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HMRC internal manual

International Exchange of Information Manual

Legal framework for exchange: Types of international agreement: Double taxation agreements

A double taxation agreement (or treaty, or convention) is a bilateral agreement between two contracting states. These agreements handle an array of different matters, with one of the principle purposes being to eliminate double taxation and define who gets taxing rights when a person conducts business in both jurisdictions.  INTM152000 contains detailed guidance on double taxation agreements in the wider context.

See the double tax treaties in force at Gov.uk.

Exchange of information is an important feature of bilateral treaties, ensuring each jurisdiction has the ability to obtain the necessary information to apply the other Articles of the treaty –for example to reach mutual agreement on the arm’s length price of a transaction the contracting states need to be able to discuss the customer information they each hold. Exchanging tax information to combat cross-border avoidance and evasion is also an aim in itself.  Information can therefore be exchanged for a wide variety of purposes.

The taxes covered will be described in the agreement and may be limited to a list (normally of direct taxes), or cover taxes of every kind and description, as explained in IEIM200200.   There are several places in a tax treaty that interact to provide this answer:

  • First look at the ‘Taxes Covered’ article;

  • Then check the ‘Exchange of Information’ article to see if this expands on the taxes covered for the purposes of exchange;

  • Then check to see if there are any protocols appended to the tax treaty which have force alongside it and cover exchange of information.

 

Double Tax Agreements are brought into UK law through Regulations dedicated to each Agreement or amendment to an Agreement; these are made under the powers in FA06/s173 with regard to information exchange (and TIOPA10 for the other functions of the Agreement).

Information exchanged under bilateral agreements cannot be disclosed to other taxation authorities without permission (IEIM101600). If you want to correspond simultaneously with multiple jurisdictions on a customer you should consider a joint audit (IEIM130300).


Example

A UK Competent Authority arranges a conference call between case teams in the UK and Jurisdiction B to discuss a major reorganisation of a multinational group. Information is exchanged on the call under the exchange of information article of the bilateral double taxation agreement.  Further exchanges of information follow in writing under the DTA. Three months later Jurisdiction C requests a case conference with the UK to discuss the same reorganisation under the respective bilateral agreement.  The UK Competent Authority will ensure that no information obtained from Jurisdiction B is passed to Jurisdiction C. 

Had the three jurisdictions come together at an earlier stage, they could have considered a joint audit to work together on the case.