Two reasons why Elon Musk routed Tesla’s India venture via Amsterdam

Two reasons why Elon Musk routed Tesla’s India venture via Amsterdam
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  • According to an Economic Times report, Tesla Motors and Energy, India incorporation document says that the Tesla Motors Amsterdam is the parent of the Indian subsidiary and not the US arm.
  • The billionaire and the owner of Tesla, Elon Musk, has chosen the tax-friendly jurisdiction of the Netherlands to route its India investment.
  • Sridhar Ramachandran, a tax partner at Grant Thornton Bharat, told Business Insider this route would help Tesla with tax benefits related to capital gains and dividend payments.
Billionaire and the owner of Tesla, Elon Musk, has chosen the tax-friendly jurisdiction of the Netherlands to route its India investment. According to an Economic Times report, Tesla Motors and Energy, India, incorporation document showed that Tesla Motors Amsterdam is the parent of the Indian subsidiary and not the US arm.

Tesla India Motors and Energy Private Limited has been incorporated and the registered address is in Lavelle Road, Bengaluru on January 8, with ₹15 lakh authorised capital and ₹1 lakh paid-up capital.

Sridhar Ramachandran, a tax partner at Grant Thornton Bharat, told Business Insider this route would help Tesla with tax benefits related to capital gains and dividend payments.

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“The India Dutch treaty has been seen as a good treaty for capital gains exemption for lower withholding tax on dividend and lower withholding tax on interest,” he said.

Tesla’s choice came as an exception to the general trend that has been seen over the past decade by other foreign companies investing in India. Unlike MG Motors, which invested from its home country China, and Kia Motors, that made investments from South Korea — Tesla chose to go with its Dutch subsidiary and not invest through its home jurisdiction in California.

What are the benefits for Tesla to invest via its Dutch subsidiary:

The India-Netherland treaty
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According to Ramachandran, the Netherlands and India share a very long and stable income tax treaty, and it has never been renegotiated — therefore to that extent the Netherlands treaty has ‘stood the test of time.’

Rajesh Gandhi, partner, Deloitte India, also explained to Business Insider that under the current India and Netherland ‘ agreement for avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion’, investments by Dutch companies get an exemption from capital gains when shares in Indian companies are sold, subject to certain riders.

As per the treaty, the sale of unlisted shares of an Indian company is taxable only under very limited circumstances in India. For example, shares derive value from the possession of real estate other than what is used for business.
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India amended a similar treaty with Mauritius and Singapore in 2016 and made the capital gains tax rates applicable from April 2019 on the sale of Indian companies’ shares by investors.

“I guess the Netherlands has continued to be stable from the capital gain perspective,” Ramachandran added.

Lower dividend taxes and withholding taxes

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Ramachandran also highlighted that the Dutch domestic laws provide a fair bit of advantage from a tax planning perspective. The companies gain an edge in the rates for dividend taxes and withholding taxes if they choose to invest via the Netherlands.

“Netherlands has a strong treaty network (including a good treaty with the USA) and its domestic law also favours multinational corporations. The India Netherlands treaty also provides for a lower withholding tax rate on dividends that a Dutch company may receive from an Indian company,” he added.

According to Ramachandran, the budget may not be able to fix it, but “any changes in the domestic Indian tax law may only improve from the current position, by, say, giving a lower withholding tax rate under domestic law itself.”

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