A Protocol, signed on the same occasion and forming an integral part of the Convention, amplifies the provisions of the Convention. Because it is an integral part of the Convention, its entry into force and termination are governed, respectively, by Article 28 (Entry into Force) and Article 29 (Termination) of the Convention.
Article 1 of the Protocol contains twenty paragraphs which modify or elaborate on certain provisions of Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, and 26 of the Convention. Those paragraphs are discussed above in connection with the relevant article of the Convention.
Article 2 of the Protocol contains a limitation on benefits provision. This provision is substantially similar to Article 22 (Limitation on Benefits) of the U.S. Model.
Purpose of Limitation on Benefits Provisions
The United States views an income tax treaty as a vehicle for providing treaty benefits to residents of the two Contracting States. This statement begs the question of who is to be treated as a resident of a Contracting State for the purpose of being granted treaty benefits. The Commentaries to the OECD Model authorize a tax authority to deny benefits, under substance- over-form principles, to a nominee in one State deriving income from the other on behalf of a third-country resident. In addition, although the text of the OECD Model does not contain express anti-abuse provisions, the Commentaries to Article 1 contain an extensive discussion approving the use of such provisions in tax treaties in order to limit the ability of third state residents to obtain treaty benefits. The United States holds strongly to the view that tax treaties should include provisions that specifically prevent misuse of treaties by residents of third countries. Consequently, all recent U.S. income tax treaties contain comprehensive Limitation on Benefits provisions.
A treaty that provides treaty benefits to any resident of a Contracting State permits “treaty shopping”: the use, by residents of third states, of legal entities established in a Contracting State with a principal purpose to obtain the benefits of a tax treaty between the United States and the other Contracting State. It is important to note that this definition of treaty shopping does not encompass every case in which a third state resident establishes an entity in a U.S. treaty partner, and that entity enjoys treaty benefits to which the third state resident would not itself be entitled. If the third country resident had substantial reasons for establishing the structure that were unrelated to obtaining treaty benefits, the structure would not fall within the definition of treaty shopping set forth above.
Of course, the fundamental problem presented by this approach is that it is based on the taxpayer’s motives in establishing an entity in a particular country, which a tax administrator is normally ill-equipped to identify. In order to avoid the necessity of making this subjective determination, Article 2 of the Protocol sets forth a series of objective tests. The assumption underlying each of these tests is that a taxpayer that satisfies the requirements of any of the tests probably has a real business purpose for the structure it has adopted, or has a sufficiently strong nexus to the other Contracting State (e.g., a resident individual) to warrant benefits even in the absence of a business connection, and that this business purpose or connection is sufficient to justify the conclusion that obtaining the benefits of the treaty is not a principal purpose of establishing or maintaining residence in that other State.
For instance, the assumption underlying the active trade or business test under paragraph 3 is that a third country resident that establishes a “substantial” operation in Italy and that derives income from a similar activity in the United States would not do so primarily to avail itself of the benefits of the Treaty; it is presumed in such a case that the investor had a valid business purpose for investing in Italy, and that the link between that trade or business and the U.S. activity that generates the treaty-benefitted income manifests a business purpose for placing the U.S. investments in the entity in Italy. It is considered unlikely that the investor would incur the expense of establishing a substantial trade or business in Italy simply to obtain the benefits of the Convention. A similar rationale underlies other tests in Article 2 of the Protocol.
While these tests provide useful surrogates for identifying actual intent, these mechanical tests cannot account for every case in which the taxpayer was not treaty shopping. Accordingly, Article 2 of the Protocol also includes a provision (paragraph 4) authorizing the competent authority of a Contracting State to grant benefits. While an analysis under paragraph 4 may well differ from that under one of the other tests of Article 2 of the Protocol, its objective is the same: to identify investors whose residence in the other State can be justified by factors other than a purpose to derive treaty benefits.
Article 2 of the Protocol and the anti-abuse provisions of domestic law complement each other, as Article 2 of the Protocol effectively determines whether an entity has a sufficient nexus to the Contracting State to be treated as a resident for treaty purposes, while domestic anti-abuse provisions (e.g., business purpose, substance-over-form, step transaction or conduit principles) determine whether a particular transaction should be recast in accordance with its substance. Thus, internal law principles of the source State may be applied to identify the beneficial owner of an item of income, and Article 2 of the Protocol then will be applied to the beneficial owner to determine if that person is entitled to the benefits of the Convention with respect to such income.
