Fixed Establishments and Permanent Establishments: The VAT and Direct Tax Concepts Are Drifting Further Apart

Business models of multinational companies have evolved at a much speedier pace than the international tax framework. In October 2015, the OECD issued a final report on Action 7 in the context of its Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project (BEPS). The report on Action 7 contains a clear plea to revise the notion of permanent establishment (PE) from a direct tax perspective under the various double tax treaties, thereby widening the scope. This does not, however, imply that the VAT threshold for a fixed establishment (FE) should be lowered. In this article, the authors analyse both concepts based on the recent developments at the OECD level and the ECJ’s VAT case law on the subject to spot similarities and differences. The authors find that the concepts are continuing to evolve in different directions, whereby a fact pattern will increasingly lead to different qualifications from a VAT and corporate tax perspective.