Advanced

Tolkning och tillämpning av skatteavtal i ljuset av den senaste tidens rättsutveckling

Catic, Edina LU (2011) JURM01 20111
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
Uppsatsens syfte är att systematisera gällande rätt avseende tolkning och tillämpning av skatteavtal mot bakgrund av den senaste rättsutvecklingen.

Inledningsvis redogörs för de principer och metoder samt rättskällor som har betydelse vid tolkning av skatteavtal utifrån RÅ 1987 ref. 162 Englandsfararmålet, RÅ 1996 ref. 84 Luxemburgmålet och RÅ 2004 ref. 59 Perumålet. Skatteavtal ska enligt praxis tolkas folkrättsligt. Tolkningsprocessen syftar således till att fastställa vad de avtalsslutande staterna avsett med bestämmelserna i skatteavtalet vid dess tillkomst. Fastställandet ska ske enligt Wienkonventionens tolkningsregler i artiklarna 31-33. OECD:s modellavtal jämte kommentar får vidare anses vara en allmänt accepterad rättskälla... (More)
Uppsatsens syfte är att systematisera gällande rätt avseende tolkning och tillämpning av skatteavtal mot bakgrund av den senaste rättsutvecklingen.

Inledningsvis redogörs för de principer och metoder samt rättskällor som har betydelse vid tolkning av skatteavtal utifrån RÅ 1987 ref. 162 Englandsfararmålet, RÅ 1996 ref. 84 Luxemburgmålet och RÅ 2004 ref. 59 Perumålet. Skatteavtal ska enligt praxis tolkas folkrättsligt. Tolkningsprocessen syftar således till att fastställa vad de avtalsslutande staterna avsett med bestämmelserna i skatteavtalet vid dess tillkomst. Fastställandet ska ske enligt Wienkonventionens tolkningsregler i artiklarna 31-33. OECD:s modellavtal jämte kommentar får vidare anses vara en allmänt accepterad rättskälla vid tolkning av skatteavtal. Svenska förarbetsuttalanden bör inte ignoreras men rättskällevärdet är lågt i jämförelse med avtalstolkning i interna sammanhang. Svensk rättspraxis är emellertid en rättskälla även vid en folkrättslig tolkning av skatteavtal.

Därefter behandlas frågan om regelkonkurrens mellan lag om skatteavtal och annan svensk lag utifrån RÅ 2008 ref. 24 OMX-målet och RÅ 2010 ref. 112 Greklandmålet. Härvid behandlas skatteavtalens förhållande till intern rätt utifrån såväl konstitutionella som folkrättsliga utgångspunkter samt mot bakgrund av den gyllene regeln i de svenska införlivandelagarna. Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen har i sin tidigare praxis tolkat skatteavtal enligt de principer som gäller vid tolkning av folkrättsliga avtal. Domstolens avgörande i OMX-målet har dock uppfattats som ett avsteg från principen om att skatteavtal ska tolkas folkrättsligt. Uppsatsen behandlar därför frågan om hur domstolens avgörande i OMX-målet förhåller sig till tidigare praxis.

Slutsatsen är att RÅ 2008 ref. 24 OMX-målet inte inneburit någon förändring avseende prejudikatvärdet av tidigare praxis. Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen befäste emellertid sitt dualistiska förhållningssätt till folkrätten genom upprätthållandet av en skarp skiljelinje mellan den internationella rätten och den interna rätten. Till skillnad från tidigare praxis, vari avtalets folkrättsliga sida givits betydelse genom att avtalet som svensk lag tolkats konformt med det bakomliggande folkrättsliga avtalet, bortser domstolen i OMX-målet från de folkrättsliga åtagandena. Målet behandlade likväl lagvalsfrågan vid regelkonkurrens mellan bestämmelse i lag om skatteavtal och annan svensk lag, inte tolkning av lag om skatteavtal.

RÅ 2008 ref. 24 OMX-målet gav även upphov till frågor av mer folkrättslig karaktär eftersom den metod som Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen använde för att lösa regelkonkurrensen mellan lag om skatteavtal och annan svensk lag innebar ett åsidosättande av skatteavtalet och följaktligen ett åsidosättande av Sveriges folkrättsliga förpliktelser. Sverige skulle genom en sådan lösning av regelkonkurrensen från en gång till en annan riskera att begå avtalsbrott i folkrättslig bemärkelse och tax treaty override. Förtroendet för Sverige som avtalspart skulle ta skada, och de svenska skatteavtalen skulle kunna sägas upp. Det får med hänsyn till skatteavtalens betydelse i dagens globala samhälle ses som en ohållbar eller i vart fall icke önskvärd rättsutveckling. Följaktligen behandlas även frågan om huruvida domstolen är bunden av Sveriges folkrättsliga åtaganden vid sin tillämpning och tolkning av skatteavtal.