Even if a resident of a Contracting State is entitled to the benefits of the Convention pursuant to Article 2 of the Protocol, other provisions of the Convention may preclude that person from obtaining benefits with respect to specific transactions. In particular, paragraph 10 of Article 10 (Dividends), paragraph 9 of Article 11 (Interest), paragraph 8 of Article 12 (Royalties), or paragraph 3 of Article 22 (Other Income) may deny the benefits of the respective articles in the event of abusive transactions where the main purpose, or one of the main purposes, of the transaction was to take advantage of the relevant article.
Structure of the Article
The structure of the Article is as follows: Paragraph 1 states the general rule that residents are entitled to benefits otherwise accorded to residents only to the extent provided in the Article. Paragraph 2 lists a series of attributes of a resident of a Contracting State, the presence of any one of which will entitle that person to all the benefits of the Convention. Paragraph 3 provides that, with respect to a person not entitled to benefits under paragraph 2, benefits nonetheless may be granted to that person with regard to certain types of income. Paragraph 4 provides that benefits also may be granted if the competent authority of the State from which benefits are claimed determines that it is appropriate to provide benefits in that case. Paragraph 5 defines the term “recognized stock exchange” as used in paragraph 2(c).
Paragraph 1 provides that a resident of a Contracting State will be entitled to the benefits otherwise accorded to residents of a Contracting State under the Convention only to the extent provided in the Article. The benefits otherwise accorded to residents under the Convention include all limitations on source-based taxation under Articles 6 through 21, the treaty-based relief from double taxation provided by Article 23 (Relief from Double Taxation), and the protection afforded to residents of a Contracting State under Article 24 (Non-Discrimination). Some provisions do not require that a person be a resident in order to enjoy the benefits of those provisions. These include paragraph 1 of Article 24 (Non-Discrimination), Article 25 (Mutual Agreement Procedure), and Article 27 (Diplomatic Agents and Consular Officials). Article 2 of the Protocol accordingly does not limit the availability of the benefits of these provisions.
Paragraph 2 has six subparagraphs, each of which describes a category of residents that are entitled to all benefits of the Convention.
Individuals — Subparagraph 2(a)
Subparagraph (a) provides that individual residents of a Contracting State will be entitled to all treaty benefits. If such an individual receives income as a nominee on behalf of a third country resident, benefits may be denied under the respective articles of the Convention by the requirement that the beneficial owner of the income be a resident of a Contracting State.
Qualified Governmental Entities — Subparagraph 2(b)
Subparagraph (b) provides that qualified governmental entities, as defined in subparagraph 3(i) of Article 3 (Definitions) of the Convention, also will be entitled to all benefits of the Convention. As described in Article 3, in addition to federal, state and local governments, the term “qualified governmental entity” encompasses certain government-owned corporations and other entities, and certain pension trusts or funds that administer pension benefits described in Article 19 (Government Service).
Publicly-Traded Corporations — Subparagraph 2(c)(i)
Subparagraph (c) applies to two categories of corporations: publicly-traded corporations and subsidiaries of publicly-traded corporations. Clause (i) of subparagraph 2(c) provides that a company will be entitled to all the benefits of the Convention if all the shares in the class or classes of shares that represent more than 50 percent of the voting power and value of the company are regularly traded on a “recognized stock exchange” located in either State. The term “recognized stock exchange” is defined in paragraph 5. This provision differs from corresponding provisions in earlier treaties in that it states that “all of the shares” in the principal class of shares must be regularly traded on a recognized stock exchange. This language was added to make it clear that all shares in the principal class or classes of shares (as opposed to only a portion of such shares) must satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph.
