Each of these parameters have sub-parameters which, in turn, consist of various measurable indicators.

      Source: ETBFSI

    • COVID-19 Pandemic: India Announces Further Tax Compliance Extensions and Other Reliefs

      The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has announced a further extension of due dates under the Vivad Se Vishwas Act, 2020 (the Scheme) and the Income Tax Act, 1961 (the Act), and tax exemptions for certain payments to individuals due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

      The key announcements are summarized below.

      Extension of due dates under the Scheme

      • The last date for payment under the Scheme without any additional amount has been extended further from 30 June 2021 to 31 August 2021.
      • For applications under the Scheme with certain additional amounts, the last date for payment is 31 October 2021.

      Extension of due dates under the Act

      The due dates for the following actions or submission of certificates, statements, returns and other documents have been extended as follows:

      • objections to the Dispute Resolution Panel (DRP) and assessing officer under section 144C due on 1 June 2021 or thereafter: extended to 31 August 2021;
      • statement of deduction of tax for the last quarter of the financial year (FY) 2020/21: further extended from 30 June 2021 to 15 July 2021;
      • certificate of tax deducted at source in Form No. 16: further extended from 15 July 2021 to 31 July 2021;
      • statement of income paid or credited by an investment fund to its unit holder in Form No. 64C for FY 2020/21: further extended from 15 July 2021 to 31 July 2021;
      • statement of income paid or credited by an investment fund to its unit holder in Form No. 64D for the FY 2020/21: further extended from 30 June 2021 to 15 July 2021;
      • application under section 10(23C), section 12AB, section 35(1)(ii), section 35(1)(iia), section 35(1) (iii) and section 80G in Form 10A or Form 10AB: extended from 30 June 2021 to 31 August 2021;
      • compliances for claiming any exemption under section 54 to section 54GB where the time limit falls between 1 April 2021 and 29 September 2021 (both days inclusive): extended to 30 September 2021;
      • quarterly statement in Form No. 15CC: extended from 15 July 2021 to 31 July 2021;
      • equalization levy statement in Form No. 1 for the FY 2020/21: extended from 30 June 2021 to 31 July 2021;
      • annual statement to be furnished under section 9A(5) by an eligible investment fund in Form No. 3CEK for FY 2020/21: extended from 29 June 2021 to 31 July 2021;
      • uploading of declaration in Form No. 15G/15H for the quarter ending 30 June 2021: extended from 15 July 2021 to 31 August 2021;
      • exercise of option to withdraw pending applications filed before the Income Tax Settlement Commission under section 245M(1) in Form No. 34BB: extended from 27 June 2021 to 31 July 2021.
      • last date of linkage of Aadhar with the permanent account number (PAN) under section 139AA: further extended from 30 June 2021 to 30 September 2021;
      • passing of assessment orders: further extended from 30 June 2021 to 30 September 2021;
      • passing of penalty orders: further extended from 30 June 2021 to 30 September 2021; and
      • processing of equalization levy returns: further extended from 30 June 2021 to 30 September 2021.

      Tax exemptions

      The following payments are exempt from income tax:

      • amount received by a taxpayer for the treatment of COVID-19 from an employer or from any person during FY 2019/20 and subsequent years; and
      • ex-gratia payment received by family members of an employee from the employer of such employee (without limit) or from other persons (limited to INR 1 million in aggregate) on the death of the employee on account of COVID-19 during FY 2019/20 and subsequent years.

      The extensions and tax exemptions are available via a press release issued on 25 June 2021 and CBDT Circular No. 12/2021 dated 25 June 2021.

  • Switzerland
    • Switzerland assumes pioneering role in Drone Technology

      The Swiss drone industry is the largest in the world as measured by market size per capita, the Swiss Drone Industry Report reveals. Developments within the industry are above all being driven by start-ups and universities. Moreover, the sector also benefits from a favorable regulatory framework.

      Switzerland is assuming a global pioneering role with its drone industry, the first Swiss Drone Industry Report has revealed. According to the report, which was published by the   Drone Industry Association Switzerland (DIAS), Switzerland ranks in first place globally in terms of market size per capita.

