30. Tax settlements

Tax-related obligations and rights are specified in the Constitution, tax acts, and ratified international agreements. According to the Tax Code, tax is defined as a public law, gratuitous, compulsory and non-refundable cash benefit for the State Treasury, province, district or commune as provided for in the Tax Act. Taking into consideration the subjective criterion, the taxes in force in Poland can be divided into the following five groups: taxes on income, taxes on turnover, taxes on property, taxes on actions, and other fees not elsewhere classified.

From the point of view of business entities, the most important aspect is taxation of income (corporate income tax), taxation of turnover (goods and services tax, excise tax) and taxation of property (property tax, tax on means of transport). One should not forget about other fees and charges which can be classified as quasi taxes. They include, among others, social insurance  contributions.

The basic tax rates were as follows: in 2020 the corporate income tax rate – 19%, for small entrepreneurs the rate of 9% is possible, the basic VAT rate – 23%, reduced VAT rates: 8%, 5%, 0%; in addition, some goods and services are exempt from VAT.

The tax system in Poland is characterised by a high level of changeability and complexity of tax regulations, and high potential penalties for tax crimes or violations. Tax settlements and other activity areas subject to regulations (customs or currency inspections) can undergo inspections conducted by competent authorities entitled to issue fines and penalties together with penalty interest. A competent tax authority may inspect tax settlements for five years from the end of the calendar year in which the deadline for the payment of tax expires.

Tax Capital Group

An agreement for a tax group named PGK PGE 2015, whose representative is PGE S.A., was signed on September 18, 2014 for a period of 25 years.

The companies included in the tax group must meet a number of requirements, including an appropriate level of equity, the parent company’s at least 75% shareholdings in the companies belonging to the tax capital group, no capital ties among the subsidiaries, no tax arrears, at least a 2% share of income in total revenue (calculated for the whole tax group), and execution of transactions with entities from outside the tax group only on an arm’s length basis. Any violation of these requirements will result in the tax group being dissolved and losing its taxpayer status. When the tax group is dissolved, each of its member companies will become an independent payer of corporate income tax.

VAT split payment mechanism

The Group uses funds received from counterparties in VAT accounts to pay its liabilities that contain VAT. The amount of funds held in these VAT accounts at a given date depends mainly on the number of the Group’s counterparties that decide to use this mechanism and on the relation between the payment dates of receivables and payables. As at 31 December 2020, the balance of cash on the VAT accounts was PLN 1,042 million.

Reporting of tax schemes (MDR)

In 2019, new legal regulations that introduced mandatory reporting of so-called tax schemes (Mandatory Disclosure Rules, MDR) came into force. As a general rule, a tax scheme should be understood as an activity where the achievement of a tax benefit is the main or one of the main benefits. In addition, events with so-called special or other special identifying characteristics defined in the rules are designated as a tax scheme. The reporting obligation is extended to three types of entities: promoters, facilitators and beneficiaries. MDR regulations are complex and imprecise in many areas, which causes doubts with respect to their interpretation and practical application.

Excise tax

As a result of the incorrect implementation of EU regulations into the Polish legal system, in 2009 PGE GiEK S.A. initiated proceedings regarding reimbursement of the improperly paid excise tax for the period from January 2006 to February 2009. The irregularity consisted in the taxation of electricity at the first stage of its sale, i.e. by producers, while it should have been taxed at the time of sales to so-called end users.

Considering the company’s complaints concerning the tax authorities’ negative decisions in response to the company’s claims for restitution, the administrative courts ruled that the company had not borne the economic burden of the incorrectly paid excise tax (which, according to the resolution adopted by the Supreme Administrative Court on June 22, 2011, reference symbol of files I GPS 1/11, excludes the possibility of the recovery of the overpaid excise tax). According to the Supreme Administrative Court, the company’s claims, especially those based on economic analyses, were of a compensatory character, and consequently, such claims could be asserted before civil courts only. In view of the above, PGE GiEK S.A. decided to withdraw from the proceedings with respect to the restitution claims. Currently, actions regarding the excise tax overpayment are conducted in civil courts. On January 10, 2020, the Regional Court in Warsaw issued a verdict in the case filed by PGE GiEK against the State Treasury – Minister of Finance. The court dismissed the company’s claim. On February 3, 2020 the company filed a complaint against the first instance verdict to the Court of Appeal in Warsaw. A hearing was held on December 2, 2020 and a verdict was announced on December 17, 2020. The Court of Appeal in Warsaw dismissed the appeal of PGE GiEK.  No decision has been made as regards filing a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court.

In view of considerable uncertainty concerning the final decision in the above matter, in these financial statements, the Group does not indicate any consequences of a possible return of the excise tax overpayments to be determined in civil law proceedings.

Property tax

Tax on property constitutes a significant burden on certain PGE Group companies.  Regulations concerning property tax are unclear in certain areas and give rise to a variety of interpretations and doubts.  Tax authorities, i.e. commune leaders, mayors or city presidents, have often issued inconsistent tax interpretations in similar cases.  In such circumstances, the PGE Capital Group companies were and may be parties to court proceedings concerning property tax.  If the Group considers that an adjustment of settlements is likely due to such proceedings, it establishes an appropriate provision.

Regulations on value added tax, corporate income tax and social security charges are subject to frequent changes. These frequent changes result in a lack of appropriate points of reference, inconsistent interpretations and few established precedents that could be applied. The legislation in force also contains ambiguities that give rise to differences of opinion as to the legal interpretation of tax provisions, between state authorities as well as between state authorities and business enterprises.

Tax settlements and other areas of activity (e.g. customs or foreign exchange issues) may be the subject of inspections by the authorities, which are entitled to impose high penalties and fines, and any additional tax liabilities resulting from an inspection must be paid together with high interest. Consequently, tax risk in Poland is higher than in countries with more stable tax systems.

Amounts presented and disclosed in financial statements may change in the future as a result of a final decision of a tax audit authority.

As of July 15, 2016, the Tax Ordinance was amended to incorporate the provisions of the General Anti-Abuse Rules (GAARs). The GAARs are designed to prevent the use of artificial legal structures created for the purpose of avoiding the payment of tax in Poland. The GAARs define tax avoidance as an act done primarily for the purpose of obtaining a tax advantage which, under given circumstances, is contrary to the object and purpose of the provisions of the Tax Act. Under the GAARs, such an act does not result in achieving a tax benefit if the manner of acting was artificial. Any occurrence of unjustified splitting of operations, involvement of intermediary entities despite the lack of economic or business justification, elements that cancel or compensate each other and other actions with effects similar to those previously mentioned, can be treated as an indication of the existence of artificial acts subject to the GAARs. The new regulations will require much more judgement in assessing tax consequences of individual transactions.

The GAARs clause should be applied to transactions carried out after its entry into force and to transactions which were carried out before the effective date of the GAARs, but for which benefits were or continue to be obtained after this effective date. The implementation of the aforementioned rules will enable the Polish tax audit authorities to challenge legal arrangements and agreements entered into by taxpayers, such as group restructuring and reorganisation.

The Group recognises and measures current and deferred tax assets or liabilities using the requirements of IAS 12 Income Taxes based on tax profit (loss), tax base, unused tax losses, unused tax credits and tax rates, taking into account an assessment of uncertainties related to tax settlements. When there is uncertainty about whether and to what extent the authority will accept particular tax settlements of a transaction, the Group recognises these settlements, taking into account an assessment of uncertainty.

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