Business restructuring planning the Chinese way ("round-tripping") : do the Chinese know something we do not?

In recent years, multinational corporations have considered a number of business restructuring strategies in order to meet the challenges of the new global economy. One planning suggestion entails centralizing in one company the overall responsibility for the business segment functions, including research and development, manufacturing and distribution and services (the "supply chain management business model") rather than conducting business abroad through separate locally incorporated legal entities that manufacture and sell (the "vertically integrated business model"). Another planning suggestion involves reincorporating a domestic corporation into a foreign jurisdiction, either through stock or asset transfers, thereby displacing the ultimate domestic parent company of the group with a foreign entity, all without an accompanying change in the group's underlying ownership. This type of transaction, known as an "inversion transaction, " is intended to minimize tax in the domestic jurisdiction by causing group earnings not to be subject to taxation in that jurisdiction. This article considers business restructurings as described above in the context of the Chinese experience. As will be seen, the Chinese approach to business restructurings has taken tax planning in these areas to the next level by enabling a Chinese-owned enterprise that obtains the requisite approval to effectively invert into a non-Chinese corporation. An inverted corporation can reinvest in China, thereby receiving the more favourable tax and other legal benefits accorded to foreign investors (rather than Chinese investors) in China. Further, as a result of the transfer of assets, functions or risks outside of China, combined with aggressive transfer pricing, a Chinese enterprise may be able to achieve additional Chinese tax minimization.