      Exports driving growth

      In the current year, the Swiss drone industry looks likely to hit a market value of 521 million Swiss francs. The report assumes that this value will rise to 879 million francs by 2026. This growth is being driven by exports to the USA and Europe, with products worth 233 million francs set to be exported in the current year. In this context, the export shares are likely to be very high for both hardware (89 percent) and software (96 percent) in particular.

      Universities constitute hubs

      Two hubs centered on the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) are above all the driving force behind the Swiss drone ecosystem. Accordingly, a particularly high number of start-ups have been spawned by two universities that are now active in the industry. Overall, Swiss drone companies have attracted investment totaling 214.6 million Swiss francs up to now, the report states. This equates to 3 percent of global investments made in this area.

      Favorable framework conditions

      According to the report, Switzerland is a fertile breeding ground for drone companies. While excellent access to talented experts certainly plays a part in this, a “fairly liberal” regulatory framework is also a key factor. Moreover, the industry benefits from active regulatory support, while the advantages of the “Swiss-made” label are also outlined in the report.

      Looking ahead to the future, the report recommends that Swiss drone companies should collaborate more extensively, as this could accelerate testing and consequently the introduction of new products on the market.

      DIAS engaged the services of the German market research firm Drone Industry Insights to produce the Swiss Drone Industry Report. In addition to DIAS, the report was supported by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE), the Swiss Aerospace Cluster as well as the investment firm BernInvest and Innovaud, the innovation and investment promotion agency for the canton of Vaud.

      Source: Switzerland Global Enterprise

    • 132 Inclusive Framework Members Join Revised Two-Pillar Approach Towards Taxing The Digital Economy

      On 1 July 2021, the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting released a statement outlining the revised international tax framework to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy. The new framework envisages a two-pillar solution, colloquially referred to as "Pillar One" and "Pillar Two" proposals. The statement has been welcomed and officially joined by 132 jurisdictions-members of the Inclusive Framework.

      According to the OECD, the new framework will ensure that large multinational enterprises (MNEs) pay their "fair share" of tax in the jurisdictions where they operate and produce their profits, as well as create certainty and stability for the international tax system. As per the OECD Secretary-General's words, the new revised international tax framework will not "eliminate tax competition, as it should not, but it will set multilaterally agreed limitations on it", while it will "also accommodate the various interests across the negotiating table, including those of small economies and developing jurisdictions". Therefore, the new international tax framework will aim to establish a fair and equitable international tax system without compromising the position and negotiating power of developing countries by being too complex and burdensome.

      The key takeaways of the revised OECD Pillar One and Pillar Two proposals are summarised below.

      Pillar One


      In-scope companies will comprise the MNEs with global turnover above EUR 20 billion and profitability above 10% (i.e. profit before tax/revenue). The extractive industry and regulated financial services are excluded.

      Nexus – Amount A allocation

      A new special purpose nexus rule will be established permitting allocation of Amount A to a market jurisdiction when the in-scope MNE derives at least EUR 1 million in revenues from that jurisdiction. For smaller jurisdictions with GDP lower than EUR 40 billion, the nexus will be set at EUR 250,000.

      Tax base determination

      The relevant measure of profit or loss of the in-scope MNE will be determined by reference to financial accounting income, with a small number of adjustments. Also, losses will be carried forward.

      Revenue sourcing and Quantum

      Revenues will be sourced to the end-market jurisdictions where goods or services are used or consumed. Also, allocation of profits to end-market jurisdictions with nexus will be made on the basis of 20%-30% of residual profits defined as profits in excess of 10% of revenue, using a revenue-based allocation key.

      Safe harbour

      Where the residual profits of an in-scope MNE are already taxed in an end-market jurisdiction, a marketing and distribution of profits safe harbour will cap the residual profits allocated to the end-market jurisdiction through Amount A, as described above.

      Tax certainty and elimination of double taxation

      In-scope MNEs will benefit from dispute prevention and resolution mechanisms, which will avoid double taxation for Amount A, in a mandatory and binding manner. Double taxation of profits allocated to end-market jurisdictions will be avoided using either the exemption or the credit method.

      Amount B

      The application of the arm's length principle to in-country baseline marketing and distribution activities will be simplified and streamlined, with a particular focus on the needs of low capacity countries.

