Flexible Working – Key Considerations For The Tax Function

An interview with Karine Halimi-Guez, Managing Director & Global Tax Integration Lead for FedEx Corporation.

In recent months, Sal Partners has been sharing the views of several influential figures from across the Dutch market. In our latest “Insights” publication, Karine Halimi-Guez, Managing Director & Global Tax Integration Lead for FedEx Corporation has shared her thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on the tax profession, in particular areas to consider as the population transitions to a more flexible approach to working.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and are not connected in any capacity to that of FedEx Corporation.

Q. How would you rate the ‘’working from home’’ experiment from a people perspective?

I am an enthusiastic supporter of remote working. Whilst I have already enjoyed such flexibility during my time living in the US, the scale of today’s experiment is obviously unprecedented, demonstrating that nothing is impossible. To provide some context, I am leading a global project which aims at reshaping the corporate legal structure in 45 countries: you cannot dream of a more complex cross functional and multi-jurisdictional project where alignment is paramount. Not being able to travel clearly was a huge hurdle for us, and yet, the team delivered enthusiastically.

I believe the key to this success is to empower people even more; make them proud of the marks they are leaving on the business. There is no room for micro managers, especially when the team works remotely. Demonstrating empathy during times of crisis, whilst we navigate this transition period and adapt to this new form of working does not mean asking less but asking more flexibly; you can achieve so much more. I do believe that a well-managed remote team is a win for the team as well as for the company. It impacts numerous areas such as:

(i) Corporate culture;
(ii) Delivery;
(iii) Employee engagement;
(iv) Talent pool and importantly;
(v) Brand.

All of which helps support the cultural change programmes we all seek to implement.

Q. Do you see an impact specific to tax departments?

Not from a people perspective. Tax people are no different and demand to be empowered and proud. However, the tax technical ramifications are vast.

(i) From a PE perspective. The OECD clarified that given the exceptional and temporary nature of the situation, people working from home -and thus also potentially from another country- could not give rise to new PEs, whether in view of a fixed place of business or through agency PE. While this is a welcome guidance, one may always fear some opportunistic reactions from aggressive jurisdictions.

(ii) Second, they can be particularly relevant for personal taxation. Several countries (Benelux/FR/CH/DE for example) have already clarified that the time spent by commuters working from home instead of the host country would still count as days worked abroad (or in country only if that was the taxpayer’s preference). Prospectively, the extension of remote working beyond the boundaries of states will increase the number of non-resident employees requiring specific payroll, health insurance and pension setups.

(iii) Finally, from a corporate perspective, it feels that the value chain analysis has suddenly aged a century. Will the BEPS cherished notion of substance end up dissolving itself in a world where people work from anywhere? How will DEMPE functions be analysed? Does it mean that the people in scope of DEMPE functions will have to be left out of the Work from Home debate?

Q. Wasn’t the debate on digital taxation already threatening that analysis?

Absolutely. Digital is everywhere and, in a way, the ‘’work from home’’ trend tends to confirm the shift away from physical presence-based taxation and the related DEMPE notions. We may also wonder why consumers, who represent the new paradigm for driving value-based taxation, would be less impacted by the equally growing ‘’consume from anywhere’’ trend.

The OECD consensus has never been more important, and the recent withdrawal of the US from the debate is worrying. The COVID economic meltdown will probably make revenue hungry states jump even more quickly to unilateral measures. The digital taxation debate pushed the international tax community towards very uncomfortable, heavily politicized negotiations. COVID-19 is precipitating us even more quickly off the cliff.

Summary

  • There is no room for micro managers. Working from home requires you to empower the team, ensuring they are proud of the marks they leave on the business.
  • The tax technical ramifications of working from home can be far reaching, and potentially challenge the traditional value chain analysis.
  • The digital taxation debate kickstarted the discussion, COVID-19 is precipitating us even more quickly off the cliff


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