Spain vs. Borex, February 2011, National Court case nr. 80-2008

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A Spanish subsidiary of a UK Group (Borex), which imported, processed and sold the materials to third parties, was transformed into a a contract manufacturer.

The Spanish subsidiary signed two separate contracts with the UK parent – one for warehousing and the provision of services and the other in respect of an sales agency.

Under the first contract, the minerals purchased by the parent would be stored and processed by the subsidiary, which would also provide other relevant services. Under the second contract, the Spanish subsidiary would promote sales of the minerals in Spain, but, as the prices and conditions were fixed by the UK parent, the subsidiary would only send orders to the parent, which according to the contract was not bound to accept them. The subsidiary could not accept orders in the name of the parent or receive payment.

The tax authorities argued that there was a high degree of overlapping between the activities carried out by the parent and the subsidiary. According to the tax authorities warehousing, service and promotion of sales activities could not be considered separately, and as the activities were not of a preparatory or auxiliary nature there was a PE in Spain .

The National Court concluded that, article 5(3) of the Spain-UK Tax Treaty (article 5(4) of the OECD Model) did not apply, as the activities in the subsidiary could not be considered in isolation. The activities were to be considered part of a chain that completed an economic cycle in Spain.

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