Category: General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR)

General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR) are statutory or judicially developed (doctrine) rules that empower tax authorities to deny taxpayers the benefit of abusive schemes, arrangements or transactions where these has been entered into primarily for tax-avoidance purposes.
Examples are the “fraus legis” principle applied in the Netherlands, the German “Prudent business manager” test, the Norwegian principle of “gjennemskjaering”, the Danish “realitetsgrundsætning”, the French principle of “abnormal act of management” and the US principel of “commercial rationality”.
In common for these rules are that economic substance is preferred over legal form, as legal form can more easily be manipulated in controlled environments.

UK vs Oxford Instruments Ltd, April 2019, First-tier Tribunal, Case No. [2019] UKFTT 254 (TC)

UK vs Oxford Instruments Ltd, April 2019, First-tier Tribunal, Case No. [2019] UKFTT 254 (TC)

At issue in this case was UK loan relationship rules – whether a note issued as part of a structure for refinancing the US sub-group without generating net taxable interest income in the UK had an unallowable purpose and the extent of deductions referable to the unallowable purpose considered. The Court ruled in favor of the tax administration: “Did the $140m Promissory Note secure a tax advantage? 110.     In my view, the $140m Promissory Note secured a tax advantage for OIOH 2008 Ltd in that all of the interest arising in respect of the note (apart from 25% of the interest on $94m of the principal amount of the note) was set off against the taxable income of OIOH 2008 Ltd.  Those interest deductions were accordingly a “relief from tax” falling within Section 1139(2)(a) of the CTA 2010. 111.     I consider that that would be the case ... Continue to full case
New Zealand vs Cullen Group Limited, March 2019, New Zealand High Court, Case No [2019] NZHC 404

New Zealand vs Cullen Group Limited, March 2019, New Zealand High Court, Case No [2019] NZHC 404

In moving to the United Kingdom, a New Zealand citizen, Mr. Eric Watson, restructured a significant shareholding into debt owed by a New Zealand company, Cullen Group Ltd, to two Cayman Island conduit companies, all of which he still controlled to a high degree. This allowed Cullen Group Ltd to pay an Approved Issuer Levy (AIL) totalling $8 million, rather than Non-Resident Withholding Tax of $59.5 million. The steps in the arrangement were as follows: (a) Mr Watson sold his shares in Cullen Investments Ltd to Cullen Group, at a (rounded) value of $193 million, being $291 million less his previous $98 million shareholder advances. The sale was conditional on Cullen Investments Ltd selling its shares in Medical Holdings Ltd to Mr Watson and on Cullen Investments Ltd selling its shares in Vonelle Holdings Ltd to Maintenance Ltd which was owned by Mr Watson. (b) Cullen Group’s purchase of the Cullen Investments ... Continue to full case
US vs SIH Partners LLLP, May 2019, US Third Circuit of Appeal, Case No 18-1862

US vs SIH Partners LLLP, May 2019, US Third Circuit of Appeal, Case No 18-1862

The Third Circuit of Appeal upheld the tax courts prior decision i a $377 million dispute involving the affiliate of a US based commodities trader. The Court found that SIH Partners LLLP, an affiliate of Pennsylvania-based commodities trader Susquehanna International Group LLP, owed taxes on approximately $377 million in additional income. The extra earnings stemmed from a $1.5 billion loan from Bank of America brokerage Merrill Lynch, which was guaranteed by SIH’s subsidiaries in Ireland and the Cayman Islands. The Tax Court’s ruling was based on regulations under Section 956 of the Internal Revenue Code, which states that U.S. shareholders must include their controlled foreign corporations’ applicable earnings, up to the amount of such a loan, in their own income when the foreign units invest in U.S. property. US vs SIH Partners LLLP181862p Share: ... Continue to full case
Denmark vs T and Y Denmark, February 2019, European Court of Justice, Cases C-116/16 and C-117/16

Denmark vs T and Y Denmark, February 2019, European Court of Justice, Cases C-116/16 and C-117/16

