Yes, we’re talking about the British exit from the European Union. We are not sure why the media coined the term “Brexit,” when it’s not only Britain (England and Wales) that voted, but the United Kingdom, which includes Great Britain, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the latter two not referring to themselves as “British.” But we digress. While the UK didn’t buy into the monetary union and continued to use the Pound Sterling as its currency, it played an active and necessary role in the EU.
With the June 23rd vote to exit the EU, there seem to be more questions than answers.
But first, some facts:
Per the BBC, England voted strongly for Brexit by a 53.4 percent to 46.6 percent margin. Wales had a similar outcome, 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent. However, Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to stay, with Scottish supporters garnering 62 percent and Northern Ireland supporters reaching 55.8 percent.
What Scotland and Northern Ireland have in mind is unclear. If they prefer to remain part of the EU, as some suggest, will they also want to remain a part of the UK? Or will Scotland and Northern Ireland continue to push for autonomy? The UK has two years to negotiate its withdrawal. While a lot can happen in that timeframe, let’s assume the UK truly exits. What’s next?
What’s the Future of the UK?
Suppose Scotland and Northern Ireland secede from the UK. As far as the tax world, they currently operate under the UK system. Note the tax treaty that people often refer to as the “UK-US tax treaty” is called Convention between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital Gains. So, the treaty is with all of the UK: Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales) and Northern Ireland. If Scotland and Northern Ireland leave the UK, presumably the treaty wouldn’t apply to their residents. Instead, they would have to negotiate their own tax treaties. (When Hong Kong became part of China, it did not become part of the China-US tax treaty.) In another example though, the treaties with the USSR and Czechoslovakia were extended for a period of time to the states included in each prior to their break-ups into separate sovereign states.
If you’re a US company with a parent, subsidiary or affiliate in Scotland or Northern Ireland, it may be wise to examine your structure and costs in any potential reorganization. One must bear in mind that the “clock does not begin to tick” until the UK invokes Article 50 of the EU treaty, giving official notice of its exit. Once invoked, it will take at least two years to fully complete the exit. Depending on the impact and cost, we envision that companies may choose to relocate to ensure treaty benefits.
How Will Customs Duties Change?
Once the UK exits, the EU customs duties rules will no longer apply. So, absent trade agreements between the UK and the EU or its members, there are likely to be duties charged on UK-EU trade. The UK may also enter agreements with other countries and/or trade blocs. In theory, UK-EU negotiations would lead to small, if any, duties, but the administrative headaches could be substantial. Furthermore, any trade agreements between the EU and other non-EU countries may be affected and/or subject to renegotiation.
EU vs. UK Tax
Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS)
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has been pushing its BEPS initiative. Presumably the UK’s exit won’t have a direct impact at the OECD level. However, the UK would arguably be unable to influence EU tax (or any other) policy. This could be important as the EU is the bloc pushing hardest for BEPS implementation. As an aside, the US Treasury has expressed strong reservations about certain BEPS aspects and perhaps can use the UK as an ally; however, the UK was one of the first countries out of the gate to implement a BEPS provision called the Diverted Profits Tax (termed by some as the “Google” tax). The Treasury not only took exception to its passage but is still considering whether it is a creditable tax for US tax purposes.
Value Added Tax (VAT)
VAT or similar indirect taxes are almost omnipresent outside the US. Each EU member has its own VAT law which includes certain provisions that take into consideration the free movement of goods and services between the member states. Such provisions will exclude the UK. In any case, there are more likely to be administrative costs far above and beyond those that exist today. Companies importing into and/or exporting from the UK should begin to consider alternative flows of goods and services depending on the final outcome of the exit and any potential amendments to the UK’s VAT law. Again, it’s far too early to tell or make material decisions. Based on our experience, reviewing product/services flow is a value-added service in its own right as companies often find they’re not always operating as planned and/or don’t have a strong grasp of precisely how and where they’re operating.
