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11 February 2021
Since the Taxation (Companies – Economic Substance) (Jersey) Law 2019 came into force on 1 January 2019, Jersey tax-resident companies carrying out certain relevant activities have had to comply with the substance requirements set out therein. In particular, these include requirements that a company's activities be "directed and managed" from Jersey, and that certain "core income-generating activities" (CIGAs) be carried out in Jersey.
For many companies, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic created difficulties in complying with the law. For example, directors who might normally travel to Jersey to attend board meetings in person found that they could not do so because of travel restrictions, while social-distancing and self-isolation requirements meant that many activities needed to be carried out remotely.
As a result, in March 2020 the Comptroller of Revenue released a concession confirming that where companies had to alter their operating practices to compensate for the COVID-19 outbreak, the comptroller would not determine that such company had failed the economic substance test under Article 6 of the Taxation (Companies – Economic Substance) (Jersey) Law 2019. This concession applied only to adjustments to normal operating practices to minimise the impact of the outbreak. Similarly, the comptroller reassured companies which are deemed tax resident in Jersey as a result of being managed and controlled on the island that their corporate tax residency would not be disturbed by temporary adjustments to their operation.
Given that the pandemic remains ongoing, the comptroller recently issued further guidance in relation to the concession. The new guidance arguably narrows the circumstances in which companies can rely on the concession. In particular, it confirms that:
While the new guidance does not refer specifically to CIGAs, given that the need for CIGAs to be carried out in Jersey is a requirement of its own under the law (rather than a subset of the directed and managed test), the comptroller may reject an attempt to use the concession to justify a CIGA having been carried out from outside Jersey.
In addition, the comptroller has confirmed that he intends to withdraw the concession as soon as circumstances allow. While timing will depend on the public health position in Jersey and elsewhere, companies are advised to monitor the position closely from late Spring 2021 onwards.
On 29 December 2020 the minister for external relations lodged two important amendments to the Taxation (Companies – Economic Substance) (Jersey) Law 2019.
The first relates to 'self-managed funds' (ie, corporate funds that do not appoint an external manager, but which are managed internally by their board of directors). The amendment would bring self-managed funds within the scope of the law in terms of their fund management activities, for accounting periods that commence on or after 1 January 2021. This amendment was anticipated; in November 2019 the Crown dependencies updated their joint guidance to reflect this point and confirm that legislation would be brought forward in each jurisdiction.
The draft legislation does not include a separate directed and managed test in relation to self-managed funds. It is anticipated that additional guidance will confirm that self-managed funds in Jersey are required by applicable regulation to be directed and managed in Jersey, removing the requirement for a separate directed and managed test in the law.
Self-managed funds will be deemed to have received income by virtue of investing the funds' assets, so there will be no separate requirement for a self-managed fund to generate gross income for it to be within scope.
The second amendment introduces a specific statutory exemption for the business activities of other fund vehicles (ie, those managed by other entities such as a general partner, trustee or fund manager), which is currently referred to only in guidance.
The Taxation (Companies – Economic Substance) (Jersey) Law 2019 as currently drafted does not apply to partnerships.
However, on 20 November 2020 the EU Code of Conduct Group on business taxation gave a report to the Council of the European Union in which it recommended that jurisdictions such as Jersey with economic substance requirements applicable to companies should extend those requirements to partnerships. The report suggests that new partnerships should be in scope from 1 July 2021, with a transition period of no more than six months (ie, running to 1 January 2022) for existing partnerships.
Funds that are limited partnerships are expected to still benefit from the exemption given to non-self-managed funds which, as discussed above, will soon be enshrined in the law.
Further draft legislation is anticipated shortly, which will set out how the tests are likely to be applied in relation to tax transparent vehicles.
For further information on this topic please contact Emily Haithwaite, Niamh Lalor, Matthew Shaxson or Alex Fisher at Ogier by telephone (+44 1534 514 000) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Ogier website can be accessed at www.ogier.com.
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