The cases of T Danmark (C-116/16) and Y Denmark Aps (C-117/16) adresses questions related to interpretation of the EU-Parent-Subsidary-Directive The issue is withholding taxes levied by the Danish tax authorities in situations where dividend payments are made to conduit companies located in treaty countries but were the beneficial owners of these payments are located in non-treaty countries. During the proceedings in the Danish court system the European Court of Justice was asked a number of questions related to the conditions under which exemption from withholding tax can be denied on dividend payments to related parties. The European Court of Justice has now answered these questions in favor of the Danish Tax Ministry; Benefits granted under the Parent-Subsidiary Directive can be denied where fraudulent or abusive tax avoidance is involved. Quotations from cases C-116/16 and C-117/16: “The general principle of EU law that EU law cannot ... Continue to full case
Denmark vs N, X, C, and Z Denmark, February 2019, European Court of Justice, Cases C-115/16, C-118/16, C-119/16 and C-299/16

Denmark vs N, X, C, and Z Denmark, February 2019, European Court of Justice, Cases C-115/16, C-118/16, C-119/16 and C-299/16

The cases of N Luxembourg 1 (C-115/16), X Denmark A/S (C-118/16), C Danmark I (C-119/16) and Z Denmark ApS (C-299/16), adresses questions related to the interpretation of the EU Interest and Royalty Directive. The issue in these cases is withholding taxes levied by the Danish tax authorities in situations where interest payments are made to conduit companies located in treaty countries but were the beneficial owners of these payments are located in non-treaty countries. During the proceedings in the Danish court system the European Court of Justice was asked a number of questions related to the conditions under which exemption from withholding tax can be denied on interest payments to related parties. The European Court of Justice has now answered these questions in favor of the Danish Tax Ministry; Benefits granted under the Interest and Royalty Directive can be denied where fraudulent or abusive tax ... Continue to full case
Australia vs BHP Billiton, January 2019, Federal Court of Australia,  Case No [2019] FCAFC 4

Australia vs BHP Billiton, January 2019, Federal Court of Australia, Case No [2019] FCAFC 4

Mining group BHP Billiton had not in it’s Australian CfC income included income from associated British group companies from sales of Australian goods through Singapore. The tax authorities held that the British companies in BHP’s dual-listed company structure fell within a definition of “associate”, and part of the income should therfore be taxed in Australia under local CfC legislation. In December 2017 BHP won the case in an administrative court but this decision was appealed to the Federal Court by the authorities. The Federal Court found in favor of the tax authority. The court found that both BHP’s Australian and British arms are associates, and therefore subject to tax in Australia under Australien CfC rules. BHP has now asked the High Court for leave to appeal. Australia v BHP jan 2019 FC AFC 4 Share: ... Continue to full case
The EU Anti Tax Avoidance Package - Anti Tax Avoidance Directives (ATAD I & II) and Other Measures

The EU Anti Tax Avoidance Package – Anti Tax Avoidance Directives (ATAD I & II) and Other Measures

Anti Tax Avoidance measures are now beeing implemented across the EU with effect as of 1 January 2019. The EU Anti Tax Avoidance Package (ATAP) was issued by the European Commission in 2016 to counter tax avoidance behavior of MNEs in the EU and to align tax payments with value creation. The package includes the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive, an amending Directive as regards hybrid mismatches with third countries, and four Other measures. ATAD I The Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive (ATAD), COUNCIL DIRECTIVE (EU) 2016/1164 of 12 July 2016, introduces five anti-abuse measures, against tax avoidance practices that directly affect the functioning of the internal market. 1) Interest Limitation Rule  – Reduce profitshifting via exessive interest payments (Article 4) 2) Exit Taxation – Prevent tax motivated movement of valuable business assets (eg. intangibles) across borders (Article 5) 3) General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR) – Discourage Artificial Arrangements (Article 6) 4) Controlled Foreign Company (CFC) – ... Continue to full case
Italy vs Dolce & Gabbana, December 2018, Supreme Court, Case no 33234/2018