      Unilateral measures

      Coordination between the application of the new international tax rules and the removal of all domestic digital service taxes and other relevant similar measures, will be streamlined.

      Pillar Two - GloBE


      Pillar Two will consist of the following rules:

      • two domestic rules, i.e. an income inclusion rule (IIR) that aims to impose a top-up tax on a parent entity in respect of the low-taxed income of a constituent entity and an undertaxed payment rule (UTPR), which aims to deny deductions or to require an equivalent adjustment, to the extent the low taxed income of a constituent entity is not subject to tax under an IIR; and
      • a treaty-based rule, i.e. the subject-to-tax rule (STTR) that aims to allow source jurisdictions to impose limited source taxation on certain related-party payments subject to tax below a minimum rate. Jurisdictions that apply nominal corporate income tax rates below the STTR minimum rate to interest, royalties and a defined set of other payments, would implement the STTR into their bilateral tax treaties with developing Inclusive Framework members when requested to do so. In those cases, the minimum rate for STTR purposes will range from 7.5% to 9%.


      Global Anti-Base Erosion (GloBE) rules will apply to MNEs that meet the EUR 750 million threshold, as determined under BEPS Action 13. Countries are, nevertheless, free to apply the IIR to MNEs headquartered in their jurisdiction, even if they do not meet the aforementioned threshold.

      Minimum rate

      The minimum tax rate used for purposes of the IIR and UTPR, will be at least 15%.

      Effective tax rate calculation

      The GloBE rules will impose a top-up tax using an effective tax rate (ETR) test calculated on a jurisdictional basis, that uses a common definition of covered taxes and a tax base determined by reference to financial accounting income.

      Carve-outs and exclusions

      The GloBE rules will provide for a formulaic substance-based carve-out provision that will exclude an amount of income that is at least 5% of the carrying value of tangible assets and payroll, and will establish a de minimis exclusion. International shipping income will, also, be excluded from the scope of the GloBE rules.

      The Inclusive Framework intends to finalize the remaining technical work on Pillar One and Pillar Two by October 2021 and aspires to effectively implement the respective international tax rules by 2023.

      Note: Seven IF member countries, namely Barbados, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Kenya, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, have yet to join the two-pillar approach statement. More details on the joining process will be reported in due course.

  • United Arab Emirates
    • United Arab Emirates Supports Inclusive Framework Two-Pillar Approach Towards Taxing The Digital Economy

      The UAE Ministry of Finance (MoF) has issued a statement supporting the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) with regard to laying the building blocks (Pillar One and Pillar Two proposals) for a new global tax framework.

      The MoF stated that the UAE's policies such as the implementation of economic substance and transparency rules have been carefully designed to support the country's fiscal needs and meet international requirements. The MoF added that the UAE approach has created a business-friendly environment affirming its global position as a stable and attractive place to facilitate global investment.

      The UAE is one of the 132 member countries (out of 139) that have joined the consensus. These building blocks have also been endorsed by the G20 Finance Ministers meeting on 10 July 2021.

      The statement was released on 26 July 2021 by M. Saeed Rashid Al Yateem, UAE MoF Assistant Under-Secretary of the Resource and Budget Sector.

    • Dubai Customs launches Trader Export Report service to enhance compliance, abidance and revenues

      Within their continuous efforts to support trade activity in Dubai to help businesses overcome the challenges and boost their revenues, Dubai Customs, in cooperation with the Federal Tax Authority (FTA), launched the Trader Export Report service. The new service will help clearance and shipping agents achieve Zero Rating of supply of goods exported within 90 days of exportation date, regardless of the Importation date. The service was launched virtually in the presence of H.E. Ahmed Mahboob Muabih, Director General of Dubai Customs and H.E. Khalid Ali Al Bustani, Director General, Federal Tax Authority (FTA), along with Dubai Customs’ executive directors and heads of customs departments and centers.

      Traders have to meet all the Zero Rating requirements including having an exit certificate and commercial documents that prove exportation process, and exporting the shipment within the specified time frame. This service applies only to imported goods that will be exported later and not to goods possessed locally.

