France vs Bluestar Silicones France, Feb 2021, Supreme Administrative Court (CAA), Case No 16VE00352

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Bluestar Silicones France (BSF), now Elkem Silicones France SAS (ESF), produces silicones and various products that it sells to other companies belonging to the Bluestar Silicones International group.

The company was audited for the financial years 2007 – 2008 and an assessment was issued. According to the tax authorities, the selling prices of the silicone products had been below the arm’s length price and the company had refrained from invoicing of management exepences and cost of secondment of employees . In the course of the proceedings agreement had been reached on the pricing of products. Hence, in dispute before the court was the issue of lacking invoicing of management exepences and cost of secondment of employees for the benefit of the Chinese and Brazilian subsidiaries of the Group.

According to the company there had been no hidden transfer of profits; its method of constructing the group’s prices has not changed and compliance with the arm’s length principle has been demonstrated by a study by the firm Taj using the transactional net margin method and the criticisms of its prices are unfounded. The results must be analyzed in the context of heavy investments made by the Bluestar Silicones International sub-group, 80% of which it financed, and which are at the root of the heavy losses recorded in the sub-group’s first fiscal years for the years 2007 to 2009. Furthermore, the business tax adjustments was considered unjustified by the company since, the transfer prices charged did not constitute transfers of profits;

Decision of the Court

No charge of management fees from Brazil and Hong Kong:
Under these conditions, the administration was justified in considering that BSF’s renunciation to invoice management fees to the Chinese and Brazilian companies of the Bluestar Silicones International group constituted an abnormal act of management. It was thus entitled to correct the company’s profit and also to correct the company’s added value for the determination of its business tax.

No charge of cost of provision of employees in China:
While BSF claims that it derived a direct benefit from the provision of these three expatriates through the development of sales by the Chinese subsidiary, it does not establish this, even though it has been shown that the project manager and the two technicians worked at the Jiangxi site, which was acquiring the technology needed to manufacture products similar to those previously purchased by the Chinese subsidiary from BSF and therefore potentially competing with it. The impossibility of charging such fees due to Chinese legislation has also not been demonstrated, nor has any compensation resulting from insufficient transfer pricing. Under these conditions, the applicant company does not demonstrate that the advantage granted to the Chinese company had sufficient consideration in the interest of its operations and, consequently, was justified by normal management of its own interests.

Additional withholding tax and business tax
However, the Court did find that the company was “entitled to argue that the Montreuil Administrative Court wrongly refused to discharge it from the additional withholding tax contributions charged to it for the financial year ended in 2007 and the additional business tax contributions for the year 2007 resulting from the correction made by the tax authorities of its transfer prices practiced with the company BSI Hong Kong.

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France vs Bluestar Silicones France CAA de VERSAILLES, 090221, 16VE00352

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