Italy vs Dolce & Gabbana, December 2018, Supreme Court, Case no 33234/2018

In this case the Italian fashion group, Dolce & Gabbana, had moved ownership of valuable intangibles to a subsidiary established for that purpose in Luxembourg. The Italian Revenue Agency found the arrangement to be wholly artificial and set up only to avoid Italien taxes and to benefit from the privileged tax treatment in Luxembourg. The Revenue Agency argued that all decision related to the intangibles was in fact taken at the Italian headquarters of Dolce & Gabbana in Milan, and not in Luxembourg, where there were no administrative structure and only one employee with mere secretarial duties. Dolce & Gobbana disargeed with these findings and brought the case to court. In the first and second instance the courts ruled in favor of the Italian Revenue Agency, but the Italian Supreme Court ruled in favor of Dolce & Gabbana. According to the Supreme Court, the fact ... Continue to full case
UK vs GDF Suez Teesside, October 2018, UK Court of Appeal, Case No [2018] EWCA Civ 2075

UK vs GDF Suez Teesside, October 2018, UK Court of Appeal, Case No [2018] EWCA Civ 2075

Following the collapse of Enron in 2001, Goldman Sachs and Cargill had purchased a company previously known as Teeside Power Ltd. Teesside Power had claimed hundreds of millions of pounds were owed to the plant by other Enron subsidiaries. In a scheem devised by Ernst and Young, Teesside Power set up a Jersey-based company to avoid paying corporation tax on about £200 million by converting the receivables into shares. The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the tax authorities and considered the scheme abusive tax avoidance covered by UK GAARs. The Court stated that statutory notes, although they are not endorsed by Parliament, are admissible as an aid to construction. The explanatory notes relating to the 2006 amendment to FA 1996 s 85A(1) confirmed that the amendment aimed to make it absolutely clear that the ‘fairly represent’ rule in s 84(1) takes priority over ... Continue to full case
Canada vs ALTA Energy Luxemburg, September 2018, Case no 2014-4359(IT)G

Canada vs ALTA Energy Luxemburg, September 2018, Case no 2014-4359(IT)G

ALTA Energy, a resident of Luxembourg, claimed an exemption from Canadian income tax under Article 13(5) of the Canada-Luxembourg Income Tax Treaty in respect of a large capital gain arising from the sale of shares of ALTA Canada, its wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary. At that time, Alta Canada carried on an unconventional shale oil business in the Duvernay shale oil formation situated in Northern Alberta. Alta Canada was granted the right to explore, drill and extract hydrocarbons from an area of the Duvernay formation designated under licenses granted by the government of Alberta. The Canadian tax authorities denied that the exemption applied and assessed ALTA Energy accordingly. Article 13(5) of the Canada-Luxembourg Tax Treaty is a distributive rule of last application. It applies only in the case where the capital gain is not otherwise taxable under paragraphs (1) to (4) of Article 13 of the Treaty ... Continue to full case
Canada vs Bank of Montreal, September 2018, Tax Court of Canada, Case No 2018 TCC 187

Canada vs Bank of Montreal, September 2018, Tax Court of Canada, Case No 2018 TCC 187

The Court found that section 245 (GAAR) of the Canadian Income Tax Act did not apply to the transactions in question. Subsection 245(1) defines a “tax benefit” as a reduction, avoidance or deferral of tax. The Respondent says that the tax benefit BMO received was the reduction in its tax payable as a result of subsection 112(3.1) not applying to reduce its share of the capital loss on the disposition of the common shares of NSULC. In 2005, the Bank of Montreal (“BMO”) wanted to lend a total of $1.4 billion USD to a number of its US subsidiaries referred to as the Harris Group. BMO chose to borrow those funds from third parties. Tower Structure It would not have been tax efficient for BMO to simply borrow the funds and lend them to the Harris Group. Such a structure would have resulted in BMO ... Continue to full case
Canada vs Loblaw Companies Ltd., September 2018, Canadian tax court, Case No 2015-2998(IT)G

Canada vs Loblaw Companies Ltd., September 2018, Canadian tax court, Case No 2015-2998(IT)G

