Tag: Substance over form

The tax doctrine of “substance over form” is a judicial creation applied in many countries. It is often used by the courts in cases where a taxpayer has constructed a scheme of transactional relationships in documents only or primarily to obtain tax benefits. If the tax motivation outweigh the business purpose and/or profit objective of the transaction, courts will decide that “form” (written contracts and arrangements) does not reflect the “substance” (the real deal) and on that basis denie the intented tax benefits.

See also delineation, labelling and business reasons/purpose.

New Zealand vs Cullen Group Limited, March 2019, New Zealand High Court, Case No [2019] NZHC 404

New Zealand vs Cullen Group Limited, March 2019, New Zealand High Court, Case No [2019] NZHC 404

In moving to the United Kingdom, a New Zealand citizen, Mr. Eric Watson, restructured a significant shareholding into debt owed by a New Zealand company, Cullen Group Ltd, to two Cayman Island conduit companies, all of which he still controlled to a high degree. This allowed Cullen Group Ltd to pay an Approved Issuer Levy (AIL) totalling $8 million, rather than Non-Resident Withholding Tax of $59.5 million. The steps in the arrangement were as follows: (a) Mr Watson sold his shares in Cullen Investments Ltd to Cullen Group, at a (rounded) value of $193 million, being $291 million less his previous $98 million shareholder advances. The sale was conditional on Cullen Investments Ltd selling its shares in Medical Holdings Ltd to Mr Watson and on Cullen Investments Ltd selling its shares in Vonelle Holdings Ltd to Maintenance Ltd which was owned by Mr Watson. (b) Cullen Group’s purchase of the Cullen Investments Ltd shares from Mr Watson was funded by a vendor loan from Mr Watson of ... Continue to full case
Denmark vs T and Y Denmark, February 2019, European Court of Justice, Cases C-116/16 and C-117/16

Denmark vs T and Y Denmark, February 2019, European Court of Justice, Cases C-116/16 and C-117/16

The cases of T Danmark (C-116/16) and Y Denmark Aps (C-117/16) adresses questions related to interpretation of the EU-Parent-Subsidary-Directive The issue is withholding taxes levied by the Danish tax authorities in situations where dividend payments are made to conduit companies located in treaty countries but were the beneficial owners of these payments are located in non-treaty countries. During the proceedings in the Danish court system the European Court of Justice was asked a number of questions related to the conditions under which exemption from withholding tax can be denied on dividend payments to related parties. The European Court of Justice has now answered these questions in favor of the Danish Tax Ministry; Benefits granted under the Parent-Subsidiary Directive can be denied where fraudulent or abusive tax avoidance is involved. Quotations from cases C-116/16 and C-117/16: “The general principle of EU law that EU law cannot be relied on for abusive or fraudulent ends must be interpreted as meaning that, where ... Continue to full case
Denmark vs N, X, C, and Z Denmark, February 2019, European Court of Justice, Cases C-115/16, C-118/16, C-119/16 and C-299/16

Denmark vs N, X, C, and Z Denmark, February 2019, European Court of Justice, Cases C-115/16, C-118/16, C-119/16 and C-299/16

The cases of N Luxembourg 1 (C-115/16), X Denmark A/S (C-118/16), C Danmark I (C-119/16) and Z Denmark ApS (C-299/16), adresses questions related to the interpretation of the EU Interest and Royalty Directive. The issue in these cases is withholding taxes levied by the Danish tax authorities in situations where interest payments are made to conduit companies located in treaty countries but were the beneficial owners of these payments are located in non-treaty countries. During the proceedings in the Danish court system the European Court of Justice was asked a number of questions related to the conditions under which exemption from withholding tax can be denied on interest payments to related parties. The European Court of Justice has now answered these questions in favor of the Danish Tax Ministry; Benefits granted under the Interest and Royalty Directive can be denied where fraudulent or abusive tax avoidance is involved. Quotations from cases C-115/16, C-118/16, C-119/16 and C-299/16: “The concept of ‘beneficial ... Continue to full case
South Africa vs Sasol, 30 June 2017, Tax Court, Case No. TC-2017-06 - TCIT 13065

South Africa vs Sasol, 30 June 2017, Tax Court, Case No. TC-2017-06 – TCIT 13065

The taxpayer is registered and incorporated in the Republic of South Africa and carries on business in the petrochemical industry. It has some of its subsidiaries in foreign jurisdictions. Business activities include the importation and refinement of crude oil. This matter concerns the analysis of supply agreements entered into between the XYZ Corp and some of its foreign subsidiaries. It thus brings to fore, inter alia the application of the South African developing fiscal legal principles, namely, residence based taxation, section 9D of the Income Tax Act 58 of 1962 and other established principles of tax law, such as anti-tax avoidance provisions and substance over form. Tax avoidance is the use of legal methods to modify taxpayer’s financial situation to reduce the amount of tax that is payable SARS’s ground of assessment is that the XYZ Group structure constituted a transaction, operation or scheme as contemplated in section 103(1) of the Act. The structure had the effect of avoiding liability ... Continue to full case
US vs. Exelon Corp, September 2016, US Tax Court