Slutsatsen är att Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen mot bakgrund av Sveriges konstitutionella system och dualistiska syn på folkrätten får anses vara fri att döma annorlunda än vad Sverige som avtalspart är folkrättsligt förpliktigad till. Sveriges dualistiska synsätt på folkrätten innebär att skatteavtal först genom införlivandet med svensk rätt blir direkt tillämpliga och bindande för domstolar, myndigheter och enskilda. När domstolen sedermera tillämpar skatteavtalet, så är det emellertid inte det folkrättsliga avtalet i sig som tillämpas, utan avtalstexten i egenskap av svensk lag. Följaktligen om det folkrättsliga avtalet aldrig blir tillämpligt, så kan inte heller domstolen sägas vara direkt bunden av de folkrättsliga åtaganden som följer av avtalet. Riksdagen, regeringen och andra myndigheter är vidare förhindrade från att bestämma hur en domstol ska döma i ett enskilt fall enligt 11:2 § RF. Folkrätten binder uteslutande stater och behöver endast beaktas av domstolen i den mån intern rätt så bestämmer. Samtidigt saknas bestämmelser i svensk rätt som anger hur domstolen ska agera vid såväl tolkning som tillämpning av skatteavtal. Det är sålunda upp till Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen att ange den riktning som bör tas i den fortsatta rättsutvecklingen. Det står domstolen fritt att antingen behålla en strikt dualistisk praxis eller öppna upp för en mer flexibel dualism.

Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen inskränkte visserligen betydelsen av OMX-målet i det senare RÅ 2010 ref. 112 Greklandmålet. Frågan avgjordes emellertid aldrig av Högsta förvaltningsdomstol i plenum, vilket är en förutsättning för en ändring av praxis som tidigare slagits fast av domstolen. Domstolen försökte istället bringa domarna i förenlighet med varandra. Uppsatsen behandlar slutligen således frågan om vilken betydelse OMX- och Greklandmålet har för framtida tolkning och tillämpning av skatteavtal.

Slutsatsen är att det sannolikt inte är sista gången som Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen måste ta ställning i frågan om förhållandet mellan skatteavtal och intern rätt. Domstolen slog förvisso i Greklandmålet fast att skatteavtalen som huvudregel ska ha företräde framför intern rätt vid en normkonflikt. Regelkonkurrensen mellan en lag om skatteavtal och annan svensk lag ska som utgångspunkt ses som skenbar. Det får anses vara lagstiftarens avsikt att låta skatteavtal få genomslag vid tillämpningen av intern rätt med hänsyn till avtalens syfte att undanröja dubbelbeskattning. Detta utesluter emellertid inte att lagstiftaren inför bestämmelser som ska tillämpas oberoende av befintliga skatteavtal. Om lagstiftaren gett klart uttryck för att avsikten är att en ny skattebestämmelse ska tillämpas oberoende av skatteavtal så ska bestämmelsen ges företräde. Domstolens antydan om att RÅ 2008 ref. 24 OMX-målet utgjorde en sådan situation medför dock att den närmare innebörden och räckvidden av undantagsregeln är oklar, och rättsläget får därför till viss del ännu anses vara oklart. (Less)
Abstract
The purpose of this thesis is to systematize the law regarding interpretation and application of tax treaties in the light of recent legal developments.

Initially an account is given for the principles and methods and sources of law that are of importance in the interpretation of tax treaties based on The Swedish Supreme Administrative Courts judgments in RÅ 1987 ref. 162, RÅ 1996 ref. 84 and RÅ 2004 ref. 59. Under the case law of The Supreme Administrative Court tax treaties are interpreted in accordance with an international interpretation method. The purpose of the interpretation is to determine the mutual agreement of the contracting parties regarding the provisions of the treaty when it was concluded in according to the principles... (More)
The purpose of this thesis is to systematize the law regarding interpretation and application of tax treaties in the light of recent legal developments.

Initially an account is given for the principles and methods and sources of law that are of importance in the interpretation of tax treaties based on The Swedish Supreme Administrative Courts judgments in RÅ 1987 ref. 162, RÅ 1996 ref. 84 and RÅ 2004 ref. 59. Under the case law of The Supreme Administrative Court tax treaties are interpreted in accordance with an international interpretation method. The purpose of the interpretation is to determine the mutual agreement of the contracting parties regarding the provisions of the treaty when it was concluded in according to the principles of The Vienna Convention in articles 31-33. Furthermore the commentaries on the OECD model convention are considered to be generally accepted as a source of law when it comes to tax treaty interpretation. Although unilateral preparatory work have a low value as a source of law when it comes to interpretation of tax treaties they should not be ignored. Swedish case law on the other hand is a source of law even when it comes to interpretation of tax treaties in accordance with an international interpretation method.

