Category: Tax Treaty Interpretation

Many countries have entered into tax treaties (also called double tax agreements, or DTAs) with other countries to avoid or mitigate double taxation. Such treaties may cover a range of taxes including income taxes, inheritance taxes, value added taxes, or other taxes.

Besides bilateral treaties, multilateral treaties are also in place. For example, European Union (EU) countries are parties to a multilateral agreement with respect to value added taxes under auspices of the EU, while a joint treaty on mutual administrative assistance of the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is open to all countries.

Tax treaties tend to reduce taxes of one treaty country for residents of the other treaty country to reduce double taxation of the same income.

France vs Accor (Hotels), June 2022, CAA de Versailles, Case No. 20VE02607

France vs Accor (Hotels), June 2022, CAA de Versailles, Case No. 20VE02607

The French Accor hotel group was the subject of an tax audit related to FY 2010, during which the tax authorities found that Accor had not invoiced a fee for the use of its trademarks by its Brazilian subsidiary, Hotelaria Accor Brasil, in an amount of 8,839,047. The amount not invoiced was considered a deemed distribution of profits and the tax authorities applied a withholding tax rate of 25% to the amount which resulted in withholding taxes in an amount of EUR 2.815.153. An appeal was filed by Accor with the Administrative Court. In a judgment of 7 July 2020, the Administrative Court partially discharged Accor from the withholding tax up to the amount of the application of the conventional reduced rate of 15% (related to dividends), and rejected the remainder of the claim. The Administrative Court considered that income deemed to be distributed did ... Continue to full case
France vs Société Planet, May 2022, Conseil d'État, Case No 444451

France vs Société Planet, May 2022, Conseil d’État, Case No 444451

In view of its purpose and the comments made on Article 12 of the OECD Model Convention, the Conseil d’État found that Article 12(2) of the Franco-New Zealand tax treaty was applicable to French source royalties whose beneficial owner resided in New Zealand, even if the royalties had been paid to an intermediary company established in a third country. The Supreme Court thus set aside the previous 2020 Judgement of the Administrative Court of Appeal. The question of whether the company in New Zealand actually qualified as the beneficial owner of the royalties for the years in question was referred to the Court of Appeal. Excerpt “1. It is clear from the documents in the file submitted to the judges of the court of first instance that the company Planet, which carries on the business of distributing sports programmes to fitness clubs, was subject to ... 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
India vs UPS Asia Group Pte. Ltd., March 2022, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal - Mumbai, Case No 220/Mum./2021

India vs UPS Asia Group Pte. Ltd., March 2022, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal – Mumbai, Case No 220/Mum./2021

UPS Asia is a company incorporated under the laws of Singapore and is engaged in the business of provision of supply chain management including the provision of freight forwarding and logistic services. In 2012 UPS Asia had entered into a Regional Transportation Services Agreement with UPS SCS (India) Pvt. Ltd. for the provisions of freight and logistics services. Under the Transportation Agreement, UPS Asia arranged to perform international freight transportation and provide overseas support services, while UPS India performed freight and logistics services in India to its India customers and to UPS Asia. Following an audit an assessment was issued according to which UPS Asia had a PE in India in the form of UPS India. Furthermore, profits of Rs.2,09,53,496 was considered attributable to operation in India. The tax authorities held that UPS India constitutes a PE of UPS Asia in India within the meaning ... Continue to full case
Bulgaria vs CBS, March 2022, Supreme Administrative Court, Case No 3012

Bulgaria vs CBS, March 2022, Supreme Administrative Court, Case No 3012

By judgment of 22 May 2020, the Administrative Court set aside a tax assessment in which CBS International Netherlands B.V. had been denied reimbursement of withholding tax in the amount of BGN 156 830,27 related to royalties and license payments. An appeal was filed by the tax authorities with the Supreme Administrative Court. In the appeal the tax authorities held that the beneficial owner of the licence and royalty payments was not CBS International Netherlands B.V. but instead CBS CORPORATION, a company incorporated and domiciled in New York, USA. According to the tax authorities the main function of CBS International Netherlands B.V. was that of an intermediary between the end customers and the beneficial owner. This was further supported by the transfer pricing documentation, according to which the US company that bears the risk of the development activity, the market risk is borne equally by ... Continue to full case
India vs Synamedia Limited, February 2022, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal - BANGALORE, Case No ITA No. 3350/Bang/2018

India vs Synamedia Limited, February 2022, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal – BANGALORE, Case No ITA No. 3350/Bang/2018

