Columbus container services ECJ case and its consequences : a lost opportunity to shed light on the scope of the non-discrimination principle

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This article examines the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ’s) judgment in the Columbus Container Services BVBA & Co. v. Finanzamt Bielefeld-Innenstadt (hereinafter ‘Columbus Container Services’) case (C-298/05). After a brief description of the facts and the decision, the authors critically analyze the ruling, in light of potential acceptance of horizontal comparability as opposed to the traditional migrant/non-migrant approach of the ECJ. A study of the ECJ’s case law on horizontal pairs of comparison, together with a possible legal background for this approach (single market principle), allows the authors to conclude that the German rules under scrutiny (switch-over clause in quasi-CFC situations) were in breach of fundamental freedoms. Finally, the authors also consider hypothetical consequences of Columbus Container Services for other problems at stake such as the future of anti-avoidance rules in the European context, rules on classii cation of foreign entities, consolidation regimes that might imply treaty overrides, or the compatibility of the credit method itself with EC law.
Kluwer
Intertax, vol. 37, April 2009, pp. 212-220
The research for this article was conducted under project SEJ2006-00159JURI (‘La armonización de la imposición sobre Sociedades’) directed by Prof. J. Zornoza (Carlos III University of Madrid) and financed by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science.
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1.
ARTICLE
TheColumbus Container ServicesECJ Case and Its Consequences:ALostOpportunitytoShedLighton the Scope of the Nondiscrimination Principle
Jose Calderón, Andrés Baez*
Thîs artîcle examînes the European Court of Justîce’s (ECJ’s) judgment în theCoumbuŝ Coàîér Sérvîcéŝ BVBA & Co. v. Fîàzàm Bîééfé-ïéŝà(hereînafter ‘Coumbuŝ Coàîér Sérvîcéŝ’) case (C-298/05). After a brîef descrîptîon of the facts and the decîsîon, the authors crîtîcally analyze the rulîng, în lîght of potentîal acceptance of horîzontal comparabîlîty as opposed to the tradîtîonal mîgrant/non-mîgrant approach of the ECJ. A study of the ECJ’s case law on horîzontal paîrs of comparîson, together wîth a possîble legal background for thîs approach (sîngle market prîncîple), allows the authors to conclude that the German rules under scrutîny (swîtch-over clause în quasî-CFC sîtuatîons) were în breach of fundamental freedoms. Fînally, the authors also consîder hypothetîcal consequences ofCoumbuŝ Coàîér Sérvîcéŝfor other problems at stake such as the future of antî-avoîdance rules în the European context, rules on classîicatîon of foreîgn entîtîes, consolîdatîon regîmes that mîght împly treaty overrîdes, or the compatîbîlîty of the credît method îtself wîth EC law.
S T P COPE OF HIS APER
O 6 Décémbér 2007, hé Européà Cour of Juŝîcé (ECJ) éîvéré îŝ ruîg î hé càŝé ofColumbus Contaîner Serv-îces BVBA & Co. v. Fînanzamt Bîelefeld-Innenstadt(héréî-1 àfér ‘Columbus Contaîner Servîcescàŝé hà àwàkéé’). Thé 2 hé îéréŝ of ŝchoàrŝ béforé hé jugmé. Névérhé-éŝŝ, hé écîŝîo hàŝ créàé éw ucéràîîéŝ o oy 3 bécàuŝé î î o àŝwér crucîà quéŝîoŝ o hé fàcŝ bu àŝo bécàuŝé î ŝéémŝ o hàvé àppàréy chàgé – or à éàŝ mouàé – prîor écîŝîoŝ of hé ECJ. Thîŝ pàpér wî ŝpécîày focuŝ o héŝé ŝîécéŝ à îcoŝîŝécîéŝ. ï hé irŝ ŝécîo, wé wî brîéLy éŝcrîbé hé fàcŝ à hé ECJ’ŝ jugmé. Afér hà, wé wî coŝîér hé ruîg î à crîîcà wày, àppyîg o hé càŝé hé bàŝîc ééméŝ uŝuày mààgé by hé ECJ î îŝ o-îŝcrîmîàîo càŝé àw à éxpoŝîg our poŝîîo hà ŝubŝàîày îf-férŝ from hà hé by hé Cour (ŝécîo 3). Evé îf wé o o ŝhàré hé réàŝoîg à cocuŝîoŝ of hé ECJ, wé wî coŝîér hé hypohéîcà coŝéquécéŝ ofColumbus Contaîner Servîcesfor ohér probémŝ à ŝàké, ŝuch àŝ ruéŝ
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o càŝŝîicàîo of foréîg éîîéŝ, coŝoîàîo régîméŝ hà mîgh împy réày ovérrîéŝ, or hé compàîbîîy of hé créî mého îŝéf wîh EC àw (ŝécîo 4).
