Netherlands vs “Agri B.V.”, September 2022, Court of Appeal, Case No AWB-16_5664 (ECLI:NL:RBNHO:2022:9062)

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“Agri B.V.” is a Dutch subsidiary in an international group processing agricultural products. Following a restructuring in 2009 “Agri B.V.” had declared a profit of € 35 million, including € 2 million in exit profits.

In an assessment issued by the tax authorities this amount had been adjusted to more than € 350 million.

Judgement of the Court of Appeal

The Court of appeal decided predominantly in favour of the tax authorities.

An expert was appointed to determine the value of what had been transferred, and based on the valuation report produced by the expert the court set the taxable profit for 2009/2010 to €117 million.

Excerpt
“The Functional Analysis of [company 9] submitted, the Asset Sale and Purchase Agreements, the Manufacturing Services Agreements and the Consulting services and assistance in conducting business activities agreements show that there was a transfer of more than just separate assets and liabilities. The factual and legal position of [company 2] and [company 1] has changed significantly as a result of the reorganization. In this respect, the Court considered the following.

27. Whereas prior to the reorganization [company 1] operated independently under its own name on the purchasing and sales markets, independently hedged price risks and ran the full risk of good and bad luck in all its activities, after the reorganization it only provides (production) services to [company 3] for a fixed fee for a certain period of time. The claimant’s contention that already with the establishment of the [company 6] in 2000 there was far-reaching coordination as a result of which [company 1] no longer operated completely independently but only as a processing facility is only supported by written statements from employees in 2019. These statements are difficult to reconcile with the 2009 Functional Analysis, in which the [company 6] is not even mentioned. Therefore, the Court does not attach the value that the claimant wishes to see attached to these statements. That [company 3] and [company 4] were involved in the (strategic) planning of [company 1] prior to the reorganization is not surprising in view of the global activities of the group. However, no more can be deduced from the Functional Analysis than that [company 3] and [company 4] were operating in cooperation with [company 1]. That the form in which this cooperation is cast detracts from the independence of [company 1] described elsewhere in the Functional Analysis has not become plausible on the basis of the documents.

28. A similar analysis can be made of [company 2’s] activities before and after the reorganisation. Whereas prior to the reorganisation [company 2] operated independently under its own name on the purchasing and sales markets, independently hedged price risks (not only for its own benefit, but for the benefit of the activities of all group companies that it coordinated worldwide), and ran the full risk of good and bad opportunities in all its activities, after the reorganisation it only provides (production) services to [company 3] for a fixed fee for a limited period of time.

29. The claimant has stated without contradiction that the profitability of [company 4] depends to a large extent on daily global and regional price fluctuations over which [company 4] has no influence, and that the market developments are therefore analysed on a daily basis. From the description of the market expertise of [company 3] after the reorganization in the Functional Analysis (see recital 8), the Court deduces that the market expertise present in the group of [company 4], gained from hedging, taking positions on markets and contract negotiations, forms the basis for the activities of [company 3] after the reorganization. This description explicitly states that this knowledge plays a key role in improving the profitability of the Dutch oilseed business. In that connection, reference is made to the fact that [company 3] will set the price and volume guidelines for purchases and sales, conclude the contracts and take care of the hedging. It is established that all these activities were carried out by [company 1] and [company 2] prior to the reorganisation. It has not become plausible that, prior to the reorganization, [company 3] was already engaged in such similar activities that those of [company 1] and [company 2] can only be regarded as additional. During the reorganization, not only stocks, current purchase and sales contracts, currency contracts and futures, etc. were transferred to [company 3], but also dozens of employees, including traders from [company 1] and [company 2], were transferred to [company 3]. The Court therefore deems it plausible that the aforementioned market expertise was not actually invested in [company 3] itself until the transfer of these employees.

30. The prices agreed as part of the reorganisation only concern the transfer of assets and liabilities. However, in view of the foregoing, this transfer cannot be viewed separately from the concentration of market expertise at [company 3] that was previously held by [company 1] and [company 2]. The fact that the market expertise at the latter company was also supported by employees who were not employed by it does not mean that this knowledge should not be attributed to the company of [company 2]. In addition to market expertise, the power of decision regarding purchases, sales and hedging was also transferred from [company 1] and [company 2] to [company 3]. Since having market expertise, seen against the background of the aforementioned power of decision, plays a key role in the activities of [company 3] after the reorganization aimed at increasing profitability, the Court deems it plausible that a value must be attributed to it separately that has not already been reflected in the agreed prices for the assets and liabilities. The Court also sees support for this conclusion in the circumstance that the turnover and cash flow of [company 1] and [company 2] – as has not been contradicted by the claimant – decreased considerably after the reorganization, while those of [company 3] increased considerably.”

 

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Netherlands ECLI_NL_RBNHO_2022_9062

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