Article 10 (Dividends)

1. Dividends paid by a company which is a resident of a Contracting State to a resident of the other Contracting State may be taxed in that other State.

2. However, dividends paid by a company which is a resident of a Contracting State may also be taxed in that State according to the laws of that State, but if the beneficial owner of the dividends is a resident of the other Contracting State, the tax so charged shall not exceed: 
        a) 5 per cent of the gross amount of the dividends if the beneficial owner is a company (other than a partnership) which holds directly at least 25 per cent of the capital of the company paying the dividends;
        b) 15 per cent of the gross amount of the dividends in all other cases. The competent authorities of the Contracting States shall by mutual agreement settle the mode of application of these limitations. This paragraph shall not affect the taxation of the company in respect of the profits out of which the dividends are paid.

3. The term “dividends” as used in this Article means income from shares, “jouissance” shares or “jouissance” rights, mining shares, founders’ shares or other rights, not being debt-claims, participating in profits, as well as income from other corporate rights which is subjected to the same taxation treatment as income from shares by the laws of the State of which the company making the distribution is a resident.

4. The provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 shall not apply if the beneficial owner of the dividends, being a resident of a Contracting State, carries on business in the other Contracting State of which the company paying the dividends is a resident through a permanent establishment situated therein and the holding in respect of which the dividends are paid is effectively connected with such permanent establishment. In such case the provisions of Article 7 shall apply.

5. Where a company which is a resident of a Contracting State derives profits or income from the other Contracting State, that other State may not impose any tax on the dividends paid by the company, except insofar as such dividends are paid to a resident of that other State or insofar as the holding in respect of which the dividends are paid is effectively connected with a permanent establishment situated in that other State, nor subject the company’s undistributed profits to a tax on the company’s undistributed profits, even if the dividends paid or the undistributed profits consist wholly or partly of profits or income arising in such other State.

Switzerland's non-exhaustive list of double taxation treaties based on Article 10 of the OECD Model

 CountryCorresponding to Art. 10 Deviations (this section is under construction)
 AustriaArt. 10 (German/French),
Art. 28 
(German/French)
Due to Art. 10 para. 2, Art. 4 para. 3 can't be applied to determine in which Contracting State the company is a resident.
 ChinaArt. 10 (German/French/English) 
 EU  
 FranceArt. 11 (German/French) 
 GermanyArt. 10 (German/French)
Art. 28 (German/French)
 
 Great BritainArt. 10 (German/French/English) 
 Hong-KongArt. 10 (German/French/English) 
 IndiaArt. 10 (German/French/English) 
 ItalyArt. 10 (German/French/English) 
 Liechtensteinpending 
 LuxemburgArt. 10 (German/French/English) 
 MaltaArt. 10 (German/French/English) 
 NetherlandsArt. 10 (German/French/English) 
 SpainArt. 10 (German/French) 
 USAArt. 10 (German/French/English)

Regulations - Verordnungstexte - Ordonnances


Case law - Rechtsprechung - Jurisprudence

Rechtsprechung zum Abkommensmissbrauch / Case law on treaty abuse   


Rechtsprechung zum Dividendenhandel / Case law on dividend trade


Scholars - Lehre - Doctrine


Materialien (Botschaft - parl. Beratung) - Message et débats


Varia

Vgl. auch unsere Darstellung der Altreservenpraxis

Cf. also our brief description of the Swiss Practice concerning so-called "old reserves"

Article 10 and Commentary of the UN Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries

last edited 22.6.15 and based on the UN Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries (2011)

Article 10 (Dividends)

1. Dividends paid by a company which is a resident of a Contracting State to a resident of the other Contracting State may be taxed in that other State.

2. However, such dividends may also be taxed in the Contracting State of which the company paying the dividends is a resident and according to the laws of that State, but if the beneficial owner of the dividends is a resident of the other Contracting State, the tax so charged shall not exceed: 

(a)  ___ per cent (the percentage is to be established through bilateral negotiations) of the gross amount of the dividends if the beneficial owner is a company (other than a partnership) which holds directly at least 10 per cent of the capital of the company paying the dividends; 

(b)  ___ per cent (the percentage is to be established through bilateral negotiations) of the gross amount of the dividends in all other cases.

The competent authorities of the Contracting States shall by mutual agreement settle the mode of application of these limitations.

This paragraph shall not affect the taxation of the company in respect of the profits out of which the dividends are paid.

3. The term “dividends” as used in this Article means income from shares, “jouissance” shares or “jouissance” rights, mining shares, founders’ shares or other rights, not being debt claims, participating in profits, as well as income from other corporate rights which is subjected to the same taxation treatment as income from shares by the laws of the State of which the company making the distribution is a resident.

4. The provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 shall not apply if the beneficial owner of the dividends, being a resident of a Contracting State, carries on business in the other Contracting State of which the company paying the dividends is a resident, through a permanent establishment situated therein, or performs in that other State independent personal services from a fixed base situated therein, and the holding in respect of which the dividends are paid is effectively connected with such permanent establishment or fixed base. In such case the provisions of Article 7 or Article 14, as the case may be, shall apply.

5. Where a company which is a resident of a Contracting State derives profits or income from the other Contracting State, that other State may not impose any tax on the dividends paid by the company, except in so far as such dividends are paid to a resident of that other State or in so far as the holding in respect of which the dividends are paid is effectively connected with a permanent establishment or a fixed base situated in that other State, nor subject the company’s undistributed profits to a tax on the company’s undistributed profits, even if the dividends paid or the undistributed profits consist wholly or partly of profits or income arising in such other State.



Commentary 2011:
"A. General considerations

1. Article 10 of the United Nations Model Convention reproduces the provisions of Article 10 of the OECD Model Convention with the exception of paragraph 2, which contains substantive differences and paragraphs 4 and 5 which refer to independent personal services from a fixed base. Article 10 deals with the taxation of dividends received by a resident of a Contracting State from sources in the other Contracting State. Paragraph 1 provides that dividends may be taxed in the country of residence, and paragraph 2 provides that dividends may be taxed in the country of source, but at a limited tax rate. The term “dividends” is defined in paragraph 3 as generally including distributions of corporate profits to shareholders. As the OECD Commentary observes in paragraph 3: “From the shareholders’ standpoint, dividends are income from the capital which they have made available to the company as its shareholders.” Paragraph 4 provides that paragraphs 1 and 2 do not apply to dividends that are attributable to a permanent establishment of the recipient in the source country, and paragraph 5 generally precludes a Contracting State from taxing dividends paid by a company resident in the other State unless the shareholder is a resident of the taxing State or the dividends are attributable to a permanent establishment of the recipient in that State.

B. Commentary on the paragraphs of article 10 

Paragraph 1 

2. This paragraph, which reproduces Article 10, paragraph 1, of the OECD Model Convention, provides that dividends may be taxed in the State of the beneficiary’s residence. It does not, however, provide that dividends may be taxed exclusively in that State and therefore leaves open the possibility of taxation by the State of which the company paying the dividends is a resident, that is, the State in which the dividends originate (source country). When the United Nations Model Convention was first considered, many members of the former Group of Experts from developing countries felt that as a matter of principle dividends should be taxed only by the source country. According to them, if both the country of residence and the source country  were given the right to tax, the country of residence should grant a full tax credit regardless of the amount of foreign tax to be absorbed and, in appropriate cases, a tax-sparing credit. One of those members emphasized that there  was no necessity for a developing country to waive or reduce its withholding tax on dividends, especially if it offered tax incentives and other concessions. However, the former Group of Experts reached a consensus that dividends may be taxed by the State of the beneficiary’s residence. Current practice in developing/developed country treaties generally reflects this consensus. Double taxation is eliminated or reduced through a combination of exemption or tax credit in the residence country and reduced withholding rates in the source country.

3. According to the Commentary on Article 10, paragraph 1, of the OECD Model Convention, 

7. […] The term “paid” has a very wide meaning, since the concept of payment means the fulfilment of the obligation to put funds at  the disposal of the shareholder in the manner required by contract or by custom. 

8. The Article deals only with dividends paid by a company which is a resident of a Contracting State to a resident of the other Contracting State. It does not, therefore, apply to dividends paid by a company which is a resident of a third State or to dividends paid by a company which is a resident of a Contracting State which are attributable to a permanent establishment which an enterprise of that state has in the other Contracting State […]. 

Paragraph 2
4. This paragraph reproduces Article 10, paragraph 2, of the OECD Model Convention with certain changes which will be explained hereunder. 

5. The OECD Model Convention restricts the tax in the source country to 5 per cent in subparagraph a) for direct investment dividends and 15 per cent in subparagraph b) for portfolio investment dividends, but the United Nations Model Convention leaves these percentages to be established through bilateral negotiations.

6. Also, the minimum ownership necessary for direct investment dividends is reduced in subparagraph (a) from 25 per cent to 10 per cent. However, the 10 per cent threshold which determines the level of shareholding qualifying as a direct investment is illustrative only. When it last considered this issue, the former Group of Experts decided to replace “25 per cent” by “10 per cent” in subparagraph (a) as the minimum capital required for direct investment dividend status because in some developing countries non-residents are limited to a 50 per cent share ownership, and 10 per cent is a significant portion of such permitted ownership.

7. The former Group of Experts was unable to reach a consensus on the maximum tax rates to be permitted in the source country. Members from the developing countries, who basically preferred the principle of the taxation of dividends exclusively in the source country, considered that the rates prescribed by the OECD Model Convention would entail too large a loss of revenue for the source country. Also, although they accepted the principle of taxation in the beneficiary’s country of residence, they believed that any reduction in withholding taxes in the source country should benefit the foreign investor rather than the treasury of the beneficiary’s country of residence, as may happen under the traditional tax-credit method if the reduction lowers the cumulative tax rate of the source country below the rate of the beneficiary’s country of residence.

8. The former Group of Experts suggested some considerations that might guide countries in negotiations on the rates for source country taxation of direct investment dividends. If the developed (residence) country uses a credit system, treaty negotiations could appropriately seek a withholding tax rate at source that would, in combination with the basic corporate tax rate of the source country, produce a combined effective rate not  exceeding the tax rate in the residence country. The parties’ negotiating positions may also be affected by whether the residence country allows credit  for taxes spared by the source country under tax incentive programmes. If the developed country uses an exemption system for double taxation relief,  it could, in bilateral negotiations, seek a limitation on withholding rates on  the grounds that (a) the exemption itself stresses the concept of not taxing  inter-corporate dividends, and a limitation of the withholding rate at source  would be in keeping with that concept, and (b) the exemption and resulting departure from tax neutrality with domestic investment are of benefit to the international investor, and a limitation of the withholding rate at source, which would also benefit the investor, would be in keeping with this aspect of the exemption. 