Intra-EU Cash Flows
The EU Parent-Subsidiary-Directive is a participation exemption regime allowing dividends to pass tax-free from one EU company to another. The UK won’t benefit from this directive post-exit and would then need to rely on its tax treaty network to keep dividend withholding low. This is critically important to UK companies investing in the rest of the EU since any withholding results in a net cost because the UK exempts certain dividends from foreign subsidiaries received by UK parent companies. Although the EU directives also include an exemption from source withholding for interest and royalty flows, the impact is minimal since such income is taxable in the hands of the UK beneficial owner who should be able to obtain a foreign tax credit for the taxes withheld. Bear in mind that the UK has separate tax treaties with most, if not all, of the members of the EU.
Corporate Income Tax Rate
The UK has been cutting its corporate tax rates. Will it further do so and compete with, say, Ireland and its 12.5 percent rate? Will the exit prompt the EU to more quickly harmonize its tax rates, or will it lead to more squabbling and disagreement? Or will the status quo of “two-steps-forward, one-step-back” hold?
Mergers & Acquisitions
M&A thrives on opportunity, and uncertainty generally acts as a brake on such activity. With the Pound Sterling and US Treasury Bonds showing material drops the day after voting, we’ve got unrest in global markets. There’s currency volatility and market uncertainty, arguably leading to reduced M&A activity for the faint of heart. The tax uncertainty doesn’t help and may wreak havoc with financial calculations and valuations for M&A candidates. On the other hand, those with higher risk tolerance may have great opportunity.
Free movement of people
With the exit, companies on both sides of the divide may find it more difficult and costly to move personnel between the UK and other EU member states.
Future of EU
Will other countries also try to leave the EU? Some commentators have posited that the negotiations will be very difficult and the major (France and Germany) EU members will want to send a strong message that it will be costly to any other countries that are contemplating an exit.
Marc Schwartz is a founding partner, Paul Tadros is a partner and Richard Hartnig is a senior advisor at Schwartz International, an international tax and business consulting firm that serves companies and individuals. For more information, visit www.schwartzintl.com.
IR-2016-89, June 17, 2016
WASHINGTON ― The Internal Revenue Service today issued a consumer alert about possible fake charity scams emerging due to last weekend’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., and encouraged taxpayers to seek out recognized charitable groups.
When making donations to assist victims of last weekend’s terrible tragedy, there are simple steps taxpayers can take to ensure their hard-earned money goes to legitimate charities. IRS.gov has the tools taxpayers need to quickly and easily check out the status of charitable organizations.
While there has been an enormous wave of support across the country for the victims and families of Orlando, it is common for scam artists to take advantage of this generosity by impersonating charities to get money or private information from well-meaning taxpayers. Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person solicitations.
The IRS cautions donors to follow these tips:
- Be sure to donate to recognized charities.
- Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, through which people may find qualified charities; donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.
- Don’t give out personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal a donor’s identity and money.
- Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the gift.
- Consult IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov. This free booklet describes the tax rules that apply to making tax-deductible donations. Among other things, it also provides complete details on what records to keep.
Bogus websites may solicit funds for victims of this tragedy. These sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities in order to persuade people to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources.
Additionally, scammers often send emails that steer recipients to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes.
Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords “Report Phishing.”
More information about tax scams and schemes may be found at IRS.gov using the keywords “scams and schemes.”
April 20, 2016
Written by Mark Castro, CPA - CrossLink Professional Tax Software
It’s important to know how many full-time employees you have because two provisions of the Affordable Care Act – employer shared responsibility and employer information reporting for offers of minimum essential coverage – apply only to applicable large employers. Employers average the number of their full-time employees, including full-time equivalents, for the months from the previous year to see whether they are considered an applicable large employer.
Whether your organization is an ALE for a particular calendar year depends on the size of your workforce in the preceding calendar year. To be an ALE, you must have had an average of at least 50 full-time employees – including full-time-equivalent employees – during the preceding calendar year. So, for example, you will use information about the size of your workforce during 2016 to determine if your organization is an ALE for 2017.
- A full-time employee is an employee who is employed on average, per month, at least 30 hours of service per week, or at least 130 hours of service in a calendar month.
- A full-time equivalent employee is a combination of employees, each of whom individually is not a full-time employee, but who, in combination, are equivalent to a full-time employee.