US vs. Exelon Corp, September 2016, US Tax Court

The case was about a sale and lease back arrangement characterizised as a loan by the US tax authorities referring to “substance over form”. The Court agreed with the tax authorities. “We have held that all of the test transactions failed the substance over form inquiry because petitioner did not acquire the benefits and burdens of ownership in the assets involved in the test transactions. We have also concluded that the test transactions are more similar to loans made by petitioner to CPS and MEAG because petitioner’s return on its investment was predetermined at the time petitioner entered into the test transactions. Accordingly, in 1999 petitioner exchanged the Powerton and Collins power plants for an interest in financial instruments. Such an exchange fails to meet the “like kind” requirement outlined in the Code and the regulations. Thus, petitioner must recognize the gain it received in 1999 on the sale of the Powerton and Collins plants under section 1001.” US-vs-Exelon-Corp-September-2016-US-Tax-Court ... Continue to full case
Finland vs. Corp, July 2014, Supreme Administrative Court HFD 2014:119

Finland vs. Corp, July 2014, Supreme Administrative Court HFD 2014:119

A Ab had in 2009 from its majority shareholder B, based in Luxembourg, received a EUR 15 million inter-company loan. A Ab had in 2009 deducted 1,337,500 euros in interest on the loan. The loan had been granted on the basis that the banks financing A’s operations had demanded that the company acquire additional financing, which in the payment scheme would be a subordinated claim in relation to bank loans, and by its nature a so-called IFRS hybrid, which the IFRS financial statements were treated as equity. The loan was guaranteed. The fixed annual interest rate on the loan was 30 percent. The loan could be paid only on demand by A Ab. The Finnish tax authorities argued that the legal form of the inter-company loan agreed between related parties should be disregarded, and the loan reclassified as equity. Interest on the loan would therefore not be deductible for A Ab. According to the Supreme Administrative Court interest on the loan was tax deductible. The Supreme Administrative ... Continue to full case
US vs Container Corp., May 2011, US COURT OF APPEALS, No. 10-60515

US vs Container Corp., May 2011, US COURT OF APPEALS, No. 10-60515

In this case a US subsidiary, Container Corp, had paid guaranty fees to its foreign parent company Vitro in Mexico. In the US tax return, the fee had been considered analogous to payments for services, and the income was sourced outside the United States and not subject to withholding tax. The IRS held that the guaranty fees were more closely analogized to interest and thus subject to withholding taxes of 30 %. The Tax Court issued an opinion siding with Container Corp. The Commissioner brought the opinion before the US Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals also found in favor of Container Corp. “To determine what class of income guaranty fees fall within or may be analogized to, the court must look to the “substance of the transaction”. The Commissioner contends the guaranty fees are more closely analogized to interest, while Container Corporation argues that the fees are more closely analogous to payment for services.” “The source of payments ... Continue to full case
US vs Eli Lilly & Co, October 1998, United States Court of Appeals

US vs Eli Lilly & Co, October 1998, United States Court of Appeals

In this case a pharmaceutical company in the US, Eli Lilly & Co, transferred valuable pharmaceutical patents and manufacturing know-how to its subsidiary in Puerto Rico. The IRS argued that the transaction should be disregarded (substance over form) and claimed that all of the income from the transferred intangibles should be allocated to the U.S. parent. The Judgment from the Tax Court: “Respondent’s argument, that petitioner, having originally developed the patents and know-how, is forever required to report the income from those intangibles, is without merit. Respondent ignores the fact that petitioner, as developer and owner of the intangible property, was free to and did transfer the property to the Puerto Ricanaffiliate in 1966.” The Court of Appeals altered the judgement from the Tax Court. According to the Court of Appeals, the parent company had received an arm’s length consideration for the transfer of intangibles in the form of stock in the subsidiary. Hence, the Court disallowed the allocation of ... Continue to full case
US vs Laidlaw Transportation, Inc., June 1998, US Tax Court, Case No 75 T.C.M. 2598 (1998)

US vs Laidlaw Transportation, Inc., June 1998, US Tax Court, Case No 75 T.C.M. 2598 (1998)

Conclusion of the Tax Court: “The substance of the transactions is revealed in the lack of arm’s-length dealing between LIIBV and petitioners, the circular flow of funds, and the conduct of the parties by changing the terms of the agreements when needed to avoid deadlines. The Laidlaw entities’ core management group designed and implemented this elaborate system to create the appearance that petitioners were paying interest, while in substance they were not. We conclude that, for Federal income tax purposes, the advances from LIIBV to petitioners for which petitioners claim to have paid the interest at issue are equity and not debt. Thus, petitioners may not deduct the interest at issue for 1986, 1987, and 1988.” NOTE: 13 October 2016 section 385 of the Internal Revenue Code was issued containing regulations for re-characterisation of Debt/Equity for US Inbound Multinationals. Further, US documentation rules in Treasury Regulation § 1.385-2 facilitate analysis of related-party debt instruments by establishing documentation and maintenance requirements, operating ... Continue to full case