Category: Digital Economy

Taxation and allocation of income generated from cross-border activities in the digital economy – Google, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Ebay, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, Uber, Airbnb, Expedia, PayPal etc.

European Commission vs. Amazon and Luxembourg, May 2021, State Aid - European General Court, Case No T-816/17 and T-318/18

European Commission vs. Amazon and Luxembourg, May 2021, State Aid – European General Court, Case No T-816/17 and T-318/18

In 2017 the European Commission concluded that Luxembourg granted undue tax benefits to Amazon of around €250 million.  Following an in-depth investigation the Commission concluded that a tax ruling issued by Luxembourg in 2003, and prolonged in 2011, lowered the tax paid by Amazon in Luxembourg without any valid justification. The tax ruling enabled Amazon to shift the vast majority of its profits from an Amazon group company that is subject to tax in Luxembourg (Amazon EU) to a company which is not subject to tax (Amazon Europe Holding Technologies). In particular, the tax ruling endorsed the payment of a royalty from Amazon EU to Amazon Europe Holding Technologies, which significantly reduced Amazon EU’s taxable profits. This decision was brought before the European Court of Justice by Luxembourg and Amazon. Judgement of the EU Court  The European General Court found that Luxembourg’s tax treatment of ... Continue to full case
France vs Valueclick Ltd. Dec 2020, Supreme Administrative Court (CAA), Case No 420174

France vs Valueclick Ltd. Dec 2020, Supreme Administrative Court (CAA), Case No 420174

The issue in the case before the Supreme Administrative Court was whether an Irish company had a PE in France in a situation where employees of a French company in the same group carried out marketing, representation, management, back office and administrative assistance services on behalf of the group. The following facts were used to substantiate the presence of a French PE: French employees negotiated the terms of contracts and were involved in drafting certain contractual clauses with the customers. Contracts were automatically signed by the Irish company – whether this action corresponded to a simple validation of the contracts negotiated and drawn up by the managers and employees in France. Local advertising programs were developed and monitored by employees in France. French employees acted to third parties as employees of the Irish company. Customers did not distinguish between the Irish and the French company. In a 2018 decision ... Continue to full case
France vs Ferragamo France. November 2020, Supreme Administrative Court (CAA), Case No 425577

France vs Ferragamo France. November 2020, Supreme Administrative Court (CAA), Case No 425577

An assessment had been issued to Ferragamo France. The French tax authorities asserted that the French subsidiary had not been sufficiently remunerated for additional expenses and contributions to the value of the Ferragamo trademark. The French subsidiary had been remunerated on a gross margin basis, but had incurred losses in previous years and had indirect cost exceeding those of the selected comparable companies. The Administrative Court decided in favour of Ferragamo and dismissed the assessment. According to the Court the tax administration has not demonstrated the existence of an advantage granted by Ferragamo France to Salvatore Ferragamo SPA, nor the amount of this advantage. The Supreme Administrative Court (CAA) overturned the decision of the Administrative Court and upheld the decision of the tax authorities. “In ruling that the administration did not establish the existence of an advantage granted to the Italian company on the grounds ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs. Ireland and Apple, September 2020, Appeal of the Judgement of the General Court on the Apple tax State aid case in Ireland

European Commission vs. Ireland and Apple, September 2020, Appeal of the Judgement of the General Court on the Apple tax State aid case in Ireland

The European Commission has decided to appeal the decision of the EU General Court in the State Aid case of Apple and Ireland. According to the European Commission Ireland gave illegal tax benefits to Apple worth up to €13 billion, because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. In a decision issued july 2020 the General Court held in favor of Apple and Ireland. This decision will now be reviewed by the European Court of Justice. “Statement by Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager on the Commission’s decision to appeal the General Court’s judgment on the Apple tax State aid case in Ireland Brussels, 25 September 2020 “The Commission has decided to appeal before the European Court of Justice the General Court’s judgment of July 2020 on the Apple State aid case in Ireland, which annulled the Commission’s decision of August 2016 finding ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs. Ireland and Apple, July 2020, General Court of the European Union, Case No. T-778/16 and T-892/16

European Commission vs. Ireland and Apple, July 2020, General Court of the European Union, Case No. T-778/16 and T-892/16