Thereafter the question of conflict between tax treaty and domestic law is addressed on the basis of The Swedish Supreme Administrative Courts judgments in RÅ 2008 ref. 24 and RÅ 2010 ref. 112. In connection to this the relation between tax treaties and domestic law is addressed from a constitutional and international point of view and in the light of the golden rule in the Swedish incorporation laws. The Supreme Administrative Courts judgment in RÅ 2008 ref. 24 was perceived as a departure from the principle that tax treaties are to be interpreted according to an international interpretation method. This thesis therefore addresses the question of how RÅ 2008 ref. 24 fit in with the courts previous judgments.

The conclusion is that RÅ 2008 ref. 24 has not brought any changes regarding the significance of the courts previous judgments. However The Swedish Supreme Administrative Court confirmed its dualistic approach to international law by upholding a dividing-line between international law and domestic law. In opposite to the courts previous judgments where the international side of the tax treaty has been given importance by the interpretation according to an international interpretation method, the court in RÅ 2008 ref. 24 completely disregards the international obligations of the treaty. Nevertheless the question at hand in RÅ 2008 ref. 24 was if the tax treaty would take preference over domestic law in the case of a conflict, not the question of interpretation of tax treaties.

RÅ 2008 ref. 24 also raised questions of a more international nature since the method used by the court to solve the conflict between the tax treaty and domestic law represented a breach of the tax treaty and therefore a breach of Sweden’s obligation under international law. Such a solution to the conflict would mean that Sweden as a contracting party from one time to another would risk to commit a breach of international law and tax treaty override. This would undermine the trust in Sweden as a contracting party, and the Swedish tax treaties could therefore be revoked. Thus this thesis also addresses the question whether The Swedish Supreme Administrative Court is bound by Sweden's obligations under international law in its application and interpretation of tax treaties.

The conclusion is that the Supreme Administrative Court in the light of the Swedish constitutional system and the dualistic view regarding international law must be considered to be free to rule in contradiction to what Sweden as a contracting party is obliged to. Sweden is a dualistic country. Accordingly tax treaties must be incorporated into domestic law in order to apply. When the court subsequently applies the tax treaty, it is not the international agreement itself that becomes applicable, but the tax treaty as a part of Swedish law. Consequently if the international agreement never becomes applicable, the court cannot be directly bound by the international obligations under the treaty. The parliament, government and other authorities are also according to the constitution prevented from determining how the court should judge in an individual case. International law binds only states, and need only to be considered by the court to the extent that domestic law so determines. At the same time there are no provisions in Swedish law that specifies how the court should interpret or apply tax treaties. Hence it is up to The Supreme Administrative Court to either keep a strict dualistic practice or open up the door for a more flexible dualism.

Although The Supreme Administrative Court restricted the significance of the previous RÅ 2008 ref. 24 in the more recent RÅ 2010 ref. 112, the issue was never settled by the court in plenary session. Such a plenary session is a prerequisite for a change of practice previously laid down by The Supreme Administrative Court. Instead the court tried to bring the two judgments in conformity with each other. Therefore this thesis also deals with the question of the role of RÅ 2008 ref. 24 and RÅ 2010 ref. 112 for future interpretation and application of tax treaties.

The conclusion is that it is probably not the last time that the Supreme Administrative Court has to consider the question of the relationship between tax treaties and domestic law. The court held that tax treaties as a main rule should take precedence over domestic law in case of a conflict. As the starting point the conflict between a tax treaty and domestic law should be seen as false. It may be regarded to be the legislatures intention that the tax treaty should prevail over domestic law with regard to the treaty’s purpose to eliminate double taxation. This however does not preclude that the legislature adopts provisions with the intention that they are to be applied regardless of existing tax treaties. The fact that the court suggested that RÅ 2008 ref. 24 constituted such a situation does however make the further meaning and scope of the exemption rule unclear, and therefore the legal position may to some extent still be considered unclear. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Catic, Edina LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
Interpretation and application of tax treaties in the light of recent legal developments
course
JURM01 20111
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
skatterätt
language
Swedish
id
1977031
date added to LUP
2011-06-13 14:51:33
date last changed
2011-06-13 14:51:33
@misc{1977031,
  abstract     = {The purpose of this thesis is to systematize the law regarding interpretation and application of tax treaties in the light of recent legal developments. 

