double taxation agreement

Written By: Ehsan Jahandarpour

Many countries have agreed with other countries in treaties to mitigate the effects of double taxation (Double Tax Avoidance Agreement). Tax treaties may cover income taxes, inheritance taxes, value added taxes, or other taxes. Besides bilateral treaties, also multilateral countries are in place: Countries of the European Union (EU) have also entered into a multilateral agreement with respect to value added taxes under auspices of the EU, while a joint treaty on mutual administrative assistance of the Council of Europe and the OECD exists open to all nations. Tax treaties tend to reduce taxes of one treaty country for residents of the other treaty country in order to reduce double taxation of the same income. The provisions and goals vary highly; very few tax treaties are alike. Most treaties: define which taxes are covered and who is a resident and eligible for benefits, reduce the amounts of tax withheld from interest, dividends, and royalties paid by a resident of one country to residents of the other country, limit tax of one country on business income of a resident of the other country to that income from a permanent establishment in the first country, define circumstances in which income of individuals resident in one country will be taxed in the other country, including salary, self-employment, pension, and other income, provide for exemption of certain types of organizations or individuals, and provide procedural frameworks for enforcement and dispute resolution. The stated goals for entering into a treaty often include reduction of double taxation, eliminating tax evasion, and encouraging cross-border trade efficiency. It is generally accepted that tax treaties improve certainty for taxpayers and tax authorities in their international dealings. Several governments and organizations have proposed model treaties to use as starting points in their own negotiations. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) model treaty is often used as such a starting point. The OECD members have from time to time agreed on various provisions of the model treaty, and the official commentary and member comments thereon serve as a guidance as to interpretation by each member country.