Constitutional Issues Arising from the Principal Purpose Test: The Lesson from Poland

Błażej Kuźniacki


The principal purpose test (PPT) has been chosen by all signatories to the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (MLI) signed in Paris, on 7 June 2017, with a view to meeting the minimum standard as set out in the Action 6 Report, “Preventing the Granting of Treaty Benefits in Inappropriate Circumstances”. The PPT was considered the easiest way to meet the minimum standard, since it is a self-standing and default option. It was also considered the preferable approach by the tax administrations of the signatory States because it gives them such wide discretionary powers. While this level of discretion follows from the rather vague language of the PPT, it also raises issues in respect of its constitutionality. One may ask, in particular, whether the PPT meets the constitutional standards of the rule of law, as generally manifested under the principle of legal certainty. This study examines the constitutionality of the PPT through the lens of the Polish Constitution and respective jurisprudence of the Constitutional Tribunal (CT). The author finds that the PPT may be seen as unconstitutional not only under the Polish Constitution, but also (by analogy) under the constitutions of many other democratic countries, raising serious concerns at a legislative level and, when and if implemented, in its application.


tax avoidance; agreements on UPO, OECD, BEPS, PPT; general clause; constitutionality

Full Text:



Atkinson C., General Anti-Avoidance Rules: Exploring the Balance between the Taxpayer’s Need for Certainty and the Government’s Need to Prevent Tax Avoidance, “Journal of Australian Taxation” 2012, Vol. 14(1).

Avi-Yonah R.S., Xu H., Evaluating BEPS: A Reconsideration of the Benefits Principle and Proposal for UN Oversight, “Harvard Business Law Review” 2016, Vol. 62.

Bailyn B., The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Harvard 1992.

Barkoczy S., The GST General Anti-Avoidance Provisions – Part IVA with a GST Twist?, “Journal of Australian Taxation” 2000, Vol. 3(1).

Barreto P.A, Takano C.A., The Prevention of Tax Treaty Abuse in the BEPS Action 6: A Brazilian Perspective, “Intertax” 2015, Vol. 43(12).

Bergmans A., The Principal Purpose Test: Comparison with EU-GAAR Initiatives, [in:] Preventing Treaty Abuse, eds. D.W. Blum, M. Seiler, Wien 2016.

Bingham T., The Rule of Law, UK 2010.

Brauner Y., United States: The Starr Int’l Case, [in:] Tax Treaty Case Law around the Globe 2016, eds. E.C.C.M. Kemmeren, D.S. Smit, P. Essers, M. Lang, J. Owens, P. Pistone, A. Rust, Tilburg 2017.

Cooper G.S., International Experience with General Anti-Avoidance Rules, “SMU Law Review” 2001, Vol. 54(83).

CT’s judgment of 7 June 1999, Case No. K 18/98.

CT’s judgment of 21 March 2001, Case Co. K 24/00.

CT’s judgment of 12 June 2002, Case No. P 13/01.

CT’s judgment of 20 November 2002, Case No. K 41/02.

CT’s judgment of 3 December 2002, Case No. P 13/02.

CT in its judgment of 11 May 2004, Case No. K 4/03.

CT’s judgment of 19 September 2006, Case No. K 7/05.

CT’s judgment of 26 November 2007, Case No. P 24/06.

CT’s judgment of 19 December 2008, Case No. K 19/07.

De Broe L., International Tax Planning and Prevention of Abuse: A Study under Domestic Tax Law, Tax Treaties and EC Law in Relation to Conduit and Base Companies, Amsterdam 2008.

De Broe L., Luts J., BEPS Action 6: Tax Treaty Abuse, “Intertax” 2015, Vol. 43(2).

Dourado A.P., Aggressive Tax Planning in EU Law and in the Light of BEPS: The EC Recommendation on Aggressive Tax Planning and BEPS Actions 2 and 6, “Intertax” 2015, Vol. 43(1).

ECJ, 4 October 2001, Case C-294/99, Ahinaïki Zythopoiia AE v Elliniko Dimosi, ECR I-06797.

ECJ, 21 February 2006, Case C-255/02, Halifax plc, Leeds Permanent Development Services Ltd and County Wide Property Investments Ltd v Commissioners of Customs & Excise (Halifax), ECR I-01609.

ECJ, 12 September 2006, Case C-196/04, Cadbury Schweppes plc, Cadbury Schweppes Overseas Ltd v Commissioners of Inland Revenue (Cadbury Schweppes), ECR I-07995.

