The French tax authorities had issued an assessment to SARL Elie Saab France in which they asserted that the French subsidiary had not been sufficiently remunerated for additional expenses and contributions to the value of the SARL Elie Saab trademark.
The Supreme Administrative Court upheld the decision of the tax authorities.
“It is clear from the statements in the judgment under appeal that the company Elie Saab France is responsible for the management, manufacture and distribution for the Elie Saab group of the top-of-the-range daywear line, distributes “Elie Saab” brand accessories for all the group’s entities, as well as the distribution in France and for European customers of the haute couture line, and sells, in its Paris boutique and to boutiques distributing the brand worldwide, a line of evening wear and accessories developed by the group’s Lebanese subsidiary. In addition, Elie Saab France has a showroom in the Paris boutique to present the brand’s haute couture creations, for which it pays the rent and the property fittings as well as the staff costs. Finally, it is responsible for organising the fashion shows of the “Elie Saab” brand for the haute couture and ready-to-wear collections, and is in charge of the brand’s communication and promotional campaigns. Considering that the French company, which has been largely loss-making since its first financial year ended in 2002, was incurring expenses for the benefit of the group as a whole and not for its own activity, the tax authorities reinstated, on the basis of Article 57 of the General Tax Code, in the taxable results of the financial years ended from 2007 to 2010 the amount of expenses related to the promotion of the “Elie Saab” brand and the organisation of fashion shows that had not been re-invoiced to the Lebanese parent company, a margin of 5% for those expenses that had been re-invoiced at cost price, as well as the personnel expenses of the press department.”
“Firstly, by rejecting the argument of Elie Saab France that the payment by it of the disputed promotional and communication expenses, which had not been incurred solely to enhance the value of the Elie Saab brand, which was the property of its Lebanese parent company, but also for the exercise of its own activity, in particular in its capacity as the group’s profit centre for the “accessories” activity and as the person responsible for the high-end daytime ready-to-wear line, the court implicitly but necessarily ruled, in a sufficiently reasoned decision and without committing an error of law, that the tax authorities had established the assumption of responsibility by the French company for expenses incumbent on its foreign parent company and, consequently, the existence of a practice falling within the provisions of Article 57 of the General Tax Code.”
“Secondly, in holding that Elie Saab France had not established the existence of consideration likely to counter the presumption of transfer of profits to the Lebanese holding company, arguing on the one hand that its parent company had not re-invoiced expenses that it had incurred for the benefit of the group’s entities, such as expenses relating to the provision of services to the group’s employees, The court did not err in law or distort the documents in the file by arguing, on the one hand, that the parent company did not re-invoice expenses that it had incurred for the benefit of the group’s entities, such as expenses related to the provision of support services, to the contract with the Fashion TV channel and to the remuneration of the two co-managers of the parent company and of the group’s creator, and, on the other hand, that the parent company did not invoice a trademark fee.”
“It follows from the foregoing that Elie Saab France has no grounds for seeking the annulment of the judgment which it is challenging. Its claims under Article L. 761-1 of the Code of Administrative Justice can only be rejected.”France vs SARL Elie Saab France June 2021 Conseil d'État Case No 433985FR