9. Both the source country and the country of residence should be able to tax dividends on portfolio investment shares, although the relatively small  amount of portfolio investment and its distinctly lesser importance compared with direct investment might make the issues concerning its tax treatment less intense in some cases. The former Group of Experts decided not to recommend a maximum rate because source countries may have varying views on the importance of portfolio investment and on the figures to be inserted.   

10. In 1999, it was noted that recent developed/developing country treaty practice indicates a range of direct investment and portfolio investment withholding tax rates. Traditionally, dividend withholding rates in the  developed/developing country treaties have been higher than those in treaties between developed countries. Thus, while the OECD direct and portfolio investment rates are 5 per cent and 15 per cent, developed/developing country treaty rates have traditionally ranged between 5 per cent and 15 per cent for direct investment dividends and 15 per cent and 25 per cent for portfolio dividends. Some developing countries have taken the position that short-term loss of revenue occasioned by low withholding rates is justified by the increased foreign investment in the medium and long terms. Thus, several modern developed/developing country treaties contain the OECD Model rates for direct investment, and a few treaties provide for even lower rates. 

11. Also, several special features in developed/developing country treaties have appeared: (a) the tax rates may not be the same for both countries, with higher rates allowed to the developing country; (b) tax rates may not be limited at all; (c) reduced rates may apply only to income from new investment; (d) the lowest rates or exemption may apply only to preferred types of  investments (e.g. “industrial undertakings” or “pioneer investments”); and (e) dividends may qualify for reduced rates only if the shares have been held  for a specified period. In treaties of countries that have adopted an imputation system of corporation taxation (i.e. integration of company tax into the  shareholder’s company tax or individual income tax) instead of the classical system of taxation (i.e. separate taxation of shareholder and corporation), specific provisions may ensure that the advanced credits and exemptions granted to domestic shareholders are extended to shareholders resident in  the other Contracting State. 

12. Although the rates are fixed either partly or wholly for reasons connected with the general balance of the particular bilateral tax treaty, the  following technical factors are often considered in fixing the rate: 

(a) the corporate tax system of the country of source (e.g. the extent to which the country follows an integrated or classical system) and the total burden of tax on distributed corporate profits resulting from the system; 

(b) the extent to which the country of residence can credit the tax on the dividends and the underlying profits against its own tax and the total tax burden imposed on the taxpayer, after relief in both countries; 

(c) the extent to which matching credit is given in the country of residence for tax spared in the country of source;     

(d) the achievement from the source country’s point of view of a satisfactory balance between raising revenue and attracting foreign investment. 

13. The Commentary on the OECD Model Convention contains the following passages: 

11. If a partnership is treated as a body corporate under the domestic laws applying to it, the two Contracting States may agree to modify subparagraph a) of paragraph 2 in a way to give the benefits of the  reduced rate provided for parent companies also to such partnership. 

12. The requirement of beneficial ownership was introduced in  paragraph 2 of Article 10 to clarify the meaning of the words “paid … to a resident” as they are used in paragraph 1 of the Article. It makes plain that the State of source is not obliged to give up taxing rights over dividend income merely because that income was immediately received by a resident of a State with which the State of source had concluded a convention. The term “beneficial owner” is not used in a narrow technical sense, rather, it should be understood in its context and in light of the object and purposes of the Convention, including avoiding double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion and avoidance. 

12.1 Where an item of income is received by a resident of a Contracting State acting in the capacity of agent or nominee it would  be inconsistent with the object and purpose of the Convention for the State of source to grant relief or exemption merely on account of the  status of the immediate recipient of the income as a resident of the  other Contracting State. The immediate recipient of the income in this situation qualifies as a resident but no potential double taxation arises  as a consequence of that status since the recipient is not treated as the owner of the income for tax purposes in the State of residence. It would be equally inconsistent with the object and purpose of the Convention for the State of source to grant relief or exemption where a resident of a Contracting State, otherwise than through an agency or nominee relationship, simply acts as a conduit for another person who in fact receives the benefit of the income concerned. For these reasons, the report from the Committee on Fiscal Affairs entitled “Double Taxation  Conventions and the Use of Conduit Companies” ["Reproduced in Volume II of the full-length version of the OECD Model Tax Convention at page R(6)-1."] concludes that a conduit company cannot normally be regarded as the beneficial owner if, though the formal owner, it has, as a practical matter, very narrow powers which render it, in relation to the income concerned, a mere fiduciary or administrator acting on account of the interested parties.     

12.2 Subject to other conditions imposed by the Article, the limitation of tax in the State of source remains available when an intermediary, such as an agent or nominee located in a Contracting State or in a third State, is interposed between the beneficiary and the payer but the beneficial owner is a resident of the other Contracting State (the text of the Model was amended in 1995 to clarify this point, which has been the consistent position of all member countries). States which wish to make this more explicit are free to do so during bilateral negotiations. 

13. The tax rates fixed by the Article for the tax in the State of source are maximum rates. The States may agree, in bilateral negotiations, on lower rates or even on taxation exclusively in the State of the beneficiary’s residence. The reduction of rates provided for in  paragraph 2 refers solely to the taxation of dividends and not to the  taxation of the profits of the company paying the dividends. 

13.1 Under the domestic laws of many States, pension funds and similar entities are generally exempt from tax on their investment income. In order to achieve neutrality of treatment as regards domestic and foreign investments by these entities, some States  provide bilaterally that income, including dividends, derived by such  an entity resident of the other State shall be exempt from source taxation. States wishing to do so may agree bilaterally on a provision  drafted along the lines of the provision found in paragraph 69 of the Commentary on Article 18. 

13.2 Similarly, some States refrain from levying tax on dividends paid to other States and some of their wholly-owned entities, at least to the extent that such dividends are derived from activities of a governmental nature. Some States are able to grant such an exemption under their interpretation of the sovereign immunity principle (see paragraphs 6.38 and 6.39 of the Commentary on Article 1); others may do it pursuant to provisions of their domestic law. States wishing to do so may confirm or clarify, in their bilateral conventions, the scope of these exemptions or grant such an exemption in cases where it would not otherwise be available. This may be done by adding to the Article an additional paragraph drafted along the following lines:

 Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 2, dividends referred to in paragraph 1 shall be taxable only in the Contracting State  of which the recipient is a resident if the beneficial owner of the  dividends is that State or a political subdivision or local authority thereof. 

14. The two Contracting States may also, during bilateral negotiations, agree to [lower the holding percentage required for direct investment dividends]. A lower percentage is, for instance, justified in cases where the state of residence of the parent company, in accordance with its domestic law, grants exemption to such a company for dividends derived from a holding of less than 25 per cent in a nonresident subsidiary.

15.
 In subparagraph a) of paragraph 2, the term “capital” is used  in […] [defining the minimum ownership required for direct investment dividends]. The use of this term in this context implies that, for the purposes of subparagraph a), it should be used in the sense in which it is used for the purposes of distribution to the shareholder (in the particular case, the parent company).

a) As a general rule, therefore, the term “capital” in subparagraph a) should be understood as it is understood in company law. Other elements, in particular the reserves, are not to be taken into account.

b) Capital, as understood in company law, should be indicated in terms of par value of all shares which in the majority of cases will be shown as capital in the company’s balance sheet.

c)
 No account need be taken of differences due to the different classes of shares issued (ordinary shares, preference shares, plural voting shares, non-voting shares, bearer shares, registered shares etc.), as such differences relate more to the nature of the shareholder’s right than to the extent of his ownership of the capital.

d)
 When a loan or other contribution to the company does not, strictly speaking, come as capital under company law but when on the basis of internal law or practice (“thin capitalisation”, or assimilation of a loan to share capital), the income derived in respect thereof is treated as dividend under Article 10, the value of such loan or contribution is also to be taken as “capital” within the meaning of subparagraph a).

e)
 In the case of bodies which do not have capital within the meaning of company law, capital for the purpose of subparagraph a) is to be taken as meaning the total of all contributions to the body which are taken into account for the purpose of distributing profits.

In bilateral negotiations, Contracting States may depart from the criterion of “capital” used in subparagraph a) of paragraph 2 and use instead the criterion of “voting power”.

16.
 Subparagraph a) of paragraph 2 does not require that the company receiving the dividends must have owned at least [10] per cent of the capital for a relatively long time before the date of the distribution. This means that all that counts regarding the holding is the situation prevailing at the time material for the coming into existence of the liability to the tax to which paragraph 2 applies, i.e. in most cases the situation existing at the time when the dividends become legally available to the shareholders. The primary reason for this resides in the desire to have a provision which is applicable as broadly as possible. To require the parent company to have possessed the minimum holding for a certain time before the distribution of the profits could involve extensive inquiries. Internal laws of certain OECD member countries provide for a minimum period during which the recipient company must have held the shares to qualify for exemption or relief  in respect of dividends received. In view of this, Contracting States may include a similar condition in their conventions.

17.
 The reduction envisaged in subparagraph a) of paragraph 2 should not be granted in cases of abuse of this provision, for example, where a company with a holding of less than [10] per cent has, shortly before the dividends become payable, increased its holding primarily for the purpose of securing the benefits of the above-mentioned provision, or otherwise, where the qualifying holding was  arranged primarily in order to obtain the reduction. To counteract such manoeuvres Contracting States may find it appropriate to add to subparagraph a) a provision along the following lines: 

provided that this holding was not acquired primarily for the purpose of taking advantage of this provision.

18. Paragraph 2 lays down nothing about the mode of taxation in the State of source. It therefore leaves that State free to apply its own laws and, in particular, to levy the tax either by deduction at source or by individual assessment. 

19. The paragraph does not settle procedural questions. Each State should be able to use the procedure provided in its own laws. It can either forthwith limit its tax to the rates given in the Article or tax in full and make a refund […]. Specific questions arise with triangular cases (see paragraph 71 of the Commentary on Article 24). 

20. It does not specify whether or not the relief in the State of source should be conditional upon the dividends being subject to tax in the State of residence. This question can be settled by bilateral negotiations. 

21. The Article contains no provisions as to how the State of the beneficiary’s residence should make allowance for the taxation in the State of source of the dividends. This question is dealt with in Articles 23 A and 23 B. 

22. Attention is drawn generally to the following case: the beneficial owner of the dividends arising in a Contracting State is a company resident of the other Contracting State; all or part of its capital is held by shareholders resident outside that other State; its practice is not to distribute its profits in the form of dividends; and it enjoys preferential taxation treatment (private investment company, base company). The question may arise whether in the case of such a company it is justifiable to allow in the State of source of the dividends the limitation of tax which is provided in paragraph 2. It may be appropriate, when bilateral negotiations are being conducted, to agree upon special exceptions to the taxing rule laid down in this Article, in order to define the treatment applicable to such companies.

