Category: EU State Aid

The definition of state aid is found in Article 107(1) TFEU. In order for state aid to be present all of the following four conditions need to be fulfilled:

  • Aid must be present; i.e. a financial advantage such as a tax benefit. Such aid must be granted by an EU Member State (or any lower level of government) or through state resources, in a manner attributable to that state.
  • Such aid should distort or threaten to distort competition and affect trade between EU Member States.
  • Such aid should favor certain undertakings or the production of certain goods; i.e. it needs to be ‘selective’.

In 2001, the EU Commission launced a number of investigations into “transfer pricing schemes” launched by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in relation to Apple, Starbucks, Fiat,  and Amazon.

Commission opens in-depth investigation into tax treatment of Huhtamäki in Luxembourg

Commission opens in-depth investigation into tax treatment of Huhtamäki in Luxembourg

The European Commission has now opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether tax rulings granted by Luxembourg to Finnish food and drink packaging company Huhtamäki may have given the company an unfair advantage over its competitors, in breach of EU State Aid rules. Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: “Member States should not allow companies to set up arrangements that unduly reduce their taxable profits and give them an unfair advantage over their competitors. The Commission will carefully investigate Huhtamäki’s tax treatment in Luxembourg to assess whether it is in line with EU State aid rules.” The Commission’s formal investigation concerns three tax rulings issued by Luxembourg to the Luxembourg-based company Huhtalux S.à.r.l. in 2009, 2012 and 2013. The 2009 tax ruling was disclosed as part of the “Luxleaks” investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2014. Huhtalux is ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs Belgium and Ireland, February 2019, General Court Case No 62016TJ0131

European Commission vs Belgium and Ireland, February 2019, General Court Case No 62016TJ0131

In 2016, the Commission requested that Belgium reclaim around €700 million from multinational corporations in what the Commission found to be illegal state aid provided under the Belgian “excess profit” tax scheme. The tax scheme allowed selected multinational corporations to exempt “excess profits” from the tax base when calculating corporate tax in Belgium. The European Court of Justice concludes that the Commission erroneously considered that the Belgian excess profit system constituted an aid scheme and orders that decision must be annulled in its entirety, in as much as it is based on the erroneous conclusion concerning the existence of such a scheme. For state aid to constitute an ‘aid scheme’, it must be awarded without requiring “further implementing measures.” According to court, “the Belgian tax authorities had a margin of discretion over all of the essential elements of the exemption system in question.” Belgium could ... Continue to full case
The European Commission opens in-depth investigation into tax treatment of Nike and Converse in the Netherlands

The European Commission opens in-depth investigation into tax treatment of Nike and Converse in the Netherlands

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether tax rulings granted by the Netherlands to Nike may have given the company an unfair advantage over its competitors, in breach of EU State aid rules. Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: “Member States should not allow companies to set up complex structures that unduly reduce their taxable profits and give them an unfair advantage over competitors. The Commission will investigate carefully the tax treatment of Nike in the Netherlands, to assess whether it is in line with EU State aid rules. At the same time, I welcome the actions taken by the Netherlands to reform their corporate taxation rules and to help ensure that companies will operate on a level playing field in the EU.” Nike is a US based company involved worldwide in the design, marketing and manufacturing of ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs McDonald, December 2018, European Commission Case no. SA.38945

European Commission vs McDonald, December 2018, European Commission Case no. SA.38945

The European Commission found that Luxembourg did not grant illegal State aid to McDonald’s as a consequence of the exemption of income attributed to a US branch. ...it is not established that the Luxembourg tax authorities misapplied the Luxembourg – US double taxation treaty. Therefore, on the basis of the doubts raised in the Opening Decision and taking into account its definition of the reference system, the Commission cannot establish that the contested rulings granted a selective advantage to McD Europe by misapplying the Luxembourg – US double taxation treaty ... Continue to full case
European Commission concludes on investigation into Luxembourg's tax treatment of McDonald's under EU state aid regulations, September 2018

European Commission concludes on investigation into Luxembourg’s tax treatment of McDonald’s under EU state aid regulations, September 2018

Following an investigation into Luxembourg’s tax treatment of McDonald’s under EU state aid regulations since 2015, the EU Commission concluded that the tax rulings granted by Luxembourg to McDonald’s in 2009 did not provide illegal state aid. According to the Commission, the law allowing McDonald’s to escape taxation on franchise income in Luxembourg – and the US – did not amount to an illegal selective advantage under EU law. The double non-taxation of McDonald’s franchise income was due to a mismatch between the laws of the United States and Luxembourg. See the 2015 announcement of formal opening of the investigations into McDonald’s tax agreements with Luxembourg from the EU Commission EU vs McDonal IP-18-5831_EN Share: ... Continue to full case
European Commission's investigations into member state transfer pricing and tax ruling practices

