Spain: Tax leasing system (amended) not state aid, CJEU judgment

Spain: Tax leasing system (amended) not state aid

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a judgment in a case concerning the Spanish tax lease system as amended, and the CJEU upheld a prior determination that a challenge to this tax regime was unfounded.

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The case is: Netherlands Maritime Technology Association v. Commission, C-100/15 (14 April 2016). Read the CJEU judgment.

Summary

The tax leasing system in Spain is a financing arrangement that allows Spanish tax relief for investors that provide financing for tangible assets. In June 2011, the European Commission (EC) initiated legal proceedings against what were the then applicable rules that offered early and accelerated tax depreciation. The EC concluded that this tax treatment constituted “state aid” that was incompatible with the internal market. The EC’s findings, however, were annulled by the General Court of the EU in December 2015. This was appealed to the CJEU.

In the meantime, in May 2012, Spain gave notice to the EC of changes to the tax leasing system. These amended rules put an end to what had been an approval process under the tax leasing system and also made material changes to the tax regime for leases. The EC in November 2012 concluded that the amended regime did not constitute state aid.

A challenged was filed by the Dutch maritime association in 2013, when it asserted in part that the the General Court’s decision was inadequate and contradictory. The association claimed the judgment had to be set aside. 

The CJEU in April 2016 dismissed the appeal, finding that the Dutch association’s arguments were unfounded and, in part, inadmissible. 

KPMG observation

The CJEU judgment (even though generally based on procedural grounds) can be viewed as a positive development for Spanish taxpayers that have received aid under the amended tax leasing system. What remains to be determined is whether the tax leasing system in effective prior to its May 2012 amendment constitutes state aid. That issue is still pending appeal before the CJEU. 

 

Read an April 2016 report [PDF 123 KB] prepared by KPMG’s EU Tax Centre

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