Paragraph 3
14. This paragraph reproduces Article 10, paragraph 3, of the OECD Model Convention, the Commentary on which reads as follows: 

23.
 In view of the great differences between the laws of OECD member countries, it is impossible to define “dividends” fully and  exhaustively. Consequently, the definition merely mentions examples which are to be found in the majority of the member countries’  laws and which, in any case, are not treated differently in them. The  enumeration is followed up by a general formula. In the course of the revision of the 1963 Draft Convention, a thorough study has been  undertaken to find a solution that does not refer to domestic laws. This study has led to the conclusion that, in view of the still remaining dissimilarities between member countries in the field of company law and taxation law, it did not appear to be possible to work out a  definition of the concept of dividends that would be independent of domestic laws. It is open to the Contracting States, through bilateral  negotiations, to make allowance for peculiarities of their laws and to  agree to bring under the definition of “dividends” other payments by companies falling under the Article.

24.
 The notion of dividends basically concerns distributions by companies within the meaning of subparagraph b) of paragraph 1 of Article 3. Therefore the definition relates, in the first instance, to distributions of profits the title to which is constituted by shares that  is holdings in a company limited by shares (joint stock company). The definition assimilates to shares all securities issued by companies which carry a right to participate in the companies’ profits without being debt claims; such are, for example, “jouissance” shares or “jouissance” rights, founders’ shares or other rights participating in profits. In bilateral conventions, of course, this enumeration may be adapted to the legal situation in the Contracting States concerned. This may be necessary, in particular, as regards income from “jouissance” shares and founders’ shares. On the other hand, debt-claims  participating in profits do not come into this category […]; likewise  interest on convertible debentures is not a dividend.

25. 
Article 10 deals not only with dividends as such but also with interest on loans in so far as the lender effectively shares the risks run by the company, i.e. when repayment depends largely on the success or otherwise of the enterprise’s business. Articles 10 and 11 do not  therefore prevent the treatment of this type of interest as dividends  under the national rules on thin capitalisation applied in the borrower’s country. The question whether the contributor of the loan shares the risks run by the enterprise must be determined in each individual case in the light of all the circumstances, as for example the following:

the loan very heavily outweighs any other contribution to the  enterprise’s capital (or was taken out to replace a substantial portion of capital which has been lost) and is substantially unmatched by redeemable assets;

the creditor will share in any profits of the company;

 the repayment of the loan is subordinated to claims of other creditors or to the payment of dividends;

the level or payment of interest would depend on the profits of the company;

the loan contract contains no fixed provisions for repayment by a definite date
 
 
26. The laws of many of the States put participations in a société à  responsabilité limitée (limited liability company) on the same footing  as shares. Likewise, distributions of profits by cooperative societies are generally regarded as dividends.

27.
 Distributions of profits by partnerships are not dividends within the meaning of the definition, unless the partnerships are subject, in the State where their place of effective management is situated, to a fiscal treatment substantially similar to that applied to companies limited by shares (for instance, in Belgium, Portugal and Spain, also in France as regards distributions to commanditaires in the sociétés en commandite simple). On the other hand, clarification in bilateral conventions may be necessary in cases where the taxation law of a Contracting State gives the owner of holdings in a company a right to opt, under certain conditions, for being taxed as a partner of a partnership, or, vice versa, gives the partner of a partnership the right to opt for taxation as the owner of holdings in a company.

28.
 Payments regarded as dividends may include not only distributions of profits decided by annual general meetings of shareholders,  but also other benefits in money or money’s worth, such as bonus shares, bonuses, profits on a liquidation and disguised distributions of profits. The reliefs provided in the Article apply so long as the State of which the paying company is a resident taxes such benefits as dividends. It is immaterial whether any such benefits are paid out of current profits made by the company or are derived, for example, from reserves, i.e. profits of previous financial years. Normally, distributions by a company which have the effect of reducing the membership rights, for instance, payments constituting a reimbursement of capital in any form whatever, are not regarded as dividends.

29. T
he benefits to which a holding in a company confer entitlement are, as a general rule, available solely to the shareholders themselves. Should, however, certain of such benefits be made available to persons who are not shareholders within the meaning of company law, they may constitute dividends if:

the legal relations between such persons and the company are assimilated to a holding in a company (“concealed holdings”) and

 the persons receiving such benefits are closely connected with a shareholder; this is the case, for example, where the recipient is a relative of the shareholder or is a company belonging to 
the same group as the company owning the shares.
 
30. When the shareholder and the person receiving such benefits are residents of two different States with which the State of source has concluded conventions, differences of views may arise as to which of these conventions is applicable. A similar problem may arise when the State of source has concluded a convention with one of the States but not with the other. This, however, is a conflict which may affect other types of income and the solution to it can be found only through an arrangement under the mutual agreement procedure.

Paragraph 4
15. This paragraph, which makes paragraphs 1 and 2 inapplicable to  dividends on shares that are effectively connected with a permanent establishment or fixed base of the recipient in the source country, reproduces Article 10, paragraph 4, of the OECD Model Convention except the United Nations Model Convention refers to a company performing independent personal services from a fixed base. The OECD Commentary notes that paragraph 4 does not adopt a force of attraction rule, allowing dividends to be taxed as business profits if the recipient has a permanent establishment or fixed base in the source country, regardless of whether the shareholding  is connected with the permanent establishment. Rather, the paragraph only permits dividends to be taxed as business profits “[…] if they are paid in respect of holdings forming part of the assets of the permanent establishment or otherwise effectively connected with that establishment […]”. ["Paragraph 31 of the OECD Commentary on Article 10."]

The OECD Commentary also notes: 
32. It has been suggested that the paragraph could give rise to abuses through the transfer of shares to permanent establishments set  up solely for that purpose in countries that offer preferential treatment to dividend income. Apart from the fact that such abusive transactions might trigger the application of domestic anti-abuse rules, it must be recognised that a particular location can only constitute a permanent establishment if a business is carried on therein and, also, that the requirement that a shareholding be “effectively connected” to such a location requires that the shareholding be genuinely connected to that business. 

Paragraph 5 
16. This paragraph, which bars a Contracting State from taxing dividends paid by a company resident in the other State merely because the company derives income or profits in the taxing State, reproduces Article 10, paragraph 5, of the OECD Model Convention except for the reference in the United Nations Model Convention to “fixed base”. The OECD Commentary reads as follows: 

33. The Article deals only with dividends paid by a company which is a resident of a Contracting State to a resident of the other State. Certain States, however, tax not only dividends paid by companies resident therein but even distributions by non-resident companies of profits arising within their territory. Each State, of course, is entitled to tax profits arising in its territory which are made by non-resident companies, to the extent provided in the Convention (in particular in Article 7). The shareholders of such companies should not be taxed as  well at any rate, unless they are residents of the State and so naturally subject to its fiscal sovereignty. 

34. Paragraph 5 rules out the extraterritorial taxation of dividends, i.e. the practice by which States tax dividends distributed by a nonresident company solely because the corporate profits from which the distributions are made originated in their territory (for example, realised through a permanent establishment situated therein). There is, of course, no question of extraterritorial taxation when the country of source of the corporate profits taxes the dividends because they are paid to a shareholder who is a resident of that State or to a permanent establishment [or fixed base] situated in that State. 

35. Moreover, it can be argued that such a provision does not aim at, or cannot result in, preventing a State from subjecting the dividends to a withholding tax when distributed by foreign companies  if they are cashed in its territory. Indeed, in such a case, the criterion for tax liability is the fact of the payment of the dividends, and not the origin of the corporate profits allotted for distribution. But if the person cashing the dividends in a Contracting State is a resident of the other Contracting State (of which the distributing company is a resident), he may under Article 21 obtain exemption from, or refund of, the withholding tax of the first-mentioned State. Similarly, if the beneficiary of the dividends is a resident of a third State which had concluded a double taxation convention with the State where the dividends are cashed, he may, under Article 21 of that convention, obtain exemption from, or refund of, the withholding tax of the last-mentioned State. 

36. Paragraph 5 further provides that non-resident companies are not to be subjected to special taxes on undistributed profits. 

37. It might be argued that where the taxpayer’s country of residence, pursuant to its controlled foreign companies legislation or other rules with similar effect seeks to tax profits which have not been distributed, it is acting contrary to the provisions of paragraph 5. However it should be noted that the paragraph is confined to taxation at source and, thus, has no bearing on the taxation at residence under such legislation or rules. In addition, the paragraph concerns only the taxation of the company and not that of the shareholder. 

38. The application of such legislation or rules may, however, complicate the application of Article 23. If the income were attributed to the taxpayer then each item of the income would have to be treated under the relevant provisions of the Convention (business profits, interest, royalties). If the amount is treated as a deemed dividend then it is clearly derived from the base company thus constituting income from that company’s country. Even then, it is by no means clear whether the taxable amount is to be regarded as a dividend within  the meaning of Article 10 or as “other income” within the meaning of Article 21. Under some of these legislation or rules the taxable amount  is treated as a dividend with the result that an exemption provided for by a tax convention, e.g. an affiliation exemption is also extended to it. It is doubtful whether the Convention requires this to be done. If the country of residence considers that this is not the case it may face the  allegation that it is obstructing the normal operation of the affiliation exemption by taxing the dividend (in the form of “deemed dividend”) in advance. 

39. Where dividends are actually distributed by the base company, the provisions of a bilateral convention regarding dividends have to be applied in the normal way because there is dividend income within the meaning of the convention. Thus, the country of the base company may subject the dividend to a withholding tax. The country of residence of the shareholder will apply the normal methods for the elimination of double taxation (i.e. tax credit or tax exemption is granted). This implies that the withholding tax on the dividend should be credited in the shareholder’s country of residence, even if the distributed profit (the dividend) has been taxed years  before under controlled foreign companies legislation or other rules  with similar effect. However, the obligation to give credit in that case remains doubtful. Generally the dividend as such is exempted from tax (as it was already taxed under the relevant legislation or rules and one might argue that there is no basis for a tax credit. On the other hand, the purpose of the treaty would be frustrated if the crediting of taxes could be avoided by simply anticipating the dividend taxation under counteracting legislation. The general principle set out above would suggest that the credit should be granted, though the details may depend on the technicalities of the relevant legislation or rules  and the system for crediting foreign taxes against domestic tax, as well as on the particularities of the case (e.g. time lapsed since the taxation of the “deemed dividend”). However, taxpayers who have  recourse to artificial arrangements are taking risks against which they cannot fully be safeguarded by tax authorities. 

