SAP AG (now SAP SE) is a German multinational software corporation that develops enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations. The company is especially known for its ERP software.
SAP France, a 98% subsidiary of SA SAP France Holding, itself wholly owned by the German group, had deposited funds under a Cash Management Agreement as sight deposits carrying an interest of 0%.
Following an audit for the financial years 2012 and 2013, two assessment proposals were issued in December 2015 and November 2016, relating in particular to the 0% interest rate charged on the cash deposits. The tax authorities had added interest to SA SAP France’s taxable income calculated by reference to the rate of remuneration on sight deposits.
SAP France contested the adjustments and furthermore requested the benefit of the reduced rate of corporation tax on income from industrial property, pursuant to Article 39 of the French General Tax Code, with regard to the royalties from the licensing agreements relating to Business Object products and Cartesis solutions.
SAP France Holding, the head of the group is appealing against the ruling of 30 January 2020 by which the Montreuil Administrative Court rejected its requests for the reconstitution of its overall tax loss carry-forward in the amount of EUR 171,373 for 2012, 314,395 in duties for 2013 and the additional contribution to corporate income tax on the amounts distributed for 2012 and 2013, for amounts of €5,141 and €14,550 respectively, and, in application of the reduced tax rate, the refund of an overpayment of corporate income tax and additional contributions for €27,461,913 for the years 2012 to 2015.
In regards to added interest on the deposited funds under a Cash Management Agreement the Court of Appeal decided in favor of the tax authorities.
An appeal was filed by SAP France with the Supreme Court.
Judgement of the Conseil d’État
The Supreme Court set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal.
“2. Under the terms of Article 57 of the same code: “For the purposes of determining the income tax due by companies that are dependent on or control companies located outside France, the profits indirectly transferred to the latter, either by way of an increase or decrease in purchase or sale prices, or by any other means, are incorporated into the results shown in the accounts. The same procedure shall be followed in respect of undertakings which are dependent on an undertaking or a group which also controls undertakings situated outside France (…) In the absence of precise information for making the adjustments provided for in the first, second and third paragraphs, the taxable income shall be determined by comparison with that of similar undertakings normally operated. It follows from these provisions that, when it finds that the prices charged by an enterprise established in France to a foreign enterprise which is related to it – or those charged to it by this foreign enterprise – are lower – or higher – than those charged by similar enterprises normally operated, In the event that the charges levied in France by a related foreign company – or those invoiced to it by that foreign company – are lower – or higher – than those levied by similar companies operating normally, i.e. at arm’s length, the administration must be considered to have established the existence of an advantage which it is entitled to reintegrate into the results of the French company, unless the latter can prove that this advantage had at least equivalent counterparts for it. In the absence of such a comparison, the department is not, on the other hand, entitled to invoke the presumption of transfers of profits thus instituted but must, in order to demonstrate that an enterprise has granted a liberality by invoicing services at an insufficient price – or by paying them at an excessive price – establish the existence of an unjustified difference between the agreed price and the market value of the property transferred or the service provided
3. In order to judge that SAP France had granted SAP AG a advantage by renouncing, for the years 2012 and 2013, to receive a remuneration in return for the deposit of its cash surpluses with the latter, the administrative court of appeal ruled that the administrative court of appeal based its decision on the fact that this zero remuneration was unrelated to the remuneration to which the company would have been entitled if it had placed its cash surpluses with a financial institution on that date, without this absence of remuneration finding its counterpart in the possibility of financing cash requirements, which were non-existent for the years in question. In holding, however, that the fact that the rate of remuneration of the sums thus deposited with SAP AG resulted from the application of the rate formula provided for in the cash management agreement, which the parties chose to limit to a non-negative result during the performance of that agreement, is irrelevant in this respect, without investigating whether SAP France had acted in accordance with its interest in concluding the agreement in these terms on 17 December 2009, or what obligations it had during the years in dispute, the Administrative Court of Appeal erred in law.
4. It follows from the foregoing, without it being necessary to rule on the other grounds of appeal, that the company SAP France Holding is entitled to request the annulment of Article 3 of the judgment which it is challenging. In the circumstances of the case, it is appropriate to charge the State with the sum of 3,000 euros to be paid to the company SAP France Holding under Article L. 761-1 of the Administrative Justice Code.”
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Click here for other translationConseil d'État, 8ème - 3ème chambres réunies, 20_09_2022, 461639