ECJ, 5 July 2012, Case C-318/10, Société d’investissement pour l’agriculture tropicale SA (SIAT) v État belge, ECLI:EU:C:2012:415.

ECJ, 3 October 2013, Case C-282/12, Itelcar – Automóveis de Aluguer Lda v Fazenda Pública (Itelcar), ECLI:EU:C:2013:629.

ECJ, 13 November 2014, Case C-112/14, European Commission vs United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Commission vs UK), ECLI:EU:C:2014:2369.

Endicott T., Law Is Necessarily Vague, “Legal Theory” 2001, Vol. 7(4), DOI:

Evans C., Barriers to Avoidance: Recent Legislative and Judicial Developments in Common Law Jurisdictions, “Hong Kong Law Journal” 2007, Vol. 47(1).

Freedman J., Defining Taxpayer Responsibility: In Support of a General Anti-Avoidance. Principle, “British Tax Review” 2004, Vol. 4.

Furuseth E., The Relationships between Domestic Anti-Avoidance Rules and Tax Treaties, PhD thesis series, Oslo 2016.

Garbarino C., Italy, [in:] A Comparative Look at Regulation of Corporate Tax Avoidance, ed. K.B. Brown, Dordrecht 2012.

Gera V., New Polish government sparks constitutional crisis, “The Salt Lake Tribune” 2015, No. 2 (December), [access: 10.03.2018].

Gomułowicz A., Małecki J., Podatki i prawo podatkowe, Warszawa 2010.

Grinberg I., The International Tax Diplomacy, “The Georgetown Law Journal” 2016, Vol. 103(5).

Hattingh J., The Impact of the BEPS Multilateral Instrument on International Tax Policies, “Bulletin for International Taxation” 2018, Vol. 72(4/5).

Hattingh J., The Multilateral Instrument from a Legal Perspective: What May Be the Challenges?, “Bulletin for International Taxation” 2017, Vol. 71(3/4).

Hayek F.A., The Road to Serfdom, Chicago 1944.

History of the OECD MC Tax Convention, [access: 06.07.2017].

Kemmeren E.C.C.M., Where is EU Law in the OECD BEPS Discussion?, “EC Tax Review” 2014, Vol. 23(4).

Kok R., The Principal Purpose Test in Tax Treaties under BEPS 6, “Intertax” 2016, Vol. 44(5).

Kolosov V., Guidance on the Application of the Principal Purpose Test in Tax Treaties, “Bulletin for International Taxation” 2017, Vol. 71(3/4).

KPMG Ireland’s report on Action 6 and Fairness for Smaller Economies, replicated in KPMG’s response to OECD/G20 BEPS Project Follow up work on BEPS Action 6: Preventing Treaty Abuse (Fairness for Smaller Economies) (9 January 2015).

Kuźniacki B., The Limitation on the Benefits (LOB) Provision in BEPS Action 6/MLI: Ineffective Overreaction of Mind-Numbing Complexity – Part 1 and Part 2, “Intertax” 2018, Vol. 47(1–2).

Lang M., BEPS Action 6: Introducing an Antiabuse Rule in Tax Treaties, “Tax Notes International” 2015, May 19.

Matczak M., Three Kinds of Intention in Lawmaking, “Law and Philosophy” 2017, Vol. 36(6), DOI:

Moreno A.B., GAARs and Treaties: From the Guiding Principle to the Principal Purpose Test. What Have We Gained from BEPS Action 6?, “Intertax” 2017, Vol. 45(6/7).

OECD, Preventing the Granting of Treaty Benefits in Inappropriate Circumstance, Action 6 – 2015 Final Report, 2015.

Palao Taboada C., OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Action 6: The General Anti-Abuse Rule, “Bulletin for International Taxation” 2015, Vol. 69(10).

Panayi C.H.J.I., Advanced Issues in International and European Tax Law, Oxford 2015.

Pinetz E., Final Report on Action 6 of the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Initiative: Prevention of Treaty Abuse, “Bulletin for International Taxation” 2016, Vol. 70(1/2).

Prebble R., Prebble J., Does the Use of General Anti-Avoidance Rules to Combat Tax Avoidance Breach Principles of the Rule of Law?, “The Saint Louis University Law Journal” 2010, Vol. 55(1).

