Italy vs BASF Italia s.p.a., June 2022, Supreme Court, Cases No 19728/2022

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The German BASF group is active in the chemical industry and has subsidiaries all over the world including Italy.

In FY 2006 BASF Italia s.p.a. was served with two notices of assessment by the tax authorities. The tax assessments formulated three findings.

1. non-deductibility of the cancellation deficit – arising from the merger by incorporation of Basf Agro s.p.a. into Basf Italia s.p.a., resolved on 27 April 2004 – which the acquiring company had allocated to goodwill, the amortisation portions of which had been deducted in tenths and then, from 2005, in eighteenths. The Office had denied the deductibility on the ground that the company, in the declaration submitted electronically, had not expressly requested, as required by Article 6(4) of Legislative Decree No. 358 of 8 October 1997, the tax recognition of the greater value of goodwill recorded in the balance sheet to offset the loss from cancellation, as allowed by paragraphs 1 and 2 of the same provision.
Moreover, as a subordinate ground of non-deductibility, the assessment alleged the unenforceability to the Administration of the same merger pursuant to Article 37-bis of Presidential Decree No 600 of 29 September 1973, assuming its elusive nature.

2. non-deductibility of the annulment deficit – arising from the merger by incorporation of Basf Espansi s.p.a. into Basf Italia s.p.a., resolved in 1998 – which the acquiring company had allocated partly to goodwill and partly to the revaluation of tangible fixed assets, the depreciation portions of which had been deducted annually. The Office, also in this case, had denied the deductibility due to the failure to express the relative option, pursuant to Article 6(4) of Legislative Decree No. 358 of 1997, in the company’s declaration.

3. non-deductibility of interest expenses arising from a loan obtained by the taxpayer to carry out the transactions above.

The Provincial Tax Commission of Milan partially upheld BASF’s appeals against the tax assessments, upholding the latter limited to the finding referred to in the second finding, concerning the non-deductibility of the cancellation deficit arising from the merger by incorporation of Basf Espansi s.p.a..

The Lombardy CTR, accepted the first and rejected the second, therefore, in substance, fully confirming the tax assessments.

BASF then filed an appeal with the Supreme Court against the judgment, relying on seven pleas. The sixth plea related to lack of reasoning in the CTR judgement in regards of non-deductibility for interest expenses arising from the intra group loan.

Judgement of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court found that the (first and) sixth plea was well founded and remanded the judgement to the CTR, in a different composition.

Excerpts
“7. The sixth plea in law criticises, pursuant to Article 360(1)(3) of the Code of Civil Procedure, the judgment under appeal for breach of Article 110(7) of Presidential Decree No 917 of 1986, in so far as the CTR held that the interest expense incurred by the appellant in connection with the loan obtained from another intra-group company for the purchase of the share package of Basf Agro s.p.a. was not deductible.
The plea is well founded.
In fact, the CTR reasoned on this point solely by stating that the deduction was ‘held to be inadmissible on the basis of the thesis underlying the contested assessment, that is, the intention to evade tax’.
Such ratio decidendi is limited to the uncritical mention of the Administration’s thesis, which, however, as far as can be understood from the concise wording used by the CTR, does not relate to the financing in itself, but to the transaction, referred to in the first relief, in which it was included. A transaction whose evasive nature was not even appreciated by the CTR, the question having been absorbed by the non-deductibility, for other reasons, of the negative component arising from the merger by incorporation of Basf Agro.”

 
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Italy vs BASF SC June 2022

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