If a company has only one class of shares, it is only necessary to consider whether the shares of that class are regularly traded on a recognized stock exchange. If the company has more than one class of shares, it is necessary as an initial matter to determine whether one of the classes accounts for more than half of the voting power and value of the company. If so, then only those shares are considered for purposes of the regular trading requirement. If no single class of shares accounts for more than half of the company’s voting power and value, it is necessary to identify a group of two or more classes of the company’s shares that account for more than half of the company’s voting power and value, and then to determine whether each class of shares in this group satisfies the regular trading requirement. Although in a particular case involving a company with several classes of shares it is conceivable that more than one group of classes could be identified that account for more than 50% of the shares, it is only necessary for one such group to satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph in order for the company to be entitled to benefits. Benefits would not be denied to the company even if a second, non-qualifying, group of shares with more than half of the company’s voting power and value could be identified.
The term “regularly traded” is not defined in the Convention. In accordance with paragraph 2 of Article 3 (General Definitions), this term will be defined by reference to the domestic tax laws of the State from which treaty benefits are sought, generally the source State. In the case of the United States, this term is understood to have the meaning it has under Treas. Reg. section 1.884-5(d)(4)(i)(B), relating to the branch tax provisions of the Code. Under these regulations, a class of shares is considered to be “regularly traded” if two requirements are met:
trades in the class of shares are made in more than de minimis quantities on at least 60 days during the taxable year, and the aggregate number of shares in the class traded during the year is at least 10 percent of the average number of shares outstanding during the year. Sections 1.884- 5(d)(4)(i)(A), (ii) and (iii) will not be taken into account for purposes of defining the term “regularly traded” under the Convention. Authorized but unissued shares are not considered for purposes of this test.
As described more fully below, the regular trading requirement can be met by trading on any recognized exchange or exchanges located in either State. Trading on one or more recognized stock exchanges may be aggregated for purposes of this requirement. Thus, a U.S. company could satisfy the regularly traded requirement through trading, in whole or in part, on a recognized stock exchange located in Italy.
Subsidiaries of Publicly-Traded Corporations — Subparagraph 2(c)(ii)
Clause (ii) of subparagraph 2(c) provides a test under which certain companies that are directly or indirectly controlled by companies satisfying the publicly-traded test of subparagraph 2(c)(i) may be entitled to the benefits of the Convention. Under this test, a company will be entitled to the benefits of the Convention if 50 percent or more of each class of shares in the company is directly or indirectly owned by five or fewer companies that are described in subparagraph 2(c)(i).
This test differs from that under subparagraph 2(c)(i) in that 50 percent of each class of the company’s shares, not merely the class or classes accounting for more than 50 percent of the company’s votes and value, must be held by publicly-traded companies described in subparagraph 2(c)(i). Thus, the test under subparagraph 2(c)(ii) considers the ownership of every class of shares outstanding, while the test under subparagraph 2(c)(i) only considers those classes that account for a majority of the company’s voting power and value.
Clause (ii) permits indirect ownership. Consequently, the ownership by publicly-traded companies described in clause (i) need not be direct. However, any intermediate owners in the chain of ownership must themselves be entitled to benefits under paragraph 2.
Tax Exempt Organizations — Subparagraph 2(d)
Subparagraph 2(d) provides that the tax exempt organizations described in subparagraph 5(a)(i) of Article 1 of the Protocol will be entitled to all the benefits of the Convention. These entities are entities that generally are exempt from tax in their State of residence and that are organized and operated exclusively to fulfill religious, educational, scientific and other charitable purposes. Like the U.S. Model, this provision does not limit the uses to which the charity may put its funds. Thus, for example, an Italian charity would qualify even if all of its funds were used to provide humanitarian relief to refugees in a third country.
Pension Funds — Subparagraph 2(e)
Subparagraph 2(e) provides that organizations described in subparagraph 5(a)(ii) of Article 1 of the Protocol will be entitled to all the benefits of the Convention, as long as more than half of the beneficiaries, members or participants of the organization are individual residents of either Contracting State. The organizations referred to in this provision are tax-exempt entities that provide pension and other benefits to employees pursuant to a plan. For purposes of this provision, the term “beneficiaries” should be understood to refer to the persons receiving benefits from the organization.
Ownership/Base Erosion — Subparagraph 2(f)
Subparagraph 2(f) provides a two part test, the so-called ownership and base erosion test. This test applies to any form of legal entity that is a resident of a Contracting State. Both prongs of the test must be satisfied for the resident to be entitled to benefits under subparagraph 2(f).