17. It may be relevant to point out that certain countries’ laws seek to avoid or mitigate economic double taxation, that is, the simultaneous taxation of the company’s profits at the level of the company and of dividends at the level of the shareholder. For a detailed consideration of this matter, it  may be instructive to refer to paragraphs 40 to 67 in the Commentary on  Article 10 of the OECD Model Convention.    

Branch profits taxes 

18. The inclusion of a branch profits tax provision in a revised United Nations Model Convention was discussed at the 1987 and 1991 meetings of the former Group of Experts. The issue was further discussed in the 1997 meeting (Eighth Meeting) of the former Group of Experts and it was considered that because only a few countries had a branch tax, the paragraph might be better placed in the commentaries and not in the main text. It would be left to the Contracting States, if they so desire, during the course of bilateral negotiations to incorporate the provisions relating to the branch profits tax in their bilateral tax treaties. Developing countries were generally not opposed to the principle of branch profits taxation, even if they did not impose a branch profits tax. 

19. Some members, while citing the justification of branch profits taxation as a means of achieving rough parity in source country taxation whether business in that country is conducted through a subsidiary corporation or a branch, maintained that the principle should be followed logically throughout the Convention. Thus, in this view, contrary to paragraph 3 of Article 7 of the United Nations Model Convention, all expenses of the permanent establishment must be deductible as if the permanent establishment were a distinct and separate enterprise dealing wholly independently with the head office. 

20. Another member from a developed country noted that his country imposed the tax in two separate parts: (i) a tax analogous to a dividend withholding tax was imposed on the “dividend equivalent amount” of a branch that was approximately the amount that would likely have been distributed as dividends if the branch were a subsidiary; and (ii) a second tax, analogous to a withholding tax on interest paid by a subsidiary resident in that country to its foreign parent, was imposed on the excess of the amount of interest deducted by the branch in computing its taxable income over the amount of interest actually paid by the branch. The principal purpose of that system was to minimize the effect of tax considerations on the foreign investor’s decision  whether to operate in the country in branch or subsidiary form. 

21. If one or both of the Contracting States impose branch profits taxes, they may include in the Convention a provision such as the following: 

Notwithstanding any other provision of this Convention, where a company which is a resident of a Contracting State has a permanent establishment in the other Contracting State, the profits taxable under Article 7, paragraph 1, may be subject to an additional tax in  that other State, in accordance with its laws, but the additional charge shall not exceed ___ per cent of the amount of those profits.    

22. The suggested provision does not recommend a maximum branch profits rate. The most common practice is to use the direct investment dividend rate (e.g. the tax rate in paragraph 2(a)). At the 1991 meeting of the former Group of Experts there was agreement among the supporters of  branch profits taxation that, in view of the principles enunciated in support of the system, the rate of tax on branch profits should be the same as that on  dividends from direct investments. However, in several treaties the branch profits tax rate was the rate for portfolio investment dividends (typically a  higher rate) and in some treaties the branch tax rate was lower than the direct investment dividend rate. Although a branch profits tax is on business profits, the provision may be included in Article 10, rather than in Article 7, because the tax is intended to be analogous to a tax on dividends. 

23. The provision allows the branch profits tax to be imposed only on profits taxable under Article 7, paragraph 1, on account of the permanent establishment. Many treaties further limit the tax base to such profits “after deducting therefrom income tax and other taxes on income imposed thereon in that other State”. Other treaties do not contain this clause because the concept is included under domestic law.

24. At the former Group of Experts 1991 meeting, attention was drawn to the fact that a branch profits tax provision could potentially conflict with a treaty’s non-discrimination clause. Since a branch profits tax is usually a second level of tax on profits of foreign corporations that is not imposed on domestic corporations carrying on the same activities, it could be viewed, as a technical matter, as prohibited by Article 24 (Non-discrimination). However, countries imposing the tax do so as an analogue to the dividend withholding tax paid on dividends from a subsidiary to its foreign parent, and they therefore consider it appropriate to include in the non-discrimination Article an explicit exception allowing imposition of the branch tax. The non-discrimination Article in several treaties with branch profits tax provisions contains the following paragraph: 

Nothing in this Article shall be construed as preventing either  Contracting State from imposing a tax as described in paragraph ___  [branch profits tax provision] of Article 10 (Dividends).

However, the branch profits tax provision suggested above makes this provision unnecessary because it applies “notwithstanding any other provision  of this Convention” and thus takes precedence over other treaty provisions, including Article 24 (Non-discrimination).

25. Some members of the former Group of Experts pointed out that there are many artificial devices entered into by persons to take advantage of the provisions of Article 10 through, inter alia, creation or assignment of shares or other rights in respect of which a dividend is paid. While substance over form rules, abuse of rights principle or any similar doctrine could be used to counter such arrangements, Contracting States, which may want to specifically address the issue, may include a clause on the following lines in their bilateral tax treaties during negotiations, namely: 

The provisions of this Article shall not apply if it was the main purpose or one of the main purposes of any person concerned with the creation or assignment of the shares or other rights in respect of which the dividend is paid to take advantage of this Article by means of that creation or assignment." 


Commentary on Article 10 of the OECD Model Tax Convention

Extract from 2014 Commentary:
"I. Preliminary remarks

1. By “dividends” is generally meant the distribution of profits to the 1 shareholders by companies limited by shares, [1 Sociétés anonymes.] limited partnerships with share capital, [2 Sociétés en commandite par actions.] limited liability companies [3 Sociétés à responsabilité limitée]or other joint stock companies. [4 Sociétés de capitaux] Under the laws of the OECD member countries, such joint stock companies are legal entities with a separate juridical personality distinct from all their shareholders. On this point, they differ from partnerships insofar as the latter do not have juridical personality in most countries.

2. The profits of a business carried on by a partnership are the partners’ profits derived from their own exertions; for them they are business profits. So the partner is ordinarily taxed personally on his share of the partnership capital and partnership profits.

3. The position is different for the shareholder; he is not a trader and the company’s profits are not his; so they cannot be attributed to him. He is personally taxable only on those profits which are distributed by the company (apart from the provisions in certain countries’ laws relating to the taxation of undistributed profits in special cases). From the shareholders’ standpoint, dividends are income from the capital which they have made available to the company as its shareholders.

II. Commentary on the provisions of the Article

Paragraph 1
4. Paragraph 1 does not prescribe the principle of taxation of dividends either exclusively in the State of the beneficiary’s residence or exclusively in the State of which the company paying the dividends is a resident.

5. Taxation of dividends exclusively in the State of source is not acceptable as a general rule. Furthermore, there are some States which do not have taxation of dividends at the source, while as a general rule, all the States tax residents in respect of dividends they receive from non-resident companies.

6. On the other hand, taxation of dividends exclusively in the State of the beneficiary’s residence is not feasible as a general rule. It would be more in keeping with the nature of dividends, which are investment income, but it would be unrealistic to suppose that there is any prospect of it being agreed that all taxation of dividends at the source should be relinquished.

7. For this reason, paragraph 1 states simply that dividends may be taxed in the State of the beneficiary’s residence. The term “paid” has a very wide meaning, since the concept of payment means the fulfilment of the obligation to put funds at the disposal of the shareholder in the manner required by contract or by custom.

8. The Article deals only with dividends paid by a company which is a resident of a Contracting State to a resident of the other Contracting State. It does not, therefore, apply to dividends paid by a company which is a resident of a third State or to dividends paid by a company which is a resident of a Contracting State which are attributable to a permanent establishment which an enterprise of that State has in the other Contracting State (for these cases, see paragraphs 4 to 6 of the Commentary on Article 21).

Paragraph 2
9. Paragraph 2 reserves a right to tax to the State of source of the dividends, i.e. to the State of which the company paying the dividends is a resident; this right to tax, however, is limited considerably. The rate of tax is limited to 15 per cent, which appears to be a reasonable maximum figure. A higher rate could hardly be justified since the State of source can already tax the company’s profits.

10. On the other hand, a lower rate (5 per cent) is expressly provided in respect of dividends paid by a subsidiary company to its parent company. If a company of one of the States owns directly a holding of at least 25 per cent in a company of the other State, it is reasonable that payments of profits by the subsidiary to the foreign parent company should be taxed less heavily to avoid recurrent taxation and to facilitate international investment. The realisation of this intention depends on the fiscal treatment of the dividends in the State of which the parent company is a resident (see paragraphs 49 to 54 of the Commentary on Articles 23 A and 23 B).

11. If a partnership is treated as a body corporate under the domestic laws applying to it, the two Contracting States may agree to modify subparagraph a) of paragraph 2 in a way to give the benefits of the reduced rate provided for parent companies also to such partnership.

12. The requirement of beneficial ownership was introduced in paragraph 2 of Article 10 to clarify the meaning of the words “paid ... to a resident” as they are used in paragraph 1 of the Article. It makes plain that the State of source is not obliged to give up taxing rights over dividend income merely because that income was paid direct to a resident of a State with which the State of source had concluded a convention.

12.1 Since the term “beneficial owner” was added to address potential difficulties arising from the use of the words “paid to … a resident” in paragraph 1, it was intended to be interpreted in this context and not to refer to any technical meaning that it could have had under the domestic law of a specific country (in fact, when it was added to the paragraph, the term did not have a precise meaning in the law of many countries).

The term “beneficial owner” is therefore not used in a narrow technical sense (such as the meaning that it has under the trust law of many common law countries [1For example, where the trustees of a discretionary trust do not distribute dividends earned during a given period, these trustees, acting in their capacity as such (or the trust, if recognised as a separate taxpayer), could constitute the beneficial owners of such income for the purposes of Article 10 even if they are not the beneficial owners under the relevant trust law.]), rather, it should be understood in its context, in particular in relation to the words “paid … to a resident”, and in light of the object and purposes of the Convention, including avoiding double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion and avoidance.

12.2 Where an item of income is paid to a resident of a Contracting State acting in the capacity of agent or nominee it would be inconsistent with the object and purpose of the Convention for the State of source to grant relief or exemption merely on account of the status of the direct recipient of the income as a resident of the other Contracting State. The direct recipient of the income in this situation qualifies as a resident but no potential double taxation arises as a consequence of that status since the recipient is not treated as the owner of the income for tax purposes in the State of residence.