2.
S :C C T OLUMBUS ONTAINER ERVICESHE F R ACTS AND THE ULING
Coumbuŝ Coàîérŝ BVBA & Co. îŝ à îmîé pàrér-ŝhîp govéré by Bégîà àw whoŝé objéc comprîŝéŝ hé coorîàîo (iàcé, màrkéîg, mààgémé, à book-kéépîg) of hé àcîvîîéŝ pérformé by à îéràîoà group. ïŝ ŝhàréŝ wéré hé by éîgh àurà pérŝoŝ réŝî-îg î Gérmày (80%) à à Gérmà pàrérŝhîp (20%) whoŝé pàrérŝ àŝo réŝîé î Gérmày. Accorîg o Bégîà àw, Coumbuŝ îŝ à àxàbé pér-ŝo fàîg uér hé ŝcopé of hé ‘coorîàîo céré’ régîmé hà gràŝ fàr-réàchîg àx àvààgéŝ. O hé ohér hà, uér Gérmà àx àw, Coumbuŝ wàŝ réàé àŝ à ràŝpàré pàrérŝhîp à îŝ proiŝ wéré àŝŝîgé o hé pàrérŝ réŝîîg î Gérmày.
Notes Joŝé Càéró îŝ Proféŝŝor à hé Uîvérŝîy of à Coruñà, à ArÉŝ Báéz îŝ Proféŝŝor à hé Uîvérŝîy Càroŝ ïïï à Pubîc Uîvérŝîy of Nàvàrrà. Thé àuhorŝ cà bé coàcé à hé foowîg é-màî àréŝŝéŝ: <àxéŝp@uc.éŝ à àbàéz@ér-pu.uc3m.éŝ>. Thé réŝéàrch for hîŝ àrîcé wàŝ coucé uér projéc SEJ2006-00159JURï (‘à àrmoîzàcîó é à împoŝîcîó ŝobré Socîéàéŝ’) îrécé by Prof. J. Zorozà (Càroŝ ïïï Uîvérŝîy of Màrî) à iàcé by hé Spàîŝh Mîîŝry of Eucàîo à Scîécé. Càŝé No. C-298/05,Columbus Contaîner Servîces BVBA & Co. v. Fînanzamt Bîelefeld-Innenstadt. üîckéüîcké, ‘Péîg càŝéŝ Fîé by Gérmà Courŝ ï: Thé Méîîcké, CT-UFA, Kéér Hoîg, àŝéréc, Réwé Zéràiàz, Rîér-Couàîŝ, Koumbuŝ Coàîér Sérvîcéŝ, à Sàuffér Càŝéŝ’, îECJ: Recent Developments în Dîrect Taxatîon(Wîé: îé, 2006), 163-168; Coréwéér, ‘EC àw Proécîo àgàîŝ “Horîzoà” Tàx Dîŝ-crîmîàîo o hé Rîŝé – or How o Pày Sookér î à ïérà Màrké’EC Tax Revîewo. 5 (2007), 211; àg, ‘Dîé Zukuf ér Doppébéŝéuérugŝàbkommé îm îché vo Coumbuŝ Coàîér’, îFestschrîft für Wolfram Reîss: zum 65. Geburtstag’ (Kö: Oo Schmî, 2008), 679-696; Coréwéér, ‘Gérmà Aî-àvoîàcé Méàŝuréŝ vérŝuŝ Bégîà Coorîàîo Céréŝ: A og Sruggé wîhou Survîvorŝ?’, îA vîsîon of Taxes Wîthîn and Outsîde European Borders. Féŝŝchrîf î Hoour of Prof. Dr. Fràŝ VanIstendael (Aphé àà é Rîj: Kuwér, 2008), 228-232. Fàrmér coŝîérŝ hé ruîg o bé îŝàppoîîg o àvoîîg compééy céràî kéy îŝŝuéŝ: Fàrmér, ‘Columbus Contaîner Servîces BVBA & Co. v. Fînanzamt Bîelefeld-Innenstadt:Thé ECJ Fàîŝ o Gràŝp hé Tàx Compéîîo Néé î Réàîo o Foréîg ïcomé Ruéŝ’,Brîtîsh Tax Revîewo. 2 (2008), 106.
INTERTAX,Volume 37, Issue 4 © 2009 Kluwer Law International BV, The Netherlands
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