The Canada Revenue Agency had issued a reassessments related to Loblaw’s Barbadian banking subsidiary, Glenhuron, for tax years 2001 – 2010. The tax authorities had determined that Glenhuron did not meet the requirements to be considered a foreign bank under Canadian law, and therefore was not exempt from paying Canadian taxes. “Loblaw took steps to make Glenhuron look like a bank in order to avoid paying tax. Government lawyers said Glenhuron did not qualify because, among other things, it largely invested the grocery giant’s own funds and was “playing with its own money.“ Tax Court found the transactions entered into by Loblaw regarding Glenhuron did result in a tax benefit but “were entered primarily for purposes other than to obtain the tax benefit and consequently were not avoidance transactions.” The Tax Court concludes as follows: “I do not see any extending the scope of paragraph ... Continue to full case
Canada vs Loblaw Financial Holdings Inc., September 2018, Tax Court of Canada, Case No 2018 TCC 182

Canada vs Loblaw Financial Holdings Inc., September 2018, Tax Court of Canada, Case No 2018 TCC 182

In this case the Tax Court found that Canadian grocery chain Loblaw using an offshore banking affiliate in a low tax jurisdiction – Barbados – to manage groups investments did not constituted tax avoidance. However, the court’s interpretation of a technical provision in the Canadian legislation had the consequence that Loblaw would nonetheless have to pay $368 million in taxes and penalties. It has later been stated that Loblaw will appeal the decision of the Tax Court. Canada-vs-Loblaw-2018-TCC-182 Share: ... Continue to full case
Germany vs Cyprus Ltd, June 2018, BFH judgment Case No IR 94/15

Germany vs Cyprus Ltd, June 2018, BFH judgment Case No IR 94/15

The Bundesfinanzhof confirmed prior case law according to which the provisions on hidden deposits and hidden profit distributions must be observed in the context of the additional taxation. On the question of economic activity of the controlled foreign company, the Bundesfinanzhof refers to the ruling of the European Court of Justice concerning Cadbury-Schweppes from 2006. According to paragraphs §§ 7 to 14 in the Außensteuergesetz (AStG) profits from controlled foreign companies without business activity can be taxed in Germany. In the case at hand the subsidiary was located in a rented office in Cyprus and employed a resident managing director. Her job was to handle correspondence with clients, to carry out and supervise payment transactions, manage business records and keep records. She was also entrusted with obtaining book licenses to order these sub-licenses for the benefit of three of Russia’s and Ukraine’s affiliates, which distributed ... Continue to full case
OECD Model Tax Convention 2017

OECD Model Tax Convention 2017

A new 2017 edition of the OECD Model Tax Convention has been released today, incorporating significant changes developed under the OECD/G20 project to address base erosion and profit (BEPS). The OECD Model Tax Convention, a model for countries concluding bilateral tax conventions, plays a crucial role in removing tax related barriers to cross border trade and investment. It is the basis for negotiation and application of bilateral tax treaties between countries, designed to assist business while helping to prevent tax evasion and avoidance. The OECD Model also provides a means for settling on a uniform basis the most common problems that arise in the field of international double taxation. The 2017 edition of the OECD Model mainly reflects a consolidation of the treaty-related measures resulting from the work on the OECD/G20 BEPS Project under Action 2 (Neutralising the Effects of Hybrid Mismatch Arrangements), Action 6 ... Continue to full case
Japan vs Denso Singapore, November 2017, Supreme Court of Japan

Japan vs Denso Singapore, November 2017, Supreme Court of Japan

A tax assessment based on Japanese CFC rules (anti-tax haven rules) had been applied to a Japanese Group’s (Denso), subsidiary in Singapore. According to Japanese CFC rules, income arising from a foreign subsidiary located in a state or territory with significantly lower tax rates is deemed to arise as the income of the parent company when the principal business of the subsidiary is holding shares or IP rights. However, the CFC rules do not apply when the subsidiary has substance and it makes economic sense to conduct business in the subsidiary in the low tax jurisdiction. According to the Supreme Court, total revenue, number of employees, and fixed facilities are relevant in this determination. The Singapore subsidiary managed it’s own subsidiaries or affiliates in other territories, and while the income from services to logistics in those territories represented 85% of its revenue, between 80% and 90% of it’s income came from dividends from its subsidiaries and affiliates. The Supreme Court held that the Singapore ... Continue to full case
Zimbabwe vs CRS (Pvt) Ltd, October 2017, High Court, HH 728-17 FA 20/2014

