CFE has published an Opinion Statement prepared by the CFE ECJ Task Force on the CJEU decision of 25 February 2021 in Case C-403/19, Société Générale, on the calculation of the maximum amount of a foreign direct tax credit.
In Société Générale the Court confirmed previous case law and held that the French method of calculating the maximum amount of foreign direct tax credits for cross-border dividends to offset the double taxation of dividends received by a company subject to French corporate income tax is not contrary to the free movement of capital under Article 63 TFEU. The higher tax burden on foreign dividends resulting from the difference in tax bases – net taxation and corresponding credit limitation in France, gross withholding taxation in the source States – is therefore not prohibited under the fundamental freedoms.
The Court’s judgment in Société Générale reinforces established case law that EU law neither prohibits juridical double taxation nor does it put an obligation on the residence Member State to prevent the disadvantages which could arise from the exercise of competence thus attributed by the two Member States. The parallel existence of taxing jurisdiction, however, must be distinguished from the exercise of such jurisdiction by each Member State. While Member States are free to determine the connecting factors for the allocation of taxing jurisdiction in tax treaties, “the exercise of the power of taxation, so allocated by bilateral conventions for the avoidance of double taxation, the Member States must comply with EU rules and, more particularly, observe the principle of equal treatment”.
It is generally accepted in the Court’s case law that both the ordinary credit and exemption (including exemption with progression) are permissible methods to avoid double taxation. In Société Générale this position was confirmed, specifically as regards the “maximum deduction” under the ordinary credit method in tax treaties, even though this treatment can result in a disadvantage for cross-border income as compared with domestic income. As the disadvantage in Société Générale was due to the difference between gross-basis taxation of dividends in the source Member States (Italy, the Netherlands and the UK) and net-basis taxation of those foreign-sourced dividends in the residence State (France), it remains to be seen if future cases will bring clarity in light of the Seabrokers judgment of the EFTA Court which examined how expenses can be lawfully allocated to foreign income from the perspective of the residence Member State.
The CFE Tax Advisers Europe stresses that in an Internal Market neither (unintended) double non-taxation nor double taxation is acceptable. It, therefore, calls on all EU institutions to analyze and address the remaining issues of juridical double taxation – including in the context of the upcoming actions amending current corporate tax directives.
We invite you to read the statement, and remain available for any queries you may have.