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.

US Supreme Court denies Whirlpool's request for judicial review of the 2021 judgement from the Court of Appeal.

US Supreme Court denies Whirlpool’s request for judicial review of the 2021 judgement from the Court of Appeal.

21 November 2022 the US Supreme Court denied Whirlpool its request for judicial review of the December 2021 judgement of the Court of Appeal (Sixth Circuit). 10 August 2022 Whirlpool filed a “petition for writ” with the Supreme Court of the United States. “Petitioners Whirlpool Financial Corporation & Consolidated Subsidiaries and Whirlpool International Holdings S.à.r.l. & Consolidated Subsidiaries collectively, “Whirlpool”) respectfully petition this Court for a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in this case.” The case revolves around a tax arrangement setup by the Whirlpool group, where a subsidiary in Luxembourg with one part-time employee (and subject to US CFC provisions) owned a Mexican manufacturing entity. The Mexican entity manufactured products for the Luxembourg subsidiary under a manufacturing services arrangement. According to the contractual setup, the subsidiary in Luxembourg owned all the ... Continue to full case
India vs Google India Private Limited, Oct. 2022, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, 1513/Bang/2013, 1514/Bang/2013, 1515/Bang/2013, 1516/Bang/2013

India vs Google India Private Limited, Oct. 2022, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, 1513/Bang/2013, 1514/Bang/2013, 1515/Bang/2013, 1516/Bang/2013

Google Ireland licenses Google AdWords technology to its subsidiary in India and several other countries across the world. The Tax Tribunal in India found that despite the duty of Google India to withhold tax at the time of payment to Google Ireland, no tax was withheld. This was considered tax evasion, and Google was ordered to pay USD 224 million. The case was appealed by Google to the High Court, where the case was remanded to the Income Tax Appellate Authority for re-examination. Judgement of the ITAT After re-examining the matter on the orders of the Karnataka High Court, the Income Tax Appellate Authority concluded that the payments made by the Google India to Google Ireland between 2007-08 and 2012-13 was not royalties and therefore not subject to withholding tax. Excerpts “30. On a consideration of all the above agreements and the facts on record, ... Continue to full case
New Zealand vs Frucor Suntory, September 2022, Supreme Court, Case No [2022] NZSC 113

New Zealand vs Frucor Suntory, September 2022, Supreme Court, Case No [2022] NZSC 113

Frucor Suntory (FHNZ) had deducted purported interest expenses that had arisen in the context of a tax scheme involving, among other steps, its issue of a Convertible Note to Deutsche Bank, New Zealand Branch (DBNZ), and a forward purchase of the shares DBNZ could call for under the Note by FHNZ’s Singapore based parent Danone Asia Pte Ltd (DAP). The Convertible Note had a face value of $204,421,565 and carried interest at a rate of 6.5 per cent per annum. Over its five-year life, FHNZ paid DBNZ approximately $66 million which FHNZ characterised as interest and deducted for income tax purposes. The tax authorities issued an assessment where deductions of interest expenses in the amount of $10,827,606 and $11,665,323 were disallowed in FY 2006 and 2007 under New Zealand´s general anti-avoidance rule in s BG 1 of the Income Tax Act 2004. In addition, penalties ... Continue to full case
Netherlands vs "Owner B.V.", July 2022, District Court, Case No. ECLI:NL:RBNHO:2022:6584

Netherlands vs “Owner B.V.”, July 2022, District Court, Case No. ECLI:NL:RBNHO:2022:6584

Owner B.V. was set up by a number of investors to acquire a Belgian entity with Dutch subsidiaries. After the acquisition the Dutch subsidiaries were merged into a fiscal unity with Owner B.V. Interest in an amount of EUR 1.7 million due on the debt related to the acquisition was considered by the court not deductible under section 10a of the Vpb Act. In addition, Owner B.V.’s profit had been reduced by EUR 6.0 million by interest on shareholder loans. The court deemed that 4.5 million of this amount was not deductible by virtue of fraus legis. The court further ruled that part of the costs charged to the Dutch company qualified as financing costs and could be deducted. Excerpts “5.8. The defendant has argued that under Section 8b of the Vpb Act, a full recharacterisation of the loans can and should take place, which ... Continue to full case
Uber-files - Tax Avoidance promoted by the Netherlands

