Poland vs “X-TM” sp. z o.o., March 2022, Administrative Court, SA/PO 1058/21

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On 30 November 2012, X sold its trademarks to subsidiary C which in turn sold the trademarks to subsidiary D. X and D then entered into a trademark license agreement according to which X would pay license fees to D. These license fees were deducted by X in its 2013 tax return.

The tax authorities claimed that X had understated its taxabel income as the license fees paid by X to D for the use of trademarks were not related to obtaining or securing a source of revenue. The decision stated that in the light of the principles of logic and experience, the actions taken by the taxpayer made no sense and were not aimed at achieving the revenue in question, but instead at generating costs artificially – only for tax purposes.

An appeal was filed by X.

Judgement of the Administrative Court

The court set aside the assessment of the tax authorities and decided in favor of X.

According to the court taxpayers are not obliged to conduct their business in such a way as to pay the highest possible taxes, and gaining benefits from so-called tax optimization not prohibited by law, was allowed in 2013. The Polish anti-avoidance clause has only been in force since 15 July 2016.

Furthermore, although it may have been possible to set aside legal effects of the transactions under the previous provision in Article 24b § 1 of the C.C.P., the Constitutional Tribunal in its verdict of 11 May 2004, declared this provision to be inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of Poland.


“In the Court’s view, the authorities’ findings fail to comply with the provisions applied in the case, including in particular Article 15 of the CIT Act.

The legal transactions described in the appealed decision indeed constitute an optimisation mechanism. However, the realised transaction scheme is not potentially devoid of economic as well as tax rationales. The actions performed were undoubtedly also undertaken in order to achieve the intended tax result, i.e. optimisation of taxation. It should be strongly emphasised that none of the actions taken were ostensible. All of the applicant’s actions were as real as possible.

Noticing the obvious reality of the above transactions, the tax authorities did not even attempt to apply the institution regulated in Article 199a of the CIT Act.

The omission of legal effects of the transactions performed would probably have been possible in the former legal order, under Article 24b § 1 of the C.C.P., but this provision is no longer in force. The Constitutional Tribunal in its verdict of 11 May 2004, ref. no. K 4/03 (Journal of Laws of 2004, no. 122, item 1288) declared this provision to be inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. On the other hand, the anti-avoidance clause introduced by the Act of 13 May 2016 amending the Tax Ordinance Act and certain other acts (Journal of Laws 2016, item 846) has been in force only since 15 July 2016.

Pursuant to the amended Article 119a § 1 o.p. – an act performed primarily for the purpose of obtaining a tax benefit, contradictory in given circumstances to the object and purpose of the provision of the tax act, does not result in obtaining a tax benefit if the manner of action was artificial (tax avoidance).

Issues related to the application of the provisions of this clause in time are regulated by Article 7 of the Amending Act, according to which the provisions of Articles 119a-119f of the Act amended in Article 1 apply to the tax advantage obtained after the date of entry into force of this Act. Thus, the anti-avoidance clause applies to tax benefits obtained after the date of entry into force of the amending law, i.e. from 15 July 2016, which, moreover, was not in dispute in the present case.

Considering the above, it should be pointed out that the tax authorities in the case at hand had no authority to use such argumentation as if the anti-avoidance clause applied. In the legal state in force in 2013. (applicable in the present case) the general anti-avoidance clause was not in force. This state of affairs amounts to a prohibition on the tax authorities disregarding the tax consequences of legal transactions carried out primarily for the purpose of obtaining a tax advantage.”

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Poland case no I SA_Po 1058_21 - Wyrok WSA w Poznaniu z 2022-03-28

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