Zimbabwe vs CRS (Pvt) Ltd, October 2017, High Court, HH 728-17 FA 20/2014

The issue in this case was whether tax administration could tax a “non-existent income” through the “deeming provisions” of s 98 of Zimbabwe’s Income Tax Act. A lease agreement and a separate logistical agreement had been entered by CRS Ltd and a related South African company, for the lease of its mechanical trucks, trailers and tankers for a fixed rental. The tax payer contended that the rentals in the agreements were fair and reasonable. The tax administration contended that they were outrageously low so as to constitute under invoicing and tax avoidance. The court ruled in favor of the tax administration. Excerps from the Judgement: “Where any transaction, operation or scheme (including a transaction, operation or scheme involving the alienation of property) has been entered into or carried out, which has the effect of avoiding or postponing liability for any tax or of reducing the amount of ... Continue to full case
Norway vs. A AS, October 2017, Tax Tribunal, NS 71/2017

Norway vs. A AS, October 2017, Tax Tribunal, NS 71/2017

A Norwegian company, A, first acquired shares in Company C from a unrelated party D for tNKR 625. Company A then transferred the acquired shares in C to a subsidiary E, a shell company established by C for the purpose of the transaction. Company A then sold the shares in subsidiary E to the unrelated party D, from which it had originally bought the shares in C, for tNKR 3830, a price almost six times higher than the acquisition price, in a tax free transfer. Based on these facts, the Norwegian tax administration adjusted the price of the intra-group transfer shares in C from A to E. The Norwegian tax tribunal decided that the valuation af the shares in the intra-group transfer could be based on a linear appreciation in the share value. Click here for translation Norway vs AS 27 november 2017 SKATTEKLAGENEMDA NS ... Continue to full case
Canada vs Univar Holdco, October 2017, Federal Court of Appeal, Case No 2017 FCA 207

Canada vs Univar Holdco, October 2017, Federal Court of Appeal, Case No 2017 FCA 207

In the case of Univar Holdco the Canadian tax authorities had applied Canadian Anti-Avoidance Rules to a serie of transactions undertaken by the Univar Group following the acquisition of the group’s Dutch parent. The (only) purpose of these transactions was to increase the amount of retained earnings that could be taken out of Canada without incurring withholding tax. The Federal Court of Appeal overturned the prior decision of the Tax Court and came to the conclusion that it had not been proved that the transactions were abusive tax avoidance – abuse of the Act. The Court also noted that subsequent amendments and commentary to the Act do not confirm that transactions caught by the subsequent amendments are abusive before the amendments are enacted. The 2017 decision of the Federal Court of Appeal Canada vs Univar Holdco 13102017 The 2016 decision of the Tax Court Canada ... Continue to full case
New Zealand vs Honk Land Trustee Limited, 10 March 2017, Court of Appeal

New Zealand vs Honk Land Trustee Limited, 10 March 2017, Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal upheld decisions of the High Court confirming the Commissioner of Inland Revenue’s disallowance of a $1,116,000 management fee for income tax purposes. The Court of Appeal dismissed Honk Land Trustees Limited’s (“HLT”) appeal on the following alternative grounds: (1) there was no satisfactory evidence to show that management services were in fact provided; (2) there was no sufficient nexus shown; and (3) in the event the management fees were deductible, they were nevertheless part of a void tax avoidance arrangement. Additionally, the Court of Appeal agreed that the Commissioner was entitled to impose abusive tax position shortfall penalties. NewZealand vs Honk-Land-Trustees-Limited-v-Commissioner-of-Inland-Revenue Share: ... Continue to full case
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