At issue was whether interest expenses incurred as a result of intra-group liabilities related to the acquisition of shares were tax deductible.
In August 2010, the Swedish companies H AB and B AB had agreed, among other things, to sell E Oy’s shares to B AB and to allow B AB to transfer its rights and obligations to purchase the said shares directly or indirectly to its own subsidiary. B AB’s subsidiary had established D Oy in August 2010. In September 2010, before the completion of the acquisition, B AB had transferred its rights and obligations to purchase E Oy’s shares to D Oy. Ownership of E Oy’s shares had been transferred to D Oy at the end of September 2010. D Oy had financed the acquisition of E Oy’s shares mainly with a debt it had taken from B AB, from which D Oy had deducted the interest expenses incurred in its annual taxation.
The tax audit report considered that no business-independent business grounds had been presented for the transfer of the loan liability of the acquisition to D Oy in a multi-stage ownership and financing arrangement and that the arrangement had been implemented solely to benefit from the Finnish group grant scheme and interest deduction. On this basis, the interest expenses on the debt related to the acquisition of E Oy’s shares had been added to D Oy’s taxable income in the tax adjustments submitted for the tax years 2012–2015 to the detriment of the taxpayer and when the tax for 2016 was delivered. In addition, the Taxpayers’ Law Enforcement Unit had stated that the actions in question were entirely artificial in a way that was proportional to the Supreme Administrative Court’s yearbook decision in the Supreme Administrative Court 2016:
The Administrative Court held that the arrangement as a whole had to be regarded as artificial. Hence, deductibility of the interest paid to the foreign group company could be denied on the basis of the tax avoidance provision.
This decision was appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court by the company.
Judgement of the Supreme Administrative Court
The Court set aside the decision of the administrative court and ruled in favor of D Oy. The Court held that the establishment of an auxiliary company as a company acquiring shares in an acquisition between independent parties and the financing of the company partly with equity and partly with intra-group debt could not be considered as artificial transactions. In such a situation, the deductibility of interest could not be denied under the tax avoidance provision.
D Oy had acquired E Oy’s shares from an independent party. Based on the preliminary work of the Business Income Tax Act, the legislator’s starting point was that in share transactions between independent parties, the tax benefits related to the use of holding companies are limited by amending the law. Therefore, and taking into account that the premise of the Business Income Tax Act was that interest expenses accrued in business activities are deductible, the establishment of a holding company as an acquiring company and the financing of a holding company as an artificial act. Nor did such a situation have to be equated with the situation presented in the Supreme Administrative Court’s yearbook decision KHO 2016: 72. D Oy was thus entitled to deduct the interest expenses of the debt related to the acquisition of E Oy in its taxation for the tax years 2012 and 2013 as provided in section 7 and section 18 (1) (2) of the Business Income Tax Act and section 7 of the same law in its taxation for 2014–2016. as provided for in Article 18 (1) (2) and Article 18a. Tax years 2012–2016. in the manner provided for in subsection 1 (2) and section 18 a. Tax years 2012–2016. in the manner provided for in subsection 1 (2) and section 18 a. Tax years 2012–2016.