Synamedia Ltd. provides open end-to-end digital technology services to digital pay television platform operators. The company has expertise in the area of providing conditional access system, interactive systems and other software solutions as well as integration and support services for digital pay TV networks. For FY 2014-15 the company filed a tax return with nil income. The case was selected for a transfer pricing audit. The tax authorities in India accepted the arm’s length pricing determined by Synamedia, but some of the intra-group licence payments for software were considered subject to withholding taxes in India. Hence an assessment was issued. An appeal was filed by the company. Judgement of the Tax Appellate Tribunal The Tribunal decided in favor of Synamedia Ltd. and set aside the assessment. After analyzing the terms of the agreement the Tribunal concluded that the terms of agreement in the present case ... Continue to full case
Korea vs Microsoft, February 2022, Supreme Court, Case no. 2019두50946

Korea vs Microsoft, February 2022, Supreme Court, Case no. 2019두50946

In 2011 Samsung signed the contract with Microsoft for use of software-patent in Android-based smartphone and tablets, and for the years 2012-2015 Samsung paid royalties to a Microsoft subsidiary, MS Licensing GP, while saving 15 percent for withholding tax. The royalties paid by Samsung to Microsoft during these years amounted to 4.35 trillion won, of which 15%, or 653.7 billion won, was paid as withholding tax. In June 2016, Microsoft filed a claim for a tax refund in a amount of 634 billion won with the Tax Office. According to Microsoft royalty paid for patent rights not registered in Korea is not domestic source income, and should not be subject to withholding tax. The request was refused by the tax authorities. Microsoft then filed a lawsuit against the tax authorities in 2017. Microsoft argued that the withholding tax imposed on income from a patent unregistered ... Continue to full case
Italy vs Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SpA , February 2022, Supreme Court, Cases No 3380/2022

Italy vs Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SpA , February 2022, Supreme Court, Cases No 3380/2022

Since Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SpA’s articles of association prevented it from issuing bonds, financing of the company had instead been archived via an arrangement with its subsidiary in Luxembourg, Mondadori International S.A. To that end, the subsidiary issued a bond in the amount of EUR 350 million, which was subscribed for by US investors. The funds raised were transferred to Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SpA via an interest-bearing loan. The terms of the loan – duration, interest rate and amount – were the same as those of the bond issued by Mondadori International S.A. to the US investors. The Italian tax authority denied the withholding tax exemption in regards of the interest paid on the loan. According to the tax authorities Mondadori International S.A. had received no benefit from the transaction. The interest paid by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SpA was immediately and fully transferred to the ... Continue to full case
Kenya vs Seven Seas Technologies Ltd, December 2021, High Court of Kenya, Income Tax Appeal 8 of 2017 [2021] KEHC 358

Kenya vs Seven Seas Technologies Ltd, December 2021, High Court of Kenya, Income Tax Appeal 8 of 2017 [2021] KEHC 358

Seven Seas Technologies under a software license agreement purchased software from a US company – Callidus software – for internal use and for distribution to local customers. Following an audit, the tax authorities found that Seven Seas Technologies had not been paying withholding taxes on payments in respect of the software license agreement with Callidas. An assessment was issued according to which these payments were found to by a “consideration for the use and right to use copyright in the literary work of another person” as per section 2 of the Income Tax Act, thus subject to withholding tax under Section 35 (1)(b) of the Kenyan Income Tax Act. Seven Seas Technologies contested the assessment before the Tax Appeals Tribunal where, in a judgement issued 8 December 2016, the tribunal held that Seven Seas Technologies had acquired rights to copyright in software that is commercially ... Continue to full case
Canada vs Loblaw Financial Holdings Inc., December 2021, Supreme Court, Case No 2021 SCC 51

Canada vs Loblaw Financial Holdings Inc., December 2021, Supreme Court, Case No 2021 SCC 51

In 1992, Loblaw Financial Holdings Inc. (“Loblaw Financial”), a Canadian corporation, incorporated a subsidiary in Barbados. The Central Bank of Barbados issued a licence for the subsidiary to operate as an offshore bank named Glenhuron Bank Ltd. (“Glenhuron”). Between 1992 and 2000, important capital investments in Glenhuron were made by Loblaw Financial and affiliated companies (“Loblaw Group”). In 2013, Glenhuron was dissolved, and its assets were liquidated. For the 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010 taxation years, Loblaw Financial did not include income earned by Glenhuron in its Canadian tax returns as foreign accrual property income (“FAPI”). Under the FAPI regime in the Income Tax Act (“ITA”), Canadian taxpayers must include income earned by their controlled foreign affiliates (“CFAs”) in their Canadian annual tax returns on an accrual basis if this income qualifies as FAPI. However, financial institutions that meet specific requirements benefit ... Continue to full case
Canada vs Alta Energy Luxembourg S.A.R.L., November 2021, Supreme Court, Case No 2021 SCC 49 - 2021-11-26

Canada vs Alta Energy Luxembourg S.A.R.L., November 2021, Supreme Court, Case No 2021 SCC 49 – 2021-11-26

