The case concerned a complex financing structure within the General Electric Group. The taxpayer, GE Financial Investments Ltd (GEFI Ltd), a UK resident company was the limited partner in a Delaware limited partnership, of which, GE Financial Investments Inc (GEFI Inc) a Delaware corporation was the general partner.
GEFI Ltd filed UK company tax returns for FY 2003-2008 in which the company claimed a foreign tax credit for US federal income tax. In total, US federal income taxes amounted to $ 303 millions and exceeded the amount of tax due in the UK.
The tax authorities opened an enquiry into each of GEFI’s company tax returns for the relevant period, and subsequently issued an assessment where the claims for foreign tax credits was denied in their entirety.
Judgement of the Tax Tribunal
The tribunal dismissed the appeal of GEFI Ltd and ruled that the UK company did not carry on business in the US. Hence GEFI Ltd was not entitled to a foreign tax credit.
“By contrast the construction of Article 4 advanced by HMRC requires both worldwide taxation and a connection or attachment to the contracting state concerned. In my judgment, this is the correct approach as it takes into account the common feature or similarity of domicile, residence, citizenship etc, in the context of the Convention, ie that they are all criteria providing, in addition to the imposition of a worldwide liability to tax, a “connection” or “attachment” of a person to the contracting state concerned. Such an interpretation is consistent with Widrig (see paragraphs 44 – 46, above) and Vogel (see paragraph 47, above) and Crown Forest which, as Ms McCarthy submits, when properly understood in context is authority for the proposition that full or worldwide taxation is a necessary feature of the connecting criterion but is not sufficient of itself.
Although her further submission, that, other than the imposition of a worldwide liability to US tax, share stapling has no US law consequences at federal or state level (eg it does not carry with it US filing or reporting obligations or make a stapled overseas company’s constitutional documents subject to or dependent on US law), was not supported by evidence, I agree that, given the differences that do exist for tax purposes (see paragraph 29, above) the connection or attachment is between the stapled entities rather than to the country concerned.
66. Therefore, in the absence of the necessary connection or attachment by GEFI to the US, and despite Mr Baker’s persuasive submissions to the contrary, I do not consider that GEFI was a resident of the US for the purposes of Article 4 of the Convention by reason of the share staple between it and GEFI Inc. As such it is necessary to consider Issue 2, the Permanent Establishment Issue.
However, Ms McCarthy confirmed that, should I conclude that the activities of the LP are sufficient to amount to the carrying on of a business, there is no separate dispute as to whether that business is carried on in Stamford, Connecticut, or some other location.
71. As such, it is therefore necessary to consider what is in effect the only issue between the parties under issue 2(a), namely whether, as it contends, GEFI by its participation in the LP carried on a business in the US or, as HMRC argue, it did not.”
I agree with Ms McCarthy who submits that there is nothing to suggest that personnel or agents acting on behalf of the LP made or conducted continuous and regular commercial activities in the US. All that appears to have happened was that monies were directed straight to GELCO without negotiating terms or the consideration at a director level as would have been expected from a company carrying on commercial activities on sound business principles.
Therefore, notwithstanding its objects, and having regard to the degree of activity as a whole, particularly the lack of participation in the strategic direction of the LP by the directors of GEFI Inc, I have come to the conclusion that GEFI was not carrying on a business in the US through its participation in the LP.
Having concluded for the reasons above that GEFI did not carry on business in the US it is not necessary to address Issue 2(b), ie whether, if GEFI had carried out business in the US, US tax was payable under US law and if so whether the UK is required under Article 24(4)(a) to give relief against this US tax.
Therefore, for the reasons above the appeal is dismissed.”
UKFTT 210 (TC) TC08160″]