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OECD's BEPS measures: Luxembourg, already largest global distribution centre for investment funds, to benefit from AIFM boost

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Luxembourg is a small country. Most people from abroad who are not from Europe will probably have a hard time finding it on a map. But, with more than 2.4 trillion EUR in net assets under management of UCITS and 500 bn EUR in alternative investment funds (AIFs), Luxembourg is the largest investment fund centre in Europe and the second largest in the world after the US. It is the largest global distribution centre for investment funds, with its UCITS offered in more than 70 countries around the world.

Luxembourg had a private banking presence for many years, but things really kicked off when it was the first country to implement the 1988 UCITS directive and the passporting of investment funds. Today, Luxembourg has a 67% market share in terms of funds authorised for cross-border distribution, with Ireland being second with 19%. Luxembourg’s dominance in the fund sector reached a point, in Europe at least, where people don’t ask, “Why Luxembourg?” but rather, “Why not Luxembourg?”

Not Tax, but ‘Political Will”

Sometimes people would think that certain tax aspects are the reason why investment funds or other financial players are using Luxembourg.

But in fact, when you look back, you will see that Luxembourg was the first country to implement the UCITS directive in March 1988, France the second 6 months later and then Ireland. On the other hand, there were also countries implementing UCITS 5 years later such as Greece or Spain. When you look at the total assets of UCITS funds in the respective domiciles today, you see that Luxembourg is first with circa 3 trillions, France second with one trillion less, and then Germany and Ireland with similar amounts.

That means already in 1988 there was political will which is clearly reflected in Luxembourg's positioning even 26 years later. If you look at tax, you see exactly the same results. One major EU Directive dealing with taxation of distributions between EU entities has been voted in July 1990 and 5 months later, Luxembourg was the first country to implement it.

While the financial services sector is the biggest employer and the contributor to the domestic economy, the government has still a strong commitment to further support and develop the financial industry, but also takes strategic steps to diversifying it. There are many examples, like the free port, LuxFLAG, the Family Office legislation, or the Tax Regime for Intellectual Property.

AIFM: A way out to getting squeezed by OECD’s new Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) measures

For fund managers wishing to tap into the EU market, the unregulated space is becoming narrower and narrower, and the rules governing private placements are becoming even more restrictive (when it is not forbidden outright). Why worry about 27 different sets of rules for private placement when you only need to comply with a single set? AIFMD offers this single this single set of rules. Most of the smaller and mid-size players may not know how easy it is to market their products cross-border, if it is approached in the right way. Luxembourg is also offers a large number of call third-party fund managers, companies who have obtained the AIFM (and/or UCITS) license and are able to host foreign asset managers by launching their products and market them throughout the E.U.

Many big U.S. PE houses already operate large holding and financing platforms in Luxembourg, with staff on the ground that range between 3 or 4 to 40 persons for some players.

Up until now, those firms have never crossed the bridge and actually implemented a fund here in Europe. Their fund is usually located in Cayman or U.S. U.S. fund managers will tell you “Well, we don't really need a fund in Luxembourg, we are just fine with our U.S. or Cayman fund.” Now, with AIFMD, those managers will have to select either select a third party AIFM or set up their own AIFM in the E.U. The forthcoming Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) measures will notably limit the use of double tax treaties. On the same day of the Roundtable meeting, the OECD released the first seven action plans to help countries to focus on specific aspects on taxation. One these seven actions, action six actually, is about “realigning taxation and the relevant substance to restore the intended benefit of additional standards and to prevent the abuse of tax treaties”.

In few words, those potential measures could potentially limit treaty benefits if the entity asking for its application has not a principal business purpose. It might therefore be beneficial to consider Luxembourg as the AIFM jurisdiction as the asset manager would increase significantly its business purpose and hence be allowed to benefit from double tax treaties. Now may be an opportune time for a gap analysis and find out how much additional investment and substance such managers would need to put into Luxembourg.

The Opalesque Luxembourg Roundtable was sponsored by Maples Fiduciary and Eurex, and took place September 16th with:

  1. Valerie Tixier, Partner, PWC
  2. Johan Terblanche, Partner, Dechert
  3. Philippe Burgener, Counsel, Elvinger, Hoss & Prussen
  4. Christophe Diricks, Partner, Deloitte
  5. Tom Davies, Regional Head, Maples Fiduciary
The group also discussed:
  • Will a Luxembourg ISIN code really make a difference in terms of a fund’s success in distribution?
  • Why Luxembourg further expects massive growth, particularly from smaller and mid-size hedge fund managers, alternative investment funds (AIFs) and private equity
  • 40 years of political stability make a difference
  • Why having a depository bank as part of the hedge fund structure can be a plus
  • Why new Chinese and Islamic banks setting up in Europe opt for Luxembourg
  • Which new Luxembourg vehicles offer the same, if not more, flexibility as Anglo-Saxon limited partnerships?
  • Satellites & more: Why for many years now Luxembourg has been ahead of the curve in terms of spotting new opportunities, especially on the high-value and value-add domains.

Access the Opalesque Roundtable Series - Luxembourg | Download here

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