The ownership prong of the test, under clause (i), requires that 50 percent or more of each class of beneficial interests in the person (in the case of a corporation, 50 percent or more of each class of its shares) be owned on at least half the days of the person’s taxable year by persons who are themselves entitled to benefits under the other tests of paragraph 2 (i.e., subparagraphs (a), (b), (c), (d), or (e)). The ownership may be indirect through other persons themselves entitled to benefits under paragraph 2.
Trusts may be entitled to benefits under this provision if they are treated as residents under Article 4 (Resident) of the Convention and they otherwise satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph. For purposes of this subparagraph, the beneficial interests in a trust will be considered to be owned by its beneficiaries in proportion to each beneficiary’s actuarial interest in the trust. The interest of a remainder beneficiary will be equal to 100 percent less the aggregate percentages held by income beneficiaries. A beneficiary’s interest in a trust will not be considered to be owned by a person entitled to benefits under the other provisions of paragraph 2 if it is not possible to determine the beneficiary’s actuarial interest. Consequently, if it is not possible to determine the actuarial interest of any beneficiaries in a trust, the ownership test under clause (i) cannot be satisfied, unless all beneficiaries are persons entitled to benefits under the other subparagraphs of paragraph 2.
The base erosion prong of the test under subparagraph 2(f) requires that less than 50 percent of the person’s gross income for the taxable year be paid or accrued, directly or indirectly, to non-residents of either State (unless income is attributable to a permanent establishment located in either Contracting State), in the form of payments that are deductible for tax purposes in the entity’s State of residence. To the extent they are deductible from the taxable base, trust distributions would be considered deductible payments. Depreciation and amortization deductions, which are not “payments,” are disregarded for this purpose. This provision differs in some respects from analogous provisions in other treaties. Its purpose is to determine whether the income derived from the source State is in fact subject to the tax regime of either State. Consequently, payments to any resident of either State, as well as payments that are attributable to permanent establishments in either State, are not considered base eroding payments for this purpose (to the extent that these recipients do not themselves base erode to non-residents).
The term “gross income” is not defined in the Convention. Thus, in accordance with paragraph 2 of Article 3 (General Definitions) of the Convention, in determining whether a person deriving income from United States sources is entitled to the benefits of the Convention, the United States will ascribe the meaning to the term that it has in the United States. In such cases, “gross income” will be defined as gross receipts less cost of goods sold.
It is intended that the provisions of paragraph 2 will be self executing. Unlike the provisions of paragraph 4, discussed below, claiming benefits under paragraph 2 does not require advance competent authority ruling or approval. The tax authorities may, of course, on review, determine that the taxpayer has improperly interpreted the paragraph and is not entitled to the benefits claimed.
Paragraph 3 sets forth a test under which a resident of a Contracting State that is not generally entitled to benefits of the Convention under paragraph 2 may receive treaty benefits with respect to certain items of income that are connected to an active trade or business conducted in its State of residence.
Subparagraph 3(a) sets forth a three-pronged test that must be satisfied in order for a resident of a Contracting State to be entitled to the benefits of the Convention with respect to a particular item of income. First, the resident must be engaged in the active conduct of a trade of business in its State of residence. Second, the income derived from the other State must be derived in connection with, or be incidental to, that trade or business. Third, if there is common ownership of the activities in both States, the trade or business must be substantial in relation to the activity in the other State that generated the item of income. These determinations are made separately for each item of income derived from the other State. It therefore is possible that a person would be entitled to the benefits of the Convention with respect to one item of income but not with respect to another. If a resident of a Contracting State is entitled to treaty benefits with respect to a particular item of income under paragraph 3, the resident is entitled to all benefits of the Convention insofar as they affect the taxation of that item of income in the other State. Set forth below is a discussion of each of the three prongs of the test under paragraph 3.