Uber-files – Tax Avoidance promoted by the Netherlands

Uber files – confidential documents, leaked to The Guardian newspaper shows that Uber in 2015 sought to deflect attention from its Dutch conduits and Caribbean tax shelters by helping tax authorities collect taxes from its drivers. At that time, Uber’s Dutch subsidiary received payments from customers hiring cars in cities around the world (except US and China), and after paying the drivers, profits were routed on as royalty fees to Bermuda, thus avoiding corporate income tax. In 2019, Uber took the first steps to close its Caribbean tax shelters. To that end, a Dutch subsidiary purchased the IP that was previously held by the Bermudan subsidiary, using a $16 billion loan it had received from Uber’s Singapore holding company. The new setup was also tax driven. Tax depreciations on the IP acquired from Bermuda and interest on the loan from Singapore will significantly reduce Uber’s ... Continue to full case
Rio Tinto has agreed to pay AUS$ 1 billion to settle a dispute with Australian Taxation Office over its Singapore Marketing Hub

Rio Tinto has agreed to pay AUS$ 1 billion to settle a dispute with Australian Taxation Office over its Singapore Marketing Hub

On 20 July 2022 Australian mining group Rio Tinto issued a press release announcing that a A$ 1 billion settlement had been reached with the Australian Taxation Office. “The agreement resolves the disagreement relating to interest on an isolated borrowing used to pay an intragroup dividend in 2015. It also separately resolves the pricing of certain transactions between Rio Tinto entities based in Australia and the Group’s commercial centre in Singapore from 2010-2021 and provides certainty for a further five-year period. Rio Tinto has also reached agreement with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) in relation to transfer pricing for the same periods. Reaching agreement with both tax authorities ensures Rio Tinto is not subject to double taxation. As part of this agreement, Rio Tinto will pay to the ATO additional tax of A$613m for the twelve historical years (2010 to 2021). This is ... Continue to full case
UK vs BlackRock, July 2022, Upper Tribunal, Case No [2022] UKUT 00199 (TCC)

UK vs BlackRock, July 2022, Upper Tribunal, Case No [2022] UKUT 00199 (TCC)

In 2009 the BlackRock Group acquired Barclays Global Investors for a total sum of $13,5bn. The price was paid in part by shares ($6.9bn) and in part by cash ($6.6bn). The cash payment was paid by BlackRock Holdco 5 LLC – a US Delaware Company tax resident in the UK – but funded by the parent company by issuing $4bn loan notes to the LLC. In the years following the acquisition Blackrock Holdco 5 LLC claimed tax deductions in the UK for interest payments on the intra-group loans. Following an audit in the UK the tax authorities disallowed the interest deductions. The tax authorities held that the transaction would not have happened between independent parties. They also found that the loans were entered into for an unallowable tax avoidance purpose. A UK taxpayer can be denied a deduction for interest where a loan has an ... Continue to full case
Italy vs BASF Italia s.p.a., June 2022, Supreme Court, Cases No 19728/2022

Italy vs BASF Italia s.p.a., June 2022, Supreme Court, Cases No 19728/2022

The German BASF group is active in the chemical industry and has subsidiaries all over the world including Italy. In FY 2006 BASF Italia s.p.a. was served with two notices of assessment by the tax authorities. The tax assessments formulated three findings. 1. non-deductibility of the cancellation deficit – arising from the merger by incorporation of Basf Agro s.p.a. into Basf Italia s.p.a., resolved on 27 April 2004 – which the acquiring company had allocated to goodwill, the amortisation portions of which had been deducted in tenths and then, from 2005, in eighteenths. The Office had denied the deductibility on the ground that the company, in the declaration submitted electronically, had not expressly requested, as required by Article 6(4) of Legislative Decree No. 358 of 8 October 1997, the tax recognition of the greater value of goodwill recorded in the balance sheet to offset the ... Continue to full case
McDonald’s has agreed to pay €1.25bn to settle a dispute with French authorities over excessive royalty payments to Luxembourg

