Taxation of Cross-Border Hybrid Finance - A Legal Analysis
Posted: 4 Jan 2008 Last revised: 2 Jan 2013
Date Written: September 14, 2007
The neat division of company finance into equity and debt does not in reality do justice to the enormous diversity of financial instruments available. A wide variety of instruments incorporate elements of both equity and debt. Usually, these financial instruments are referred to as hybrid instruments, or mezzanine finance. Although hybrid instruments may be issued for a variety of non-tax reasons, taxation issues have a considerable impact on management's financing decisions with respect to hybrid instruments. Tax treatment of hybrid instruments varies among coutries. This may cause severe distortions to most countries efforts to ensure single taxation of the yield.
The purpose of this paper is to test the effectiveness of existing measures of international tax coordination (Double Taxation Conventions, EU Directives) in the field of cross-border intragroup finance. In order to do so, the paper provides a comprehensive survey of the possible fiscal consequences of intra-group cross-border hybrid finance on the basis of a formal analysis of the relevant provisions in national, international and European tax law.
The paper demonstrates that despite the various measures to prevent double taxation and ensure single taxation of remuneration of equity and debt within groups of companies, the use of hybrid instruments can still generate cases of double taxation as well as cases of double non-taxation (white income). This is a major issue for tax planning, because it implies that an enterprise with operations in a given group of countries can choose instruments that result in double non-taxation. Similarly, an enterprise with given financial needs can choose appropriate countries to establish subsidiaries so as to optimise or even entirely eliminate taxes on the payments received. For national and international legislators, this is important because it shows that existing systems for the taxation of dividends and interest on hybrid finance in many cases fail to ensure single taxation of the income received.
Keywords: income tax, corporate finance, international taxation
JEL Classification: K34, G32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation