Latvia vs SIA Severstal Distribution, December 2021, Administrative Court of Appeal, Case No A420576312, SKA-314/2021

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The Revenue Service had audited Severstal Distribution for FY 2008-2009 and found that the company had purchased metal products from related companies at prices above market prices. An assessment was issued where reported losses for 2009 were reduced.

During the audit, Severstal Distribution indicated to the tax authorities that it had used the transactional net margin method to determine the price of its controlled transactions. However, later the company also stated that it had used the CUP method (quated steel prices from the SBB database).

Severstal Distribution Ltd filed an appeal with the Administrative Regional Court. In a decision of 2019 the appeal was dismissed and the assessment of additional income upheld.

An appeal was then filed by Severstal Distribution Ltd with the Administrative Court of Appeal.

The issue to be examined by the Administrative Court of Appeal was whether the Revenue Service correctly determined Severstal Distribution’s income subject to corporate income tax by applying the arm’s length provisions in Section 12(2)(3) of the Law on Corporate Income Tax – i.e. whether Severstal Distribution purchased goods from related companies at above-market prices.

Judgement of the Administrative Court of Appeal

The Court dismissed the appeal of Severstal Distribution and upheld the decision from the Regional Court.

Excerpts

“Tax collection is based on the taxpayer’s cooperation with the tax administration. The tax administration can only determine the correct tax liability if it is aware of all the factual circumstances on which such liability is based. Such facts are best available and known to the taxpayer himself and it is therefore in the taxpayer’s own interest not to delay the examination of the tax liability and to provide the tax administration with the relevant information and explanations. The taxpayer’s duty to cooperate is laid down in the form of a legal obligation in paragraphs 5, 6, 10, 11 and 32.2 of the first part of Article 15 of the Law on Taxes and Duties.”

“In summary, the Senate considers that there is no particular order in the choice of methods, but that the most appropriate method should be applied in each case on the basis of the circumstances of the individual case. Moreover, the choice of method is primarily the taxpayer’s responsibility, whereas the tax authorities must respect that choice as far as possible during the tax examination.”

“In the light of the above, the Court was wrong to conclude that aggregated data could not be used in the application of the comparable uncontrolled price method. At the same time, as already pointed out, they must also be sufficiently comparable and meet the criteria laid down by law, bearing in mind in particular that such aggregates are not, for the most part, produced for transfer pricing purposes.”

“The comparable uncontrolled price method compares a controlled transaction with a similar uncontrolled transaction to provide a direct estimate of the price that the parties could have agreed if they had used a market alternative to the controlled transaction. However, the method becomes a less reliable proxy for arm’s length transactions if all the characteristics of the uncontrolled transaction that significantly affect the prices charged between arm’s length parties are not comparable. The application of the method is limited because it is practically difficult to find an uncontrolled transaction whose differences from a related party transaction would not affect the price. Any minor inaccuracy may lead to a mispricing…”

 

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SKA-314-2021 (1) ORG

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