Initially an account is given for the principles and methods and sources of law that are of importance in the interpretation of tax treaties based on The Swedish Supreme Administrative Courts judgments in RÅ 1987 ref. 162, RÅ 1996 ref. 84 and RÅ 2004 ref. 59. Under the case law of The Supreme Administrative Court tax treaties are interpreted in accordance with an international interpretation method. The purpose of the interpretation is to determine the mutual agreement of the contracting parties regarding the provisions of the treaty when it was concluded in according to the principles of The Vienna Convention in articles 31-33. Furthermore the commentaries on the OECD model convention are considered to be generally accepted as a source of law when it comes to tax treaty interpretation. Although unilateral preparatory work have a low value as a source of law when it comes to interpretation of tax treaties they should not be ignored. Swedish case law on the other hand is a source of law even when it comes to interpretation of tax treaties in accordance with an international interpretation method. 

Thereafter the question of conflict between tax treaty and domestic law is addressed on the basis of The Swedish Supreme Administrative Courts judgments in RÅ 2008 ref. 24 and RÅ 2010 ref. 112. In connection to this the relation between tax treaties and domestic law is addressed from a constitutional and international point of view and in the light of the golden rule in the Swedish incorporation laws. The Supreme Administrative Courts judgment in RÅ 2008 ref. 24 was perceived as a departure from the principle that tax treaties are to be interpreted according to an international interpretation method. This thesis therefore addresses the question of how RÅ 2008 ref. 24 fit in with the courts previous judgments. 

The conclusion is that RÅ 2008 ref. 24 has not brought any changes regarding the significance of the courts previous judgments. However The Swedish Supreme Administrative Court confirmed its dualistic approach to international law by upholding a dividing-line between international law and domestic law. In opposite to the courts previous judgments where the international side of the tax treaty has been given importance by the interpretation according to an international interpretation method, the court in RÅ 2008 ref. 24 completely disregards the international obligations of the treaty. Nevertheless the question at hand in RÅ 2008 ref. 24 was if the tax treaty would take preference over domestic law in the case of a conflict, not the question of interpretation of tax treaties. 

RÅ 2008 ref. 24 also raised questions of a more international nature since the method used by the court to solve the conflict between the tax treaty and domestic law represented a breach of the tax treaty and therefore a breach of Sweden’s obligation under international law. Such a solution to the conflict would mean that Sweden as a contracting party from one time to another would risk to commit a breach of international law and tax treaty override.  This would undermine the trust in Sweden as a contracting party, and the Swedish tax treaties could therefore be revoked. Thus this thesis also addresses the question whether The Swedish Supreme Administrative Court is bound by Sweden's obligations under international law in its application and interpretation of tax treaties.

The conclusion is that the Supreme Administrative Court in the light of the Swedish constitutional system and the dualistic view regarding international law must be considered to be free to rule in contradiction to what Sweden as a contracting party is obliged to. Sweden is a dualistic country. Accordingly tax treaties must be incorporated into domestic law in order to apply. When the court subsequently applies the tax treaty, it is not the international agreement itself that becomes applicable, but the tax treaty as a part of Swedish law. Consequently if the international agreement never becomes applicable, the court cannot be directly bound by the international obligations under the treaty. The parliament, government and other authorities are also according to the constitution prevented from determining how the court should judge in an individual case.  International law binds only states, and need only to be considered by the court to the extent that domestic law so determines. At the same time there are no provisions in Swedish law that specifies how the court should interpret or apply tax treaties. Hence it is up to The Supreme Administrative Court to either keep a strict dualistic practice or open up the door for a more flexible dualism. 

Although The Supreme Administrative Court restricted the significance of the previous RÅ 2008 ref. 24 in the more recent RÅ 2010 ref. 112, the issue was never settled by the court in plenary session. Such a plenary session is a prerequisite for a change of practice previously laid down by The Supreme Administrative Court. Instead the court tried to bring the two judgments in conformity with each other. Therefore this thesis also deals with the question of the role of RÅ 2008 ref. 24 and RÅ 2010 ref. 112 for future interpretation and application of tax treaties. 

The conclusion is that it is probably not the last time that the Supreme Administrative Court has to consider the question of the relationship between tax treaties and domestic law. The court held that tax treaties as a main rule should take precedence over domestic law in case of a conflict. As the starting point the conflict between a tax treaty and domestic law should be seen as false. It may be regarded to be the legislatures intention that the tax treaty should prevail over domestic law with regard to the treaty’s purpose to eliminate double taxation. This however does not preclude that the legislature adopts provisions with the intention that they are to be applied regardless of existing tax treaties. The fact that the court suggested that RÅ 2008 ref. 24 constituted such a situation does however make the further meaning and scope of the exemption rule unclear, and therefore the legal position may to some extent still be considered unclear.},
  author       = {Catic, Edina},
  keyword      = {skatterätt},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Tolkning och tillämpning av skatteavtal i ljuset av den senaste tidens rättsutveckling},
  year         = {2011},
}