With increased tax regulations and scrutiny from the world international governing bodies, substance has become the new normal in terms of satisfying the criteria to achieve tax residency.

Considerable pressure from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ("OECD") has forced jurisdictions to implement economic substance requirements in order to combat international tax abuse. Entities are required to display the economic reality of their structure and demonstrate that their core operating activities are being conducted in the country where they are incorporated and/or seeking to derive tax treaty bene­ts.

Residency is a key feature in international taxation and fundamental for its application to tax treaties and laws. The OECD outlines the potential impact of tax residency and in case an entity is tax resident in another jurisdiction, it may be subject to taxation in that jurisdiction even if it is incorporated elsewhere. The substance requirement is established in Action 5 of the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Pro­t Shifting Project (BEPS) and Mauritius has embedded these requirements in its Income Tax legislation. In a nutshell, in order for an entity to satisfy the economic substance requirements. it must:

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Core income generating activities relate to the key necessary and value-added activities that generate the income of the entity. These activities must be carried out and performed in Mauritius and the majority of the board of directors involved in strategic decision making must be present in Mauritius when decisions are made. For instance, in case of an investment management entity providing advisory services to a fund in Mauritius, this particular service will have to be rendered in Mauritius and the entity shall adhere to the substance requirements conditions.

Tax resident entities in Mauritius must be e‑ectively managed and controlled in Mauritius. Consequently, a quorum of Board of Directors must be required to be physically present in Mauritius at a suitable frequency when strategic decisions are being taken and the minutes of meetings must be properly kept to demonstrate these decisions together with the major documentation required by the Board of Directors. The relevant knowledge and expertise of the Board of Directors will need to be considered in light of the activities carried out by the entity.

The good news is that an entity may opt to outsource or contract out its activities to third parties service providers, however these services should be provided in Mauritius and include speci­c details of the person(s) employed by its service providers. The assessment should consider the quali­cation and experience of persons who are involved in providing the core income generating activities. Mauritius is an ideal choice for investors as it is an IFC of choice and excellence with a collection of ­nancial services providers which include management companies who has substantial experience in providing professional services to global business entities.

However, the COVID-19 crisis may pose challenges in respect of the place where the entity is e‑ectively managed and controlled due to travel restrictions and inability of senior executives to travel. The OECD has clari­ed that it is unlikely that the COVID-19 situation will create any changes to an entity's residence status under a tax treaty since it constitutes extraordinary and temporary circumstances that should not give rise to a change of a company's residence for tax purposes.

With unprecedented challenges and uncertainty facing the world and aid budget under pressure, the new substance requirements will promote tax fairness and reduce inequalities by ensuring a fair distribution of wealth which will lead to more sustainable development.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.