G E Financial Investments – First-Tier Tribunal finds that a deemed US resident was not a US treaty resident

A US company (“GEFI Inc.”) and UK company (“GEFI”) in the GE group formed a Delaware LP (“LP”) with GEFI Inc. as the 1% general partner and GEFI as the 99% limited partner. LP acquired five intercompany loans.

The stock of GEFI Inc. and GEFI were stapled, which caused GEFI to be deemed to be resident in the US under the Code, with a view to increasing the US foreign tax credit capacity in the US. GEFI claimed credit for the US income taxes payable by it against its UK income tax liabilities.

HMRC denied the credit. The first issue was whether GEFI was a US resident for purposes of Art. 4 of the UK-US treaty, which relevantly referred to “any person who, under the laws of that State, is liable to tax therein by reason of his domicile, residence, citizenship, place of management, place of incorporation, or any other criterion of a similar nature.” Brooks J effectively applied commentary - that the quoted wording requires “effective personal attachment to a territory,” and the effective finding in Crown Forest that full or worldwide taxation is a necessary feature of the connecting criterion but is not sufficient of itself - to find that the mere stapling of the GEFI stock did not give rise to the required connection to the U.S., so that GEFI was not a US treaty resident.

This then left the issue as to whether the US taxes imposed on GEFI were imposable in accordance with the Treaty on the basis of GEFI, through its participation in LP, having a permanent establishment in the US - so that the UK was required to accord a foreign tax credit to GEFI in accordance with Art. 24 of the Treaty (similar to Art. 24 of the Canada-UK Treaty). In finding that the LP did not have a permanent establishment in the US on the basis that it was not carrying on business there under the UK concept of a business (having regard to Art. 3(2)), Brooks J indicated that there was a mere holding of five affiliate loans (albeit, in very large amounts) over the course of approximately six years, which represented “more of a passive, sporadic or isolated activity than a regular and continuous series of activities” – and noted the there was “nothing to suggest that personnel or agents acting on behalf of the LP made or conducted continuous and regular commercial activities in the US.”

Neal Armstrong. Summaries of G E Financial Investments v. The Commissioners for Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, [2021] UKFTT 0210 (TC) under Treaties – Income Tax Conventions – Art. 4, Art. 5.