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Coalition Letter to Senate on Pending Tax Treaties

Business Roundtable
Financial Executives International
Information Technology Industry Council
National Association of Manufacturers
National Foreign Trade Council
Organization for International Investment
Software Finance & Tax Executives Council
Trans-Atlantic Business Council
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
United States Council for International Business
 

January 27, 2016

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate 
U.S. Capitol Building S-230 
Washington, DC 20510-0609

Dear Senator McConnell,

The bilateral income tax treaties and protocols pending before the Senate are important to U.S. economic growth and U.S. trade and tax policy.  We ask for your support for these treaties and protocols and also ask for expeditious action on them by the United States Senate.
Many of these agreements were signed by the U.S. Department of Treasury several years ago.  The protracted period of ratification could send a signal, inadvertently, to all U.S. tax treaty partners that the U.S. does not value the benefits of tax treaties and that the expansion, improvement and modernization of the U.S. bilateral tax treaty network is not a priority. Given the unilateral actions that many foreign governments are considering as a consequence of issues raised in the OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting process, this sends the wrong signal at the wrong time. 

For more than 80 years, income tax treaties have played a critical role in fostering U.S. bilateral trade and investment and protecting U.S. businesses, large and small, from double taxation of the income they earn from selling goods and services in foreign markets. Tax treaties do so primarily by reducing foreign withholding taxes and otherwise restricting the ability of the foreign treaty partner to tax the income of U.S. taxpayers. On a reciprocal basis, tax treaties reduce U.S. withholding taxes to encourage foreign companies to invest in the United States. Where both countries have the right to tax an item of income under the treaty, the treaty seeks to avoid double taxation by requiring one of the countries to allow a credit for the other country’s tax (or to exempt the income from its own tax). Tax treaties help the U.S. economy by allowing U.S. companies to more efficiently conduct their businesses abroad and by making the U.S. more hospitable to foreign investment, which creates and sustains millions of American jobs.
 
In addition, tax treaties contain administrative procedures for U.S. taxpayers, treaty-partner taxpayers, and the U.S. and foreign taxing authorities themselves to resolve disagreements and to assist in the enforcement of the two countries’ tax laws.  In these and other ways, the U.S. network of over 60 bilateral income tax treaties plays a significant role in advancing the economic interests of the United States in the global economy.

  • The pending bilateral treaties and protocols contain pro-investment, pro-trade, and pro-job creation measures and help to coordinate tax administration with our treaty partners: The proposed tax treaty with Chile, signed in 2010, would be our first with that country, and its ratification would represent an important milestone in lowering tax barriers to U.S. companies operating in Latin America, where we have few such agreements. The proposed treaty would lower withholding taxes on a bilateral basis and protect the interests of U.S. taxpayers in that country. Chile has adopted a tax reform package that contains two different levels of corporate taxes—one for companies incorporated in  countries with which they have bilateral tax treaties, and a separate higher rate for companies in countries without a tax treaty.  Unfortunately, until the Senate acts on the tax treaty with Chile, U.S. companies are in the latter category and pay a higher corporate tax than their competitors in Chile.

 

  • The proposed tax treaty with Hungary, also signed in 2010, would modernize the existing treaty, which was signed when Hungary was part of the Soviet bloc.  The new treaty also would close a “treaty shopping” loophole in the existing treaty that currently allows non-Hungarian companies to obtain U.S. tax benefits even if their home country does not grant benefits to U.S. companies.
     
  • The Swiss and Luxembourg treaty protocols, both signed in 2009, would among other measures update our information exchange provisions with those countries to override their bank secrecy laws. The Swiss Protocol in particular would enable the U.S. Government to collect U.S. tax revenues from hidden offshore accounts of U.S. tax evaders, while specifically protecting against “fishing expeditions” by either country.  The Swiss Protocol has been ratified by Switzerland, and its approval is essential to resolving hundreds of long-running U.S. tax investigations.

 

  • The proposed treaty with Spain updates the tax treaty signed in 1990. The Spanish Protocol lowers the withholding rates for dividends, interest, and royalties.  The Spanish Protocol provides for mandatory arbitration of certain cases that cannot be resolved by the competent authorities within a specified period of time.

 

  • The Polish Tax Treaty replaces the treaty signed by the U.S. and Poland in 1974.  The Protocol and Tax Treaty improve conventions that have stimulated increased investment, greater transparency, and a stronger economic relationship between our countries. The Polish Tax Treaty also includes a limitation on benefits (LOB) provision that will help stop treaty shopping through Poland.  The proposed treaty would lower withholding taxes on a bilateral basis and protect the interests of U.S. taxpayers in that country.

 

  • The Japanese treaty protocol was signed in 2013 and lowers the withholding rate on interest and dividends.  The Japanese Protocol provides for resolution through mandatory binding arbitration of certain cases that the revenue authorities of the United States and Japan have been unable to resolve after a reasonable period of time. 

 

Treaties and protocols such as these have routinely been approved by unanimous consent.  These treaties promote good business and financial decisions based on free-market principles rather than government influence.  They incorporate reforms that foster robust economic growth and build on long-term investment partnerships between the U.S. and our tax treaty partners.  Their contents are the product of years of dialogue among Senate Foreign Relations Committee Members, the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Executive Branch, and interested stakeholders in the U.S. and abroad.
 
The bilateral tax treaties and protocols before the Senate include provisions repeatedly approved by the Senate.  The tax treaties and protocols were reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee without amendment in 2015.
 
We encourage prompt consideration and approval of these pending tax treaties in protocols by the United States Senate.

 Sincerely,

Business Roundtable
Financial Executives International
Information Technology Industry Council
National Association of Manufacturers
National Foreign Trade Council
Organization for International Investment
Software Finance & Tax Executives Council
Trans-Atlantic Business Council
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
United States Council for International Business