In a decision of 30 August 2016 the European Commission concluded that Ireland’s tax benefits to Apple were illegal under EU State aid rules, because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. The decision of the Commission concerned two tax rulings issued by Ireland to Apple, which determined the taxable profit of two Irish Apple subsidiaries, Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe, between 1991 and 2015. As a result of the rulings, in 2011, for example, Apple’s Irish subsidiary recorded European profits of US$ 22 billion (c.a. €16 billion) but under the terms of the tax ruling only around €50 million were considered taxable in Ireland. Ireland appealed the Commission’s decision to the European Court of Justice. The Judgement of the European Court of Justice The General Court annuls the Commission’s decision that Ireland granted illegal State aid to Apple ... Continue to full case
US Investigations into Digital Service Taxes

US Investigations into Digital Service Taxes

Washington, DC – The United States Trade Representative announced today that his office is beginning investigations into digital services taxes that have been adopted or are being considered by a number of our trading partners. The investigations will be conducted under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act. This provision gives the USTR broad authority to investigate and respond to a foreign country’s action which may be unfair or discriminatory and negatively affect U.S. Commerce. “President Trump is concerned that many of our trading partners are adopting tax schemes designed to unfairly target our companies,” said USTR Robert Lighthizer. “We are prepared to take all appropriate action to defend our businesses and workers against any such discrimination.” US probe dig eco ... Continue to full case
Google - Taxes and Transfer Pricing

Google – Taxes and Transfer Pricing

Google’s tax affairs are back in the spotlight after filings in the Netherlands have showed that billions of dollars were moved to Bermuda in 2016 using the “double Irish Dutch sandwich”. According to the Washington Post, Google’s cash transfers to Bermuda reached $27b in 2016. Google uses the double Irish Dutch sandwich structure to shield the majority of it’s international profits from taxation. The setup involves shifting revenue from one Irish subsidiary to a Dutch company with no employees, and then on to a Bermuda-mailbox owned by another company registered in Ireland. US According to US filings, Google’s global effective tax rate in 2016 was 19.3%. New US tax law will give companies such as Google an incentive to repatriate much of that cash by offering them a “one-time”, 15.5% tax rate on offshore funds. After that, foreign earnings will be taxed at 10.5%, with ... Continue to full case
Unilateral Measures related to taxation of the Digital Economy

Unilateral Measures related to taxation of the Digital Economy

Imposed and proposed unilateral measures to adress taxation of the Digital Economy CountryMeasurePercentageDecriptionEffective data Czech Republic DST (Law on selected digital services tax)The Czech Ministry of Finance submitted a finalized proposal to the Czech Government on Sept. 5, 2019, which is now pending the Czech Parliament’s approval. Effective date: to be determined, but likely sometime in 2020. January 18 - The Czech government approved a 7% digital tax proposal on Monday aimed at boosting state coffers by taxing advertising by global internet giants like Google and Facebook, the Finance Ministry said. The proposed tax, which still must make it past lawmakers in parliament, covers revenue gained from targeted advertising, providing digital market places, and user data sales.? 2020 FranceDST (Tax on certain services provided by the enterprises of the digital sector)Enacted on July 11, 2019, and entered into force on July 26, 2019. Retroactive from ... Continue to full case
Microsoft - Taxes and Transfer Pricing

Microsoft – Taxes and Transfer Pricing

Microsoft’s tax affairs have been in the spotlight of tax authorities all over the World during the last decade. Why? The setup used by Microsoft involves shifting profits from sales in the US, Europe and Asia to regional operating centers placed in low tax jurisdictions (Bermuda, Luxembourg, Ireland, Singapore and Puerto Rico). The following text has been provided by Microsoft in a US filing concerning effective tax and global allocation of income: “Our effective tax rate for the three months ended September 30, 2017 and 2016 was 18% and 17%, respectively. Our effective tax rate was lower than the U.S. federal statutory rate primarily due to earnings taxed at lower rates in foreign jurisdictions resulting from producing and distributing our products and services through our foreign regional operations centers in Ireland, Singapore, and Puerto Rico.“ “In fiscal year 2017, our U.S. income before income taxes was $6.8 ... Continue to full case
US response to OECDs Unified Approach

US response to OECDs Unified Approach

Letter from the US treasury to the OECD concerning the proposed Unified Approach on taxation of the Digital Economy, and the reply to the letter from the OECD. treasury-letter-oecd-digital-services-tax Letter-from-OECD-Secretary-General-Angel-Gurria-for-the-attention-of-The-Honorable-Steven-T-Mnuchin-Secretary-of-the-Treasury-United-States ... Continue to full case
Netflix under investigation for alleged tax evasion in Italy