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
Denmark vs Takeda A/S and NTC Parent S.a.r.l., November 2021, High Court, Cases B-2942-12 and B-171-13

Denmark vs Takeda A/S and NTC Parent S.a.r.l., November 2021, High Court, Cases B-2942-12 and B-171-13

The issue in these two cases is whether withholding tax was payable on interest paid to foreign group companies considered “beneficial owners” via conduit companies covered by the EU Interest/Royalties Directive and DTA’s exempting the payments from withholding taxes. The first case concerned interest accruals totalling approximately DKK 1,476 million made by a Danish company in the period 2007-2009 in favour of its parent company in Sweden in connection with an intra-group loan. The Danish Tax Authorities (SKAT) subsequently ruled that the recipients of the interest were subject to the tax liability in Section 2(1)(d) of the Corporation Tax Act and that the Danish company was therefore obliged to withhold and pay withholding tax on a total of approximately DKK 369 million. The Danish company brought the case before the courts, claiming principally that it was not obliged to withhold the amount collected by SKAT, ... Continue to full case
Denmark vs "Fashion Seller A/S", November 2021, High Court, Case No SKM2021.582.OLR

Denmark vs “Fashion Seller A/S”, November 2021, High Court, Case No SKM2021.582.OLR

In order to avoid double taxation, “Fashion Distributor A/S” had requested the Danish Tax Authorities, in parallel to the review of a transfer pricing assessment, to conduct a mutual agreement procedure under Article 6 of the EC Arbitration Convention 1990. The Danish Tax Authorities rejected the request on the grounds that it did not contain the minimum information required by paragraph 5(a) of the Code of Conduct for the effective implementation of the Convention on the elimination of double taxation in connection with the adjustment of profits of associated enterprises (EU Code of Conduct 2006). Judgement of the High Court The Court held that the reference in Article 7(1) of the EC Arbitration Convention to Article 6(1) had to be understood as referring only to the ‘timely presented case’ and did not imply that case was also ‘submitted’ within the meaning of Article 7(1). Furthermore, ... Continue to full case
Argentina vs Molinos Río de la Plata S.A., September 2021, Supreme Court, Case No CAF 1351/2014/1/RH1

Argentina vs Molinos Río de la Plata S.A., September 2021, Supreme Court, Case No CAF 1351/2014/1/RH1

In 2003 Molinos Argentina had incorporated Molinos Chile under the modality of an “investment platform company” regulated by Article 41 D of the Chilean Income Tax Law. Molinos Argentina owned 99.99% of the shares issued by Molinos Chile, and had integrated the share capital of the latter through the transfer of the majority shareholdings of three Uruguayan companies and one Peruvian company. Molinos Argentina declared the dividends originating from the shares of the three Uruguayan companies and the Peruvian company controlled by Molinos Chile as non-taxable income by application of article 11 of the DTA between Argentina and Chile. On that factual basis, the tax authorities applied the principle of economic reality established in article 2 of Law 11.683 (t.o. 1998 and its amendments) and considered that Molinos Argentina had abused the DTA by using the Chilean holding company as a “conduit company” to divert ... Continue to full case
Brazil vs AES SUL Distribuidora Gaúcha de Energia S/A, August 2021, Superior Tribunal de Justiça, CaseNº 1949159 - CE (2021/0219630-6)

Brazil vs AES SUL Distribuidora Gaúcha de Energia S/A, August 2021, Superior Tribunal de Justiça, CaseNº 1949159 – CE (2021/0219630-6)

AES SUL Distribuidora Gaúcha de Energia S/A is active in footwear industry. It had paid for services to related foreign companies in South Africa, Argentina, Canada, China, South Korea, Spain, France, Holland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal and Turkey. The tax authorities were of the opinion that withholding tax applied to these payments, which they considered royalty, and on that basis an assessment was issued. Not satisfied with this assessment AES filed an appeal, which was allowed by the court of first instance. An appeal was then filed by the tax authorities with the Superior Tribunal. Judgement of the Superior Tribunal de Justiça The court upheld the decision of the court of first instance and dismissed the appeal of the tax authorities. Excerpts “Therefore, the income from the rendering of services paid to residents or domiciled abroad, in the cases dealt with in the records, is ... Continue to full case
Liechtenstein vs D AG (formerly A AG), August 2021, Constitutional Court (Staatsgerichtshof), Case No 2021/029

Liechtenstein vs D AG (formerly A AG), August 2021, Constitutional Court (Staatsgerichtshof), Case No 2021/029

