Poland vs “Shopping Centre Developer sp.k.”, June 2022, Supreme Administrative Court, Case No II FSK 3050/19

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A Polish company, “Shopping Centre Lender sp.k.”, had been granted three intra group loans in FY 2013 for a maximum amount of EUR 2 million, EUR 115 million and EUR 43.5 million. The interest rate on the loans had been set at 9%.

The tax authorities found that the 9% interest rate was higher than the arm’s length rate, and issued an assessment where the interest rate had been lowered to 3.667%, resulting in lower interest expenses and thus additional taxable income.

“Shopping Centre Lender sp.k.” filed an appeal with the Administrative Court claiming that the procedure for estimating income – determining the arm’s length interest rate – had not been conducted correctly by the tax authority. In a judgement issued in May 2019 (no. III SA/Wa 1777/18) the Administrative Court issued a judgement in favour of the company.

An appeal was then filed by the tax authorities with the Supreme Administrative Court.

Judgement of the Supreme Administrative Court

The Supreme Administrative Court upheld the decision of the Administrative Court and dismissed the appeal of the tax authorities.


“In the opinion of the Supreme Administrative Court, the Court of First Instance made a proper assessment of the case submitted to its review. In the justification of the contested judgment, it presented the legal basis for the decision and its explanation, and within this framework it diagnosed the infringements committed by the authority and assessed their impact on the results of the case. It did so in a clear manner which makes it possible to review the grounds on which it was based. The conclusions formulated, as well as the objections to the proceedings conducted and the content of the decision concluding them, were presented in a reliable and comprehensive manner, in mutual confrontation of the state of the case, applicable legal norms and case-law. It indicated which provisions had been violated, which allegations of the complaint it considered justified and why.
In the present case, the essence of the dispute essentially boiled down to determining whether the interest rate (9% p.a.) of the three loans concluded in 2013 for a maximum amount of EUR 2 million, EUR 115 million and EUR 43.5 million (in respect of which the total balance of liabilities as at 30 September 2014 amounted to almost PLN 623 million), which were granted to the Applicant by a related entity, was in line with market conditions, i.e. whether independent, rational entities would have agreed on an interest rate of that amount under comparable conditions.
More generally, however, the issue in the case oscillated around so-called transfer pricing and generally – in view of the arguments now raised by the parties – boiled down to an assessment of whether, in fact, the procedure for estimating income [art. 11 of the AOP] had been conducted correctly, as the authority argued, or, as the Appellant and the Court argued, in breach of the provisions of the Act and the Ordinance.”

“Referring in turn to the individual problems diagnosed by the WSA, it should be pointed out that this Court, taking into account the disposition arising from the content of Article 11(1) of the A.p.d.o.p., rightly emphasised that its application (in order to determine the income of a given entity and the tax due) requires a prior analysis of comparability. In order to determine what conditions would be set between independent entities, it is necessary to determine what transactions concluded by independent entities are comparable to the transaction assessed from the point of view of Article 11(1) of the A.l.t.d.o.p., which requires a prior comparability analysis. Such an analysis is always conducted, as it serves the purpose of determining whether the prerequisite for estimating income (and the tax due) under Article 11(1) of the A.l.t.c. has been fulfilled. This conclusion is also confirmed by the above-mentioned § 6(1) of the Ordinance, The comparability analysis precedes the assessment, regardless of the method of assessment that would ultimately be applied. On the other hand, § 21 of the Ordinance (Chapter 5) indicates how to estimate income in the case of the specific benefits specified therein (loan or credit).
One must agree with the Court of First Instance that the application of Article 11(1) of the A.P.C. requires a prior comparability analysis in respect of the loans in question. A properly conducted comparability analysis should consist of the steps listed in § 6(4) of the Ordinance and establish the relevant comparability factors (§ 21(3) of the Ordinance, which uses the term “relevant circumstances relating to a particular case”) arising from § 6(3) and § 21(3) of the Ordinance.”

“The point is that it is not a matter of carrying out any comparability analysis, but rather one consisting precisely of the steps listed in § 6(4) of the Ordinance and establishing the relevant comparability factors arising from § 6(3) and § 21(3) of the Ordinance. As the Court of First Instance aptly pointed out, § 6(4) lists the consecutive stages comprising the comparability analysis, of which the first two in particular include – a general analysis of information concerning the taxpayer and its economic environment (stage one) and an analysis of the terms and conditions established or imposed between related parties, in particular on the basis of the functions they perform, the assets involved and the risks incurred, as a result of which economically relevant factors in the circumstances of the case under review should be identified (stage two).
In the realities of this case, the Court of First Instance correctly held that the authority, in its decision issued pursuant to Article 11(1) of the A.p.d.o.p. – taking into account the aforementioned provisions of the Ordinance – in carrying out the comparability analysis was obliged to carry out the individual stages and identify the relevant comparability factors, and this should have been appropriately reflected in the wording of the decision. And although one has to agree with the authority that the Regulation does not indicate the necessity of drawing up the analysis in the form of a specific document, delivered to the party prior to the issuance of the decision, the WSA rightly stated that the decision cannot contain only the result of the ‘thought process’ alone, as in such a case it does not meet the requirements set out in Article 11(1) of the A.p.d.o.p. in conjunction with the provisions of the Regulation, and that in fact it becomes an arbitrary assessment. This observation is all the more justified when one considers that, within the framework of the presentation in the decision of the legal grounds relevant and applicable in the case, the authority completely disregarded paragraph 4 § 6 (k: 20-23). It did not refer to the wording of this provision at all. The confrontation of this fact with the shortcoming of the cassation appeal already stated above, i.e. the absence of any justification for this provision in the cassation appeal – makes the observations of the Court of First Instance well-founded and the plea itself misplaced.”

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