Solicitor-client privilege is a constitutionally-entrenched right that protects communications between a lawyer and his or her client. The foundation of such privilege is to encourage full and frank disclosure between lawyers and their clients for the purpose of providing legal advice. A lawyer cannot be compelled to disclose information shared by his or her client and only the client can waive privilege. In the tax planning context, protecting the confidentiality of taxpayer information is important to ensure that a taxpayer’s tax position is not unfairly prejudiced by legal requirements to provide subjective analysis or information to taxing authorities where such analysis or information was communicated or created for purposes of providing tax advice. Further, to better ensure taxpayer compliance under a self-reporting tax system, the confidentiality of communications with one’s tax lawyer is protected to encourage full and complete disclosure of the facts necessary to provide tax advice.
For many years, both the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have treated limited liability companies (LLC) formed under Delaware law as hybrid entities, in that a LLC has been “opaque” for the purposes of domestic tax law despite being generally disregarded or treated as a partnership for United States tax purposes.
Hybrid entities, including LLCs, are due to be somewhat of a hot topic next month because, as part of its Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, the OECD is due to present its recommendations to the G20 Finance Minister in relation to “Action 2: Neutralizing the effects of hybrid mismatch arrangements”. However, over the summer the United Kingdom Supreme Court has stepped into the fray in its decision in Anson v. Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs ( UKSC 44).
This decision emphasizes that entity classification for international tax purposes is highly dependent on the facts and the governing law applicable to the entity, despite guidance from tax authorities that prefers to apply a “one size fits all” approach. As discussed below, the Anson decision may create renewed interest and support for taking a tax position that diverges from the traditional opaque characterisation of a US LLC.