Trade or Business — Subparagraphs 3(a)(i) and (b)
The term “trade or business” is not defined in the Convention. Pursuant to paragraph 2 of Article 3 (General Definitions) of the Convention, when determining whether a resident of the other State is entitled to the benefits of the Convention under paragraph 3 with respect to income derived from U.S. sources, the United States will ascribe to this term the meaning that it has under the law of the United States. Accordingly, the United States competent authority will refer to the regulations issued under section 367(a) for the definition of the term “trade or business.” In general, therefore, a trade or business will be considered to be a specific unified group of activities that constitute or could constitute an independent economic enterprise carried on for profit. Furthermore, a corporation generally will be considered to carry on a trade or business only if the officers and employees of the corporation conduct substantial managerial and operational activities. See, Code section 367(a)(3) and the regulations thereunder.
Notwithstanding this general definition of trade or business, subparagraph 3(b) provides that the business of making or managing investments will be considered to be a trade or business only when part of banking, insurance or securities activities conducted by a bank, insurance company, or registered securities dealer. Conversely, such activities conducted by a person other than a bank, insurance company or registered securities dealer will not be considered to be the conduct of an active trade or business, nor would they be considered to be the conduct of an active trade or business if conducted by a bank, insurance company or registered securities dealer but not as part of the company’s banking, insurance or dealer business.
Because a headquarters operation is in the business of managing investments, a company that functions solely as a headquarters company will not be considered to be engaged in an active trade or business for purposes of paragraph 3.
Derived in Connection With Requirement – Subparagraphs 3(a)(ii) and (d)
Subparagraph 3(d) provides that income is derived in connection with a trade or business if the income-producing activity in the other State is a line of business that forms a part of or is complementary to the trade or business conducted in the State of residence by the income recipient. Although no definition of the terms “forms a part of” or “complementary” is set forth in the Convention, it is intended that a business activity generally will be considered to “form a part of” a business activity conducted in the other State if the two activities involve the design, manufacture or sale of the same products or type of products, or the provision of similar services. In order for two activities to be considered to be “complementary,” the activities need not relate to the same types of products or services, but they should be part of the same overall industry and be related in the sense that the success or failure of one activity will tend to result in success or failure for the other. In cases in which more than one trade or business is conducted in the other State and only one of the trades or businesses forms a part of or is complementary to a trade or business conducted in the State of residence, it is necessary to identify the trade or business to which an item of income is attributable. Royalties generally will be considered to be derived in connection with the trade or business to which the underlying intangible property is attributable. Dividends will be deemed to be derived first out of earnings and profits of the treaty-benefitted trade or business, and then out of other earnings and profits. Interest income may be allocated under any reasonable method consistently applied. A method that conforms to U.S. principles for expense allocation will be considered a reasonable method. The following examples illustrate the application of subparagraph 3(d).
Example 1. USCo is a corporation resident in the United States. USCo is engaged in an active manufacturing business in the United States. USCo owns 100 percent of the shares of FCo, a corporation resident in Italy. FCo distributes USCo products in Italy. Since the business activities conducted by the two corporations involve the same products, FCo’s distribution business is considered to form a part of USCo’s manufacturing business within the meaning of subparagraph 3(d).
Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that USCo does not manufacture. Rather, USCo operates a large research and development facility in the United States that licenses intellectual property to affiliates worldwide, including FCo. FCo and other USCo affiliates then manufacture and market the USCo-designed products in their respective markets. Since the activities conducted by FCo and USCo involve the same product lines, these activities are considered to form a part of the same trade or business.
Example 3. Americair is a corporation resident in the United States that operates an international airline. FSub is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Americair resident in Italy. FSub operates a chain of hotels in Italy that are located near airports served by Americair flights. Americair frequently sells tour packages that include air travel to Italy and lodging at FSub hotels. Although both companies are engaged in the active conduct of a trade or business, the businesses of operating a chain of hotels and operating an airline are distinct trades or businesses. Therefore FSub’s business does not form a part of Americair’s business. However, FSub’s business is considered to be complementary to Americair’s business because they are part of the same overall industry (travel) and the links between their operations tend to make them interdependent.
Example 4. The facts are the same as in Example 3, except that FSub owns an office building in Italy instead of a hotel chain. No part of Americair’s business is conducted through the office building. FSub’s business is not considered to form a part of or to be complementary to Americair’s business. They are engaged in distinct trades or businesses in separate industries, and there is no economic dependence between the two operations.
