Costa Rica vs Polymer S. A., June 2012, Supreme Court, Case No 11-010227-0007-CO

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Polymer S.A. had been issued an assessment of taxable income based on the arm’s length principle.

In the assessment the tax authorities had based the adjustment on the guidance provided in the OECD TPG. Polymer S.A. was of the opinion that this was unconstitutional since the OECD TPG had not been implemented by law and Costa Rica was not an OECD member country.

Judgement of the Supreme Court

The Court dismissed the appeal of Polymer S.A.

Excerpts from the Judgement

The contested Guideline does not establish or impose a single method of transfer pricing analysis, so that, in the absence of a law, the autonomy of tax law allows for the determination of the tax payable to resort to the provisions of Articles 8 and 12 of the Code of Tax Rules and Procedures, without prejudice to the possibility that other – better – techniques may be admitted. What is important is that the contested Interpretative Guideline does not aim to eliminate multiple other scenarios arising from different forms of business organisation, but is directed at transfer pricing between related companies. Even if the legislator may adopt a certain technique or several techniques to regulate a certain behaviour of companies, or recognise legal practices to reduce taxes, it is possible to admit that if there are clashes with tax law and reality, in the absence of a law, it is ultimately up to the judge to decide on the correct application of the technical rules. Thus, in the absence of any particular legislation, this fact does not prevent the parties in conflict from presenting their arguments, producing evidence and demonstrating the need to apply other criteria that allow for the non-application of the technical rule that adopts the guideline in question, or of another possible method, a situation that evidently makes the discussion a matter of ordinary legality. For all of the above reasons, the action must be dismissed, as indeed it is.
A., the contested Guideline interprets Articles 8 and 12 of the Code of Tax Rules and Procedures, disregarding the legal forms to assess the true economic intention of the parties. It allows to assess transactions between related entities, where transfer prices exist, and to make the respective income tax adjustments. It does not aim to eliminate other multiple scenarios arising from different forms of business organisation, but rather targets transfer pricing between related companies. Moreover, our country does not need to be a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to make use of certain rules or practices that contain a high degree of consensus, under the provisions of articles 15 and 16 of the General Law of Public Administration that establish the limits to discretion, even in the absence of law.
By virtue of the foregoing, and there being no reasons to justify a change of criterion, it is considered that the contested Directive does not infringe the principles of the reservation of law, regulatory power and legal certainty, and therefore the action is rejected on the merits.

 

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Costa Rica June 2012 Sentencia nº 08739 de Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia

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