Our Take on the New Diverted Profits Tax (DPT)

Contrary to HMRC’s assertions, our review of the legislation suggests that many more Companies than might have been intended could fall within the strict interpretation of these new rules.

DPT Summary

  • A brand new UK tax imposed on cross-border transactions.
  • Relevant to foreign trading Companies with UK activity.
  • Relevant to UK Companies making tax-deductible payments to foreign group Companies.
  • Companies are required to notify HMRC if it is reasonable to assume they will be caught by DPT.

Contrary to HMRC’s assertions, our review of the legislation suggests that many more Companies than might have been intended could fall within the strict interpretation of these new rules.

What is DPT?

DPT is a new tax at a rate of 25% (for the vast majority of Companies) on diverted profits relating to UK activity. The current UK corporation tax rate is 20%; DPT is therefore intended as a penal tax to encourage businesses to restructure relevant arrangements, so profits are not diverted from the UK but are instead subject to the standard rate of UK corporation tax.

When is it in force?

The legislation is effective in relation to profits arising after 1 April 2015.

What do Companies need to do?

Unlike other self-assessed taxes, if a Company believes they fall into the scope of DPT, they must notify HMRC following the accounting period end. Where notification is required, the following time limits apply:

  • For accounting periods ending on or before 31 March 2016, notification must be made within 6 months after the end of the relevant accounting period.
  • For accounting periods ending after 31 March 2016, notification must be made within 3 months after the end of the relevant accounting period.

HMRC will then issue a charging notice and the Company must pay the tax charged before they can appeal.

If notification is not made to HMRC, penalties can apply and the time limit for a potential DPT charge is increased from 2 years to 4 years after the end of an accounting period.

When might DPT apply?

Broadly (and subject to applicable exemptions) the DPT applies in two different circumstances:

  • A foreign Company carries on activities in the UK but those activities are specifically designed to avoid creating a taxable presence (“Permanent Establishment”) for that foreign Company in the UK. (A UK Subsidiary is a separate legal entity and not a Permanent Establishment of the foreign Company.)
  • Where a UK Company has an arrangement in place with a related foreign entity that reduces UK tax liabilities and those arrangements lack economic substance.

Key Considerations for DPT

Does your group structure contain a permanent establishment within a country with an effective corporation tax rate of lower than 20%?


Are your sales to UK based customers made by a Company incorporated and tax resident outside of the UK?


If your sales to UK based customers are made by a foreign Company, do your expenses associated with those sales exceed £1m in any 12 month period?


Avoidance of a UK Permanent Establishment (PE)

The first test is called “Avoidance of a UK PE” and applies where a foreign Company is making sales of goods or services to UK customers, with a related party Company present in the UK which is performing activities in relation to these sales (such as marketing support services).

For the DPT to apply there would need to be a main purpose to avoid tax, or the “tax mismatch” conditions would need to be met. The tax mismatch conditions effectively mean:

  • the increase in the foreign Company’s corporation tax liability is less than 80% of the reduction in the UK Company’s corporation tax liability; and
  • the foreign Company would not meet the “Insufficient Economic Substance” test.

If HMRC deem that a Company’s affairs fall foul of the “Avoidance of a UK PE” test, transfer pricing principles are applied as if the avoided PE is an actual UK Permanent Establishment, with the profit attributable to that UK Permanent Establishment being subject to DPT.

In order to calculate the profits to which DPT would be applied, a profit attribution exercise to the deemed PE needs to be conducted.

This analysis is complicated. There are some interactions between this calculation and the Insufficient Economic Substance test. If the foreign Company is engaged in other transactions which do not meet the Insufficient Economic Substance test (e.g. the licencing of Intellectual Property from a related Company), then those transactions entered into by the foreign Company may be ignored for calculating the deemed PE profits.


Insufficient Economic Substance

The second test is called the “Insufficient Economic Substance” test and has an overriding assumption that the transaction was designed to secure a tax reduction (where tax is defined to include foreign tax as well as UK tax).

If the transaction meets this condition, DPT is applied where a UK Company/PE makes payments to another Company or there is a reduction in UK income, and either:

  • the tax reduction resulting from the transactions outweighs any other financial benefit from the transactions; or
  • where the contribution of economic value to the transaction (by the other Company) is less than the tax reduction.

The contribution of economic value focusses only on functions/activities performed by the Company (or outsourced to third parties) and appears to ignore any contributions to the profit of the Company generated through the capital/assets owned or risks borne.

In order to calculate the profits to which DPT would be applied, an assessment is required of the difference between the actual profits and those that would have arisen based on what would have happened absent the tax mismatch. Clearly, this is likely to be very subjective.

Are there any Exemptions?

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are exempt from DPT. Foreign Companies are not subject to the Avoided PE DPT charge where either:

  • their total UK related sales revenue in a 12 month period does not exceed £10m; or
  • their total UK related expenses in a 12 month period do not exceed £1m.

Companies may also be able take advantage of exemptions excluding them from having to notify HMRC regarding their arrangements in respect of DPT, although eligibility for these can be subjective.

F&L Comment

HMRC have stated that the DPT legislation is not designed to apply to those Companies with bona fide commercial arrangements where there is sufficient economic substance offshore and where intra-group pricing is at arm’s length. In their view, DPT is intended to prevent large multinationals avoiding paying tax in the UK through the use of complex structuring arrangements involving low tax regimes.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a significant disparity between HMRC’s stated intention and the legislation itself, which has been hastily launched (the announcement of DPT as in December 2014). Whilst it may not have been HMRC’s intention to capture smaller Companies headquartered in the US with a UK sales and marketing subsidiary, the concern remains that such Companies may accidentally fall within the scope of DPT.

Whats Next?

We are urgently advising Companies to review their international arrangements and seek guidance at the earliest opportunity as to whether they are likely to be caught by the diverted profits tax regime and their resulting compliance obligations.

If you have any queries, please contact Melissa Christopher or Gareth Davis.

For more information, contact:

Melissa Christopher
+44 (0)20 7430 5894

Gareth Davis
Manager, North America
+1 415 517 7166

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