Poltova GZK is a Ukrainian subsidiary of the Ferrexpo group – the world’s third largest exporter of iron ore pellets. In FY 2015 the iron ore mined in Ukraine by Poltava GZK was sold to other companies in the group – Ferrexpo Middle East FZE, and the transfer prices for the ore was determined by application of the CUP method using Platts quotations.
However, according to the tax authorities Poltava GZK used Platts quotations for pellets with a lower iron content when pricing the higher quality pellets, resulting in non arm’s length prices for the controlled transactions and lower profits in the Ukraine subsidiary. The tax authorities also found that Poltava GZK had overestimated the cost of freight – in the case of actual transportation of pellets by ships of different classes (“Panamax”, “Capesize”), the adjustment of the delivery conditions was carried out only at the maximum rate. On that basis an assessment was issued.
Not satisfied with the assessment an appel was filed Poltova GZK, and in 2019 the Administrative Court and later the Court of Appeal set aside the assessment of the tax authorities.
An appeal was then filed by the tax authorities with the Supreme Court.
Judgement of the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court partially annulled the decision of the Administrative Court and Court of Appeal and ruled predominantly in favor of the tax authorities approving the position that the transfer prices of the iron ore pellets did not correspond to the arm’s length price. The Court confirmed the validity of the tax assessment and the legality of the issued tax notice-decision regarding the reduction of the negative taxable income in an amount of 1.3 billion hryvnias (~$35 millions).
The Court confirmed that the taxpayer did not take into account the actual properties of the products specified in the Quality Certificates, namely: the content of impurities (silicon dioxide) and the moisture level when pricing the controlled transactions. The court confirmed that the constant fluctuation of prices on the market of iron ore pellets is not a basis for comparing prices in CU with the average indicator in comparable operations for a certain period (month) without constructing a price range. Also, the taxpayer had overestimated the cost of freight.
Ukrain vs PrJSC Supreme Administrative Court case no 440-1053-19