SA SACLA, which trades in protective clothing and footwear, as well as small equipment, was the subject of an tax audit covering the FY 2007, 2008 and 2009.
In a proposed assessment issued in December 2011, the tax authorities increased its taxable income, on the basis of Article 57 of the General Tax Code, by considering that SACLA, by selling, a set of brands held by it for EUR 90,000 to a Luxembourg company, Involvex, which benefited from a preferential tax regime, had carried out an indirect transfer of profits in the context of a reduction in the selling price.
In a ruling of February 2020, the Lyon Administrative Court of Appeal, after dismissing the plea of irregularity in the judgment, decided that an expert would carry out an valuation to determine whether the sale price of the trademarks corresponded to their value. The valuation should take into consideration an agreed exemption from payment of royalties for a period of five years granted by Involvex to SA SACLA.
The expert report was filed on 8 April 2021.
After receiving the expert report SA SACLA asked the court to change the judgment by considering that the value of the transferred trademarks should be set at a sum of between 1.3 and 2.1 million euros and that penalties for deliberate breach should be discharged.
Judgement of the Court of Appeal
The court dismissed the request filed by SACLA and determined the value of the trademarks – in accordance with the expert report – to be 5,897,610 euros.
“The value of the trademarks transferred by SACLA, initially declared by that company in the amount of EUR 90,000 excluding tax, was corrected by the tax authorities to EUR 11,288,000 excluding tax, and was then reduced by the judgment under appeal to EUR 8,733,348 excluding tax. It follows from the investigation, in particular from the expert’s report filed on 8 April 2021, that this value, taking into account the exemption from payment of royalties granted by the purchaser of the trademarks in the amount of 2,400,000 euros excluding tax and after taking into account corporate income tax, must be established at the sum of 5,897,610 euros excluding tax. The result is a difference between the agreed price and the value of the trade marks transferred in the amount of EUR 5 807 610 excluding tax, which constitutes an advantage for the purchaser. The applicant, who merely contests the amount of that advantage, does not invoke any interest or consideration of such a nature as to justify such an advantage. In these circumstances, the administration provides the proof that it is responsible for the existence of a reduction in the price of the sale of assets and the existence of an indirect transfer of profits abroad.”
CAA de LYON, 5ème chambre, 19_08_2021, 17LY04170, Inédit au recueil Lebon -Scala