At issue was whether interest expenses incurred as a result of intra-group liabilities related to the acquisition of shares were tax deductible.
In 2005, CA / S, indirectly owned by private equity investors A and B, had purchased a listed share in DA / S. DA / S’s subsidiary EA / S had established H AB in July 2008. On 25 August 2008, EA / S had transferred approximately 83.8 per cent of F Oy’s shares in kind to H AB and sold the remaining approximately 16.2 per cent at the remaining purchase price. On August 26, 2008, EA / S had subscribed for new shares in G Oy and paid the share subscription price in kind, transferring 56 percent of H AB’s shares. On August 27, 2008, G Oy had purchased the remaining 44 percent of H AB’s shares. EA / S had granted G Oy a loan corresponding to the purchase price, the interest expenses of which the company had deducted annually in its taxation. The share transfers in 2008 had been reported to be related to the 2005 acquisition and
In the share transfers carried out in 2008, EA / S’s direct holding in F Oy had been changed to indirect. The change in ownership structure was implemented within a short period of time as a series of share transfers. With the help of the share transfers, new debt relationships had been created in the Group, with the aim of transferring the interest burden on EA / S to G Oy corresponding to the purchase price of H AB’s shares. When the share transfers were considered as a whole, their purpose was to seek a tax advantage in the form of interest deductions. The share transfers had therefore not corresponded to the real nature or purpose of the case and were artificial in nature.
The Administrative Court held that when the share transfers were considered as a whole, their purpose was to seek a tax advantage in the form of interest deductions. The share transfers had therefore not corresponded to the real nature or purpose of the case and were artificial in nature. 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 dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision of the administrative court. It stated that the subsidiary had been used in a multi-stage arrangement within the group as a company acquiring shares and that the arrangement as a whole had to be considered wholly artificial.
According to the settled case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, national measures restricting the right to deduct interest do not infringe the freedom of establishment within the meaning of Article 49 TFEU if they deal only with purely artificial arrangements. The judgment of the Court of Justice in Case C-484/19, Lexel, does not have to be considered as a change in this settled case law. In the light of these factors and the artificial nature of the present share transfers, the Supreme Administrative Court held that the denial of the right to deduct interest expenses accrued to G Oy under section 28 of the Tax Procedure Act was not contrary to Article 49 TFEU in the present case. The denial of the right to deduct interest expenses was also not contrary to the prohibition of discrimination in the Nordic tax treaty.
KHO 2021 178