Example 5. USFlower is a corporation resident in the United States. USFlower produces and sells flowers in the United States and other countries. USFlower owns all the shares of ForHolding, a corporation resident in Italy. ForHolding is a holding company that is not engaged in a trade or business. ForHolding owns all the shares of three corporations that are resident in Italy: ForFlower, ForLawn, and ForFish. ForFlower distributes USFlower flowers under the USFlower trademark in Italy. ForLawn markets a line of lawn care products in Italy under the USFlower trademark. In addition to being sold under the same trademark, ForLawn and ForFlower products are sold in the same stores and sales of each company’s products tend to generate increased sales of the other’s products. ForFish imports fish from the United States and distributes it to fish wholesalers in Italy. For purposes of paragraph 3, the business of ForFlower forms a part of the business of USFlower, the business of ForLawn is complementary to the business of USFlower, and the business of ForFish is neither part of nor complementary to that of USFlower.
Finally, a resident in one of the States also will be entitled to the benefits of the Convention with respect to income derived from the other State if the income is “incidental” to the trade or business conducted in the recipient’s State of residence. Subparagraph 3(d) provides that income derived from a State will be incidental to a trade or business conducted in the other State if the production of such income facilitates the conduct of the trade or business in the other State. An example of incidental income is the temporary investment of working capital derived from a trade or business.
Substantiality — Subparagraphs 3(a)(iii) and (c)
As indicated above, subparagraph 3(a)(iii) provides that income that a resident of a State derives from the other State will be entitled to the benefits of the Convention under paragraph 3 only if the income is derived in connection with a trade or business conducted in the recipient’s State of residence and that trade or business is “substantial” in relation to the income-producing activity in the other State. Subparagraph 3(c) provides that whether the trade or business of the income recipient is substantial will be determined based on all the facts and circumstances. These circumstances generally would include the relative scale of the activities conducted in the two States and the relative contributions made to the conduct of the trade or businesses in the two States.
In addition to this subjective rule, subparagraph 3(c) provides a safe harbor under which the trade or business of the income recipient may be deemed to be substantial based on three ratios that compare the size of the recipient’s activities to those conducted in the other State. The three ratios compare: (i) the value of the assets in the recipient’s State to the assets used in the other State; (ii) the gross income derived in the recipient’s State to the gross income derived in the other State; and (iii) the payroll expense in the recipient’s State to the payroll expense in the other State. The average of the three ratios with respect to the preceding taxable year must exceed 10 percent, and each individual ratio must exceed 7.5 percent. If any individual ratio does not exceed 7.5 percent for the preceding taxable year, the average for the three preceding taxable years may be used instead. Thus, if the taxable year is 2002, the preceding year is 2001. If one of the ratios for 2001 is not greater than 7.5 percent, the average ratio for 1999, 2000, and 2001 with respect to that item may be used.
The term “value” also is not defined in the Convention. Therefore, this term also will be defined under U.S. law for purposes of determining whether a person deriving income from United States sources is entitled to the benefits of the Convention. In such cases, “value” generally will be defined using the method used by the taxpayer in keeping its books for purposes of financial reporting in its country of residence. See, Treas. Reg. §1.884-5(e)(3)(ii)(A).
Only items actually located or incurred in the two Contracting States are included in the computation of the ratios. If the person from whom the income in the other State is derived is not wholly-owned by the recipient (and parties related thereto) then the items included in the computation with respect to such person must be reduced by a percentage equal to the percentage control held by persons not related to the recipient. For instance, if a United States corporation derives income from a corporation in Italy in which it holds 80 percent of the shares, and unrelated parties hold the remaining shares, for purposes of subparagraph 3(c) only 80 percent of the assets, payroll and gross income of the company in Italy would be taken into account.
Consequently, if neither the recipient nor a person related to the recipient has an ownership interest in the person from whom the income is derived, the substantiality test always will be satisfied (the denominator in the computation of each ratio will be zero and the numerator will be a positive number). Of course, the other two prongs of the test under paragraph 3 would have to be satisfied in order for the recipient of the item of income to receive treaty benefits with respect to that income. For example, assume that a resident of a Contracting State is in the business of banking in that State. The bank loans money to unrelated residents of the United States. The bank would satisfy the substantiality requirement of this subparagraph with respect to interest paid on the loans because it has no ownership interest in the payers.