12.3 It would be equally inconsistent with the object and purpose of the Convention for the State of source to grant relief or exemption where a resident of a Contracting State, otherwise than through an agency or nominee relationship, simply acts as a conduit for another person who in fact receives the benefit of the income concerned. For these reasons, the report from the Committee on Fiscal Affairs entitled “Double Taxation Conventions and the Use of Conduit Companies” [2Reproduced in Volume II of the full version of the OECD Model Tax Convention at page R(6)-1.]concludes that a conduit company cannot normally be regarded as the beneficial owner if, though the formal owner, it has, as a practical matter, very narrow powers which render it, in relation to the income concerned, a mere fiduciary or administrator acting on account of the interested parties.

12.4 In these various examples (agent, nominee, conduit company acting as a fiduciary or administrator), the direct recipient of the dividend is not the “beneficial owner” because that recipient’s right to use and enjoy the dividend is constrained by a contractual or legal obligation to pass on the payment received to another person. Such an obligation will normally derive from relevant legal documents but may also be found to exist on the basis of facts and circumstances showing that, in substance, the recipient clearly does not have the right to use and enjoy the dividend unconstrained by a contractual or legal obligation to pass on the payment received to another person. This type of obligation would not include contractual or legal obligations that are not dependent on the receipt of the payment by the direct recipient such as an obligation that is not dependent on the receipt of the payment and which the direct recipient has as a debtor or as a party to financial transactions, or typical distribution obligations of pension schemes and of collective investment vehicles entitled to treaty benefits under the principles of paragraphs 6.8 to 6.34 of the Commentary on Article 1. Where the recipient of a dividend does have the right to use and enjoy the dividend unconstrained by a contractual or legal obligation to pass on the payment received to another person, the recipient is the “beneficial owner” of that dividend. It should also be noted that Article 10 refers to the beneficial owner of a dividend as opposed to the owner of the shares, which may be different in some cases.

12.5 The fact that the recipient of a dividend is considered to be the beneficial owner of that dividend does not mean, however, that the limitation of tax provided for by paragraph 2 must automatically be granted. This limitation of tax should not be granted in cases of abuse of this provision (see also paragraphs 17 and 22 below). As explained in the section on “Improper use of the Convention” in the Commentary on Article 1, there are many ways of addressing conduit company and, more generally, treaty shopping situations. These include specific anti-abuse provisions in treaties, general anti-abuse rules and substance-over-form or economic substance approaches. Whilst the concept of “beneficial owner” deals with some forms of tax avoidance (i.e. those involving the interposition of a recipient who is obliged to pass on the dividend to someone else), it does not deal with other cases of treaty shopping and must not, therefore, be considered as restricting in any way the application of other approaches to addressing such cases.

12.6 The above explanations concerning the meaning of “beneficial owner” make it clear that the meaning given to this term in the context of the Article must be distinguished from the different meaning that has been given to that term in the context of other instruments [1See, for example, Financial Action Task Force, International Standards on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism & Proliferation – The FATF Recommendations (OECD-FATF, Paris, 2012), which sets forth in detail the international anti-money laundering standard and which includes the following definition of beneficial owner (at page 110): “the natural person(s) who ultimately owns or controls a customer and/or the person on whose behalf a transaction is being conducted. It also incorporates those persons who exercise ultimate effective control over a legal person or arrangement.” Similarly, the 2001 report of the OECD Steering Group on Corporate Governance, Behind the Corporate Veil: Using Corporate Entities for Illicit Purposes (OECD, Paris, 2001), defines beneficial ownership as follows (at page 14): In this Report, “beneficial ownership” refers to ultimate beneficial ownership or interest by a natural person. In some situations, uncovering the beneficial owner may involve piercing through various intermediary entities and/or individuals until the true owner who is a natural person is found. With respect to corporations, ownership is held by shareholders or members. In partnerships, interests are held by general and limited partners. In trusts and foundations, beneficial ownership refers to beneficiaries, which may also include the settlor or founder] that concern the determination of the persons (typically the individuals) that exercise ultimate control over entities or assets. That different meaning of “beneficial owner” cannot be applied in the context of the Article. Indeed, that meaning, which refers to natural persons (i.e. individuals), cannot be reconciled with the express wording of subparagraph 2 a), which refers to the situation where a company is the beneficial owner of a dividend. In the context of Article 10, the term “beneficial owner” is intended to address difficulties arising from the use of the words “paid to” in relation to dividends rather than difficulties related to the ownership of the shares of the company paying these dividends. For that reason, it would be inappropriate, in the context of that Article, to consider a meaning developed in order to refer to the individuals who exercise “ultimate effective control over a legal person or arrangement.” [1 See the Financial Action Task Force’s definition quoted in the previous note.]

12.7 Subject to other conditions imposed by the Article, the limitation of tax in the State of source remains available when an intermediary, such as an agent or nominee located in a Contracting State or in a third State, is interposed between the beneficiary and the payer but the beneficial owner is a resident of the other Contracting State (the text of the Model was amended in 1995 and in 2014 to clarify this point, which has been the consistent position of all member countries).

13. The tax rates fixed by the Article for the tax in the State of source are maximum rates. The States may agree, in bilateral negotiations, on lower rates or even on taxation exclusively in the State of the beneficiary’s residence. The reduction of rates provided for in paragraph 2 refers solely to the taxation of dividends and not to the taxation of the profits of the company paying the dividends.

13.1 Under the domestic laws of many States, pension funds and similar entities are generally exempt from tax on their investment income. In order to achieve neutrality of treatment as regards domestic and foreign investments by these entities, some States provide bilaterally that income, including dividends, derived by such an entity resident of the other State shall be exempt from source taxation. States wishing to do so may agree bilaterally on a provision drafted along the lines of the provision found in paragraph 69 of the Commentary on Article 18.

13.2 Similarly, some States refrain from levying tax on dividends paid to other States and some of their wholly-owned entities, at least to the extent that such dividends are derived from activities of a governmental nature. Some States are able to grant such an exemption under their interpretation of the sovereign immunity principle (see paragraphs 6.38 and 6.39 of the Commentary on Article 1); others may do it pursuant to provisions of their domestic law. States wishing to do so may confirm or clarify, in their bilateral conventions, the scope of these exemptions or grant such an exemption in cases where it would not otherwise be available. This may be done by adding to the Article an additional paragraph drafted along the following lines:

Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 2, dividends referred to in paragraph 1 shall be taxable only in the Contracting State of which the recipient is a resident if the beneficial owner of the dividends is that State or a political subdivision or local authority thereof.

14. The two Contracting States may also, during bilateral negotiations, agree to a holding percentage lower than that fixed in the Article. A lower percentage is, for instance, justified in cases where the State of residence of the parent company, in accordance with its domestic law, grants exemption to such a company for dividends derived from a holding of less than 25 per cent in a non-resident subsidiary.

15. In subparagraph a) of paragraph 2, the term “capital” is used in relation to the taxation treatment of dividends, i.e. distributions of profits to shareholders. The use of this term in this context implies that, for the purposes of subparagraph a), it should be used in the sense in which it is used for the purposes of distribution to the shareholder (in the particular case, the parent company).

a) As a general rule, therefore, the term “capital” in subparagraph a) should be understood as it is understood in company law. Other elements, in particular the reserves, are not to be taken into account.

b) Capital, as understood in company law, should be indicated in terms of par value of all shares which in the majority of cases will be shown as capital in the company’s balance sheet.

c) No account need be taken of differences due to the different classes of shares issued (ordinary shares, preference shares, plural voting shares, non-voting shares, bearer shares, registered shares, etc.), as such differences relate more to the nature of the shareholder’s right than to the extent of his ownership of the capital.

d) When a loan or other contribution to the company does not, strictly speaking, come as capital under company law but when on the basis of internal law or practice (“thin capitalisation”, or assimilation of a loan to share capital), the income derived in respect thereof is treated as dividend under Article 10, the value of such loan or contribution is also to be taken as “capital” within the meaning of subparagraph a).

e) In the case of bodies which do not have a capital within the meaning of company law, capital for the purpose of subparagraph a) is to be taken as meaning the total of all contributions to the body which are taken into account for the purpose of distributing profits.

In bilateral negotiations, Contracting States may depart from the criterion of “capital” used in subparagraph a) of paragraph 2 and use instead the criterion of “voting power”.

16. Subparagraph a) of paragraph 2 does not require that the company receiving the dividends must have owned at least 25 per cent of the capital for a relatively long time before the date of the distribution. This means that all that counts regarding the holding is the situation prevailing at the time material for the coming into existence of the liability to the tax to which paragraph 2 applies, i.e. in most cases the situation existing at the time when the dividends become legally available to the shareholders. The primary reason for this resides in the desire to have a provision which is applicable as broadly as possible. To require the parent company to have possessed the minimum holding for a certain time before the distribution of the profits could involve extensive inquiries. Internal laws of certain OECD member countries provide for a minimum period during which the recipient company must have held the shares to qualify for exemption or relief in respect of dividends received. In view of this, Contracting States may include a similar condition in their conventions.

17. The reduction envisaged in subparagraph a) of paragraph 2 should not be granted in cases of abuse of this provision, for example, where a company with a holding of less than 25 per cent has, shortly before the dividends become payable, increased its holding primarily for the purpose of securing the benefits of the above-mentioned provision, or otherwise, where the qualifying holding was arranged primarily in order to obtain the reduction. To counteract such manoeuvres Contracting States may find it appropriate to add to subparagraph a) a provision along the following lines:

provided that this holding was not acquired primarily for the purpose of taking advantage of this provision.

18. Paragraph 2 lays down nothing about the mode of taxation in the State of source. It therefore leaves that State free to apply its own laws and, in particular, to levy the tax either by deduction at source or by individual assessment.

19. The paragraph does not settle procedural questions. Each State should be able to use the procedure provided in its own laws. It can either forthwith limit its tax to the rates given in the Article or tax in full and make a refund (see, however, paragraph 26.2 of the Commentary on Article 1). Specific questions arise with triangular cases (see paragraph 71 of the Commentary on Article 24).

20. It does not specify whether or not the relief in the State of source should be conditional upon the dividends being subject to tax in the State of residence. This question can be settled by bilateral negotiations.

21. The Article contains no provisions as to how the State of the beneficiary’s residence should make allowance for the taxation in the State of source of the dividends. This question is dealt with in Articles 23 A and 23 B.

22. Attention is drawn generally to the following case: the beneficial owner of the dividends arising in a Contracting State is a company resident of the other Contracting State; all or part of its capital is held by shareholders resident outside that other State; its practice is not to distribute its profits in the form of dividends; and it enjoys preferential taxation treatment (private investment company, base company). The question may arise whether in the case of such a company it is justifiable to allow in the State of source of the dividends the limitation of tax which is provided in paragraph 2. It may be appropriate, when bilateral negotiations are being conducted, to agree upon special exceptions to the taxing rule laid down in this Article, in order to define the treatment applicable to such companies.