McDonald’s has agreed to pay €1.25bn to settle a dispute with French authorities over excessive royalty payments to Luxembourg

On 16 June 2022 McDonald’s France entered into an settlement agreement according to which it will pay €1.245 billion in back taxes and fines to the French tax authorities. The settlement agreement resulted from investigations carried out by the French tax authorities in regards to abnormally high royalties transferred from McDonald’s France to McDonald’s Luxembourg following an intra group restructuring in 2009. McDonald’s France doubled its royalty payments from 5% to 10% of restaurant turnover, and instead of paying these royalties to McDonald’s HQ in the United States, going forward they paid them to a Swiss PE of a group company in Luxembourg, which was not taxable of the amounts. During the investigations it was discovered that McDonald’s royalty fees could vary substantially from one McDonald’s branch to the next without any justification other than tax savings for the group. This conclusion was further supported ... Continue to full case
Sweden vs Swedish Match Intellectual Property AB, May 2022, Supreme Administrative Court, Case No Mål: 5264--5267-20, 5269-20

Sweden vs Swedish Match Intellectual Property AB, May 2022, Supreme Administrative Court, Case No Mål: 5264–5267-20, 5269-20

At issue was whether the acquisition value of an inventory acquired from a related company should be adjusted on the basis of Swedish arm’s length provisions or alternatively tax avoidance provisions According to the arm’s length rule in Chapter 18, Section 11 of the Income Tax Act, the acquisition value is to be adjusted to a reasonable extent if the taxpayer or someone closely related to the taxpayer has taken steps to enable the taxpayer to obtain a higher acquisition value than appears reasonable and it can be assumed that this has been done in order to obtain an unjustified tax advantage for one of the taxpayer or someone closely related to the taxpayer. Company (A) acquired a trademark from another company (B) in the same group for a price corresponding to its market value and used the acquisition value as the basis for depreciation ... Continue to full case
Poland vs D. Sp. z oo, April 2022, Administrative Court, Case No I SA/Bd 128/22

Poland vs D. Sp. z oo, April 2022, Administrative Court, Case No I SA/Bd 128/22

D. Sp. z oo had deducted interest expenses on intra-group loans and expenses related to intra-group services in its taxable income for FY 2015. The loans and services had been provided by a related party in Delaware, USA. Following a inspection, the tax authority issued an assessment where deductions for these costs had been denied resulting in additional taxable income. In regards to the interest expenses the authority held that the circumstances of the transactions indicated that they were made primarily in order to achieve a tax advantage contrary to the object and purpose of the Tax Act (reduction of the tax base by creating a tax cost in the form of interest on loans to finance the purchase of own assets), and the modus operandi of the participating entities was artificial, since under normal trading conditions economic operators, guided primarily by economic objectives and ... Continue to full case
Japan vs Universal Music Corp, April 2022, Supreme Court, Case No 令和2(行ヒ)303

Japan vs Universal Music Corp, April 2022, Supreme Court, Case No 令和2(行ヒ)303

An intercompany loan in the form of a so-called international debt pushdown had been issued to Universal Music Japan to acquire the shares of another Japanese group company. The tax authority found that the loan transaction had been entered for the principal purpose of reducing the tax burden in Japan and issued an assessment where deductions of the interest payments on the loan had been disallowed for tax purposes. The Tokyo District Court decided in favour of Universal Music Japan and set aside the assessment. The Court held that the loan did not have the principle purpose of reducing taxes because the overall restructuring was conducted for valid business purposes. Therefore, the tax authorities could not invoke the Japanese anti-avoidance provisions to deny the interest deductions. In 2020 the decision of the district court was upheld by the Tokyo High Court. The tax authorities then ... Continue to full case
Denmark vs Heavy Transport Holding Denmark ApS, March 2021, High Court, Cases B-721-13

