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Investigation into Luxembourg’s Tax Treatment of McDonald’s

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Investigation into Luxembourg’s Tax Treatment of McDonald’s

Investigation into Luxembourg’s Tax Treatment of McDonald’s
December 07
12:19 2015

The European Commission has opened a formal probe into Luxembourg’s tax treatment of McDonald’s. Its preliminary view is that a tax ruling granted by Luxembourg may have granted McDonald’s an advantageous tax treatment in breach of EU State aid rules.

In particular, the Commission will assess whether Luxembourg authorities selectively derogated from the provisions of their national tax law and the Luxembourg-US Double Taxation Treaty and thereby gave McDonald’s an advantage not available to other companies in a comparable factual and legal situation.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, states: “A tax ruling that agrees to McDonald’s paying no tax on their European royalties either in Luxembourg or in the US has to be looked at very carefully under EU state aid rules. The purpose of Double Taxation treaties between countries is to avoid double taxation – not to justify double non-taxation.”

On the basis of two tax rulings given by the Luxembourg authorities in 2009, McDonald’s Europe Franchising has paid no corporate tax in Luxembourg since then despite recording large profits (more than €250 million in 2013). These profits are derived from royalties paid by franchisees operating restaurants in Europe and Russia for the right to use the McDonald’s brand and associated services. The company’s head office in Luxembourg is designated as responsible for the company’s strategic decision-making, but the company also has two branches, a Swiss branch, which has a limited activity related to the franchising rights, and a US branch, which does not have any real activities. The royalties received by the company are transferred internally to the US branch of the company.

The Commission requested information on the tax rulings in summer 2014 following press allegations of advantageous tax treatment of McDonald’s in Luxembourg. Subsequently, trade unions presented additional information to the Commission. The Commission’s assessment thus far has shown that in particular due to the second tax ruling granted to the company McDonald’s Europe Franchising has virtually not paid any corporate tax in Luxembourg nor in the US on its profits since 2009.

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