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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.

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

In this case 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 […]

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) […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

In this case 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 […]

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

In the case of grocery giant Loblaw 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 […]

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