International tax treaties determine why hedge funds are located where they are, how motion pictures are financed, whether the dispatch of employees abroad is economical, and why financial assets follow prescribed international paths. They determine why Netherlands and Luxembourg have a large positive balance of trade with the United States, and why recording studios are established in the Caribbean. They determine whether bank accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein are really secret. While tax treaties ostensibly are only about dividing up tax bases between countries and exchanging information between sovereigns, in reality they channel the flow of investment and development in the global economy.
This course assumes that students have some familiarity with basic tax treaty concepts and examines how provisions of the OECD Model Treaty and the United States Model Treaty are used by tax practitioners to achieve specific business objectives. Students will acquire an understanding of how treaty provisions help shape economic and financial decisions in different industries and economic sectors. The course uses examples drawn from actual practice to illustrate the creative use of tax treaty provisions. It is designed to be an interactive experience, with students working on case studies, discussing alternative approaches, and using different jurisdictions and changes in the form of the underlying transaction to achieve desirable tax results.
This course is intended to teach the concepts underlying the United States Model Tax Treaty and the OECD Model Tax Treaty. By the end of the course, students are expected to understand how tax treaties are organized and be able to apply the model tax treaties to factual situations in which the tax treaties are applicable.
At the same time, the course is intended to challenge the student to be aware of the ethical challenges and risks of practice in the area of international taxation. More and more, tax authorities are not only looking to penalize a taxpayer for improper tax planning, but also the tax advisor who recommended the course of action followed by the taxpayer. By the end of the course, students are expected to be able to understand where the borders of ethical behavior are when developing international tax structures and to be able to analyze risks to the clients and themselves when working in this area.
Finally, the course is intended to reinforce principles of close reading and attention to the specific wording used in the tax treaties and cases interpreting the tax treaties. By the end of the course, students are expected to be able to read and understand why specific words are used in tax treaties and the significance of these words.