European Commission’s investigations into member state transfer pricing and tax ruling practices

Since June 2013, the European Commission has been investigating tax ruling practices of EU Member States. A Task Force was set up in summer 2013 to follow up on allegations of favourable tax treatment of certain companies, in particular in the form of unilateral tax rulings. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”) provides that “any aid granted by a Member State or through State resources in any form whatsoever which distorts or threatens to distort competition by favouring certain undertakings or the production of certain goods shall, in so far as it affects trade between Member States, be incompatible with the internal market.”. The State aid rules ensures that the functioning of the internal market is not distorted by anticompetitive behavior favouring some to the detriment of others. In June 2014 the Commission initiated a series of State aid investigations on ... Continue to full case
Apple - Taxes and Transfer Pricing

Apple – Taxes and Transfer Pricing

Apple’s tax affairs have been in the spotlight of tax authorities for decades – and still are! Settlements have been entered with numerous European Countries, among others – Italy, the UK and France. Apple has also been investigated by the EU and a State Aid ruling was issued in August 2016. According to the ruling “Ireland granted illegal tax benefits to Apple” and the European Commission ordered Apple to pay €13 billion, plus interest, in unpaid Irish taxes from 2004–14 to the Irish state. U.S. Senate scrutiny of Apple Inc.’s tax strategies back in 2009 turned the spotlight on a stateless entity with $30 billion in profit since 2009 that’s incorporated in Ireland, controlled by a board in California, and didn’t pay taxes in either place. Share: ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs. Netherlands and IKEA, Dec. 2017

European Commission vs. Netherlands and IKEA, Dec. 2017

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into the Netherlands’ tax treatment of Inter IKEA, one of the two groups operating the IKEA business. The Commission has concerns that two Dutch tax rulings may have allowed Inter IKEA to pay less tax and given them an unfair advantage over other companies, in breach of EU State aid rules. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in charge of competition policy said: “All companies, big or small, multinational or not, should pay their fair share of tax. Member States cannot let selected companies pay less tax by allowing them to artificially shift their profits elsewhere. We will now carefully investigate the Netherlands’ tax treatment of Inter IKEA.” In the early 1980s, the IKEA business model changed into a franchising model. Since then, it has been the Inter IKEA group that operates the franchise business of IKEA, using the “IKEA ... Continue to full case
EU blacklist of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions

EU blacklist of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions

On December 5, 2017, the EU published it’s blacklist of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions (tax havens). 1. American Samoa American Samoa does not apply any automatic exchange of financial information, has not signed and ratified, including through the jurisdiction they are dependent on, the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance as amended, does not apply the BEPS minimum standards and did not commit to addressing these issues by 31 December 2018. 2. Bahrain Bahrain does not cover all EU Member States for the purpose of automatic exchange of information, has not signed and ratified the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance as amended, facilitates offshore structures and arrangements aimed at attracting profits without real economic substance, does not apply the BEPS minimum standards and did not commit to addressing these issues by 31 December 2018. 3. Barbados Barbados has a harmful preferential tax regime ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs. UK, October 2017, State aid, CFC

European Commission vs. UK, October 2017, State aid, CFC

The European Commission has opened an in-depth probe into a UK scheme that exempts certain transactions by multinational groups from the application of UK rules targeting tax avoidance. It will investigate if the scheme allows these multinationals to pay less UK tax, in breach of EU State aid rules. European Commission vs. UK, October 2017, state aid CFC Share: ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs. Amazon and Luxembourg, October 2017, State Aid - Comissions decision, SA.38944 

European Commission vs. Amazon and Luxembourg, October 2017, State Aid – Comissions decision, SA.38944 

Luxembourg gave illegal tax benefits to Amazon worth around €250 million The European Commission has concluded that Luxembourg granted undue tax benefits to Amazon of around €250 million.  Following an in-depth investigation launched in October 2014, the Commission has 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. The Commission’s investigation showed that the level of the royalty payments, endorsed by the ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs. The Netherlands and Starbucks, March 2017 and October 2015, State Aid Investigation

European Commission vs. The Netherlands and Starbucks, March 2017 and October 2015, State Aid Investigation

The European Commission’s investigation on granting of selective tax advantages to Starbucks BV, cf. EU state aid rules. EU-vs-Starbucks-March-2017-State-Aid-investigation-2 EU-Starbucks-2015 Share: ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs Spain, December 2016, European Court of Justice, Case C-20/15P, C-21/15P

European Commission vs Spain, December 2016, European Court of Justice, Case C-20/15P, C-21/15P

