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Kupongskatt och EU-rätten – en analys av de svenska kupongskattereglernas förenlighet med EU-rätten vad gäller utdelning till utländska pensionsfonder

Sjövall, Andreas LU (2012) JURM02 20121
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
I upprepade avgöranden har EU-domstolen på senare tid slagit fast att det strider mot unionsrätten att ta ut källskatt på utdelning i gränsöverskridande situationer då jämförbara, rent inhemska transaktioner inte belastas med något motsvarande skatteuttag. Med anledning härav har möjligheten att ta ut källskatt på utdelning varit föremål för omfattande diskussioner, särskilt i utländsk litteratur. Även för svenskt vidkommande är frågan emellertid högst aktuell, inte minst vad gäller kupongbeskattningen av utländska pensionsfonder.

Sedan EU-kommissionen, i mars 2007, lämnade en formell underrättelse angående de svenska reglerna för beskattning av utdelning till utländska pensionsfonder har en fortlöpande korrespondens pågått mellan... (More)
I upprepade avgöranden har EU-domstolen på senare tid slagit fast att det strider mot unionsrätten att ta ut källskatt på utdelning i gränsöverskridande situationer då jämförbara, rent inhemska transaktioner inte belastas med något motsvarande skatteuttag. Med anledning härav har möjligheten att ta ut källskatt på utdelning varit föremål för omfattande diskussioner, särskilt i utländsk litteratur. Även för svenskt vidkommande är frågan emellertid högst aktuell, inte minst vad gäller kupongbeskattningen av utländska pensionsfonder.

Sedan EU-kommissionen, i mars 2007, lämnade en formell underrättelse angående de svenska reglerna för beskattning av utdelning till utländska pensionsfonder har en fortlöpande korrespondens pågått mellan Sverige och kommissionen. I det sålunda initierade överträdelseförfarandet har kommissionen gjort gällande att utländska pensionsfonder som mottar utdelning från svenska aktiebolag, till följd av tillämpliga källskatteregler, kan komma att beskattas hårdare än vad som är fallet för svenska motsvarigheter. Källskatten verkar då hindrande genom att utländska pensionsfonder ges sämre möjligheter att attrahera kapital från svenska investerare. Detta strider mot den fria rörligheten av kapital. Den svenska regeringen har avfärdat kommissionens argument och försvarat det svenska regelverkets utformning, vilket har lett till att kommissionen tagit nästa steg i överträdelseförfarandet och utfärdat ett motiverat yttrande. Därefter har kommissionen sedermera också avgivit ett kompletterande motiverat yttrande, i vilket man slutgiltigt uppmanar Sverige att ändra de aktuella reglerna. Även svenska domstolar har i ett flertal mål haft att ta ställning i frågan sedan Skatteverket nekat bifall till utländska pensionsfonder som på denna grund ansökt om återbetalning av erlagd kupongskatt.