Netflix under investigation for alleged tax evasion in Italy

Public prosecutors in Italy have opened a preliminary probe into the taxation of Netflix on the basis that servers and cables constitute a digital infrastructure that makes revenues taxable under Italian law. Italian media, Corriere della Sera, says that the prosecutors are working with Italy’s fiscal police to determine whether revenues from Netflix’s estimated 1.4 million Italian subscribers are subject to Italian taxation, even though Netflix operates out of the Netherlands. Italian prosecutors have recently also probed into the taxation of other U.S. tech giants such as Apple, Amazon and Facebook and collected a reported €5 billion-plus in back taxes. “Netflix does not pay taxes” the investigation in Milan starts. However, unlike the previous cases, Netflix have no companies, offices or employees in Italy. But still, Netflix earns millions selling streaming services to Italian customers. According to the prosecutor cables, fiber optics, computers, servers and ... Continue to full case
France vs Google, September 2019, Court approval of CJIP Agreement - Google agrees to pay EUR 1 billion in fines and taxes to end Supreme Court Case

France vs Google, September 2019, Court approval of CJIP Agreement – Google agrees to pay EUR 1 billion in fines and taxes to end Supreme Court Case

The district court of Paris has approved a  “convention judiciaire d’intérêt public” negotiated between the French state and Google for an amount of € 500 million plus another agreement with the French tax authorities which amounts to 465 million euros. The agreement puts an end to the French lawsuits against Google for aggressive tax evasion, and litigation with the tax administration relating to adjustments for the periods going from 2005 to 2018. The CJIP “convention judiciaire d’intérêt public“, was established by Article 22 of Law No. 2016-1691 of 9 December 2016 in France on transparency and fight against corruption. By Law No. 2018-898 of October 23, 2018 the law was extended to cover cases for tax evasion. According to the CJIP legal actions can be ended in return for the payment of a fine. The dispute concerned the existence of a permanent establishment of Google ... Continue to full case
US vs Amazon, August 2019, US Court of Appeal Ninth Circut, Case No. 17-72922

US vs Amazon, August 2019, US Court of Appeal Ninth Circut, Case No. 17-72922

In the course of restructuring its European businesses in a way that would shift a substantial amount of income from U.S.-based entities to the European subsidiaries, appellee Amazon.com, Inc. entered into a cost sharing arrangement in which a holding company for the European subsidiaries made a “buy-in” payment for Amazon’s assets that met the regulatory definition of an “intangible.” See 26 U.S.C. § 482. Tax regulations required that the buy-in payment reflect the fair market value of Amazon’s pre-existing intangibles. After the Commissioner of Internal Revenue concluded that the buy-in payment had not been determined at arm’s length in accordance with the transfer pricing regulations, the Internal Revenue Service performed its own calculation, and Amazon filed a petition in the Tax Court challenging that valuation. At issue is the correct method for valuing the preexisting intangibles under the then-applicable transfer pricing regulations. The Commissioner sought ... Continue to full case
France vs. Google, April 2019, Administrative Court of Appeal, Case N° 17PA03065

France vs. Google, April 2019, Administrative Court of Appeal, Case N° 17PA03065

The French tax administration argued that Google had a permenent establishment in France because the parent company in the US and its subsidiary in Ireland had been selling a service – online ads – to customers in France. In 2017 the administrative court found that Google France did not have the capability to carry out the advertising activities on its own. Google Ireland Limited therefore did not have a permanent establishment in France. The same conclution was reached i 2019 by the Administrative court of appeal. Click here for translation France vs Google April 2019, No 17PA03065, ... Continue to full case
Facebook in billion dollar dispute with the IRS related to transfers of intangibles to Ireland

Facebook in billion dollar dispute with the IRS related to transfers of intangibles to Ireland

In the annual report for 2018 Facebook Inc. has included the following statement on current tax disputes with the IRS. “…The tax laws applicable to our business, including the laws of the United States and other jurisdictions, are subject to interpretation and certain jurisdictions are aggressively interpreting their laws in new ways in an effort to raise additional tax revenue from companies such as Facebook. The taxing authorities of the jurisdictions in which we operate may challenge our methodologies for valuing developed technology or intercompany arrangements, which could increase our worldwide effective tax rate and harm our financial position, results of operations, and cash flows. For example, in 2016, the IRS issued us a formal assessment relating to transfer pricing with our foreign subsidiaries in conjunction with the examination of the 2010 tax year, and although we disagree with the IRS’s position and are contesting ... Continue to full case
France vs. Apple, Feb. 2019, Settlement on Payment of 571 million Euros in Back Taxes

