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.

New Zealand vs Frucor Suntory, September 2020, Court of appeal, Case No [2020] NZCA 383

New Zealand vs Frucor Suntory, September 2020, Court of appeal, Case No [2020] NZCA 383

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
UK vs General Electric, July 2020, High Court, Case No RL-2018-000005

UK vs General Electric, July 2020, High Court, Case No RL-2018-000005

General Electric (GE) have been routing financial transactions (AUS $ 5 billion) related to GE companies in Australia via the UK in order to gain a tax advantage – by “triple dipping” in regards to interest deductions, thus saving billions of dollars in tax in Australia, the UK and the US. Before entering into these transactions, GE obtained clearance from HMRC that UK tax rules were met, in particular new “Anti-Arbitrage Rules” introduced in the UK in 2005, specifically designed to prevent tax avoidance through the exploitation of the tax treatment of ‘hybrid’ entities in different jurisdictions. The clearance was granted by the tax authorities in 2005 based on the understanding that the funds would be used to invest in businesses operating in Australia. In total, GE’s clearance application concerned 107 cross-border loans amounting to debt financing of approximately £21.2 billion. The Australian Transaction was ... Continue to full case
Netherlands vs X B.V., July 2020, Supreme Court (Preliminary ruling by the Advocate General), Case No ECLI:NL:PHR:2020:672

Netherlands vs X B.V., July 2020, Supreme Court (Preliminary ruling by the Advocate General), Case No ECLI:NL:PHR:2020:672

X bv is part of the worldwide X group, a financial service provider listed on the US stock exchange. At issue is deductibility of interest payments by X bv on a € 482 million loan granted by the parent company, US Inc. In 2010 the original loan between X bv and US Inc. was converted into two loans of € 191 million and € 291 million granted by a Luxembourg finance company in the X group, to two jointly taxed subsidiaries of X bv. According to the Dutch Tax Authorities, the interest payments on these loans falls under the provisions in Dutch art. 10a of the VPB Act 1969 whereby interest deductions are restricted. The Court of appeal disagreed and ruled in favor of X bv. This decision was appealed to the Supreme Court by the tax authorities. In a preliminary ruling, the Advocate General ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs. Ireland and Apple, July 2020, General Court of the European Union, Case No. T-778/16 and T-892/16

European Commission vs. Ireland and Apple, July 2020, General Court of the European Union, Case No. T-778/16 and T-892/16

In a decision of 30 August 2016 the European Commission concluded that Ireland’s tax benefits to Apple were illegal under EU State aid rules, because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. The decision of the Commission concerned two tax rulings issued by Ireland to Apple, which determined the taxable profit of two Irish Apple subsidiaries, Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe, between 1991 and 2015. As a result of the rulings, in 2011, for example, Apple’s Irish subsidiary recorded European profits of US$ 22 billion (c.a. €16 billion) but under the terms of the tax ruling only around €50 million were considered taxable in Ireland. Ireland appealed the Commission’s decision to the European Court of Justice. The Judgement of the European Court of Justice The General Court annuls the Commission’s decision that Ireland granted illegal State aid to Apple ... Continue to full case
Canada vs Cameco Corp., June 2020, Federal Court of Appeal, Case No 2020 FCA 112.

Canada vs Cameco Corp., June 2020, Federal Court of Appeal, Case No 2020 FCA 112.

Cameco, together with its subsidiaries, is a large uranium producer and supplier of the services that convert one form of uranium into another form. Cameco had uranium mines in Saskatchewan and uranium refining and processing (conversion) facilities in Ontario. Cameco also had subsidiaries in the United States that owned uranium mines in the United States. In 1993, the United States and Russian governments executed an agreement that provided the means by which Russia could sell uranium formerly used in its nuclear arsenal. The net result of this agreement was that a certain quantity of uranium would be offered for sale in the market. Cameco initially attempted to secure this source of uranium on its own but later took the lead in negotiating an agreement for the purchase of this uranium by a consortium of companies. When the final agreement was signed in 1999, Cameco designated ... Continue to full case
US vs Whirlpool, May 2020, US tax court, Case No. 13986-17

US vs Whirlpool, May 2020, US tax court, Case No. 13986-17

The US tax authorities had increased Whirlpool US’s taxable because income allocated to Whirlpool Luxembourg for selling appliances was considered taxable foreign base company sales income/CFC income to the parent company in the U.S. under “the manufacturing branch rule” under US tax code Section 951(a). The income from sales of appliances had been allocated to Whirlpool Luxembourg  through a manufacturing and distribution arrangement under which it was the nominal manufacturer of household appliances made in Mexico, that were then sold to Whirlpool US and to Whirlpool Mexico. According to the arrangement the income allocated to Luxembourg was not taxable in Mexico nor in Luxembourg. Whirlpool challenged IRS’s assessment and brought the case to the US Tax Court. The tax court ruled in favor of the IRS. “If Whirlpool Luxembourg had conducted its manufacturing operations in Mexico through a separate entity, its sales income would plainly have ... Continue to full case
Canada vs Loblaw Financial Holdings Inc., April 2020, Federal Court of Appeal, Case No 2020 FCA 79