- An aggregated group is commonly owned or otherwise related or affiliated employers, which must combine their employees to determine their workforce size.
There are many additional rules on determining who is a full-time employee, including what counts as hours of service.
For more information, see the Information Reporting by Applicable Large Employers and the Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions pages on IRS.gov/aca.
As the nation celebrates Small Business Week May 1-7, the IRS will host four free webinars. The webinars will help small business owners with their taxes. The IRS also highlights popular products and services available on IRS.gov.
Here are some details about the free webinars:
1. Tax Tips for Your New Business, May 2. Small business owners and tax professionals with small business clients who may be starting new endeavors are the focus of this webinar.
- Deciding if it’s a business or hobby
- Selecting a business structure.
- Understanding business taxes.
- Recordkeeping requirements.
- Choosing a tax preparer.
- Finding out where to go for IRS help.
2. Staying Afloat: Planning for Emergencies Before they Happen, May 3. Small business owners, tax professionals and payroll organizations learn about emergency preparedness in this broadcast.
- Business continuity planning.
- How to create an emergency plan.
- Employee preparedness.
- Payroll continuity and supply chain protection.
- Protecting your records and data.
- What happens after a disaster is declared.
- IRS resources to help you plan.
3. Worker Classification: Employee or Independent Contractor? May 4. This webinar is in Spanish. It teaches Spanish-speaking small business owners, tax professionals and payroll organizations how to classifying workers.
- Differences between employees and independent contractors.
- Common law rules.
- Form SS-8.
- Employment tax obligations.
- Voluntary classification settlement program.
4. Tip Reporting and Tips vs. Service Charges, May 5. This webinar provides small business owners, employers, tax professionals and payroll organizations with details on tips and reporting.
- Recordkeeping and reporting responsibilities.
- Understanding the difference between tips and service charges.
- Filing Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips.
All four webinars are an hour long and start at 2 p.m. (ET). Live Q&A sessions with IRS experts will be available. To register and to find out more visit the Webinars for Small Businesses page on IRS.gov.
Many other IRS products and services provide small business owners with the help they need. Here are three pages that you can check out anytime:
- The Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center is your complete tax resource. For example, you can link to a list of free workshops and events offered in your area. Or visit the IRS Video Portal to watch videos on a wide range of topics, including prior live webinars.
- The Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center is for sole proprietors and others who are in business for themselves. This site has many useful tips and references to the tax rules that a self-employed person may need to know.
- The Online Learning and Educational Products page has tools that can help you learn about taxes on your own time, and at your own pace. For example, the IRS Tax Calendar for Businesses and Self-Employed has important tax dates for your business.
Visit IRS.gov to get small business forms and publications. You can also call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to get them by mail.
Follow the IRS on Twitter. The IRS has three key accounts: @IRSnews, @IRStaxpros and @IRSenEspanol. For all the IRS Small Business Week information, keep an eye on these IRS Twitter accounts and the key hashtags: #IRSsbw16 and #DreamSmallBiz.
In advance of the tax deadline, the Internal Revenue Service today warned tax professionals of a new emerging scam in which cybercriminals obtain remote control of preparers’ computer systems, complete and file client tax returns and redirect refunds to thieves’ accounts.
Although the IRS knows of a handful of cases to date, this scam has potential to impact the filing of fraudulent returns in advance of the April tax deadline and is yet another example of tax professionals being targeted by identity theft criminals.
The IRS urges all tax preparers to take the following steps:
· Run a security “deep scan” to search for viruses and malware
· Strengthen passwords for both computer access and software access; make sure your password is a minimum of 8 digits (more is better) with a mix of numbers, letters and special characters
· Be alert for phishing scams: Do not click on links or open attachments from unknown senders
· Educate all staff members about the dangers of phishing scams in the form of emails, texts and calls
Review any software that your employees use to remotely access your network and/or your IT support vendor uses to remotely troubleshoot technical problems and support your systems. Remote access software is a potential target for bad actors to gain entry and take control of a machine. Tax professionals should review Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, A Guide for Your Business, which provides a checklist to help safeguard taxpayer information and enhance office security.