I Sverige tillämpas olika beskattningstekniker för svenska pensionsstiftelser respektive utländska motsvarigheter. Medan utdelning till utländska pensionsfonder från i Sverige hemmahörande aktiebolag beskattas med uttag av kupongskatt på bruttobeloppet, beskattas svenska pensionsstiftelser istället genom en schablonmässigt uppskattad avkastning baserad på den genomsnittliga statslåneräntan och värdet av pensionsstiftelsens tillgångar med avdrag för finansiella skulder. I ljuset av etablerad praxis från EU-domstolen tycks det, regeringens protester till trots, vara mycket som talar för att svenska pensionsstiftelser och utländska pensionsfonder avseende beskattning av utdelning befinner sig i jämförbara situationer. Även om det enligt unionsrätten principiellt sett torde vara acceptabelt att tillämpa olika beskattningstekniker för olika subjekt beroende på var de har sitt hemvist, förefaller det finnas skäl att anta att detta bara gäller så länge utfallet inte blir diskriminerande. Det exakta utfallet av avkastningsskatten är visserligen svårt att avgöra och varierar dessutom från år till år. Att svenska pensionsstiftelser faktiskt kan komma att beskattas förmånligare än utländska pensionsfonder torde emellertid vara ställt utom rimligt tvivel. Då en sådan särbehandling inte tycks kunna rättfärdigas framstår det som att den svenska behandlingen av utländska pensionsfonder, som kommissionen påstått, kan utgöra en inskränkning av den fria rörligheten för kapital. Några säkra slutsatser går dock inte att dra förrän EU-domstolen eventuellt har låtit pröva saken. Att döma av den svenska regeringens motvilja att ändra den rådande lagstiftningen tycks en sådan prövning kunna vara nära förestående. (Less)
Abstract
Lately, in repeated rulings, the European Court of Justice has held that it is contrary to EU law to levy withholding tax on dividends in transnational situations when comparable, solely domestic transactions are not burdened with a corresponding tax levy. In respect thereof the possibility to levy withholding tax on dividends has been the topic of extensive scholarly discussions, especially in foreign literature. The issue is, however, of interest even from a Swedish perspective, not least in respect of the Swedish levy of withholding tax on dividends received by foreign pension funds.

Since the European Commission, in March 2007, gave a letter of formal notice regarding the Swedish regulations for taxation of dividends to foreign... (More)
Lately, in repeated rulings, the European Court of Justice has held that it is contrary to EU law to levy withholding tax on dividends in transnational situations when comparable, solely domestic transactions are not burdened with a corresponding tax levy. In respect thereof the possibility to levy withholding tax on dividends has been the topic of extensive scholarly discussions, especially in foreign literature. The issue is, however, of interest even from a Swedish perspective, not least in respect of the Swedish levy of withholding tax on dividends received by foreign pension funds.

Since the European Commission, in March 2007, gave a letter of formal notice regarding the Swedish regulations for taxation of dividends to foreign pension funds, a continuous correspondence has been taking place between the Swedish government and the Commission. In the thus initiated infringement procedure the Commission has claimed that foreign pension funds receiving dividends from Swedish companies, due to the applicable regulations for withholding tax, might be subject to a more onerous tax burden than Swedish pension funds. The Swedish levy of withholding tax thus discriminates foreign pension funds by making them less attractive for Swedish investors, and is therefore contrary to the free movement of capital. The Swedish government has, however, dismissed the arguments of the Commission and defended the Swedish legislation, which has subsequently led the Commission to take the next step in the infringement procedure and submit a reasoned opinion. The commission has thereafter also submitted an additional reasoned opinion, in which Sweden is definitively asked to bring the rules into compliance with EU law. Also Swedish courts have had to decide upon this issue as the Swedish tax authorities, in numerous cases, have denied admission to foreign pension funds applying for reimbursement of paid withholding taxes on the basis of these grounds.

