Denmark vs Bevola, June 2018, European Court of Justice, Case No C-650/16

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The Danish company Bevola had a PE in Finland. The PE incurred a loss when it was closed in 2009 that could not be utilized in Finland. Instead, Bevola claimed a tax deduction in its Danish tax return for 2009 for the loss suffered in Finland. A deduction of the loss was disallowed by the tax authorities because section 8(2) of the Danish Corporate Tax Act stipulates that the taxable income does not include profits and losses of foreign PEs (territoriality principle). Bevola would only be entitled to claim a tax deduction for the Finnish loss in the Danish tax return by making an election of international joint taxation under section 31 A. However, such an election means that all foreign entities must be included in the Danish tax return and the election is binding for a period of 10 years.

The decision of the tax authorities was confirmed by the National Tax Tribunal on 20 January 2014. The taxpayer filed an appeal with the Eastern High Court claiming that section 8(2) was incompatible with the EU principle of freedom of establishment, because Bevola would have been entitled to claim a tax deduction if the loss had been suffered by a domestic Danish PE. A reference was made to the ECJ decision in case C-446/03, Marks & Spencer.

The High Court asked the European Court of Justice if Article 49 TFEU preclude a national taxation scheme such as that at issue in the main proceedings under which it is possible to make deductions for losses in domestic branches, while it is not possible to make deductions for losses in branches situated in other Member States, including in circumstances corresponding to those in the Court’s judgment [of 13 December 2005] in Marks & Spencer, C 446/03, EU:C:2005:763, paragraphs 55 and 56, unless the group has opted for international joint taxation on the terms as set out in the main proceedings?

The Court held that section 8(2) causes losses of foreign PEs to be treated less favorable compared to losses of domestic PEs. The fact that a taxpayer could opt for international joint taxation did not make a difference because this scheme was subject to two strict conditions.

Comparability of the situations should be evaluated based on the purpose of the relevant legislation. The purpose of the Danish law was to prevent double taxation of profits and double deduction of losses. With regard to losses suffered by a PE in another Member State which has ceased activity and whose losses cannot be deducted in that Member State, the situation of a company having such a PE was held not to be different from that of a company with a domestic PE, from the point of view of the objective of preventing the double deduction of losses. The Court added that the aim of section 8(2) more generally is to ensure that the taxation of a company with such a PE is in line with its ability to pay tax. Yet the ability to pay tax of a company with a foreign PE which has definitively incurred losses is affected in the same way as that of a company whose domestic PE has incurred losses. On this basis, the Court concluded that the difference in treatment concerned situations that were objectively comparable.

According to the Court, section 8(2) could be justified by overriding reasons in the public interest relating to the balanced allocation of powers of taxation between Member States, the coherence of the Danish tax system, and the need to prevent the risk of double deduction of losses.

Bevola

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