      H.E. Ahmed Mahboob Musabih expressed gratitude to partners in the Federal Tax Authority for their dedication and outstanding efforts to help develop the trade sector and increase revenues.

      Commenting on the launch of the new service, Khalid Ali Al Bustani, FTA Director-General said:

      “The Trader Export Report service is very promising, and is a good example of fruitful cooperation between local departments and federal authorities to enhance economic development and trade facilitation following the leadership’s wise vision. The creative platform will help raise compliance and abidance. I heartily thank Dubai Customs’ team for their dedication and honest efforts in making this creative service a reality.”

      H.E. Ahmed Mahboob Musabih said:

       “The (Trader Export Report) service is meant to provide best trade and customs facilities to traders and businesses to help them increase mutual trade between Dubai and the rest of the world. This will help in fulfilment of national plans and projects and support Dubai 5-year plan of increasing Dubai external trade to 2 trillion dirhams. Dubai non-oil external trade grew 10% in Q1, 2021 to AED354.4b compared to AED323b in Q1, 2020. This includes AED150m for exports and re-exports.

       “This service is one of many facilities that Dubai customs provide to help augment growth in external trade, attract more investments into the emirate, and consolidate Dubai’s global position as a preferred hub for business and tourism following the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

      “The launching of the new service has come in the right time with the emirate preparing to launch EXPO2020; the most important economic event in the world. It will not be only an opportunity to exchange creative ideas and projects, but a vital means to help with the global recovery from the repercussions of Covid-19. We served the grand event by launching a number of initiatives including a dedicated customs channel.

      In the same vein, Edris Behzad, Director of Client Happiness Department said:

      “Client happiness is a priority at Dubai Customs. For that, we always develop new services that add value to the businesses and trade activity. We continuously evaluate our services and listen to our clients through different channels to ensure they are always satisfied with the services provided. The feedback on the new service was very positive. To ensure best service, an importer should submit accurate import numbers to the export agent, and add that to the export declaration. Importers can issue export report automatically by providing importer’s customs code and specify period.”

      The new service will be available on Dubai Trade Portal, and it will apply to certain types of declarations including Import to Local from ROW, Import to Local from GCC (Statistical Import), Import for Re Export to Local from ROW, Import to CW from ROW, Transit (ROW to ROW) and Cargo Transfer from CTO to CH (Different Locations).

      Source: Government of Dubai - Media Office

    • United Arab Emirates Issues Mutual Agreement Procedure

      The UAE Ministry of Finance (MoF) has issued mutual agreement procedure (MAP) guidance for tax treaties. The MAP guidance aims at facilitating taxpayers' access to effective and expedient dispute resolution mechanisms under bilateral tax treaties and includes information on how a MAP request should be initiated, to whom it should be presented and what information should be included in the request.

      The guidance is in line with the United Arab Emirates' commitment to the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action 14 minimum standard as a member of the BEPS Inclusive Framework (BEPS IF). The MAP guidance provides details as follows:

      MAP description

      This section explains the MAP and that it is designed to:

      • relieve double taxation typically arising from transfer pricing cases;
      • resolve treaty-related tax disputes and issues in interpreting or applying a tax treaty; and
      • provide a bilateral mechanism for MoF to engage with the competent authority of another Contracting State.

      Conditions for requesting the MAP

      MAP requests will only be accepted if:

      • the issue or transaction relates to a jurisdiction with which the United Arab Emirates has concluded a tax treaty;
      • it is apparent that the actions of one or both jurisdictions resulted in or will result in taxation not in accordance with the treaty; and
      • the taxpayer notifies the MoF within the time limits specified in the applicable treaty.

      The MAP request should meet the following minimum requirements:

      • identity of the taxpayer(s) covered in the MAP request;
      • the basis for the request;
      • facts of the case;
      • analysis of the issue(s) requested to be resolved via MAP;
      • whether the MAP request was also submitted to the competent authority of the other treaty partner;
      • whether the MAP request was also submitted to another authority under another instrument that provides for a mechanism to resolve treaty-related disputes;
      • whether the issue(s) involved were dealt with previously; and
      • a statement confirming that all information and documentation provided in the MAP request is accurate and that the taxpayer will assist the competent authority in the resolution of the issue(s) presented in the MAP request by providing any complementary information or documentation required by the competent authority in a timely manner.

