Spain vs. Microsoft Ibérica S.R.L, February 2018, Audiencia Nacional, Case no 337/2014

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Microsoft Ibérica S.R.L is responsible for distribution and marketing of Microsoft products in Spain.

According to an agreement concluded between Microsoft Ibérica and MIOL (Microsoft’s Irish sales and marketing hub) with effect from 1 July 2003, Microsoft Ibérica would received the largest amount of either a commission based on sales invoiced in Spain or a markup on it’s costs. In support of the remuneration according to the agreement, Microsoft had provided a benchmark study.

The Spanish tax authorities found that Microsoft Ibérica had not been properly remunerated due to the fact that goodwill amortisations had been eliminated by in the transfer pricing analysis. By including the goodwill amortisations in the analysis, the result of the local company was below the interquartile rang. The authorities further held that the selected comparables in the benchmark study suffered from comparability defects, in that they had less functions and risk than Microsoft Ibérica. An assessment was issued where the results were adjusted to the upper quartile of the benchmark results.

The Court of first instance held in favor of Microsoft and set aside the assessment. This decision was appealed to the High Court by the authorities.

The High Court overturned the decision and decided in favour of the tax authorities.

Excerpts from the Judgement:

“We understand that the appellant’s conduct was deliberate, seeking to make the inspection proceedings time-barred. For a year, the Inspectorate was unable to carry out its work normally; in fact, what the Inspectorate did was to waste many hours of work examining the various incomplete accounts which did not comply with the Spanish accounting plan, which the appellant was handing in, wasting hours of work paid for out of the State’s general budget. The appellant, with only two days left, submitted a copy of the accounts which replaced “the computer copies of the accounts on CDs submitted to the inspection on 21/05/20 10, 9/09/2010 and 26/11/2010 which contained errors in the conversion of the accounts from the American chart of accounts to the Spanish chart of accounts”.
The Chamber cannot support this conduct of the party by declaring the inspection procedure time-barred, as the delay is attributable to the taxpayer’s conduct.
In finding that there is a delay attributable to the taxpayer for 344 days, it is unnecessary to examine the rest of the delays. The Inspector procedure took 705 days, discounting 344 days, the procedure finalised in 361 days, therefore, even if the other delays that are questioned are not attributable to the taxpayer, which in many cases overlap with the delay for not handing over the accounts, the Inspector procedure would have concluded before one year had elapsed.”

“The Inspectorate indicated that there was another compelling reason to weigh in support of the application of a value located in the upper interquartile range of the study carried out by the Inspectorate, since within the sample of companies considered comparable there are some, five in particular that carry out service activities (CNAE activity codes 7221-7222), which are more similar than the rest to the activity formally assumed by MICROSOFT IBÉRICA – the provision of marketing services – and whose net margins were higher.
The Inspectorate considered this sample of entities to be the most appropriate in terms of comparability, as it would yield a margin with a median of 6.15% (weighted average for the period).
The reasoning of the Inspectorate, which was complemented by everything else it argued in the agreement, is considered to be correct, but it should also be considered that this reasoning is complementary to the criteria of the Chamber, which has considered that the contract signed by Microsoft fixed a commission that had to be settled monthly.”

The Chamber cannot share the criteria of the report for the following reasons.
The expert assumes an interpretation of the contract signed in 2003 that is contrary to the one we have set out in the corresponding legal basis of this Judgment. It is the function of the Chamber to interpret contracts. The increase in the taxable bases derives directly from those agreed by Microsoft and MIOL, any other consideration being unnecessary.
Furthermore, the expert considers that companies with losses have been eliminated without reasonable criteria, when this Chamber has endorsed that this criterion was in accordance with the law.
Furthermore, the expert assumes that the appellant does not perform strategic functions, whereas the Chamber has concluded otherwise.

“WE RULE
1) That we DISMISS AND REVERSE the present contentious-administrative appeal number 337/2014, brought by the Solicitor Ms. Sonsoles Díaz-Varela Arrese, on behalf of MICROSOFT IBÉRICA, S.R.L, assisted by the Lawyer Ms. Cristina Fernández Rodríguez against the decision dated 8 May 2014 issued by the Central Economic Administrative Court, and we CONFIRM AND CONFIRM the said decisions as being in accordance with the legal system.
2) The plaintiff is ordered to pay the costs incurred in these legal proceedings.”

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SPA vs MS SAN_1125_2018

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