Mexico vs “Drink Distributor S.A.”, April 2019, TRIBUNAL FEDERAL DE JUSTICIA ADMINISTRATIVA, Case No 15378/16-17-09-2/1484/18-S2-08-04

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“Drinks Distributor S.A.” was involved in purchase, sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages in Mexico. “Drinks Distributor s.a” had entered into a non-exclusive trademark license agreement with a related party for the sale of its product. Following a restructuring process, the related party moved to Switzerland.

Following an audit the Mexican tax administration, determined that deductions for marketing and advertising costs related to brands and trademarks used under the licensing agreement, were not “strictly indispensable” and therefore not deductible, cf. requirement established by the Income Tax Law in Mexico.

Drinks Distributor S.A on its side held that the marketing and advertising costs were strictly indispensable and that the tax deductions should be accepted.

The dispute ended up in the Federal Court of Administrative Justice.

Judgement:

The Court determined what should be understood as “strictly indispensable“. To establish this concept the purposes of the specific company and the specific costs must first be determined – in particular that

  • the costs are directly related to the activity of the enterprise
  • the costs are necessary to achieve the aims of its activity or the development of this activity;
  • in the absence of the costs, the commercial activity of the taxpayer will be hindered.

ADVERTISING AND PUBLICITY EXPENSES. THE DEDUCTION IS INAPPROPRIATE, AS THEY ARE NOT STRICTLY INDISPENSABLE FOR THE COMPANY SELLING PRODUCTS UNDER TRADEMARKS WHOSE USE AND EXPLOITATION WERE GRANTED TO IT BY MEANS OF A NON-EXCLUSIVE LICENSE AGREEMENT. Article 31, section I of the Income Tax Law provides that the deductions must comply with various requirements, including that they are strictly indispensable for the purposes of the taxpayer’s activity; the latter being understood to mean that said expenses are directly related to the activity of the company, that they are necessary to achieve the purposes of its activity or the development thereof and that if they do not occur they could affect its activities or hinder its normal operation or development. Therefore, in order to determine whether such expenditure satisfies that requirement, account must be taken of the aims of the undertaking and the specific expenditure itself. Therefore, if a company has as its object the sale of a certain product, and to this end has entered into a non-exclusive license agreement for the use and exploitation of intangibles, which grants it the use and exploitation of a brand name to sell this product; The latter is prevented from deducting advertising and publicity expenses, since, as it does not own the trademark it uses to sell its product, the aforementioned expenses – understood as the acts through which something is made known in order to attract followers or buyers through the means used to disseminate or spread the news of things or facts – are not strictly indispensable for the development of its activity, as they increase the value of the trademark for the benefit of a third party; That is to say, the owner of the trade mark, since they are not aimed at the article, but at positioning the trade mark on the market, in order to give it notoriety, fame and recognition among the consumer public.

 

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Mexico 2019

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