Paragraph 3
23. In view of the great differences between the laws of OECD member countries, it is impossible to define “dividends” fully and exhaustively. Consequently, the definition merely mentions examples which are to be found in the majority of the member countries’ laws and which, in any case, are not treated differently in them. The enumeration is followed up by a general formula. In the course of the revision of the 1963 Draft Convention, a thorough study has been undertaken to find a solution that does not refer to domestic laws. This study has led to the conclusion that, in view of the still remaining dissimilarities between member countries in the field of company law and taxation law, it did not appear to be possible to work out a definition of the concept of dividends that would be independent of domestic laws. It is open to the Contracting States, through bilateral negotiations, to make allowance for peculiarities of their laws and to agree to bring under the definition of “dividends” other payments by companies falling under the Article.

24. The notion of dividends basically concerns distributions by companies within the meaning of subparagraph b) of paragraph 1 of Article 3. Therefore the definition relates, in the first instance, to distributions of profits the title to which is constituted by shares, that is holdings in a company limited by shares (joint stock company). The definition assimilates to shares all securities issued by companies which carry a right to participate in the companies’ profits without being debt-claims; such are, for example, “jouissance” shares or “jouissance” rights, founders’ shares or other rights participating in profits. In bilateral conventions, of course, this enumeration may be adapted to the legal situation in the Contracting States concerned. This may be necessary in particular, as regards income from “jouissance” shares and founders’ shares. On the other hand, debt-claims participating in profits do not come into this category (see paragraph 19 of the Commentary on Article 11); likewise interest on convertible debentures is not a dividend.

25. Article 10 deals not only with dividends as such but also with interest on loans insofar as the lender effectively shares the risks run by the company, i.e. when repayment depends largely on the success or otherwise of the enterprise’s business. Articles 10 and 11 do not therefore prevent the treatment of this type of interest as dividends under the national rules on thin capitalisation applied in the borrower’s country. The question whether the contributor of the loan shares the risks run by the enterprise must be determined in each individual case in the light of all the circumstances, as for example the following:

— the loan very heavily outweighs any other contribution to the enterprise’s capital (or was taken out to replace a substantial proportion of capital which has been lost) and is substantially unmatched by redeemable assets;

— the creditor will share in any profits of the company;

— repayment of the loan is subordinated to claims of other creditors or to the payment of dividends;

— the level or payment of interest would depend on the profits of the company;

— the loan contract contains no fixed provisions for repayment by a definite date.

26. The laws of many of the States put participations in a société à responsabilité limitée (limited liability company) on the same footing as shares. Likewise, distributions of profits by co-operative societies are generally regarded as dividends.

27. Distributions of profits by partnerships are not dividends within the meaning of the definition, unless the partnerships are subject, in the State where their place of effective management is situated, to a fiscal treatment substantially similar to that applied to companies limited by shares (for instance, in Belgium, Portugal and Spain, also in France as regards distributions to commanditaires in the sociétés en commandite simple). On the other hand, clarification in bilateral conventions may be necessary in cases where the taxation law of a Contracting State gives the owner of holdings in a company a right to opt, under certain conditions, for being taxed as a partner of a partnership, or, vice versa, gives the partner of a partnership the right to opt for taxation as the owner of holdings in a company.

28. Payments regarded as dividends may include not only distributions of profits decided by annual general meetings of shareholders, but also other benefits in money or money’s worth, such as bonus shares, bonuses, profits on a liquidation or redemption of shares (see paragraph 31 of the Commentary on Article 13) and disguised distributions of profits. The reliefs provided in the Article apply so long as the State of which the paying company is a resident taxes such benefits as dividends. It is immaterial whether any such benefits are paid out of current profits made by the company or are derived, for example, from reserves, i.e. profits of previous financial years. Normally, distributions by a company which have the effect of reducing the membership rights, for instance, payments constituting a reimbursement of capital in any form whatever, are not regarded as dividends.

29. The benefits to which a holding in a company confer entitlement are, as a general rule, available solely to the shareholders themselves. Should, however, certain of such benefits be made available to persons who are not shareholders within the meaning of company law, they may constitute dividends if:

— the legal relations between such persons and the company are assimilated to a holding in a company (“concealed holdings”); and

— the persons receiving such benefits are closely connected with a shareholder; this is the case, for example, where the recipient is a relative of the shareholder or is a company belonging to the same group as the company owning the shares.

30. When the shareholder and the person receiving such benefits are residents of two different States with which the State of source has concluded conventions, differences of views may arise as to which of these conventions is applicable. A similar problem may arise when the State of source has concluded a convention with one of the States but not with the other. This, however, is a conflict which may affect other types of income, and the solution to it can be found only through an arrangement under the mutual agreement procedure.

Paragraph 4
31. Certain States consider that dividends, interest and royalties arising from sources in their territory and payable to individuals or legal persons who are residents of other States fall outside the scope of the arrangement made to prevent them from being taxed both in the State of source and in the State of the beneficiary’s residence when the beneficiary has a permanent establishment in the former State. Paragraph 4 is not based on such a conception which is sometimes referred to as “the force of attraction of the permanent establishment”. It does not stipulate that dividends flowing to a resident of a Contracting State from a source situated in the other State must, by a kind of legal presumption, or fiction even, be related to a permanent establishment which that resident may have in the latter State, so that the said State would not be obliged to limit its taxation in such a case. The paragraph merely provides that in the State of source the dividends are taxable as part of the profits of the permanent establishment there owned by the beneficiary which is a resident of the other State, if they are paid in respect of holdings forming part of the assets of the permanent establishment or otherwise effectively connected with that establishment. In that case, paragraph 4 relieves the State of source of the dividends from any limitations under the Article. The foregoing explanations accord with those in the Commentary on Article 7.

32. It has been suggested that the paragraph could give rise to abuses through the transfer of shares to permanent establishments set up solely for that purpose in countries that offer preferential treatment to dividend income. Apart from the fact that such abusive transactions might trigger the application of domestic anti-abuse rules, it must be recognised that a particular location can only constitute a permanent establishment if a business is carried on therein and, as explained below, that the requirement that a shareholding be “effectively connected” to such a location requires more than merely recording the shareholding in the books of the permanent establishment for accounting purposes.

32.1 A holding in respect of which dividends are paid will be effectively connected with a permanent establishment, and will therefore form part of its business assets, if the “economic” ownership of the holding is allocated to that permanent establishment under the principles developed in the Committee’s report entitled Attribution of Profits to Permanent Establishments [1 Attribution of Profits to Permanent Establishments, OECD, Paris, 2010] (see in particular paragraphs 72 to 97 of Part I of the report) for the purposes of the application of paragraph 2 of Article 7. In the context of that paragraph, the “economic” ownership of a holding means the equivalent of ownership for income tax purposes by a separate enterprise, with the attendant benefits and burdens (e.g. the right to the dividends attributable to the ownership of the holding and the potential exposure to gains or losses from the appreciation or depreciation of the holding).

32.2 In the case of the permanent establishment of an enterprise carrying on insurance activities, the determination of whether a holding is effectively connected with the permanent establishment shall be made by giving due regard to the guidance set forth in Part IV of the Committee’s report with respect to whether the income on or gain from that holding is taken into account in determining the permanent establishment’s yield on the amount of investment assets attributed to it (see in particular paragraphs 165 to 170 of Part IV). That guidance being general in nature, tax authorities should consider applying a flexible and pragmatic approach which would take into account an enterprise’s reasonable and consistent application of that guidance for purposes of identifying the specific assets that are effectively connected with the permanent establishment.

Paragraph 5
33. The Article deals only with dividends paid by a company which is a resident of a Contracting State to a resident of the other State. Certain States, however, tax not only dividends paid by companies resident therein but even distributions by non-resident companies of profits arising within their territory. Each State, of course, is entitled to tax profits arising in its territory which are made by non-resident companies, to the extent provided in the Convention (in particular in Article 7). The shareholders of such companies should not be taxed as well at any rate, unless they are residents of the State and so naturally subject to its fiscal sovereignty.

34. Paragraph 5 rules out the extra-territorial taxation of dividends, i.e. the practice by which States tax dividends distributed by a non-resident company solely because the corporate profits from which the distributions are made originated in their territory (for example, realised through a permanent establishment situated therein). There is, of course, no question of extra-territorial taxation when the country of source of the corporate profits taxes the dividends because they are paid to a shareholder who is a resident of that State or to a permanent establishment situated in that State.

35. Moreover, it can be argued that such a provision does not aim at, or cannot result in, preventing a State from subjecting the dividends to a withholding tax when distributed by foreign companies if they are cashed in its territory. Indeed, in such a case, the criterion for tax liability is the fact of the payment of the dividends, and not the origin of the corporate profits allotted for distribution. But if the person cashing the dividends in a Contracting State is a resident of the other Contracting State (of which the distributing company is a resident), he may under Article 21 obtain exemption from, or refund of, the withholding tax of the first-mentioned State. Similarly, if the beneficiary of the dividends is a resident of a third State which had concluded a double taxation convention with the State where the dividends are cashed, he may, under Article 21 of that convention, obtain exemption from, or refund of, the withholding tax of the last-mentioned State.

36. Paragraph 5 further provides that non-resident companies are not to be subjected to special taxes on undistributed profits.

37. It might be argued that where the taxpayer’s country of residence, pursuant to its controlled foreign companies legislation or other rules with similar effect seeks to tax profits which have not been distributed, it is acting contrary to the provisions of paragraph 5. However, it should be noted that the paragraph is confined to taxation at source and, thus, has no bearing on the taxation at residence under such legislation or rules. In addition, the paragraph concerns only the taxation of the company and not that of the shareholder.

38. The application of such legislation or rules may, however, complicate the application of Article 23. If the income were attributed to the taxpayer then each item of the income would have to be treated under the relevant provisions of the Convention (business profits, interest, royalties). If the amount is treated as a deemed dividend then

it is clearly derived from the base company thus constituting income from that company’s country. Even then, it is by no means clear whether the taxable amount is to be regarded as a dividend within the meaning of Article 10 or as “other income” within the meaning of Article 21. Under some of these legislation or rules the taxable amount is treated as a dividend with the result that an exemption provided for by a tax convention, e.g. an affiliation exemption, is also extended to it. It is doubtful whether the Convention requires this to be done. If the country of residence considers that this is not the case it may face the allegation that it is obstructing the normal operation of the affiliation exemption by taxing the dividend (in the form of “deemed dividend”) in advance.

