Category: Tax Avoidance Schemes

Tax avoidance schemes generally refer to complex tax arrangements setup by multinational enterprices to shift profits from high-tax jurisdiction to low-tax jurisdictions.
A difficult destinction has to be made between legal tax planning, abusive tax avoidance schemes which may or may not be legal, and illegal tax evation/sham transactions and arrangements.
It is generally the case that abusive/agressive tax avoidance schemes and arrangements, “colourable devices”, “dubious methods” and “fully artificial arrangements” set up with the primary or sole purpose of avoiding taxes are not permissible – even if the transactions are otherwise individually within the letter of the law.
Illegal tax evasion – fraud or sham transactions and arrangements – are usually considered criminal and prosecuted as such.

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
Netherlands vs Crop Tax Advisors, June 2019, Court of the Northern Netherlands, Case No  200.192.332/01

Netherlands vs Crop Tax Advisors, June 2019, Court of the Northern Netherlands, Case No 200.192.332/01

The question at issue was whether a tax adviser at Crop BV had acted in accordance with the requirements of a reasonably competent and reasonably acting adviser when advising on the so-called royalty routing and its implementation and when giving advice on trading. Click here for translation NL royalty routing1 Share: ... Continue to full case
Netherlands vs Tax advisor, June 2019, Court of Northern Netherlands, Case No. 200.193.965/01

Netherlands vs Tax advisor, June 2019, Court of Northern Netherlands, Case No. 200.193.965/01

The question at issue was whether a tax adviser had acted in accordance with the requirements of a reasonably competent and reasonably acting adviser when advising on the so-called royalty routing and its implementation and when giving advice on trading. Click here for translation NL Royalty routing2 Share: ... 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, Share: ... Continue to full case

EU report on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance

In March 2018 a special EU committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance (TAX3) was established. Now, one year later, The EU Parliament has approved a controversial report from the committee. According to the report close to 40 % of MNEs’ profits are shifted to tax havens globally each year with some European Union countries appearing to be the prime losers of profit shifting, as 35 % of shifted profits come from EU countries. About 80 % of the profits shifted from EU Member States are channelled to or through a few other EU Member States. The latest estimates of tax evasion within the EU point to a figure of approximately EUR 825 billion per year. Tax avoidance via six EU Member States results in a loss of EUR 42,8 billion in tax revenue in the other 22 Member States, which means that ... Continue to full case
New Beneficial Ownership Toolkit will help tax administrations tackle tax evasion more effectively

New Beneficial Ownership Toolkit will help tax administrations tackle tax evasion more effectively

A beneficial ownership toolkit was released 20. May 2019 in the context of the OECD’s Global Integrity and Anti-Corruption Forum. The toolkit, prepared by the Secretariat of the OECD’s Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, is intended to help governments implement the Global Forum’s standards on ensuring that law enforcement officials have access to reliable information on who the ultimate beneficial owners are behind a company or other legal entity so that criminals can no longer hide their illicit activities behind opaque legal structures. The toolkit was developed to support Global Forum members and in particular developing countries because the current beneficial ownership standard does not provide a specific method for implementing it. The toolkit covers a variety of important issues regarding beneficial ownership, including: the concepts of beneficial owners and ownership, the ... 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
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
Flir Systems Inc in SEK 2.8 billion transfer pricing dispute with Swedish Tax Authorities.

Flir Systems Inc in SEK 2.8 billion transfer pricing dispute with Swedish Tax Authorities.

Flir Systems Inc, a global leader in infrared Cameras, is involved in a SEK 2.8 billion transfer pricing dispute with the Swedish Tax Authorities. In a recent 10Q filings Flir Systems Inc. provides information on the dispute: “…the United States Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and other tax authorities regularly examine our income tax returns. Our financial condition and results of operations could be adversely impacted if any assessments resulting from the examination of our income tax returns by the IRS or other taxing authorities are not resolved in our favor. For example, during the quarter ending September 30, 2018, the Swedish Tax Authority (“STA”) issued a proposed tax assessment for the tax year ending December 31, 2012 to one of the Company’s non-operating subsidiaries in Sweden. The proposed assessment concerns the use of tax credits applied against capital gains pursuant to European Union Council Directive ... 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
South Africa vs Sasol Oil, November 2018, Supreme Court of Appeal, Case No 923/2017

South Africa vs Sasol Oil, November 2018, Supreme Court of Appeal, Case No 923/2017

The South African Supreme Court of Appeal, by a majority of the court, upheld an appeal against the decision of the Tax Court, in which it was held that contracts between companies in the Sasol Group of companies, for the supply of crude oil by a company in the Isle of Man to a group company in London, and the on sale of the same crude oil to Sasol Oil (Pty) Ltd in South Africa, were simulated transactions. As such, the Tax Court found that the transactions should be disregarded by the Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service, and that the Commissioner was entitled to issue additional assessments for the 2005, 2006 and 2007 tax years. On appeal, the Court considered all the circumstances leading to the conclusion of the impugned contracts, the terms of the contracts, the evidence of officials of Sasol Oil, ... Continue to full case
Netherlands vs X B.V., November 2018, Supreme Court, Case No 17/03918

Netherlands vs X B.V., November 2018, Supreme Court, Case No 17/03918

Company X B.V. held all the shares in the Irish company A. The Tax Agency in the Netherlands claimed that the Irish company A qualified as a “low-taxed investment participation”. The court agreed, as company A was not subject to a taxation of 10 per cent or more in Ireland. The Tax Agency also claimed that X B.V.’s profit should include a hidden dividend due to company A’s providing an interest-free loan to another associated Irish company E. The court agreed. Irish company E had benefited from the interest-free loan and this benefit should be regarded as a dividend distribution. It was then claimed by company X B.V, that the tax treaty between the Netherlands and Ireland did not permit including hidden dividends in X’s profit. The Supreme Court disagreed and found that the hidden dividend falls within the scope of the term “dividends” in ... 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 Cameco Corp., October 2018, Tax Court of Canada, Case No 2018 TCC 195

Canada vs Cameco Corp., October 2018, Tax Court of Canada, Case No 2018 TCC 195

Canadian mining company, Cameco Corp., sells uranium to a wholly owned trading hub, Cameco Europe Ltd., registred in low tax jurisdiction, Switzerland, which then re-sells the uranium to independent buyers. The parties had entered into a series of controlled transactions related to this activity and as a result the Swiss trading hub, Cameco Europe Ltd., was highly profitable. Following an audit, the Canadian tax authorities issued a transfer pricing tax assessment covering years 2003, 2005, 2006, and later tax assessments for subsequent tax years, adding up to a total of approximately US 1.5 bn in taxes, interest and penalties. The tax authorities first position was that the controlled purchase and sale agreements should be disregarded as a sham as all important functions and decisions were in fact made by Cameco Corp. in Canada. As a second and third position the tax authorities held that the Canadian transfer ... 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
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
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
Loading...