Business Standard

FPIS from Mauritius to face greater scrutiny after tax treaty revision


Foreign portfolio investors (FPIS) from Mauritius may face higher scrutiny after the amendment in the India-mauritius tax treaty introduced a principle purpose test (PPT) to prevent treaty abuse by taxpayers.

The Mauritius government had in February decided to amend the double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) with India to align with the Organisati­on for Economic Cooperatio­n and Developmen­t’s proposal on base erosion and profit shifting. Although the agreement between India and Mauritius was signed on March 7, the protocol of the amendment was made public for the first time on Wednesday, said legal experts. The norms are yet to be notified by the Indian government, after which they will take effect. Under PPT, taxpayers will be able to avail of the benefits under the agreement only when they can establish that the benefit is in accordance with the relevant provisions, including ‘substance’ requiremen­ts.

Substance refers to the basic requiremen­ts mandated for the fund on employees, offices, turnover, expenses, etc., to operate in a specific country.

“Even if one of the principal reasons for choosing Mauritius is tax benefit, then treaty benefit can be denied... Some taxpayers could therefore find it difficult to argue that of all the reasons why they chose Mauritius, obtaining a tax advantage was not one of them,” said Rajesh Gandhi, a partner at Deloitte. “Circular 789, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court, conclusive­ly sets out that a tax residency certificat­e is adequate proof of tax residency to claim benefits under the India-mauritius tax treaty. However, the introducti­on of PPT may now imply the necessity for a closer scrutiny of the commercial substance and rationale while claiming relief under the treaty,” said Arijit Ghosh, member, internatio­nal tax at Nishith Desai Associates. According to data from the National Securities Depository,

Mauritius ranks fourth in the list of countries with the highest assets under custody (AUC) in India after the US, Singapore, and Luxembourg.

The total AUC for Mauritius is ~4.18 trillion, and the total number of FPIS registered in the jurisdicti­on is over 600. However, legal experts are divided on whether investment­s and capital gains before 2017 will be grandfathe­red or given exemption from tax implicatio­ns after the new amendment.

“Unlike the grandfathe­ring of pre-2017 investment­s under General Anti-avoidance Rule, the protocol does not contain any such exemption, and therefore past investment­s can be scrutinise­d subject to tax reassessme­nt conditions,” said Gandhi.

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