In the course of an Austrian tax audit related party transactions between C GmbH, Austria, and D AG (formerly A AG), Liechtenstein, could only be traced on the basis of balance sheets and tax returns of A AG, Liechtenstein. In January 2019, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF), Vienna, therefore submitted a request for information to the Liechtenstein Tax Administration based on Article 25a of the DTA between Liechtenstein and Austria, concluded on 5 November 1969 and in particular as amended by the Protocol concluded on 29 January 2013, LGBl. 2013 No. 433. The ***-group is active in the field of online and direct marketing. The head office of the *** Group is in Vaduz. All intangible assets are owned by D AG in Liechtenstein and include all data (more than 100 million), IP and trademark rights, the servers, essential software, domains and know-how ... Continue to full case
UK vs G E Financial Investments Ltd., June 2021, First-tier Tribunal, Case No [2021] UKFTT 210 (TC), TC08160

UK vs G E Financial Investments Ltd., June 2021, First-tier Tribunal, Case No [2021] UKFTT 210 (TC), TC08160

The case concerned a complex financing structure within the General Electric Group. The taxpayer, GE Financial Investments Ltd (GEFI Ltd), a UK resident company was the limited partner in a Delaware limited partnership, of which, GE Financial Investments Inc (GEFI Inc) a Delaware corporation was the general partner. GEFI Ltd filed UK company tax returns for FY 2003-2008 in which the company claimed a foreign tax credit for US federal income tax. In total, US federal income taxes amounted to $ 303 millions and exceeded the amount of tax due in the UK. The tax authorities opened an enquiry into each of GEFI’s company tax returns for the relevant period, and subsequently issued an assessment where the claims for foreign tax credits was denied in their entirety. Judgement of the Tax Tribunal The tribunal dismissed the appeal of GEFI Ltd and ruled that the UK ... Continue to full case
Denmark vs NETAPP ApS and TDC A/S, May 2021, High Court, Cases B-1980-12 and B-2173-12

Denmark vs NETAPP ApS and TDC A/S, May 2021, High Court, Cases B-1980-12 and B-2173-12

On 3 May 2021, the Danish High Court ruled in two “beneficial owner” cases concerning the question of whether withholding tax must be paid on dividends distributed by Danish subsidiaries to foreign parent companies. The first case – NETAPP Denmark ApS – concerned two dividend distributions of approx. 566 million DKK and approx. 92 million made in 2005 and 2006 by a Danish company to its parent company in Cyprus. The National Tax Court had upheld the Danish company in that the dividends were exempt from withholding tax pursuant to the Corporation Tax Act, section 2, subsection. 1, letter c, so that the company was not obliged to pay withholding tax. The Ministry of Taxation brought the case before the courts, claiming that the Danish company should include – and thus pay – withholding tax of a total of approx. 184 million kr. The second ... Continue to full case
India vs Concentrix Services & Optum Global Solutions Netherlands B.V., March 2021, High Court, Case No 9051/2020 and 2302/2021

India vs Concentrix Services & Optum Global Solutions Netherlands B.V., March 2021, High Court, Case No 9051/2020 and 2302/2021

The controversy in the case of India vs Concentrix Services Netherlands B.V. & Optum Global Solutions International Netherlands B.V., was the rate of withholding tax to be applied on dividends paid by the Indian subsidiaries (Concentrix Services India Private Limited & Optum Global Solutions India Private Limited) to its participating (more than 10% ownership) shareholders in the Netherlands. The shareholders in the Netherlands held that withholding tax on dividends should be applied by a rate of only 5%, whereas the Indian tax authorities applied a rate of 10%. The difference in opinions relates to interpretation of a protocol to the tax treaty between India and the Netherlands containing an most favoured nation clause (MFN clause). MFN clauses provides that the parties to the treaty (here India and the Netherlands) are obliged to provide each other with a treatment no less favourable than the treatment they ... Continue to full case
Spain vs EPSON IBÉRICA S.A.U., March 2021, Supreme Court, Case No 390:2021

Spain vs EPSON IBÉRICA S.A.U., March 2021, Supreme Court, Case No 390:2021

The SEIKO EPSON CORPORATION is a multinational group of Japanese origin active in among others areas, production and sale of computer products. The group is present in Spain, EPSON IBÉRICA, but has its European HQ in the Netherlands, EPSON EUROPE BV. The main shareholder and sole director of EPSON IBÉRICA S.A.U. was initially Mr. Jose Augusto. However, following a capital increase on 24 April 1986, EPSON IBÉRICA SAU became the subsidiary of the EPSON Group in Spain and Mr. Jose Augusto became a member of its Board of Directors. Mr. Jose Augusto held positions in both EPSON IBERICA and the Dutch parent company EPSON EUROPA until he left on 31 August 2007. As part of his emoluments, EPSON IBERICA made contributions to a pension plan since 1999, totalling EUR 2,842,047.55, including an extraordinary contribution of EUR 2,200,000.00, which was agreed by its Board of Directors ... Continue to full case