The unbearable burden of (dis)proving EU tax avoidance
Takeways from my Tax Notes International column 'A Certain Tax Position', May 7, 2018
Domestic Member State anti-avoidance tax rules may be struck down if they infringe EU laws or principles, like the freedom of establishment
Conversely, domestic laws that potentially infringe EU laws or principles may be validated on grounds of preventing tax avoidance
Defining tax avoidance for these purposes has proved a difficult job both for the EU Court of Justice and the EU legislator
Identifying who has to prove the constituent elements of tax avoidance (however defined) is also difficult but can be crucial for the outcome of a particular case
Statutory presumptions of abuse can provide useful bright-line certainty but are subject to particular scrutiny by the EU Court
Taxpayers should generally have the ability to rebut presumptions of tax avoidance but the tax authorities have to provide initial (prima facie) evidence
What amounts to such prima facie evidence is unclear and currently being tested before the EU Court: various Member States’ rules have already failed the test, with more likely to follow
Meanwhile the landscape is changing with new reporting and disclosure rules shifting the burden back to the taxpayer: how long before these too are challenged before the EU Court?
Could not be more topical - see Advocate-General Kokott's opinion in the N Luxembourg case.