Greece vs “GSS Ltd.”, December 2021, Tax Court, Case No 4450/2021

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An assessment was issued for FY 2017, whereby additional income tax was imposed on “GSS Ltd” in the amount of 843.344,38 €, plus a fine of 421.672,19 €, i.e. a total amount of 1.265.016,57 €. Various adjustments had been made and among them interest rates on intra group loans, royalty payments, management fees, and losses related to disposal of shares.

Not satisfied with the assessment, an appeal was filed by “GSS Ltd.”

Judgement of the Tax Court

The court dismissed the appeal of “GSS Ltd.” and upheld the assessment of the tax authorities

Excerpts
“Because only a few days after the entry of the holdings in its books, it sold them at a price below the nominal value of the companies’ shares, which lacks commercial substance and is not consistent with normal business behaviour.
Since it is hereby held that, by means of the specific transactions, the applicant indirectly wrote off its unsecured claims without having previously taken appropriate steps to ensure its right to recover them, in accordance with the provisions of para. 4 of Article 26 of Law 4172/2013 and POL 1056/2015.
Because even if the specific actions were suggested by the lending bank Eurobank, the applicant remains an independent entity, responsible for its actions vis-à-vis the Tax Administration.
In the absence of that arrangement, that is to say, in the event that the applicant directly recognised a loss from the write-off of bad debts, it would not be tax deductible, since the appropriate steps had not been taken to ensure the right to recover them.
Because on the basis of the above, the audit correctly did not recognise the loss on sale of shareholdings in question.
The applicant’s claim is therefore rejected as unfounded.”

“Since, as is apparent from the Audit Opinion Report on the present appeal to our Office, the audit examined the existence or otherwise of comparable internal data and, in particular, examined in detail all the loan agreements submitted by the applicant, which showed that the interest rates charged to the applicant by the banks could not constitute appropriate internal comparative data for the purpose of substantiating the respective intra-group transactions, since the two individual stages of lending differ as to the nature of the transactions.
(a) the existence of contracts (the bank loans were obtained on the basis of lengthy contracts, unlike the loans provided by the applicant for which no documents were drawn up, approved by the Board of Directors or general meetings),
(b) the duration of the credit (bank loans specify precisely the time and the repayment instalments, unlike the applicant’s loans which were granted without a specific repayment schedule),
(c) the interest rate (bank loans specify precisely the interest rate on the loan and all cases where it changes, unlike the applicant’s loans,
(d) the existence of collateral (the bank loans were granted with mortgages on all the company’s real estate, with rental assignment contracts in the case of leasing and with assignment contracts for receivables from foreign customers (agencies), unlike the applicant’s loans which were granted without any collateral),
(e) the size of the lending (the loans under comparison do not involve similar funds),
(f) security conditions in the event of non-payment (the bank loans specified precisely the measures to be taken in the event of non-payment, unlike the applicant’s loans, for which nothing at all was specified),
(g) the creditworthiness of the borrower (the banks lent to the applicant, which had a turnover, profits and real estate, unlike the related companies, most of which had no turnover, high losses and negative equity),
(h) the purpose of the loan (83 % of the applicant’s total lending was granted to cover long-term investment projects as opposed to loans to related parties which were granted for cash facilities and working capital).
Since, in the event that the applicant’s affiliated companies had made a short-term loan from an entity other than the applicant (unaffiliated), then the interest rate for loans to non-financial undertakings is deemed to be a reasonable interest rate for loans on mutual accounts, as stated in the statistical bulletin of the Bank of Greece for the nearest period of time before the date of the loan (www.bankofgreece.gr/ekdoseis-ereyna/ekdoseis/anazhthsh- ekdosewn?types=9e8736f4-8146-4dbb-8c07-d73d3f49cdf0).
Because the work of this audit is considered to be well documented and fully justified. Therefore, the applicant’s claim is rejected as unfounded.”

 
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Greece 4450-2021

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