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Balakina Z.V. Legal Problems of Defining the Scope of the Concept of 'Beneficial Owner of Income': When the Concept is Applied to Cases Unspecified by Tax Treaties

Published in journal "Taxes and Taxation", 2016-2 in rubric "International Tax Law", pages 143-157.

Resume: The subject of the present research is the practically important problem of defining the scope of the international tax concept of the 'beneficial owner of income'. This problem is being viewed from the following two points at issue: 1) whether the concept of 'beneficial owner of income' covers only passive incomes (dividends, interests and royalties) or 'other incomes' unspecified by articles of tax traties or it is of general nature and therefore covers all incomes falling within tax treaties; 2) whether this concept applies to passive incomes only when articles of treaties explicitly provide for such a restrictive condition or also in cases when they do not clearly state that a foreign receiver of income has to be recognized as 'beneficial owner of income'. Solution of these issues has a high doctrinal and practical importance including that for the purposes of the proper application of Russia's tax treaties. For the present time effective versions of Clause 3 of Article 7 of the Tax Code of the Russian Federation and Clause 2 of Article 7 of the Tax Code of the Russian Federation that regulate the concept of 'beneficial owner of income' have obvious contradictions: Clause 3 of Article 7 of the Tax Code of the Russian Federation provides for a restricted approach and Clause 2 of Article 7 of the Tax Code of the Russian Federation offers a broadside approach to defining the scope of the concept of 'beneficial owner of income'. The need to eliminate the aforesaid contradiction, on top of everything else, prove that this is an important topic to be studied. The author fo the article conducts an in-depth research of different opinions of foreign and Russian scientists on the matter. In the course of the research the author has used general research methods such as generalization, induction, deduction, systems and logical analysis, as well as specific methods of legal research such as technical legal method, comparative law method and method of interpreting legal provisions. As a result of the research, the author has developed the following provisions that have the scientific novelty: 1) In order to apply provisions of the Russian Federation tax treaties, a foreign company receiving passive income must have the status of 'beneficial owner of income' whatever Articles 10, 11 and 12 of the tax treaties state. Based on the analysis of the approaches of foreign and Russian researchers as well as legal precedents it would be reasonable to regard the concept of 'beneficial owner of income' to be 'implicit' in all treaties as provisions of these treaties must be interpreted according to the subject matter and objectives of tax treaties including prevention of 'treaty shopping'. With that in mind, provisions of Clause 1 of Article 11 'Interests' and clause 1 of Article 12 'Royalties' of the treaties between the Russian Federation, Cyprus and Luxemburg should be interpreted as implying the concept of 'beneficial owner of income' even though they do not explicitly state a restrictive condition of 'beneficial owner of income'. 2) However, the concept of 'beneficial owner of income' should not be applied to other incomes unless treaties explicitly state it as, for example, Article 21 of the Tax Convention between the Russian Federation and Great Britain provides for. 

Keywords: beneficial owner of income, double tax avoidance conventions, anti-avoidance tax concept, passive incomes, another incomes, paid to resident, OECD Commentaries, general anti-avoidance rules, implied concept, treaty shopping

DOI: 10.7256/1812-8688.2016.2.17766

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