Denmark vs Heavy Transport Holding Denmark ApS, March 2021, High Court, Cases B-721-13

Heavy Transport Holding Denmark ApS, a subsidiary in the Heerema group, paid dividends to a parent company in Luxembourg which in turn paid the dividends to two group companies in Panama. The tax authorities found that the company in Luxembourg was not the beneficial owner of the dividends and thus the dividends were not covered by the tax exemption rules of the EU Parent/Subsidiary Directive or the Double Taxation Convention between Denmark and Luxembourg. On that basis an assessment was issued regarding payment of withholding tax on the dividends. An appeal was filed by Heavy Transport Holding Denmark ApS with the High Court. Judgement of the Eastern High Court The court dismissed the appeal of Heavy Transport Holding Denmark ApS and decided in favor of the tax authorities. The parent company in Luxembourg was a so-called “flow-through” company which was not the beneficial owner of ... Continue to full case
Norway vs Fortis Petroleum Norway AS, March 2022, Court of Appeal, Case No LB-2021-26379

Norway vs Fortis Petroleum Norway AS, March 2022, Court of Appeal, Case No LB-2021-26379

In 2009-2011 Fortis Petroleum Norway AS (FPN) bought seismic data related to oil exploration in the North Sea from a related party, Petroleum GeoServices AS (PGS), for NKR 95.000.000. FBN paid the amount by way of a convertible intra-group loan from PGS in the same amount. FPN also purchased administrative services from another related party, Consema, and later paid a substantial termination fee when the service contract was terminated. The acquisition costs, interest on the loan, costs for services and termination fees had all been deducted in the taxable income of the company for the years in question. Central to this case is the exploration refund scheme on the Norwegian shelf. This essentially means that exploration companies can demand cash payment of the tax value of exploration costs, cf. the Petroleum Tax Act § 3 letter c) fifth paragraph. If the taxpayer does not have ... Continue to full case
France vs IKEA, February 2022, CAA of Versailles, No 19VE03571

France vs IKEA, February 2022, CAA of Versailles, No 19VE03571

Ikea France (SNC MIF) had concluded a franchise agreement with Inter Ikea Systems BV (IIS BV) in the Netherlands by virtue of which it benefited, in particular, as a franchisee, from the right to operate the ‘Ikea Retail System’ (the Ikea concept), the ‘Ikea Food System’ (food sales) and the ‘Ikea Proprietary Rights’ (the Ikea trade mark) in its shops. In return, Ikea France paid Inter Ikea Systems BV a franchise fee equal to 3% of the amount of net sales made in France, which amounted to EUR 68,276,633 and EUR 72,415,329 for FY 2010 and 2011. These royalties were subject to the withholding tax provided for in the provisions of Article 182 B of the French General Tax Code, but under the terms of Article 12 of the Convention between France and the Netherlands: “1. Royalties arising in one of the States and paid ... Continue to full case
Sweden vs Flir Commercial Systems AB, January 2022, Administrative Court of Appeal, Case No 2434–2436-20

Sweden vs Flir Commercial Systems AB, January 2022, Administrative Court of Appeal, Case No 2434–2436-20

In 2012, Flir Commercial Systems AB sold intangible assets from a branch in Belgium and subsequently claimed a tax relief of more than SEK 2 billion in fictitious Belgian tax due to the sale. The Swedish Tax Agency decided not to allow relief for the Belgian “tax”, and issued a tax assessment where the relief of approximately SEK 2 billion was denied and a surcharge of approximately SEK 800 million was added. An appeal was filed with the Administrative Court, In March 2020 the Administrative Court concluded that the Swedish Tax Agency was correct in not allowing relief for the fictitious Belgian tax. In the opinion of the Administrative Court, the Double tax agreement prevents Belgium from taxing increases in the value of the assets from the time where the assets were owned in Sweden. Consequently, any fictitious tax cannot be credited in the Swedish ... Continue to full case
Netherlands - Crop Tax Advisers, January 2022, Court of Appeal, Case No. 200.192.332/01, ECLI:NL:GHARL:2022:343

