Germany vs “Write-Down KG”, February 2020, Bundesfinanzhof, Case No I R 19/17

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In 2010, “Write-Down KG” granted a loan to its Turkish subsidiary (“T”). The loan bore interest at 6% per annum but was unsecured. In 2011, Write-Down KG decided to liquidate T. Write-Down KG therefore wrote off its loan and interest receivable from T and claimed the write-off as a tax deduction.

The German tax authorities disallowed the deduction because the loan had been unsecured which was considered not to be at arm’s length.

An appeal was lodged with the local tax court, which upheld the tax authorities’ position.

An appeal was then made to the Federal Tax Court.

Judgement of the Court

The court ruled that the waiver of security for a shareholder loan may not be at arm’s length. Such a deviation from the arm’s length principle may lead to a write-off of the loan receivable and thus to a reduction in income. This reduction in income may be reversed on the basis of the arm’s length principle contained in Section 1 of the German Foreign Tax Act. Furthermore, article 9 OECD-MTC does not prohibit such an income adjustment.


“28. (2) The loan relationship between the plaintiff and T Ltd, who are related parties within the meaning of § 1, para. 2, no. 1 AStG, is a foreign business relationship within the meaning of § 1, para. 5 AStG, the conditions of which include the non-security of the claims. In order to avoid repetitions, reference is made to the statements in the Senate’s ruling in BFHE 263, 525, BStBl II 2019, 394. The plaintiff’s objection at the oral hearing that the transactions were ultimately purely domestic commercial transactions is not comprehensible in view of the loan agreement with T Ltd, which is domiciled in Turkey.
29. (3) Furthermore, the Regional Court bindingly determined (§ 118 (2) FGO) that a third party would not have granted the loan to T Ltd. without providing collateral.
30. Even if the FG did not explicitly extend its findings to the interest claims resulting from the loan, it seems impossible on the basis of the further circumstances established that a lender not affiliated with T Ltd. would not have secured these claims. In particular, it must be taken into account that T Ltd was a newly founded company that did not have any significant fixed assets and that the collateralisation was not dispensable from the point of view of the so-called group retention (cf. again the Senate’s decision in BFHE 263, 525, BStBl II 2019, 394, as well as the Senate’s subsequent decisions in BFH/NV 2020, 183; of 19.06.2019 – I R 54/17, juris; of 14.08.2019 – I R 14/18, juris). In this situation, there is no need to refer the case back to the Fiscal Court for further clarification of the facts.
31. (4) The reduction in income within the meaning of section 1(1) sentence 1 AStG occurred due to (“as a result of”) the lack of collateralisation. In this respect, the Senate also refers to its ruling in BFHE 263, 525, BStBl II 2019, 394.
32. (5) Nor does Article 9(1) of the Agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Turkey for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion in the Field of Taxes on Income of 19 September 2011 (BGBl II 2012, 527, BStBl I 2013, 374) – DBA-Türkei 2011 -, which is applicable as of 1 January 2011, preclude the correction of income.”

“34. (6) Finally, Union law does not conflict with an income adjustment under section 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1 AStG. Since Turkey is not a Member State of the European Union, reference is made in this respect to the statements in the Senate rulings of 27 February 2019 – I R 51/17 (BFHE 264, 292) and of 14 August 2019 – I R 14/18 (juris).
35. The freedom of movement of capital, which is in principle also protected in dealings with third countries (Article 63 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in the version of the Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community, Official Journal of the European Union 2008, no. C 115, 47 –AEUV–) is superseded by the freedom of establishment, which has priority in this respect (Senate judgements of 6 March 2013 – I R 10/11, BFHE 241, 157, BStBl II 2013, 707; of 19 July 2017 – I R 87/15, BFHE 259, 435, BStBl II 2020, 237). Moreover, it would not be applicable – despite the amendments to Article 1(1) AStG made by the UntStRefG 2008 – also because of the so-called standstill clause of Article 64(1) TFEU (cf. Senate judgment in BFHE 264, 292).

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