“G Pharma Ltd” is a distributor of generic and specialised pharmaceutical products purchased exclusively from affiliated suppliers. It has no significant intangible assets nor does it assume any significant risks. However for 17 consecutive years it has had losses.
Following an audit, the tax authorities issued an assessment, where the income of G Pharma Ltd was determined by application of the Transactional Net Margin Method (TNMM). According to the tax authorities a limited risk distributor such as G Pharma Ltd would be expected to be compensated with a small, guaranteed, positive profitability.
G Pharma Ltd disagreed with the assessment and filed an appeal.
Judgement of the Court
The court dismissed the appeal of G Pharma Ltd and upheld the assessment issued by the tax authorities.
“First, the reasons for the rejection of the final comparable sample of two companies were set out in detail and then the reasons for using the net profit margin as an appropriate indicator of profitability for the chosen method of documenting intra-group transactions were documented in a clear and substantiated manner, citing the relevant OECD guidelines, in order to establish whether or not the principle of equidistance was respected. Subsequently, since the claim concerning the inclusion of the company ……………………. in the final sample of comparable companies was accepted, the calculations of the arm’s length thresholds were provided in order to assess whether or not the arm’s length principle was respected. Following the above, the method of calculation of the resulting difference due to the non-respect of the arm’s length principle in the intra-group invoicing of the applicant’s transactions with the related companies of the group was analysed.
Consequently, the applicant’s claims in respect of the first plea in law of the application are not upheld and are rejected as unfounded in law and in substance.
Because the applicant itself, as documented in detail in the documentation file, arrived at the above method of documentation, which it nevertheless applied on incorrect bases. The choice of the gross profit margin as an appropriate indicator of profitability is incorrect as it is not provided for in the OECD guidelines”
“based on the above, it would be expected that it would be compensated with a small, guaranteed, positive profitability. Instead, the picture it presents over time is one of a company with consistently disproportionately high losses from inception to the present day beyond any notion of business sense or contrary to normal commercial transactions, which demonstrates the need to adjust its intragroup pricing given the fact that all of its purchases and a significant portion of its operating expenses are intragroup transactions.
Since the applicant’s claim that ‘in calculating the adjustment to its operating profitability, due to non-compliance with the arm’s length principle, account should also be taken of the adjustments to the tax adjustment already made by the accounting differences declared by the company’ cannot be accepted and is rejected, since this is a comparison between dissimilar figures, that is to say, a comparison between the applicant’s tax result and the accounting results of comparable companies in the sample.
Because the applicant’s claim that, ‘any adjustment to its operating profitability should be based on the 1st quartile value and not that of the median’, is not accepted and is rejected, as, when assessing the operating profile, the applicant performs additional functions beyond a mere reseller and in particular than the comparable companies in the final sample as it has a disproportionately high cost of operating expenses to gross income compared to the comparable companies.
Moreover, none of the comparable undertakings in the final sample is representative of the industry as they all have similar gross revenues to the applicant and therefore similar market share in the pharmaceutical industry. The choice of the median is the most appropriate because it eliminates possible comparability deficits (differences in factors and circumstances) that may exist between the applicant and the undertakings in the sample.
Because the tax audit has come to the clear and well-founded conclusion that the pricing policy pursued by the applicant with its related undertakings does not comply with the arm’s length principle and is outside the acceptable limits.
Since it follows from the foregoing that the contested income tax assessment measure was lawfully adopted, the applicant’s claims to the contrary must be rejected as unfounded.”