Canada vs Loblaw Financial Holdings Inc., April 2020, Federal Court of Appeal, Case No 2020 FCA 79

In the case of Canadian grocery chain Loblaw, the Canadian Tax Court in 2018 found that using an offshore banking affiliate in a low tax jurisdiction – Barbados – to manage the groups investments did not constitute tax avoidance. However, the Tax 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. This decision has now been overturned by the Canadian Court of Appeal where a judgement in favor of Loblaw was delivered. Canada vs Loblaw April 2020 SC ... Continue to full case

Sweden vs Flir Commercial Systems AB, March 2020, Stockholm Administrative Court, Case No 28256-18

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. The Administrative Court concluded that the Swedish Tax Agency was correct in not allowing relief for the fictitious Belgian tax. A double taxation agreement applies between Sweden and Belgium. In the opinion of the Administrative Court, the agreement prevents Belgium from taxing the assets. Consequently, any fictitious tax cannot be deducted. The Administrative Court also considers that the Swedish Tax Agency was correct in imposing a tax surcharge and that there is no ... Continue to full case
Australia vs BHP Biliton Limited, March 2020, HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA, Case No [2020] HCA 5

Australia vs BHP Biliton Limited, March 2020, HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA, Case No [2020] HCA 5

BHP Billiton Ltd, an Australian resident taxpayer, is part of a dual-listed company arrangement (“the DLC Arrangement”) with BHP Billiton Plc (“Plc”). BHP Billiton Marketing AG is a Swiss trading hub in the group which, during the relevant years, was a controlled foreign company (CFC) of BHP Billiton Ltd because BHP Billiton Ltd indirectly held 58 per cent of the shares in the Swiss trading hub. BHP Billiton Plc indirectly held the remaning 42 per cent. The Swiss trading hub purchased commodities from both BHP Billiton Ltd’s Australian subsidiaries and BHP Billiton Plc’s Australian entities and derived income from sale of these commodities into the export market. There was no dispute that BHP Billiton Marketing AG’s income from the sale of commodities purchased from BHP Billiton Ltd’s Australian subsidiaries was “tainted sales income” to be included in the assessable income of BHP Billiton Ltd under ... Continue to full case
Netherlands vs [X] B.V., legal successor to [Y] U.A., March 2020, Pending before the Supreme Court, Case No ECLI:NL:PHR:2020:102

Netherlands vs [X] B.V., legal successor to [Y] U.A., March 2020, Pending before the Supreme Court, Case No ECLI:NL:PHR:2020:102

To acquire companies and resell them with capital gains a French Investment Fund distributed the capital of its investors (€ 5.4 billion in equity) between a French Fund Commun de Placement à Risques (FCPRs) and British Ltds managed by the French Investment Fund. For the purpose of acquiring the [X] group (the target), the French Investment Fund set up three legal entities in the Netherlands, [Y] UA, [B] BV, and [C] BV (the acquisition holding company). These three joint taxed entities are shown as Fiscal unit [A] below. The capital to be used for the acquisition of [X] group was divided into four FCPRs that held 30%, 30%, 30% and 10% in [Y] respectively. To get the full amount needed for the acquisition, [Y] members provided from their equity to [Y]: (i) member capital (€ 74.69 million by the FCPRs, € 1.96 million by the ... Continue to full case
Switzerland vs Swiss Investment AG, February 2020, Administrative Court Zurich, Case No SB.2018.00094 and SB.2018.00095

Switzerland vs Swiss Investment AG, February 2020, Administrative Court Zurich, Case No SB.2018.00094 and SB.2018.00095

Two Swiss investors had established a structure for the management of a private equity fund in the form of a Swiss “Investment Advisor” AG and a Jersey “Investment Mananger” Ltd. They each held 50% of the shares in the Swiss AG and 50% of the shares in the Jersey Ltd. Swiss AG and Jersey Ltd then entered an investment advisory agreement whereby the Swiss AG carried out all advisory activities on behalf of Jersey Ltd and Jersey Ltd assumed all the risk of the investments. Both investors were employed by Swiss AG and Jersey Ltd had no employees execpt two directors who each received a yearly payment of CFH 15,000. According to the investment advisory agreement Jersey Ltd would remunerate the Swiss AG with 66% of the gross fee income. The Swiss AG would carry out all relevant functions related to investment advisory and recommend ... Continue to full case
Luxembourg vs L SARL, January 2020, Luxembourg Administrative Tribunal, Case No 41800

Luxembourg vs L SARL, January 2020, Luxembourg Administrative Tribunal, Case No 41800