      Timeline for MAP requests

      MAP requests can be issued in English or Arabic to: Mr Abdalla Al Obaidli, Director of International Organizations and Financial Relation Email: aaalobaidli@mof.gov.ae.

      Once the MAP request is submitted, the MoF will consider the request and may ask the taxpayer for further information if required. Then, the MoF will initiate the consultation with the treaty partner in order to reach an agreement. The timeline to resolve the MAP is provided by the following table:

      No. Action Time limit
      1 the MoF will notify the taxpayer of receiving the request within 30 days of the taxpayer initiating the MAP request
      2 the MoF will notify the correspondent competent authority about the request
      3 the MoF requests further information/documentation from the taxpayer the taxpayer will be given 30 days to provide any requested information/documentation
      4 the MoF will determine the eligibility of the MAP request and notify the taxpayer, in writing setting out its reasons, if the case is accepted or rejected within 30 days after the necessary information or documentation is provided to the MOF
      5 (if accepted) a proposal is sent to the other competent authority to start MAP discussions by issuing a notification letter to them
      6 the MoF will regularly update the Taxpayer on the progress and the outcome of the competent authority's negotiations in general, the MoF aims to resolve MAP cases within 2 years of receiving the taxpayer's application
      7 when an agreed outcome is reached between the MoF and the relevant foreign competent authority the MoF will write to inform the taxpayer within 30 days of reaching a mutual agreement and advise the taxpayer on the next course of action. The taxpayer will have to decide whether the agreed outcome is acceptable
      8 taxpayer's approval of mutual agreement in writing to be submitted immediately after conclusion of mutual agreement. 30 days deadline to respond
      9 confirmation of mutual agreement with terms and conditions: exchange of closing letters as soon as possible after acceptance of mutual agreement by taxpayer
      10 implementation of mutual agreement no later than 90 days after exchange of closing letters

      Legal basis

      This section provides that the MoF relies on the direct applicability of MAP articles in its tax treaties, as tax treaties, once in force, override all other domestic laws (other than the Constitution). It explains the possible outcome of the MAP request and the role of each competent authority in case of acceptance or rejection of the MAP request.

      If both competent authorities successfully resolve a MAP case, they would formalize a mutual agreement amongst themselves at the earliest time possible. However, if both competent authorities were unable to resolve a MAP case, they would close the MAP case as unresolved.

      Timeframe for resolving and implementing MAP cases

      This section explains that most treaties concluded by the United Arab Emirates include a MAP. A taxpayer has to request its case to be reviewed in a MAP within 3 years from receiving the first notification of an action that it considers to subject it, or is likely to subject it, to tax not in accordance with a treaty (i.e. the time limit for submitting a MAP request will usually start from the first notification of the action which gives rise to taxation not in accordance with a treaty). However, there is no time limit pursuant to the treaty concluded with Turkey.

      If the taxpayer makes a MAP application to the competent authority either of the United Arab Emirates or of the treaty partners after the time period expiration specified in the article relating to the MAP of the relevant treaties, the UAE competent authority will not provide access to MAP.

      The UAE Ministry of Finance (MoF) published the MAP guidance (dated 7 January 2021) on its official website on 8 June 2021.

  • United Kingdom
    • Helping businesses to prepare for full Customs Control in January 2022

      HM Revenue and Customs is encouraging UK businesses to prepare for customs changes which will be introduced over the coming 6 months.  

      More than 160,000 businesses will be receiving a letter from HMRC over the next week, explaining the steps they should take to ensure they can continue trading with the EU.

      These include:

      • making supplementary declarations
      • appointing a customs intermediary
      • Export Health Certificate requirements

      Making supplementary declarations

      Businesses already importing goods using delayed declarations should get ready now to have everything in place to make supplementary declarations on time. Traders need to decide whether to make their own declarations or get a customs intermediary to do it for them.

      Traders using the delayed declarations process have 175 calendar days from the date of import from the EU, to make the supplementary declaration. They need to apply for a duty deferment account (DDA) and authorisation to use simplified declaration procedures now, if they have not already.

