B Restructuring LDA was a distributor within the E group. During FY 2014-2016 a number of manufacturing entities within the group terminated distribution agreements with B Restructuring LDA and subsequently entered into new Distribution Agreements, under similar terms, with another company of the group C. These events were directed by the Group’s parent company, E.
The tax authorities was of the opinion, that if these transaction had been carried out in a free market, B would have received compensation for the loss of intangible assets – the customer portfolio and the business and market knowledge (know-how) inherent to the functions performed by B. In other words, these assets had been transferred from B to C. The tax authorities performed a valuation of the intangibles and issued an assessment of additional taxable income resulting from the transaction.
E Group disagreed with the assessment as, according to the group, there had been no transaktion between the B and C. Furthermore the group held that there was no transaction or disposal of intangibles, as B could not sell what did not belong to it, namely the client portfolio, which had been, almost in its entirety, raised by the Group, prior to its use by B.
Result reached in the arbitration tribunal.
The Tribunal set aside the assessment of additional income in respect of transfer of intangibles.
“…The Tax Authorities, anchored in the positions of the OECD, states in the RIT that:
“From this perspective, the acceptance by B… of a distribution contract, on which the entirety of its activity depends, containing clauses that (i) harm its individual interest (Clause 11, which provides that the parties waive the right to claim damages in connection with the execution or termination of the contract) […] is a decision that differs from the rationality of pursuing self-interest that would exist in an independent company ”
Indeed, the position that independent entities, when transacting with each other, would require consideration for the transfer of assets is understandable.
However, it is also true that § 6.13 of the OECD Guidelines underlines that within a Group there are special relationships, with rules specific to the Group, which should not be automatically called into question for failure to respect the arm’s length principle, particularly in transactions involving intangibles.
In this context, the RIT is totally silent, and should not be, on the value of the Group’s contribution to B… customers, as based on the evidence, in particular in the logic of application of the excess earnings method (and respective elements contributing to the assets under appraisal).
In a transaction between independent parties, the selling party, having previously obtained such a right or intangible asset, certainly through the payment of a consideration, what it would gain is the value arising from its specific contribution, and not the total value of the asset, since a substantial part of it was not developed by it .
In the present case, the profit of B… would have to be deducted the value contributed by the group for the portfolio of clients reallocated to C… . If a compensation for the reallocation of B…’s intangibles was accepted, it would also have to be analysed how it would be shared among the Group’s entities that contributed to the generation of the reallocated intangibles.
In light of all the foregoing, it can be concluded that the tax acts of assessment of the CIT and the compensatory interest inherent thereto are vitiated by an error in the assumptions and can therefore be annulled on the grounds of substantive defects, by virtue of the AT’s failure to observe the legal criteria of the method for determining the comparable market price (PCM) or other alternative method. Specifically:
a. The allegedly comparable price was obtained by the AT from the data of a controlled transaction, and not from a transaction between independent parties – which is not admissible under Article 63 of the IRC Code, Ministerial Order 1446-C/2001 and the OECD Guidelines that enshrine the guidelines to be followed for this purpose;
b. The evaluation method used was the discounted cash-flow method, which has as general postulate that the value of an asset (or company) is based on the cash flows that it will release, updated (present value) to the moment when the transaction of that asset (or company) takes place. However, inconsistently, despite invoking that method, the AT did not rely on a projection of cash flows for a multi-year period, basing itself on the profits (and not, as stated, cash flows) of a given year – 2014 (and not, as stated, on a multi-year basis);
c. Relevant comparability factors were not taken into account, such as, in the present case, the fact that the “profit” of B… should be deducted the value contributed by the Group for the portfolio of clients reallocated to C…”.
Also with regard to the choice of method, in the words of the TCA Sul, in its Judgment of 25 January 2018, rendered in Case No. 06660/13 (available in http://www.dgsi.pt):
“Transfer prices, as we have already stated, must be determined in accordance with the arm’s length principle (Pursuant to article 2 of Ordinance no. 1446-C/2001, the arm’s length principle is applicable (i) to controlled transactions between an IRS or IRC taxpayer and a non-resident entity; (ii) to transactions carried out between a non-resident entity and its permanent establishment, including those carried out between a permanent establishment in Portuguese territory and other permanent establishments of the same entity located outside this territory; (iii) controlled transactions carried out between entities resident in Portuguese territory subject to IRS or IRC. And by virtue of Article 58(10) of the CIRC and Article 23 of the above-mentioned Ministerial Order, the arm’s length principle is also applicable to the situations provided for therein. Maybe for this reason, the legislator consecrated an open clause regarding the methods to be adopted to determine the transfer prices (see the wording of paragraph b) of article 4 of Ministerial Order no. 1446-C/2001, of 21st March). This is because, besides the five established methods (Comparable Market Price Method (CMP); Resale Price Minus Method (RPM); Cost Plus Method (CBM); Net Margin Method (TNMM)), the legislator consecrated an open clause with regard to the methods to be adopted for the determination of the transfer prices (see the wording of paragraph b) of article 4 of Ministerial Order no. 1446-C/2001, of 21st December, which reads “or any other method appropriate to the facts and specific circumstances”); Net Operating Margin Method (TNMM); Split Profit Method (PSM)] another method may be adopted which is more appropriate for each transaction or series of transactions, i.e. the one which is more suitable to provide the highest degree of comparability.
In other words, residual or alternative methods may also be applied provided that: those established by the legislator cannot be applied or, if they can be applied, they do not provide the most reliable measure of the terms and conditions which independent entities would normally agree, accept or practice”.
In view of the above, and in summary, the tax acts of assessment of corporate income tax and compensatory interest, relating to the financial year 2014, are vitiated by the violation of law, in relation to the transfer pricing adjustment subject of this arbitration proceeding, so they should be partially annulled in the corresponding part, amounting to € 92. 532.51, in accordance with the provisions of article 135 of the Code of Administrative Procedure…”