In 2013, L SARL requested in writing an “advance tax agreement” regarding the tax treatment of Mandatory Redeemable Preference Shares (MRPS) which generated a preferred dividend for its sole shareholder. L SARL wanted confirmation that the MRPS would be characterised as debt and that payments under the MRPS would therefore be tax deductible. The tax administration issued an advance tax agreement confirming that the content of the request complied with the tax laws and administrative practices in force. However, despite the agreement the tax authorities challenged the 2013 tax return and demanded proof that the return on the MRPS complied with the arm’s length principle. L SARL found that such proof was not necessary since the MRPS’ tax treatment had already been agreed by the tax administration agreement. The tax administration disagreed and issued an assessment. The case was brought before the Administrative Tribunal. The ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs. Luxembourg and Fiat Chrysler Finance Europe, September 2019, General Court of the European Union, Case No. T-755/15

European Commission vs. Luxembourg and Fiat Chrysler Finance Europe, September 2019, General Court of the European Union, Case No. T-755/15

On 3 September 2012, the Luxembourg tax authorities issued a tax ruling in favour of Fiat Chrysler Finance Europe (‘FFT’), an undertaking in the Fiat group that provided treasury and financing services to the group companies established in Europe. The tax ruling at issue endorsed a method for determining FFT’s remuneration for these services, which enabled FFT to determine its taxable profit on a yearly basis for corporate income tax in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. In 2015, the Commission concluded that the tax ruling constituted State aid under Article 107 TFEU and that it was operating aid that was incompatible with the internal market. It also noted that the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg had not notified it of the proposed tax ruling and had not complied with the standstill obligation. The Commission found that the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was required to recover the ... Continue to full case
European Commission vs. The Netherlands and Starbucks, September 2019, General Court of the European Union, Case No. T-760/15

European Commission vs. The Netherlands and Starbucks, September 2019, General Court of the European Union, Case No. T-760/15

In 2008, the Netherlands tax authorities concluded an advance pricing arrangement (APA) with Starbucks Manufacturing EMEA BV (Starbucks BV), part of the Starbucks group, which, inter alia, roasts coffees. The objective of that arrangement was to determine Starbucks BV’s remuneration for its production and distribution activities within the group. Thereafter, Starbucks BV’s remuneration served to determine annually its taxable profit on the basis of Netherlands corporate income tax. In addition, the APA endorsed the amount of the royalty paid by Starbucks BV to Alki, another entity of the same group, for the use of Starbucks’ roasting IP. More specifically, the APA provided that the amount of the royalty to be paid to Alki corresponded to Starbucks BV’s residual profit. The amount was determined by deducting Starbucks BV’s remuneration, calculated in accordance with the APA, from Starbucks BV’s operating profit. In 2015, the Commission found that ... Continue to full 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

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
France, Public Statement related to deduction of interest payments to a Belgian group company, BOI-RES-000041-20190904

France, Public Statement related to deduction of interest payments to a Belgian group company, BOI-RES-000041-20190904

In a public statement the French General Directorate of Public Finance clarified that tax treatment of interest deductions taken by a French company on interest payments to a related Belgian company that benefits from the Belgian notional interest rate scheme. According to French Law, interest paid to foreign group companies is only deductible if a minimum rate of tax applies to the relevant income abroad. Click here for translation BOI-RES-000041-20190904 ... Continue to full case
Australia vs. Glencore, August 2019, High Court, Case No. [2019] HCA 26 S256/2018

Australia vs. Glencore, August 2019, High Court, Case No. [2019] HCA 26 S256/2018

The Australian Tax Office had obtained information from the Paradise Paper-leak and used the information in a tax assessment of Glencore. Glencore held that such leaked information was confidential (protected by legal professional privilege) and could not be used in a tax assessment. On that basis Glencore filed an appeal to the High Court. High Court Decision The Australien High Court dismissed the appeal and allowed use of the leaked information for tax assessment purposes. “In no way do these cases support the notion that common law courts elsewhere are granting injunctions with respect to privileged material on the basis only of the wrongfulness associated with its taking.  Certainly, it is necessary for an equity to arise that the person to be restrained must have an obligation of conscience, but the basis for an injunction is the need to protect the confidentiality of the privileged ... 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 ... 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 ... Continue to full case
Perrigo facing billion dollar tax assessments in both Ireland and the US

Perrigo facing billion dollar tax assessments in both Ireland and the US

In July 2013 the Irish pharma company Elan was acquired by the US based Perrigo group for $8.6 billion (£5.6 billion). Ireland’s corporation tax rate was one of the main attractions for Perrigo and the deal was said to give Perrigo substantial tax savings due to a corporate tax inversion. The Irish 12.5 % corporate tax rate compared US rate of 30 % was further augmented by the trading losses built up over a number of years by Elan in its business as a drug development group. That meant that even with a $3.25 billion transaction like Elan’s sale of the rights to the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri the company would still not have to pay any tax. The low-tax scenario envisioned by Perrigo did not last for long. First Perrigo was issued a $1.9 billion tax bill (excluding interest and penalties) by the Irish tax ... Continue to full case