Language of document :

Reference for a preliminary ruling from the Conseil d'État (France) lodged on 4 August 2009 - Ministre du budget, des comptes publics et de la fonction publique v Société Accor

(Case C-310/09)

Language of the case: French

Referring court

Conseil d'État

Parties to the main proceedings

Applicant: Ministre du budget, des comptes publics et de la fonction publique

Defendant: Société Accor

Questions referred

1. (a)    Must Articles 56 and 43 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community be interpreted as meaning that they preclude a tax regime intended to eliminate economic double taxation of dividends which:

allows a parent company to set off against the advance payment, for which it is liable when it redistributes to its shareholders dividends paid by its subsidiaries, the tax credit applied to the distribution of those dividends if they come from a subsidiary established in France,

but does not offer that option if those dividends come from a subsidiary established in another Member State of the European Community, since, in that case, that regime does not give entitlement to a tax credit applied to the distribution of those dividends by that subsidiary on the ground that such a regime would in itself, with respect to the parent company, infringe the principles of the free movement of capital or freedom of establishment?

(b)    If the answer to the first question is in the negative, must those articles be interpreted as meaning that they none the less preclude such a regime if the shareholders' position must also be taken into account on the ground that, given the making of the advance payment, the amount of the dividends received from its subsidiaries and redistributed by the parent company to its shareholders will differ according to the location of those subsidiaries, in France or in another Member State of the European Communities, with the result that that regime deters shareholders from investing in the parent company and, therefore, affects the raising of capital by that company and is likely to deter that company from allocating capital to subsidiaries established in Member States other than France or from creating such subsidiaries in those States?

2.    If the answer to I1 or I2 is in the affirmative and if Articles 56 and 43 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community are to be interpreted as meaning that they preclude the advance payment tax regime described above and that, therefore, the administration is, in principle, required to reimburse the sums received on the basis of that regime in so far as they were received contrary to Community law, does that duty, in such a regime which does not of itself lead to the passing on of a tax onto a third party by the person liable for the tax preclude:

    (a)    the administration from opposing the reimbursement of the sums paid by the parent company on the ground that that reimbursement would lead to the unjust enrichment of the parent company,

    (b)    and, if the answer is in the negative, the fact that the sum paid by the parent company does not constitute an accounting or tax charge for it but is set off only against the total of the sums which may be redistributed to its shareholders can be pleaded in support of an argument that that sum should not be reimbursed to the company?

3.    Taking account of the answer to the questions set out in I and II, do the Community principles of equivalence and effectiveness preclude the reimbursement of sums which ensure the application of the same tax regime to dividends redistributed by the parent company, whether those dividends originate from sums distributed by its subsidiaries established in France in another Member State of the European Community being subject to the condition, (apart, where relevant, in the case of stipulations in a bilateral convention applicable between France and the Member State where the subsidiary is established relating to the exchange of information) that the person liable for the tax furnishes evidence which is in its sole possession and relating with respect to each dividend concerned, in particular to the rate of taxation actually applied and the amount of tax actually paid on profits made by its subsidiaries established in the Member States of the European Community other than France, whereas, with respect to subsidiaries established in France that evidence, known to the administration, is not required?

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