Raz J., The Rule of Law and Its Virtue, in the Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality, Oxford 2009.

Recommendation of the Council concerning the Model Tax Convention on Income and on Capital, 23 October 1997, C(97)195/FINAL, EU Law IBFD.

Rust A., Art. 1, [in:] Klaus Vogel on Double Taxation Conventions, eds. A. Rust, E. Reimer, “Wolters Kluwer Law & Business” 2015, Vol. 1.

Sapirie M., Velarde A., Can Courts Review a Competent Authority’s Decision?, “Tax Notes International” 2015, March 16.

Schoueri L.E., Galendi Júnior R.A., Interpretative and Policy Challenges Following the OECD Multilateral Instrument (2016) from a Brazilian Perspective, “Bulletin International Taxation” 2017, Vol. 71(6).

Schwarz J., Multilateral or Bilateral Implementation of BEPS Treaty-Related Measures? Swiss-UK and UK-Uzbekistan Protocol Show the Way, Kluwer International Tax Blog, 21 February 2018, [access: 10.04.2018].

Tax Ordinance Act of 29 August 1997 (Journal of Laws of 1997, No. 137, Item 926).

The Constitution of the Republic of Poland of April 2, 1997 (Journal of Laws, No. 78, Item 483).

The ECHR’s judgment of 25 March 1999 in the Iatridis case, No. 31107/96.

The ECHR’s judgment of 5 January 2000 in the Beyeler case, No. 33202/96.

The ECHR’s judgment of 14 October 2010 in the Shchokin case, No. 23759/03 and 33943/06.

The ECHR’s judgment of 20 September 2011 in the Yukos case, No. 14902/04.

The ECHR’s judgment of 14 May 2014 in the N.K.M. case, No. 66529/11.

The judgment of the French Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel) on 29 December 2013 (dec. 2013-685).

The US District Court for the District of Columbia decisions of 18 September 2015 and 2 February 2016, Case No. 14-cv-01593 (CRC).

Tomazela R., Brazil’s Absence from the Multilateral BEPS Convention and the New Amending Protocol Signed between Brazil and Argentina, Kluwer International Tax Blog, 5 September 2017, [access: 19.03.2018].

Traversa E., Herbain Ch.A., General Assessment of BEPS and EU law: Hybrid Mismatches, Interest Deductions, Abuse of Tax Treaties and CFC Rules, [in:] Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) – Impact for European and International Tax Policy, ed. R. Danon, Lausanne 2016.

Treaty on European Union, signed at Maastricht on 7 February 1992 (entered into force on 1 November 1993) (Official Journal C 326, 26/10/2012), consolidated version.

Ustawa z dnia 29 września 2017 r. o ratyfikacji Konwencji wielostronnej implementującej środki traktatowego prawa podatkowego mające na celu zapobieganie erozji podstawy opodatkowania i przenoszeniu zysku, sporządzonej w Paryżu dnia 24 listopada 2016 r. (Dz.U. z 2017 r., poz. 2104), [access: 10.03.2018].

Valente P., BEPS Action 15: Release of Multilateral Instrument, “Bulletin for International Taxation” 2017, Vol. 45(3).

Ward D.A., Canada’s Tax Treaties, “Canadian Tax Journal” 1995, Vol. 43.

Ward D.A. [et al.], The Business Purpose Test and Abuse of Rights, “British Tax Review” 1985, Vol. 2.

Weeghel S. van, The Improper Use of Tax Treaties: With Particular Reference to the Netherlands and the United States, London–Boston–Cambridge 1998.

Zalasiński A., Case-Law-Based Anti-Avoidance Measures in Conflict with Proportionality Test: Comment on the ECJ Decision in Kofoed, “European Taxation” 2007, Vol. 47(12).

Zalasiński A., Poland – Branch Report: Tax Treaties and Tax Avoidance: Application of Anti-Avoidance Provisions, “IFA Cahiers” 2010, Vol. 95a.

Zalasiński, Proportionality of Anti-Avoidance and Anti-Abuse Measures in the ECJ’s Direct Tax Case Law, “Intertax” 2007, Vol. 35(5).

Zimmer F., General Report. Form and Substance in Tax Law, “IFA Cahiers” 2002, Vol. 87a.

Data publikacji: 2018-06-28 19:25:42
Data złożenia artykułu: 2018-02-15 10:00:50


Total abstract view - 1431
Downloads (from 2020-06-17) - PDF - 0



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.