      Appointing a customs intermediary

      Businesses can find information online about how to get an expert to deal with customs paperwork for them, as well as an up-to-date list of customs intermediaries that can help them.

      Export Health Certificate requirements

      From 1 October 2021, all products of animal origin, certain animal by-products and high-risk food not of animal origin will require pre-notification. Also, from this date, if traders haven’t made a full customs declaration for an exports consignment, their haulier or carrier will need to submit a standalone exit summary declaration providing safety and security information.

      Further support and guidance

      HMRC will also be contacting customers over the coming months with further details on what they need to do to prepare for the introduction of full customs declarations, from 1 January 2022.

      Sophie Dean and Katherine Green, Directors General, Borders and Trade, HMRC, said:

      We know how challenging it is to get used to so many changes, and we appreciate how much that UK businesses have done already.

      HMRC is here to help people adapt to the adjustments, and over the next few months we will carry on reaching out to businesses to help them get the right support and guidance to continue trading with the EU.

      Customers can read step-by-step guidance on:

    • IP at the heart of new innovation strategy

      The UK government’s innovation strategy sets out how the UK aims to be a global leader in innovation and a strong intellectual property system will be key to make that happen.   Innovation is critical in tackling the UK’s biggest challenges, including achieving Net Zero, levelling up growth across the country, achieving our ambitions as a global trading nation and economic recovery from the Covid pandemic.

      IP will play a central role in creating the right environment to meet these challenges. An effective IP system gives confidence to businesses, creators and investors that ideas will be protected and they can get a return for their work.

      The Strategy outlines how IP will address its four pillars of unleashing business, supporting people and skills, serving the needs of institutions and places and stimulating missions and technologies. Specifically, the IPO will:

      • launch a new ‘IP Access’ fund that will help businesses to grow and to build back better from the Covid pandemic. Building on the already successful IP audit plus programme, this new scheme will support businesses to manage and commercialise their IP so that they can use the value within their IP assets to grow their business
      • launch a new, free, fit for purpose support offer for businesses and organisations to make the most of their IP in overseas markets. The service will consist of easy to access, ‘self-serve’, online materials and clearer routes to access the UK’s network of IP experts based in key export markets around the world
      • extend its education programme to reach more higher education-based researchers during the next academic year. This will help them better understand and manage the IP they create and generate the maximum benefit from their research

      In addition, the IPO will consult a number of issues to strengthen the UK’s IP system, and in the Autumn it will consult on the protection of inventions and creations made by artificial intelligence (AI) with minimal human input. Following its 2020 call for views the IPO will look at options to address whether patents should be granted to inventions, and copyright should apply to creative works, created by AI.

      The IPO will also lead a call for views to better understand how the current framework for Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) is functioning to support innovation, and to establish whether change is needed.

      The IPO set out in its Corporate Plan a programme of work that will support the government’s focus on innovation including developing an IP & Innovation Passport and an IP in Finance strategy alongside a framework linking IP to stages in the business lifecycle. It will also publish a Places Strategy and along with existing regional posts that will support the levelling up agenda.

      The IPO’s Chief Executive Tim Moss said:

      Innovation is critical in tackling the UK’s biggest challenges both now and in the future.

      The UK’s new Innovation Strategy is the starting point for the government’s long-term vision of how we will cement our role as global leaders in innovation and deliver the target of R&D investment at 2.4% of GDP - and it has IP running through the heart of it. The strategy recognises that a strong IP system, that protects and allows for a return on investment on ideas, creates the confidence on which this success is built.

      We know that innovation is the engine of the modern economy and we’re proud of the contribution we’re making to drive that forward.

    • United Kingdom Publishes Updated Rules on Extended Loss Carry-Back

      On 5 July 2021, the United Kingdom updated its guidance note on the rules for making extended loss carry-back claims for companies and unincorporated businesses, as well as the procedure for making such claims.

      The updated guidance includes information on the preferred method for making a de minimis claim. While extended loss carry-back claims will be required to be made in a tax return, claims below a de minimis limit of GBP 200,000 may be made outside a tax return, i.e. any stand-alone or group company with losses capable of providing relief up to a maximum of GBP 200,000 may make a claim in respect of a relevant accounting period without having to wait to submit the company's tax return.

