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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.

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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