The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released its ‘2017 MAP Statistics’, covering 85 jurisdictions and almost all cases of mutual agreement procedures (MAP) worldwide.

More effective dispute resolution mechanisms

The MAP article in tax conventions allows designated representatives from the governments of the contracting states to interact with the intent to resolve international tax disputes. These disputes involve cases of double taxation (juridical and economic) as well as inconsistencies in the interpretation and application of a convention. Since most probable occurrences of double taxation are dealt with automatically in tax conventions through tax credits, exemptions, or the determination of taxing rights of the contacting states, the majority of MAP cases are situations where the taxation of an individual or entity is unclear.

Improving the effectiveness and timeliness of dispute resolution mechanisms is the aim of Action 14 of the BEPS Action Plan, and part of the wider G20/OECD tax certainty agenda. The Action 14 minimum standard requires jurisdictions to seek to resolve MAP cases within an average timeframe of 24 months. To monitor compliance with this, members of the Inclusive Framework on BEPS have committed to report their MAP statistics pursuant to an agreed reporting framework and to publish them on a yearly basis.

2017 MAP Statistics

The Mutual Agreement Procedure Statistics contain detailed information on each jurisdiction as well as aggregated global information. Highlights include:

  • Inventory: Tax administrations are closing more cases than ever before, but with new cases, increasing significantly the global inventory is still rising. The aggregate statistics show a decrease in the overall number of cases in MAP inventory but that is due, in significant part, to a different counting methodology used for cases received since 2016. The country data shows a decrease of inventory in about half of the reporting jurisdictions and an increase in the other half. Compared to 2016, new transfer pricing cases are up by 25% and other cases by 50% meaning that even a 35 % increase in the number of cases closed has not yet prevented the aggregated global inventory from rising. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the increase in new cases is due to a range of factors including the effects of the new reporting framework, increased awareness of and expectations from taxpayers about MAP, and a focus in a number of countries on particular international tax risks such as those relating to salaries and pensions.
  • Timelines: On average transfer pricing cases continue to take more time than other cases and the averages remain the same as for 2016: approximately 30 months for transfer pricing cases and 17 months for other cases. Average times for case resolution vary significantly by jurisdiction, ranging from 3 to 59 months. About 60% of reporting jurisdictions met the 24 months target across all their cases.
  • Outcomes: More than 80% of MAPs concluded in 2017 resolved the issue for transfer pricing cases and more than 75% for other cases. Approximately 65% of transfer pricing MAP cases closed were resolved with an agreement fully eliminating double taxation and almost 15% of them were granted a unilateral relief. For other cases, these outcomes represent respectively almost 50% and 25%.
  • Jurisdiction-specific reporting: For the first time, the 2017 MAP statistics have for each reporting jurisdiction and for each case started after 2015 a breakdown of the MAP inventory per treaty partner including by type of case. Jurisdiction-specific reporting enhances transparency, brings visibility and allows to improve focus. This feature will only increase in relevance over time as more and more of the inventory will relate to post-2015 cases and thus be reported on that basis.

(Source: Media release | OECD Manual on Effective Mutual Agreement Procedures | MAP Statistics for 2017)

 

Further reading:

Recurring Resistance to Tax Treaty Arbitration as a Dispute Resolution Mechanism, by Michelle Markham

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