      Companies that want to make a de minimis claim outside the company's tax return can send a claim submission to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), for which they will need to provide relevant information, such as the unique taxpayer reference (UTR) number, the company name, the agent code (if applicable), start and end dates of the loss-making accounting period, the amount of loss, the dates of accounting periods to carry the loss back to and the relevant amounts and management accounts in PDF format, if a tax return has not been completed for the loss-making accounting period.

      Note: The guidance note on extended loss carry back was first published on 3 March 2021, following the UK Government's proposal to introduce legislation as part of Finance Bill 2021 to provide a temporary extension to the loss carry back rules for trading losses of both corporate and unincorporated businesses. In particular, while the current rules allow trading losses to be carried back one year without restriction, for accounting periods ending between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2022, this will be extended to three years, with losses required to be set against profits of most recent years first before carry back to earlier years.

  • United States
    • COVID-19 Pandemic: IRS Extends Tax Relief for 2021 Employer Leave-Based Donations

      The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued Notice 2021-42 to extend the tax relief for 2021 with regard to payments made by employers under leave-based donation programs to aid victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. The IRS has also issued a News Release (IR- 2021-142, 30 June 2021) accompanying the Notice.

      Under the leave-based donation programs, initially provided in Notice 2020-46, employees can elect to forego vacation, sick or personal leave in exchange for cash payments that the employer makes to specified charitable organizations. Such payments will not be included in an employee's gross income, and that employers may deduct the payments as a business expense or as a charitable contribution deduction. Employees may not claim a charitable contribution deduction for the value of the foregone leave.

      Notice 2020-46 granted the federal income and employment tax treatment for cash payments made to charitable organizations before 1 January 2021.

      Notice 2021-42 extends the special tax treatment for cash payments made after 31 December 2020 and before 1 January 2022.

    • IRS Concludes 2021 “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scam List

      The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has concluded its 2021 "Dirty Dozen" tax scam series with a warning against fake charities, immigrant/senior fraud, tax settlement fraud, unscrupulous tax return preparers, and unemployment insurance fraud, as well as promoted abusive arrangements.

      In its News Release, dated 30 June 2021 (IR-2021-141), the IRS announced the following five of this year's Dirty Dozen scams:

      • setting up fake charitable organizations to request donations, for which taxpayers cannot claim a tax deduction;
      • impersonating IRS employees to threaten immigrants with limited English proficiency as well as senior citizens, generally over the phone;
      • inappropriately advising unqualified taxpayers with tax debt to file an application for the IRS's tax settlement program (i.e. the Offer in Compromise (OIC) program), while charging excessive fees, often thousands of US dollars;
      • unscrupulously preparing tax returns for other taxpayers with fake information and refusing to sign the tax returns; and
      • applying for state and local unemployment insurance assistance using fake identification information or fake employment and wage records.

      Further, in its News Release, dated 1 July 2021 (IR-2021-144), the IRS wrapped up this year's Dirty Dozen list by announcing aggressively marketed abusive arrangements. Such arrangements include:

      • syndicated conservation easements, which generate inflated and unwarranted tax deductions, often by using inflated appraisals of undeveloped land and partnerships devoid of a legitimate business purpose;
      • abusive micro-captive arrangements, which lack many of the attributes of insurance but involve the payment of excessive premiums;
      • potentially abusive use of the Malta - United States Income Tax Agreement (2008), under which US taxpayers take the position that they may contribute appreciated property tax-free to certain Maltese pension plans and that the pension plans can sell the assets and distribute proceeds to the US taxpayers without tax consequences;
      • improper claims of business credits, particularly claims of the research and experimentation credits without participating in, or substantiate, qualified research activities; and
      • improper monetized instalment sales, under which a seller sells appreciated property to an intermediary in exchange for an instalment note that typically provides for payments of interest only, with principal being paid at the end of the term, and results in the seller's improperly delaying gain recognition until the final payment on the instalment note.

      Note: The IRS compiles the Dirty Dozen annually, which lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter during tax filing season and throughout the year.