Bulgaria vs CBS, October 2020, Supreme Administrative Court, Case No 12349

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By judgment of 22 May 2020, the Administrative Court set aside a tax assessment in which CBS International Netherlands B.V. had been denied reimbursement of withholding tax related to royalties and license payments.

An appeal was filed by the tax authorities with the Supreme Administrative Court.

In the appeal the tax authorities held that the beneficial owner of the licence and royalty payments was not CBS International Netherlands B.V. but instead CBS CORPORATION, a company incorporated and domiciled in New York, USA. According to the tax authorities the main function of CBS International Netherlands B.V. was that of an intermediary between the end customers and the beneficial owner. This was further supported by the transfer pricing documentation, according to which the US company that bears the risk of the development activity, the market risk is borne equally by the two companies, and the only risks borne by the Dutch company are the currency, operational and credit risks, which in turn are not directly related to the development activity.

Judgement of the Supreme Administrative Court

The court canceled the 2019 tax assessment and returns the case to the competent authority to issue decision in accordance with the instructions on the interpretation and application of the law given by this decision.

Excerpt

“There is no information source for the fact that CBS International Netherlands B.V. has no right to dispose of the income and to assess its use. Conversely, according to article 13 of the company’s articles of association, the decision to distribute the result for the year is to be made by the general meeting of shareholders. This disqualifies the company as the nominee instead of the owner of the income /refer to the Commentary to Article 12 of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Model DTT/. The Dutch company does not have the limited powers of a formal owner – it does not direct the income to another person who actually receives the benefit; it does not act as a fiduciary or administrator on behalf of the stakeholders /see Commentary/.
The activity from which the income is derived is that of granting rights under underlying television licence contracts. Corresponding to this activity is the risk identified in the transfer pricing documentation – development risk, market risk, currency risk, operational risk, credit risk. Neither the applicant nor the administration have alleged that the Dutch company was involved in the creation of the rights from the grant of which the income arose. Nor did the tax authorities deny that company’s right to grant the Bulgarian company the use of the copyright objects in return for consideration constituting the income on which the withholding tax was levied. To the contrary, there would be an assertion that there was no basis for the exchange of property and, accordingly, no object of taxation.
The appellant is not an income directing company under Section 136A(2) of the Income-tax Act. It has not been shown to be controlled by a person not entitled to the same type or amount of relief on direct receipt of income. The control of CBS International Netherlands B.V. is exercised by another Dutch company which is within the personal scope of the Netherlands DTT. There are no sources of information that control is exercised by the “ultimate parent company” CBS Corporation based in New York, USA. It is unclear what type and amount of assets the Dutch company is expected to own beyond the USD 72,000 in property, plant and equipment listed in the APA and with a staff of 22 employees given the intellectual property rights management activities carried out. The existence of control over the use of the rights from which the income was earned is indicated by the content of the underlying contracts, which provide for penalties for non-performance and Fox Networks’ obligation to submit monthly reports.
In so far as the grounds laid down in Article 136 of the VAT Code for the application of the Netherlands DTT are met, the applicant is also entitled to the relief provided for in Article 12(1) of the VAT Code. 1 of the Royalty Income Tax Treaty in the country of residence. There is therefore also a right to a refund of the withholding tax under Article 195(1) of the Treaty. The refusal to refund the tax withheld and deposited as provided for in the APA challenged before the ACCA is unlawful and the dismissal of the challenge to the refusal is incorrect. The first instance decision and the APV must be annulled in accordance with the rule of Article 160 para. 3 of the Code of Administrative Offences, the case file should be returned to the competent revenue authority at the Directorate General of the National Revenue Service, GDO, Sofia. Sofia to issue an APV in accordance with the instructions on the interpretation and application of the law given by this decision.”

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Bulgaria vs CBS 2020 №12349

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