ATAD 3 - Introduction
Over a year ago, we wrote an article called "She sells corporate shells" about the EU Commission's proposal for a directive imposing new rules to prevent the misuse of shell entities for tax purposes.
In January 2023, the European Parliament approved the European Commission's draft directive known as ATAD 3 to prevent the misuse of shell entities for tax purposes.
The directive includes several indicators of minimum substance to assess if an entity has no or minimal economic activity, which could result in the denial of certain tax benefits based on treaties or EU directives.
Unlike Pillar 2, ATAD 3 is not limited to international or domestic groups with global revenues exceeding EUR 750 million, meaning it will impact many small and medium-sized enterprises with an EU presence, increasing the administrative burden.
ATAD 3 - What's the current plan?
The European Council is not bound by the amended text and may still amend or decide not to issue the directive.
The Council will have the final vote, and ATAD 3 will be on the agenda of the European Council Ecofin meeting of 16 May 2023.
Member States are meant to transpose ATAD 3 into domestic law by 30 June 2023, and the directive would apply as of 1 January 2024, although the European Commission may relax the timeframe in light of the short timeframe for final adoption and implementation.
What will ATAD 3 target?
ATAD 3 targets passive undertakings that are tax resident in an EU Member State and deemed not to have minimum substance.
The directive aims to bring more entities into scope by lowering some gateway thresholds but clarifies that the intra-group outsourcing of the administration of day-to-day operations and decision-making on significant functions is not considered a gateway.
Certain entities, including UCITS, AIFs, AIFMs, and certain domestic holding companies, will benefit from a carve-out and be exempt from reporting obligations. However, entities owned by regulated financial undertakings that have as their object the holding of assets or the investment of funds did not retain the proposed amendment to introduce a carve-out.
If an entity passes all three gateways, it will have to report certain information regarding indicators of minimum substance through its annual tax return.
Failing to report
Failure to comply with the reporting obligation triggers a penalty of at least 2% of the entity's revenue, and for false declarations, an additional penalty of at least 4% of the entity's revenue would be due.
If an entity lacks substance in one of the indicators or fails to provide adequate supporting documentation, that entity is presumed to be a shell entity. However, an entity has the right to rebut this presumption.
If the entity cannot rebut the presumption, it will not receive a certificate of tax residence from its EU Member State of residence, resulting in the disallowance of any tax advantage gained through bilateral tax treaties of the entity's resident jurisdiction or through EU Directives.
Regardless of whether the entity is classified as a shell, the reported information will be exchanged automatically.
Additionally, the European Commission is working on a new taxation package, including the Securing the Activity Framework of Enablers initiative and the FASTER proposal, aiming to introduce a new EU-wide system for withholding tax to prevent tax abuse in the field of withholding taxes.
ATAD 3 - Conclusion
The implementation of ATAD 3 and other initiatives to restrain the use of shell entities and aggressive tax planning may have an important impact on existing structures, and entities should be carefully checked on a case-by-case basis before the relevant date of entry into force.
If you have any queries about this article, or the matters discussed more generally, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
The content of this article is provided for educational and information purposes only. It is not intended, and should not be construed, as tax or legal advice. We recommend you seek formal tax and legal advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the contents of this article.