Paragraph 4 provides that a resident of one of the States that is not otherwise entitled to the benefits of the Convention may be granted benefits under the Convention if the competent authority of the State from which benefits are claimed so determines. This discretionary provision is included in recognition of the fact that, with the increasing scope and diversity of international economic relations, there may be cases where significant participation by third country residents in an enterprise of a Contracting State is warranted by sound business practice or long-standing business structures and does not necessarily indicate a motive of attempting to derive unintended Convention benefits.
The competent authority of a State will base a determination under this paragraph on whether the establishment, acquisition, or maintenance of the person seeking benefits under the Convention, or the conduct of such person’s operations, has or had as one of its principal purposes the obtaining of benefits under the Convention. Thus, persons that establish operations in one of the States with the principal purpose of obtaining the benefits of the Convention ordinarily will not be granted relief under paragraph 4.
The competent authority may determine to grant all benefits of the Convention, or it may determine to grant only certain benefits. For instance, it may determine to grant benefits only with respect to a particular item of income in a manner similar to paragraph 3. Further, the competent authority may set time limits on the duration of any relief granted.
It is assumed that, for purposes of implementing paragraph 4, a taxpayer will not be required to wait until the tax authorities of one of the States have determined that benefits are denied before he will be permitted to seek a determination under this paragraph. In these circumstances, it is also expected that if the competent authority determines that benefits are to be allowed, they will be allowed retroactively to the time of entry into force of the relevant treaty provision or the establishment of the structure in question, whichever is later.
Finally, there may be cases in which a resident of a Contracting State may apply for discretionary relief to the competent authority of his State of residence. For instance, a resident of a State could apply to the competent authority of his State of residence in a case in which he had been denied a treaty-based credit under Article 23 on the grounds that he was not entitled to benefits of the article under Article 2 of the Protocol.
Paragraph 5 provides that the term “recognized stock exchange” means (i) the NASDAQ System owned by the National Association of Securities Dealers, and any stock exchange registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a national securities exchange for purposes of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; and (ii) any stock exchange constituted and organized according to Italian laws. In addition, subparagraph 5(c) allows the competent authorities to agree as to other stock exchanges that constitute “recognized stock exchanges.”
This provision is discussed above in connection with Article 1 (Personal Scope) of the Convention.
This provision is discussed above in connection with Article 14 (Independent Personal Services) of the Convention.
Article 5 of the Protocol is the same as the corresponding provision in the protocol to the prior Convention. It confirms Italy’s practice of granting reduced rates of tax in a treaty by initially withholding tax at the statutory rate and providing refunds of the excess over the treaty rate on the basis of an official certification that the claimant is a resident of the treaty country entitled to such benefits. The claim for refund must be made within the time limit fixed by the law of the State that is obliged to make the refund. This article simply confirms Italy’s existing practice. It does not prevent either Contracting State from changing its method of implementing Convention benefits.
This provision is discussed above in connection with Article 26 (Exchange of Information) of the Convention.
Paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the Protocol is intended to deal with changes in law of either of the Contracting States that have the effect of changing the application of the Convention in a significant manner or that alter the relationship between the Contracting States. Paragraph 1 provides, first, that, in response to a change in the law of either State, the appropriate authority of either State may request consultations with its counterpart in the other State to determine whether a change in the Convention is appropriate. The “appropriate authorities” may be the Contracting States themselves, communicating through diplomatic channels, or they may be the competent authorities under the Convention, communicating directly. The request for consultations may come either from the authority of the Contracting State making the change in law, or it may come from the authority of the other State. If the authorities determine, on the basis of the consultations, that a change in domestic legislation has significantly altered the balance of benefits provided by the Convention, they will consult with a view to amending the Convention to restore an appropriate balance. Any such amendment would, of course, require a protocol or new treaty which, in the case of the United States, would be subject to Senate advice and consent to ratification.
Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Protocol, which relates to consultations between the competent authorities within three years of entry into force of the Convention, is discussed above in connection with Article 25 (Mutual Agreement Procedure) of the Convention.
This provision is discussed above in connection with Article 8 (Shipping and Air Transport) of the Convention.