Mastering U.S. Permanent Establishment Tax Under New OECD Guidance vs. General Tax Treaty Approach

Navigating Income Attribution Rules in the U.S. Model Income Tax Convention and Recently Signed Tax Treaties

Recording of a 110-minute CPE webinar with Q&A

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Conducted on Thursday, April 20, 2017

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Course Materials

This CPE course will provide U.S. tax advisers and corporate tax executives with a practical guide to navigating the permanent establishment rules for foreign corporations conducting business in the United States. The panel will discuss the evolving standards for determining whether a foreign entity has a U.S. taxable presence and offer useful guidance in identifying and calculating income associated with that presence. The webinar will detail the recent OECD guidance on treaty-based attribution rules and contrast this approach with the application of U.S. domestic tax law and other U.S. income tax treaties.


An often complex challenge for U.S. corporate tax advisers of foreign companies is the allocation of U.S. taxable income arising from a “permanent establishment” (PE) in the United States. The critical first step in calculating such income and resulting U.S. tax obligations is determining what standards apply in deciding whether a foreign corporation has a PE that would create a taxable presence. U.S. domestic tax law often conflicts with specific tax treaty provisions, creating both risk and opportunity for corporate tax advisers, and recent OECD guidance likely will create further complications.

Foreign-based multinational companies conducting business in the United States face varied tax treatment of their income and activities, depending on whether the corporation’s country of residence has an income tax treaty with the United States. All U.S. bilateral income tax treaties contain a “permanent establishment” provision, which exempts a nonresident corporation’s business profits from taxation unless the profits are attributable to a permanent establishment within the host country. Depending on the tax rates in the treaty countries, creating a PE in the United States can either reduce or increase a foreign-based multinational’s foreign tax expense, and may be a useful planning tool.

The recent guidance from OECD would further complicates the process of calculating profits attributable to a PE. Under the OECD “authorized approach,” multinationals will be required to treat business units with a PE as “functionally separate entities” which will use arm’s length transfer pricing standards to calculate business profits subject to host country tax. Tax advisers to foreign-based multinationals need to have a working knowledge of the risks and opportunities involved with the OECD permanent establishment approach.

Our experienced panel will provide a practical and thorough approach to the evolving permanent establishment rules for foreign-based multinational companies with U.S. branch operations to minimize costly withholding, reporting requirements and significant tax and penalties.



  1. Effectively connected income vs. permanent establishment
  2. Business profits attributable to a permanent establishment under U.S. Treaties
  3. Authorized OECD approach
    1. Transfer-pricing guidelines
    2. Comparison to the 2016 U.S. Model Treaty
    3. Permanent establishment treated as “functionally separate entity”
  4. Forgoing treaty benefits
    1. A treaty’s reduction (possibly to 0%) of the Code’s standard 30% withholding tax on dividends, interest and royalties
    2. Future impact of forgoing treaty benefits
    3. Consistency principle


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What factors should tax advisers to multinationals consider when deciding what standard to use in determining whether to avail the branch of treaty benefits under a permanent establishment analysis?
  • What are the possible advantages of the new OECD “authorized approach” to multinationals with U.S.-based permanent establishment branches
  • When should a multinational elect to forego treaty benefits?


Norman, William
William K. Norman, J.D., LL.M. (Taxation)

Ord & Norman

Mr. Norman practices as a tax lawyer. He limits his practice to international tax planning and compliance for high net...  |  Read More

Dan Cassidy, CPA
Dan Cassidy, CPA

Clark Nuber

Mr. Cassidy is well-known for his expertise in the international arena, including tax planning, investment, and...  |  Read More

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