39. Where dividends are actually distributed by the base company, the provisions of a bilateral convention regarding dividends have to be applied in the normal way because there is dividend income within the meaning of the convention. Thus, the country of the base company may subject the dividend to a withholding tax. The country of residence of the shareholder will apply the normal methods for the elimination of double taxation (i.e. tax credit or tax exemption is granted). This implies that the withholding tax on the dividend should be credited in the shareholder’s country of residence, even if the distributed profit (the dividend) has been taxed years before under controlled foreign companies legislation or other rules with similar effect. However, the obligation to give credit in that case remains doubtful. Generally the dividend as such is exempted from tax (as it was already taxed under the relevant legislation or rules) and one might argue that there is no basis for a tax credit. On the other hand, the purpose of the treaty would be frustrated if the crediting of taxes could be avoided by simply anticipating the dividend taxation under counteracting legislation. The general principle set out above would suggest that the credit should be granted, though the details may depend on the technicalities of the relevant legislation or rules) and the system for crediting foreign taxes against domestic tax, as well as on the particularities of the case (e.g. time lapsed since the taxation of the “deemed dividend”). However, taxpayers who have recourse to artificial arrangements are taking risks against which they cannot fully be safeguarded by tax authorities.

III. Effects of special features of the domestic tax laws of certain countries

40. Certain countries’ laws seek to avoid or mitigate economic double taxation i.e. the simultaneous taxation of the company’s profits at the level of the company and of the dividends at the level of the shareholder. There are various ways of achieving this:

— company tax in respect of distributed profits may be charged at a lower rate than that on retained profits;

— relief may be granted in computing the shareholder’s personal tax;

— dividends may bear only one tax, the distributed profits not being taxed at the level of the company.

The Committee on Fiscal Affairs has examined the question whether the special features of the tax laws of the member countries would justify solutions other than those contained in the Model Convention.

A. Dividends distributed to individuals

41. In contrast to the notion of juridical double taxation, which has, generally, a quite precise meaning, the concept of economic double taxation is less certain. Some States do not accept the validity of this concept and others, more numerously, do not consider it necessary to relieve economic double taxation at the national level (dividends distributed by resident companies to resident shareholders). Consequently, as the concept of economic double taxation was not sufficiently well defined to serve as a basis for the analysis, it seemed appropriate to study the problem from a more general economic standpoint, i.e. from the point of view of the effects which the various systems for alleviating such double taxation can have on the international flow of capital. For this purpose, it was necessary to see, among other things, what distortions and discriminations the various national systems could create; but it was necessary to have regard also to the implications for States’ budgets and for effective fiscal verification, without losing sight of the principle of reciprocity that underlies every convention. In considering all these aspects, it became apparent that the burden represented by company tax could not be wholly left out of account.

1. States with the classical system
42. The Committee has recognised that economic double taxation need not be relieved at the international level when such double taxation remains unrelieved at the national level. It therefore considers that in relations between two States with the classical system, i.e. States which do not relieve economic double taxation, the respective levels of company tax in the Contracting States should have no influence on the rate of withholding tax on the dividend in the State of source (rate limited to 15 per cent by subparagraph b) of paragraph 2 of Article 10). Consequently, the solution recommended in the Model Convention remains fully applicable in the present case.

2. States applying a split rate company tax
43. These States levy company tax at different rates according to what the company does with its profits: the high rate is charged on any profits retained and the lower rate on those distributed.

44. None of these States, in negotiating double taxation conventions, has obtained, on the grounds of its split rate of company tax, the right to levy with- holding tax of more than 15 per cent (see subparagraph b) of paragraph 2 of Article 10) on dividends paid by its companies to a shareholder who is an individual resident in the other State.

45. The Committee considered whether such a State (State B) should not be recognised as being entitled to levy withholding tax exceeding 15 per cent on dividends distributed by its companies to residents of a State with a classical system (State A), with the proviso that the excess over 15 per cent, which would be designed to offset, in relation to the shareholder concerned, the effects of the lower rate of company tax on distributed profits of companies of State B, would not be creditable against the tax payable by the shareholder in State A of which he is a resident.

46. Most member countries considered that in State B regard should be had to the average level of company tax, and that such average level should be considered as the counterpart to the charge levied in the form of a single-rate tax on companies resident of State A. The levy by State B of an additional withholding tax not credited in State A would, moreover, create twofold discrimination: on the one hand, dividends, distributed by a company resident of State B would be more heavily taxed when distributed to residents of State A than when distributed to residents of State B, and, on the other hand, the resident of State A would pay higher personal tax on his dividends from State B than on his dividends from State A. The idea of a “balancing tax” was not, therefore, adopted by the Committee.

3. States which provide relief at the shareholder’s level
47. In these States, the company is taxed on its total profits, whether distributed or not, and the dividends are taxed in the hands of the resident shareholder (an individual); the latter, however, is entitled to relief, usually as a tax credit against his personal tax, on the grounds that — in the normal course at least — the dividend has borne company tax as part of the company’s profits.

48. Internal law of these States does not provide for the extension of the tax relief to the international field. Relief is allowed only to residents and only in respect of dividends of domestic sources. However, as indicated below, some States have, in some conventions, extended the right to the tax credit provided for in their legislation to residents of the other Contracting State.

49. In many States that provide relief at the shareholder’s level, the resident shareholder receives a credit in recognition of the fact that the profits out of which the dividends are paid have already been taxed in the hands of the company. The resident shareholder is taxed on his dividend grossed up by the tax credit; this credit is set off against the tax payable and can possibly give rise to a refund. In some double taxation conventions, some countries that apply this system have agreed to extend the credit to shareholders who are residents of the other Contracting State. Whilst most States that have agreed to such extensions have done so on a reciprocal basis, a few countries have concluded conventions where they unilaterally extend the benefits of the credit to residents of the other Contracting State.

50. Some States that also provide relief at the shareholder’s level claim that under their systems the company tax remains in its entirety a true company tax, in that it is charged by reference solely to the company’s own situation, without any regard to the person and the residence of the shareholder, and in that, having been so charged, it remains appropriated to the Treasury. The tax credit given to the shareholder is designed to relieve his personal tax liability and in no way constitutes an adjustment of the company’s tax. No refund, therefore, is given if the tax credit exceeds that personal tax.

51. The Committee could not reach a general agreement on whether the systems of the States referred to in paragraph 50 above display a fundamental difference that could justify different solutions at the international level.

52. Some member countries were of the opinion that such a fundamental difference does not exist. This opinion leaves room for the conclusion that the States referred to in paragraph 50 above should agree to extend the tax credit to non-resident shareholders, at least on a reciprocal basis, in the same way as some of the countries referred to in paragraph 49 above do. Such a solution tends to ensure neutrality as regards dividends distributed by companies of these countries, the same treatment being given to resident and non-resident shareholders. On the other hand, it would in relation to shareholders who are residents of a Contracting State (a State with a classical system in particular) encourage investment in a State that provides relief at the shareholder’s level since residents of the first State would receive a tax credit (in fact a refund of company tax) for dividends from the other State while they do not receive one for dividends from their own country. However, these effects are similar to those which present themselves between a State applying a split rate company tax and a State with a classical system or between two States with a classical system one of which has a lower company tax rate than the other (paragraphs 42 and 43 to 46 above).

53. On the other hand, many member countries stressed the fact that a determination of the true nature of the tax relief given under the systems of the States referred to in paragraph 50 above reveals a mere alleviation of the shareholder’s personal income tax in recognition of the fact that his dividend will normally have borne company tax. The tax credit is given once and for all (forfaitaire) and is therefore not in exact relation to the actual company tax appropriate to the profits out of which the dividend is paid. There is no refund if the tax credit exceeds the personal income tax.

54. As the relief in essence is not a refund of company tax but an alleviation of the personal income tax, the extension of the relief to non-resident shareholders who are not subject to personal income tax in the countries concerned does not come into consideration. On the other hand, however, on this line of reasoning, the question whether States which provide relief at the shareholder’s level should give relief against personal income tax levied from resident shareholders on foreign dividends deserves attention. In this respect it should be observed that the answer is in the affirmative if the question is looked at from the standpoint of neutrality as regards the source of the dividends; otherwise, residents of these States will be encouraged to acquire shares in their own country rather than abroad. But such an extension of the tax credit would be contrary to the principle of reciprocity: not only would the State concerned thereby be making a unilateral budgetary sacrifice (allowing the tax credit over and above the withholding tax levied in the other State), but it would do so without receiving any economic compensation, since it would not be encouraging residents of the other State to acquire shares in its own territory.

55. To overcome these objections, it might be a conceivable proposition, amongst other possibilities, that the State of source — which will have collected company tax on dividends distributed by resident companies — should bear the cost of the tax credit that a State which provides relief at the shareholder’s level would allow, by transferring funds to that State. As, however, such transfers are hardly favoured by the States this might be more simply achieved by means of a “compositional” arrangement under which the State of source would relinquish all withholding tax on dividends paid to residents of the other State, and the latter would then allow against its own tax, not the 15 per cent withholding tax (abolished in the State of source) but a tax credit similar to that which it gives on dividends of domestic source.

56. When everything is fully considered, it seems that the problem can be solved only in bilateral negotiations, where one is better placed to evaluate the sacrifices and advantages which the Convention must bring for each Contracting State.

57. [Deleted]

58. [Deleted]

B. Dividends distributed to companies

59. Comments above relating to dividends paid to individuals are generally applicable to dividends paid to companies which hold less than 25 per cent of the capital of the company paying the dividends. The treatment of dividends paid to collective investment vehicles raises particular issues which are addressed in paragraphs 6.8 to 6.34 of the Commentary on Article 1.

60. In respect of dividends paid to companies which hold at least 25 per cent of the capital of the company paying the dividends, the Committee has examined the incidence which the particular company taxation systems quoted in paragraphs 42 and following have on the tax treatment of dividends paid by the subsidiary.

61. Various opinions were expressed in the course of the discussion. Opinions diverge even when the discussion is limited to the taxation of subsidiaries and parent companies. They diverge still more if the discussion takes into account more general economic considerations and extends to the taxation of shareholders of the parent company.

62. In their bilateral conventions States have adopted different solutions, which were motivated by the economic objectives and the peculiarities of the legal situation of those States, by budgetary considerations, and by a whole series of other factors. Accordingly, no generally accepted principles have emerged. The Committee did nevertheless consider the situation for the more common systems of company taxation.

1. Classical system in the State of the subsidiary
(paragraph 42 above)

63. The provisions of the Convention have been drafted to apply when the State of which the distributing company is a resident has a so-called “classical” system of company taxation, namely one under which distributed profits are not entitled to any benefit at the level either of the company or of the shareholder (except for the purpose of avoiding recurrent taxation of inter-company dividends).