In Sweden different regulations apply for Swedish pension funds and the foreign equivalences. While dividends to foreign pension funds are levied with a withholding tax on the gross amount, Swedish pension funds are subject to a specific tax paid on a notionally calculated yield, based on the government borrowing rate and the value of the funds’ assets, after a deduction of financial costs. In light of established case law from the European Court of Justice it seems that, notwithstanding the protests from the Swedish government, there is a rather strong case for asserting that Swedish and foreign pension funds are in comparable situations regarding the taxation of dividends. Albeit the fact that, from a EU point of view, it in principle ought to be permitted to use different techniques for taxation depending on the domicile of the tax subject, there appear to be motives to believe that this is only valid if the outcome is not discriminatory. The more precise effect of the different taxation techniques is indeed hard to determine and will furthermore vary from year to year. The fact that Swedish pension funds might be treated more favourably than foreign pension funds ought, however, be beyond reasonable doubt. Since there appears to be no ground of justification for such special treatment there are reasons to believe that the Swedish treatment of foreign pension funds might constitute an infringement of the free movement of capital. Any firm conclusions can however hardly be drawn until the matter has been decided by the European Court of Justice. Judging from the reluctance shown by the Swedish government to change the current legislation, such a trial might be imminent. (Less)
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author
Sjövall, Andreas LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
Withholding tax and EU law - an analysis of the compatibility of the Swedish Coupon Tax Act and EU law regarding dividends to foreign pension funds
course
JURM02 20121
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
skattesystemets inre sammanhang, pensionsfonder, skatterätt, kupongskatt, källskatt på utdelning
language
Swedish
id
2543642
date added to LUP
2012-08-31 15:38:06
date last changed
2012-08-31 15:38:06
@misc{2543642,
  abstract     = {Lately, in repeated rulings, the European Court of Justice has held that it is contrary to EU law to levy withholding tax on dividends in transnational situations when comparable, solely domestic transactions are not burdened with a corresponding tax levy. In respect thereof the possibility to levy withholding tax on dividends has been the topic of extensive scholarly discussions, especially in foreign literature. The issue is, however, of interest even from a Swedish perspective, not least in respect of the Swedish levy of withholding tax on dividends received by foreign pension funds.

Since the European Commission, in March 2007, gave a letter of formal notice regarding the Swedish regulations for taxation of dividends to foreign pension funds, a continuous correspondence has been taking place between the Swedish government and the Commission. In the thus initiated infringement procedure the Commission has claimed that foreign pension funds receiving dividends from Swedish companies, due to the applicable regulations for withholding tax, might be subject to a more onerous tax burden than Swedish pension funds. The Swedish levy of withholding tax thus discriminates foreign pension funds by making them less attractive for Swedish investors, and is therefore contrary to the free movement of capital. The Swedish government has, however, dismissed the arguments of the Commission and defended the Swedish legislation, which has subsequently led the Commission to take the next step in the infringement procedure and submit a reasoned opinion. The commission has thereafter also submitted an additional reasoned opinion, in which Sweden is definitively asked to bring the rules into compliance with EU law. Also Swedish courts have had to decide upon this issue as the Swedish tax authorities, in numerous cases, have denied admission to foreign pension funds applying for reimbursement of paid withholding taxes on the basis of these grounds.

In Sweden different regulations apply for Swedish pension funds and the foreign equivalences. While dividends to foreign pension funds are levied with a withholding tax on the gross amount, Swedish pension funds are subject to a specific tax paid on a notionally calculated yield, based on the government borrowing rate and the value of the funds’ assets, after a deduction of financial costs. In light of established case law from the European Court of Justice it seems that, notwithstanding the protests from the Swedish government, there is a rather strong case for asserting that Swedish and foreign pension funds are in comparable situations regarding the taxation of dividends. Albeit the fact that, from a EU point of view, it in principle ought to be permitted to use different techniques for taxation depending on the domicile of the tax subject, there appear to be motives to believe that this is only valid if the outcome is not discriminatory. The more precise effect of the different taxation techniques is indeed hard to determine and will furthermore vary from year to year. The fact that Swedish pension funds might be treated more favourably than foreign pension funds ought, however, be beyond reasonable doubt. Since there appears to be no ground of justification for such special treatment there are reasons to believe that the Swedish treatment of foreign pension funds might constitute an infringement of the free movement of capital. Any firm conclusions can however hardly be drawn until the matter has been decided by the European Court of Justice. Judging from the reluctance shown by the Swedish government to change the current legislation, such a trial might be imminent.},
  author       = {Sjövall, Andreas},
  keyword      = {skattesystemets inre sammanhang,pensionsfonder,skatterätt,kupongskatt,källskatt på utdelning},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Kupongskatt och EU-rätten – en analys av de svenska kupongskattereglernas förenlighet med EU-rätten vad gäller utdelning till utländska pensionsfonder},
  year         = {2012},
}