Netherlands – Crop Tax Advisers, January 2022, Court of Appeal, Case No. 200.192.332/01, ECLI:NL:GHARL:2022:343

The question at issue was whether a Crop 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. Judgement of the Court of Appeal “Crop is liable for the damages arising from the shortcoming. For the assessment of that damage, the case must be referred to the Statement of Damages, as the District Court has already decided. To answer the question of whether the likelihood of damage resulting from the shortcomings is plausible, a comparison must be made between the current situation and the situation in which business rates would have been applied. For the hypothetical situation, the rates to be recommended by the expert should be used. For the current situation, the Tax Authorities have agreed to adjusted pricing. The question whether and to what extent [the ... Continue to full case
Zimbabwe vs Delta Beverages Ltd., Supreme Court, Judgement No. SC 3/22

Zimbabwe vs Delta Beverages Ltd., Supreme Court, Judgement No. SC 3/22

Delta Beverages Ltd, a subsidiary of Delta Corporation, had been issued a tax assessment for FY 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 where various fees for service, technology license of trademarks, technology and know-how paid to a group company in the Netherlands (SAB Miller Management BV) had been disallowed by the tax authorities (Zimra) of Zimbabwe resulting in additional taxes of US$42 million which was later reduced to US$30 million. An appeal was filed with the Special Court (for Income Tax Appeals) where, in a judgment dated 11 October 2019, parts of the assessment was set aside. Not satisfied with the result, an appeal (Delta Beverages) and cross-appeal (tax authorities) was filed with the Supreme Court. Judgement of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court set aside the judgement of the Special Court (for Income Tax Appeals) and remanded the case for reconsiderations in relation ... Continue to full case
Portugal vs "GAAR S.A.", January 2022, Supremo Tribunal Administrativo, Case No : JSTA000P28772

Portugal vs “GAAR S.A.”, January 2022, Supremo Tribunal Administrativo, Case No : JSTA000P28772

“GAAR S.A” is a holding company with a share capital of EUR 55,000.00. In 2010, “GAAR S.A” was in a situation of excess equity capital resulting from an accumulation of reserves (EUR 402,539.16 of legal reserves and EUR 16,527,875.72 of other reserves). The Board of Directors, made up of three shareholders – B………… (holder of 21,420 shares, corresponding to 42.84% of the share capital), C………… (holder of a further 21,420 shares, corresponding to 42.84% of the share capital) and D………… (holder of 7. 160 shares, corresponding to the remaining 14.32% of the share capital) – decided to “release this excess of capital” and, following this resolution, the shareholders decided: i) on 22.02.2010 to redeem 30,000 shares, with a share capital reduction, at a price of EUR 500.00 each, with a subsequent share capital increase of EUR 33. 000.00, by means of incorporation of legal reserves, ... Continue to full case
Australia vs Singapore Telecom Australia Investments Pty Ltd, December 2021, Federal Court of Australia, Case No FCA 1597

Australia vs Singapore Telecom Australia Investments Pty Ltd, December 2021, Federal Court of Australia, Case No FCA 1597

Singapore Telecom Australia Investments Pty Ltd entered into a loan note issuance agreement (the LNIA) with a company (the subscriber) that was resident in Singapore. Singapore Telecom Australia and the subscriber were ultimately 100% owned by the same company. The loan notes issued totalled approximately $5.2 billion to the subscriber. The terms of the LNIA was amendet on three occasions – the first amendment and the second amendment were expressed to have effect as from the date when the LNIA was originally entered into. The interest rate under the LNIA as amended by the third amendment was 13.2575% Following an audit the tax authorities issued an amended assessment under the transfer pricing provisions and denied interest deductions totalling approximately $894 million in respect of four years of income. According to the tax authorities the conditions agreed between the parties differed from the arm’s length principle ... Continue to full case