Re: "Branch" line
@Codejunky: If a company is not obliged to have a "branch" in any one country that it operates, could it not refuse to have a branch in any country and thus reasonably claim to be exempt from tax? I suppose all it takes is one country to declare itself corporation tax free, and all companies would move there. Such a country could support itself with, say, advertising instead of tax revenue. We would all be happy to accept that Microsoft et al were no longer well-known Luxembourgian or Irish companies but were say Bhutanese
@Tim: Common law is by it's definition mutable. What you have stated is thus convention - it can change with legislation or sufficient case law. Incidentally, what is the original purpose of the corporate veil? Is it still genuinely relevant or is it a convenient hold-over from an earlier time?