2. Split-rate company tax system in the State of the subsidiary
(paragraphs 43 to 46 above)

64. States of this kind collect company tax on distributed profits at a lower rate than on retained profits which results in a lower company tax burden on profits distributed by a subsidiary to its parent company. In view of this situation, most of these States have obtained, in their conventions, rates of tax at source of 10 or 15 per cent, and in some cases even above 15 per cent. It has not been possible in the Committee to get views to converge on this question, the solution of which is left to bilateral negotiations.

3. Imputation system in the State of the subsidiary
(paragraphs 47 and following)

65. In such States, a company is liable to tax on the whole of its profits, whether distributed or not; the shareholders resident of the State of which the distributing company is itself a resident are subject to tax on dividends distributed to them, but receive a tax credit in consideration of the fact that the profits distributed have been taxed at company level.

66. The question has been considered whether States of this kind should extend the benefit of the tax credit to the shareholders of parent companies resident of another State, or even to grant the tax credit directly to such parent companies. It has not been possible in the Committee to get views to converge on this question, the solution of which is left to bilateral negotiations.

67. If, in such a system, profits, whether distributed or not, are taxed at the same rate, the system is not different from a “classical” one at the level of the distributing company. Consequently, the State of which the subsidiary is a resident can only levy a tax at source at the rate provided in subparagraph a) of paragraph 2.

IV. Distributions by Real Estate Investment Trusts

67.1 In many States, a large part of portfolio investment in immovable property is done through Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). A REIT may be loosely described as a widely held company, trust or contractual or fiduciary arrangement that derives its income primarily from long-term investment in immovable property, distributes most of that income annually and does not pay income tax on the income related to immovable property that is so distributed. The fact that the REIT vehicle does not pay tax on that income is the result of tax rules that provide for a single-level of taxation in the hands of the investors in the REIT.

67.2 The importance and the globalisation of investments in and through REITs have led the Committee on Fiscal Affairs to examine the tax treaty issues that arise from such investments. The results of that work appear in a report entitled “Tax Treaty Issues Related to REITS.” [1 Reproduced in Volume II of the full version of the OECD Model Tax Convention at R(23)-1]

67.3 One issue discussed in the report is the tax treaty treatment of cross-border distributions by a REIT. In the case of a small investor in a REIT, the investor has no control over the immovable property acquired by the REIT and no connection to that property. Notwithstanding the fact that the REIT itself will not pay tax on its distributed income, it may therefore be appropriate to consider that such an investor has not invested in immovable property but, rather, has simply invested in a company and should be treated as receiving a portfolio dividend. Such a treatment would also reflect the blended attributes of a REIT investment, which combines the attributes of both shares and bonds. In contrast, a larger investor in a REIT would have a more particular interest in the immovable property acquired by the REIT; for that investor, the investment in the REIT may be seen as a substitute for an investment in the underlying property of the REIT. In this situation, it would not seem appropriate to restrict the source taxation of the distribution from the REIT since the REIT itself will not pay tax on its income.

67.4 States that wish to achieve that result may agree bilaterally to replace paragraph 2 of the Article by the following:

2. However, such dividends may also be taxed in the Contracting State of which the company paying the dividends is a resident and according to the laws of that State, but if the beneficial owner of the dividends is a resident of the other Contracting State (other than a beneficial owner of dividends paid by a company which is a REIT in which such person holds, directly or indirectly, capital that represents at least 10 per cent of the value of all the capital in that company), the tax so charged shall not exceed:

a) 5 per cent of the gross amount of the dividends if the beneficial owner is a company (other than a partnership) which holds directly at least 25 per cent of the capital of the company paying the dividends (other than a paying company that is a REIT);

b) 15 per cent of the gross amount of the dividends in all other cases.

According to this provision, a large investor in a REIT is an investor holding, directly or indirectly, capital that represents at least 10 per cent of the value of all the REIT’s capital. States may, however, agree bilaterally to use a different threshold. Also, the provision applies to all distributions by a REIT; in the case of distributions of capital gains, however, the domestic law of some countries provides for a different threshold to differentiate between a large investor and a small investor entitled to taxation at the rate applicable to portfolio dividends and these countries may wish to amend the provision to preserve that distinction in their treaties. Finally, because it would be inappropriate to restrict the source taxation of a REIT distribution to a large investor, the drafting of subparagraph a) excludes dividends paid by a REIT from its application; thus, the subparagraph can never apply to such dividends, even if a company that did not hold capital representing 10 per cent or more of the value of the capital of a REIT held at least 25 per cent of its capital as computed in accordance with paragraph 15 above. The State of source will therefore be able to tax such distributions to large investors regardless of the restrictions in subparagraphs a) and b).

67.5 Where, however, the REITs established in one of the Contracting States do not qualify as companies that are residents of that Contracting State, the provision will need to be amended to ensure that it applies to distributions by such REITs.

67.6 For example, if the REIT is a company that does not qualify as a resident of the State, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Article will need to be amended as follows to achieve that result:

1. Dividends paid by a company which is a resident, or a REIT organised under the laws, of a Contracting State to a resident of the other Contracting State may be taxed in that other State.

2. However, such dividends may also be taxed in, and according to the laws of, the Contracting State of which the company paying the dividends is a resident or, in the case of a REIT, under the laws of which it has been organised, but if the beneficial owner of the dividends is a resident of the other Contracting State (other than a beneficial owner of dividends paid by a company which is a REIT in which such person holds, directly or indirectly, capital that represents at least 10 per cent of the value of all the capital in that company), the tax so charged shall not exceed:

a) 5 per cent of the gross amount of the dividends if the beneficial owner is a company (other than a partnership) which holds directly at least 25 per cent of the capital of the company paying the dividends (other than a paying company that is a REIT);

b) 15 per cent of the gross amount of the dividends in all other cases.

67.7 Similarly, in order to achieve that result where the REIT is structured as a trust or as a contractual or fiduciary arrangement and does not qualify as a company, States may agree bilaterally to add to the alternative version of paragraph 2 set forth in paragraph 67.4 above an additional provision drafted along the following lines:

For the purposes of this Convention, where a REIT organised under the laws of a Contracting State makes a distribution of income to a resident of the other Contracting State who is the beneficial owner of that distribution, the distribution of that income shall be treated as a dividend paid by a company resident of the first-mentioned State.

Under this additional provision, the relevant distribution would be treated as a dividend and not, therefore, as another type of income (e.g. income from immovable property or capital gain) for the purposes of applying Article 10 and the other Articles of the Convention. Clearly, however, that would not change the characterisation of that distribution for purposes of domestic law so that domestic law treatment would not be affected except for the purposes of applying the limitations imposed by the relevant provisions of the Convention.


Observations on the Commentary 

68. Canada and the United Kingdom do not adhere to paragraph 24 above. Under their law, certain interest payments are treated as distributions, and are therefore included in the definition of dividends.

68.1 Belgium cannot share the views expressed in paragraph 37 of the Commentary. Belgium considers that paragraph 5 of Article 10 is a particular application of a general principle underlying various provisions of the Convention (paragraph 7 of Article 5, paragraph 1 of Article 7, and paragraphs 1 and 5 of Article 10), which is the prohibition for a Contracting State, except in exceptional cases expressly provided for in the Convention, to levy a tax on the profits of a company which is a resident of the other Contracting State. Paragraph 5, which deals with taxation where the income has its source, confirms this general prohibition and provides that the prohibition applies even where the undistributed profits derived by the entity that is a resident of the other Contracting State arise from business carried out in the State of source. Paragraph 5 prohibits the taxation of the undistributed profits of the foreign entity even where the State where those profits arise taxes them in the hands of a resident shareholder. The fact that a Contracting State taxes one of its residents on profits that are beneficially owned by a resident of the other State cannot change the nature of the profits, their beneficiary and, therefore, the allocation of the taxing rights on these profits.

68.2 With reference to paragraph 37, Ireland notes its general observation in paragraph 27.5 of the Commentary on Article 1.


Reservations on the Article 

Paragraph 2
69. [Deleted]

70. [Deleted]

71. [Deleted]

72. The United States reserves the right to provide that shareholders of certain pass-through entities, such as Regulated Investment Companies and Real Estate Investment Trusts, will not be granted the direct dividend investment rate, even if they would qualify based on their percentage ownership.

73. [Deleted]

74. In view of its particular taxation system, Chile retains its freedom of action with regard to the provisions in the Convention relating to the rate and form of distribution of profits by companies.

75. Israel, Mexico, Portugal and Turkey reserve their positions on the rates of tax in paragraph 2.

76. Estonia reserves the right not to include the requirement for the competent authorities to settle by mutual agreement the mode of application of paragraph 2.

77. Poland reserves its position on the minimum percentage for the holding (25 per cent) and the rates of tax (5 per cent and 15 per cent).

Paragraph 3
78. Belgium reserves the right to broaden the definition of dividends in paragraph 3 so as to cover expressly income — even when paid in the form of interest — which is subjected to the same taxation treatment as income from shares by its internal law.

79. Denmark reserves the right, in certain cases, to consider as dividends the selling price derived from the sale of shares.

80. France and Mexico reserve the right to amplify the definition of dividends in paragraph 3 so as to cover all income subjected to the taxation treatment of distributions.

81. Canada and Germany reserve the right to amplify the definition of dividends in paragraph 3 so as to cover certain interest payments which are treated as distributions under their domestic law.

81.1 Portugal reserves the right to amplify the definition of dividends in paragraph 3 so as to cover certain payments, made under profit participation arrangements, which are treated as distributions under its domestic law.

81.2 Chile and Luxembourg reserve the right to expand the definition of dividends in paragraph 3 in order to cover certain payments which are treated as distributions of dividends under their domestic law.

82. Israel reserves the right to exclude payments made by a Real Estate Investment Trust which is a resident of Israel from the definition of dividends in paragraph 3 and to tax those payments according to its domestic law.

82.1 Estonia reserves the right to replace, in paragraph 3, the words “income from other corporate rights” by “income from other rights”.

Paragraph 5
83. Canada and the United States reserve the right to impose their branch tax on the earnings of a company attributable to a permanent establishment situated in these countries. Canada also reserves the right to impose this tax on profits attributable to the alienation of immovable property situated in Canada by a company carrying on a trade in immovable property.

84. [Deleted]

85. Turkey reserves the right to tax, in a manner corresponding to that provided by paragraph 2 of the Article, the part of the profits of a company of the other Contracting State that carries on business through a permanent establishment situated in Turkey that remains after taxation pursuant to Article 7."