The issue in these cases was tax provisions in Spain stipulating that, when a company in Spain acquires a share holding in a foreign company of at least 5%, goodwill resulting from that acquisition can be deducted for tax purposes through amortization (much like the US asset deal-regs). The Commission found these provisions to be in violation of EU State Aid rules. In 2014, the General Court annulled these Decisions, finding that the Commission had failed to establish the selective nature of the alleged aid measure. The General Court argued that for the selectivity condition to be satisfied, it is always necessary that a particular category of undertakings be identified that are exclusively favoured by the measure concerned and that can be distinguished by reason of specific properties common to them and characteristic of them. If that is not possible, then the measure is effectively ... Continue to full case
European Commission has opened investigation into Luxembourg's tax treatment of the GDF Suez group (now Engie), September 2016

European Commission has opened investigation into Luxembourg’s tax treatment of the GDF Suez group (now Engie), September 2016

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into Luxembourg’s tax treatment of the GDF Suez group (now Engie). The Commission has concerns that several tax rulings issued by Luxembourg may have given GDF Suez an unfair advantage over other companies, in breach of EU state aid rules. The Commission will assess in particular whether Luxembourg tax authorities selectively derogated from provisions of national tax law in tax rulings issued to GDF Suez. They appear to treat the same financial transaction between companies of GDF Suez in an inconsistent way, both as debt and as equity. The Commission considers at this stage that the treatment endorsed in the tax rulings resulted in tax benefits in favour of GDF Suez, which are not available to other companies subject to the same national taxation rules in Luxembourg. As from September 2008, Luxembourg issued several tax rulings concerning ... Continue to full case
US Treasury response to European Commission for recent State Aid Actions, 2016

US Treasury response to European Commission for recent State Aid Actions, 2016

The US Treasury in 2016 strongly criticized the European Commission for it’s state aid actions relating to US Corporations; Apple, Starbucks, Amazon, and McDonald’s. US Treasury white paper of August 2016 US White-Paper-EC-State-Aid August 24, 2016 US Treasury letter of February 2016 US Treasury letter of February 2016 EC state aid rulings Share: ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs. Ireland and Apple, August 2016, State Aid Decision

European Commission vs. Ireland and Apple, August 2016, State Aid Decision

According to the European Commission Ireland gave illegal tax benefits to Apple worth up to €13 billion The European Commission has concluded that Ireland granted undue tax benefits of up to €13 billion to Apple. This is illegal under EU state aid rules, because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. Ireland must now recover the illegal aid. EU-Commission-Apple Share: ... Continue to full case
European Commission opens formal investigation into Luxembourg's tax treatment of McDonald's under EU state aid regulations, December 2015

European Commission opens formal investigation into Luxembourg’s tax treatment of McDonald’s under EU state aid regulations, December 2015

The European Commission has formally opened an investigation into Luxembourg’s tax treatment of McDonald’s. Tax ruling granted by Luxembourg may have granted McDonald’s an advantageous tax treatment in breach of EU State aid rules On the basis of two tax rulings given by the Luxembourg authorities in 2009, McDonald’s Europe Franchising has paid no corporate tax in Luxembourg since then despite recording large profits (more than €250 million in 2013). These profits are derived from royalties paid by franchisees operating restaurants in Europe and Russia for the right to use the McDonald’s brand and associated services. The company’s head office in Luxembourg is designated as responsible for the company’s strategic decision-making, but the company also has two branches, a Swiss branch, which has a limited activity related to the franchising rights, and a US branch, which does not have any real activities. The royalties received ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs Luxembourg and Fiat, October  2015, State Aid Decision

European Commission vs Luxembourg and Fiat, October 2015, State Aid Decision

The European Commission have decided that selective tax advantages for Fiat in Luxembourg are illegal under EU state aid rules. EU-FIAT-2015 Share: ... Continue to full case
European Commission opens investigation of transfer pricing arrangements on corporate taxation of Amazon in Luxembourg, October 2014

European Commission opens investigation of transfer pricing arrangements on corporate taxation of Amazon in Luxembourg, October 2014

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether the decision by Luxembourg’s tax authorities with regard to the corporate income tax to be paid by Amazon in Luxembourg comply with the EU rules on state aid. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties and the Member States concerned an opportunity to submit comments. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. The tax ruling in favour of Amazon under investigation dates back to 2003 and is still in force. It applies to Amazon’s subsidiary Amazon EU Sàrl, which is based in Luxembourg and records most of Amazon’s European profits. Based on a methodology set by the tax ruling, Amazon EU Sàrl pays a tax deductible royalty to a limited liability partnership established in Luxembourg but which is not subject to corporate taxation in Luxembourg. As a result, most ... Continue to full case