Romania vs Impresa Pizzarotti & C SPA Italia, October 2020, ECJ Case C-558/19

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A Regional Court of Romania requested a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice in the Case of Impresa Pizzarotti.

Impresa Pizzarotti is the Romanian branch of SC Impresa Pizzarotti & C SPA Italia (‘Pizzarotti Italia’), established in Italy.

In 2017, the Romanian tax authorities conducted an audit of an branch of Impresa Pizzarotti. The audit revealed that the branch had concluded, as lender, two loan agreements with its parent company, Pizzarotti Italia: one dated 6 February 2012 for EUR 11 400 000 and another dated 9 March 2012 for EUR 2 300 000.

Those sums had been borrowed for an initial period of one year, which could be extended by way of addendum, that the loan agreements did not contain any clause concerning the charging of interest by Impresa Pizzarotti, and that although the outstanding amount as of 1 January 2013 was EUR 11 250 000, both loans had been repaid in full by 9 April 2014.

Transactions between Romanian persons and non-resident related persons are subject to the rules on transfer pricing. The concept of ‘Romanian persons’ covers a branch which is the permanent establishment of a non-resident person

The tax authorities held that the local branch of Impresa Pizzarotti, was to be treated as a person related to Pizzarotti Italia and that the interest rate on those loans should have been set at market price, in accordance with the rules on transfer pricing.

Consequently, a tax assessment was issued based on the tax audit report of the same date imposing on Impresa Pizzarotti a tax increase of 297 141.92 Romanian lei (RON) (approximately EUR 72 400) and an additional taxable amount of RON 1 857 137 (approximately EUR 452 595).

Impresa Pizzarotti subsequently brought the case before the Romanian national court, the Tribunalul Cluj (Regional Court, Cluj, Romania), seeking annulment of the tax assessment.

Impresa Pizzarotti held that the national provisions relied on by the tax office infringe Articles 49 and 63 TFEU, in so far as they provide that transfers of money between a branch established in one Member State and its parent company established in another Member State constitute transactions which may be subject to the rules on transfer pricing, whereas those rules do not apply where the branch and its parent company are established in the territory of the same Member State.

The Romanian Court decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following question to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

“>‘Do Articles 49 and 63 [TFEU] preclude national legislation such as [Articles 11(2) and 29(3) of the Tax Code], which provides that a transfer of money from a company branch resident in one Member State to the parent company resident in another Member State may be reclassified as a revenue-generating transaction, with the consequent obligation to apply the rules on transfer pricing, whereas, if the same transaction had been effected between a company branch and a parent company, both of which were resident in the same Member State, that transaction could not have been reclassified in the same way and the rules on transfer pricing would not have been applied?’

 

Judgement of the Court

The Court concluded that Romanian transfer pricing regulations were not in breach with the EU Fredoms of Establishment, cf. Article 49 TFEU.

By taxing the permanent establishment on the basis of the presumed amount of the remuneration for the advantage granted gratuitously to the parent company, in order to take account of the amount which that permanent establishment would have had to declare in respect of its profits if the transaction had been concluded in accordance with market conditions, the legislation at issue in the main proceedings thus allows Romania to exercise its power to tax in relation to activities carried out in its territory.

…national legislation…, which seeks to prevent profits generated in the Member State concerned from being transferred outside the tax jurisdiction of that Member State via transactions that are not in accordance with market conditions, without being taxed, is appropriate for ensuring the preservation of the allocation of the power to tax between Member States.

…national legislation which provides for a consideration of objective and verifiable elements in order to determine whether a transaction represents an artificial arrangement, entered into for tax reasons, is to be regarded as not going beyond what is necessary to attain the objectives relating to the need to maintain the balanced allocation of the power to tax between Member States and to prevent tax avoidance where, first, on each occasion on which there is a suspicion that a transaction goes beyond what the companies concerned would have agreed under fully competitive conditions, the taxpayer is given an opportunity, without being subject to undue administrative constraints, to provide evidence of any commercial justification that there may have been for that transaction…

…, it appears that the Romanian legislation at issue in the main proceedings does not go beyond what is necessary to attain the legitimate objective underlying that legislation.

…, the answer to the question referred is that Article 49 TFEU must be interpreted as not precluding, in principle, legislation of a Member State under which a transfer of money from a resident branch to its parent company established in another Member State may be reclassified as a ‘revenue-generating transaction’, with the consequent obligation to apply the rules on transfer pricing, whereas, if the same transaction had been effected between a company branch and a parent company, both of which were established in the same Member State, that transaction would not have been classified in the same way and the rules on transfer pricing would not have been applied.

 

Article 49 TFEU must be interpreted as not precluding, in principle, legislation of a Member State under which a transfer of money from a resident branch to its parent company established in another Member State may be reclassified as a ‘revenue-generating transaction’, with the consequent obligation to apply the rules on transfer pricing, whereas, if the same transaction had been effected between a company branch and a parent company, both of which were established in the same Member State, that transaction would not have been classified in the same way and the rules on transfer pricing would not have been applied.

 

C-558-19 Decision from the ECJ on request from Romania - Impresa Pizzarotti & SPA Italia Sucursala Cluj

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