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There were several developments and talking points in the tax arena in 2016. Firstly, there was the continuing trend of the tax authorities seeking to close loopholes to prevent tax avoidance. For example, the US Treasury Department reformed the rules on tax inversions in order to prevent US companies from establishing their headquarters abroad and employing post-inversion maneuvers (such as earnings stripping). This had a major impact on the market for large-scale tax inversions, such as Pfizer’s proposed $160bn acquisition of Ireland-incorporated Allergan, which was ultimately scrapped.

The tax authorities also went after base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) strategies, which exploit gaps in the international tax framework to effectively avoid tax. This increased the compliance burden for multinationals and thus initiated reviews and new implementations in tax planning - especially regarding transfer pricing and the way companies manage (and report) the profits gained domestically and by their foreign subsidiaries. As a result, law firms reported an increase in transfer pricing cases both domestically and internationally, and many practices increased their resources to handle such cases.

Also intended to cut tax avoidance were the final regulations announced by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding property owned by controlled foreign corporations and partnerships; this also generated a significant uptick in enquires for law firms.

In the financial products space, a key talking point was the continued strength of the private equity space during 2016, with total investment of $158.1bn into US targets, marking a 7.5% increase. The current top sectors include technology, energy and utilities, as well as industrials and chemicals. There has also been a higher demand for advice on specialty finance products, such as healthcare financings.

In October 2016, in what was a significant development, the US Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service issued its hotly anticipated final and temporary regulations on how certain debt instruments will be characterized for US tax purposes - revising earlier proposals that were met with considerable resistance. These final regulations maintain the basic framework of proposals but narrow the scope in ways that are beneficial to private equity funds.

In terms of other regulations, the equity securities market faced changes with the introduction by the IRS of Section 871(m), which came into effect at the beginning of 2017. The new rule is intended to prevent the avoidance of withholding tax on dividends paid by US corporations, which means that payments on these financial instruments are subjected to a withholding of 30% tax. In the CLO space, the US risk retention rules for asset-backed securities (which became active in December 2016) require the collateral managers in transactions to hold a specific percentage of the value.

Looking at tax law in light of the new Trump administration, a complete reform has been proposed that would introduce lower US corporate rates - down from 35% to 15% - as well as enforce repatriation from companies holding offshore profits. Trump’s tax adviser, Stephen Moore, stated in an interview that the latter rule would function to encourage former US companies now registered in Europe to return to the US and benefit from lighter taxes.

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  • Bär & Karrer Advises CEVA Logistics on its IPO, the anchor investment by CMA CGM and its migration

    CEVA Logistics, one of the world's leading third-party logistics companies, successfully priced its IPO and listed its shares on the SIX Swiss Exchange, where trading commenced on 4 May 2018. With a market capitalization of CHF 1.6 billion and generating gross proceeds of CHF 821 million, this is so far considered as the largest IPO on the SIX Swiss Exchange for 2018. In addition, CMA CGM, the third largest container shipping group in the world, has committed to make a strategic cornerstone investment in CEVA Logistics by purchasing CHF 379 million of mandatory convertible securities which will convert into shares of CEVA Logistics once certain regulatory approvals have been obtained. Simultaneously with the IPO, CEVA Holdings, the former holding company of the CEVA group, migrated from the Marshall Islands to Switzerland by way of a cross-border merger with CEVA Logistic as the surviving company.
  • BAG: Employer not liable for harm caused by vaccine

    Employers who have flu vaccines administered within their company are not liable for any harm that might occur as a result of the vaccine. That was the verdict of the Bundesarbeitsgericht (BAG), Germany’s Federal Labour Court, in a recent ruling.
  • Tax Update

    Cyprus Tax Department has announced that, as of June 1 st 2018 , the following taxes, not bearing interest and charges, can ONLY be paid via JCCsmart (website www.jccsmart.com.cy ) . JCCsmart is a Cyprus portal used to contact payments to various organizations including the Government. This measure follows the successful implementation of the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax withheld from employees through JCCsmart.
  • Bär & Karrer Advises on the Financing of the Largest Thermoelectric Plant in Latin America

    Centrais Elétricas de Sergipe S.A. (CELSE) has successfully issued bonds for approx. USD 1 billion equivalent in local currency at a fixed, long-term rate in international capital markets. The innovative bond issue is guaranteed by the Swiss Export Risk Insurance (SERV), the export credit agency of Switzerland. The bonds are part of a financial package to finance the development, design, construction, operation and maintenance of a thermoelectric power plant by CELSE in the state of Sergipe in the northeast region of Brazil. Besides the bond issue for approx. USD 1 billion, the transaction includes a USD 200 million loan from the International Finance Corporation and a financial package of the Inter-American Development Bank in the amount of approx. USD 300 million. Once operational expected for in 2020, CELSE will sell electricity to 26 distribution companies in Brazil, becoming the largest and most efficient thermoelectric plant in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • BAG: Threats made by employee can justify dismissal with immediate effect

    Employers do not have to accept threats made by employees. These can constitute good cause justifying extraordinary notice of dismissal with immediate effect, as demonstrated by a ruling of the Bundesarbeitsgericht (BAG), Germany’s Federal Labour Court.
  • SyCipLaw is Tier 1 Firm in IP STARS 2018 Rankings

    SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan (SyCipLaw) was once again ranked by Managing IP’s IP STARS 2018 as a Tier 1 firm in Patent and Trademarks/Copyright in the Philippines. In addition, SyCipLaw partners Enrique T. Manuel and Vida M. Panganiban-Alindogan are ranked as Trade mark star – Philippines . Mr. Manuel is also ranked as Patent star – Philippines .
  • Bär & Karrer Advises lastminute.com on Partial Self-Tender Offer

    On 21 September 2017, an extraordinary shareholders' meeting of the SIX Swiss Exchange listed lastminute.com N.V. authorized the board of directors to repurchase up to 33 1/3% of the company's share capital by means of a partial self-tender offer. The resolution adopted under Dutch law contained detailed information, among others regarding the period for which the authorization is granted, the manner in which the shares are repurchased and the price range within which the offer price must be set.
  • New Serbian Law on Foreigners Adopted

    In March 2018, the new Serbian Law on Foreigners was adopted, replacing the 2008 version of this law- in force until recently without any amendments. The new law will enter into force on 3 October 2018.
  • The Serbian Law on Foreign Exchange Amended

    On 20 April 2018, the amendments to the Law on Foreign Exchange (the “Law ”) were adopted and will enter into force on 28 April 2018 . Exceptionally, the application of certain provisions related to the assuming of competencies over foreign exchange control by the National Bank of Serbia is delayed until 1 January 2019.
  • Bär & Karrer Advises Vyaire Medical on its Acquisition of Acutronic Medical Systems

    Vyaire Medical, Inc., a global leader in respiratory care, acquired all shares in the Acutronic Medical Systems group, a Switzerland and Germany-based leader in the design and manufacture of neonatal ventilation equipment.