France vs. Apple, Feb. 2019, Settlement on Payment of 571 million Euros in Back Taxes

Apple has agreed to paid an additional 571 million euros to France in a settlement with the tax authorities. According to the French news agency, l’expansion l’Express – “For several months now, secret negotiations on this subject have been taking place between Apple and the French International Audit Department (DVNI). But it is not until the end of December 2018 that a confidential agreement was reached. The subject of the negotiations has been the limited revenues and the low taxes paid by Apple in France for the last ten years.” A similar agreement was entered by Apple in the UK and Apple in Italy ... Continue to full case
Blizzard Gaming involved in major Tranfer Pricing disputes

Blizzard Gaming involved in major Tranfer Pricing disputes

US Gaming Giant, Activision Blizzard Inc. – known for games such as World of Warcraft and Diablo – is and has been involved in several major transfer pricing disputes – with the US, French, UK, and Swedish tax authorities. In a 10Q filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission from November 2018 the following information was provided by the company on pending tax cases. “Activision Blizzard’s 2009 through 2016 tax years remain open to examination by certain major taxing jurisdictions to which we are subject. During February 2018, the Company was notified by the IRS that its tax returns for 2012 through 2016 tax years will be subject to examination. In September 2018, the IRS concluded its examination of our 2009 through 2011 tax years. The Company also has several state and non-U.S. audits pending, including the French audit discussed below. In addition, as ... Continue to full case
Denmark vs Microsoft Denmark, January 2019, Danish Supreme Court, Case No SKM2019.136.HR

Denmark vs Microsoft Denmark, January 2019, Danish Supreme Court, Case No SKM2019.136.HR

The Danish tax authorities were of the opinion that Microsoft Denmark had not been properly remunerated for performing marketing activities due to the fact that OEM sales to Danish customers via MNE OEM’s had not been included in the calculation of local commissions. According to the Market Development Agreement (MDA agreement) concluded between Microsoft Denmark and MIOL with effect from 1 July 2003, Microsoft Denmark received the largest amount of either a commission based on sales invoiced in Denmark or a markup on it’s costs. Microsoft Denmark’s commission did not take into account the sale of Microsoft products that occurred through the sale of computers by multinational computer manufacturers with pre-installed Microsoft software to end users in Denmark – (OEM sales). In court, Microsoft required a dismissal. In a narrow 3:2 decision the Danish Supreme Court found in favor of Microsoft. “…Microsoft Denmark’s marketing may ... Continue to full case
Major US MNE's in Ireland

Major US MNE’s in Ireland

Major US MNE’s with regional Headquarters in Ireland for European business activities. The corporation tax rate in Ireland is only 12.5%. However to further sweeten the deal for MNE’s, Ireland has been known to offer special tax deals to MNE’s resulting in much lower effective tax rates. Ireland provides MNEs with both low tax centers for European activities and conduit holding companies serving as hubs for transferring profits and capital to low tax jurisdictions such as Cyprus and Bermuda. Especially MNEs within the IT sector have been known to use a combination of subsidiaries in Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Bermuda to reduce their taxes (“Double Duch Irish sandwich”). Ireland has been involved in investigations concerning corporate taxes in both the EU and US. An investigation of Apple discovered that two of the company’s Irish subsidiaries were not classified as tax residents in the U.S ... Continue to full case
US SOUTH DAKOTA v. WAYFAIR, INC., June 2018, US Supreme Court, Case No. 17-494

US SOUTH DAKOTA v. WAYFAIR, INC., June 2018, US Supreme Court, Case No. 17-494

Concerned about the erosion of its sales tax base and corresponding loss of critical funding for state and local services, the South Dakota Legislature in 2016 enacted a law requiring out-of-state sellers to collect and remit sales tax “as if the seller had a physical presence in the State.” The Act covers sellers that, on an annual basis, deliver more than $100,000 of goods or services into the State or engage in 200 or more separate transactions for the delivery of goods or services into the State. Respondents, top online retailers with no employees or real estate in South Dakota, each meet the Act’s minimum sales or transactions requirement, but do not collect the State’s sales tax. South Dakota filed suit in state court, seeking a declaration that the Act’s requirements are valid and applicable to respondents and an injunction requiring respondents to register for ... Continue to full case
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