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LVMH Beats French Case Accusing it of Using Belgian Subsidiary to Evade Taxes in France | The Fashion Law


Louis Vuitton’s guardian business LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is off of the hook in the tax case that saw French officials raid the Paris offices of the world’s largest luxurious items conglomerate in September 2019 in reference to “suspicions” that it was pretending to hold out treasury operations in Belgium – versus its French headquarters – in an effort to decrease its tax invoice in its house nation. On the heels of an oral argument earlier than the Paris Court of Appeal in June, throughout which LVMH’s counsel asserted that the raid and seizure of inside correspondences ran afoul of the regulation, a panel for the Appeals courtroom sided with LVMH. 

As first reported by Bloomberg, the Paris appeals courtroom held on September 9 that LVMH Finance Belgique – the conglomerate’s 12-year previous, Brussels-located subsidiary, which is tasked with offering monetary companies, equivalent to managing LVMH’s short-term treasury notes program – “appeared to have enough staff to carry out its treasury activities, rebuffing an argument brought forward by French tax officials” that the group was primarily utilizing the Belgian off-shoot as a mere mailing tackle.

In addition to discovering that French authorities’ 2019 raid on its Paris workplace – which noticed them acquire entry to multiple million LVMH-related emails – was primarily based on an “unfounded” presumption of fraud, the courtroom additional asserted that merely “pointing out that the unit filed no tax returns in France is not enough to warrant raids given that it holds accounts in Belgium, where it is based.” 

Counsel for LVMH beforehand argued earlier than the Paris Court of Appeal that the documentation that tax authorities introduced to the courtroom as a way to get a warrant to raid the LVMH headquarters violated French tax-secrecy and privateness guidelines, significantly in connection “data concerning the head of [LVMH’s] Belgian unit.” More than that, LVMH – which is “one of the largest taxpayers in France” – alleged that its Belgian finance arm is hardly a shell business aimed toward enabling the posh big to rig the tax system. In truth, counsel for LVMH claimed that the Belgian unit “occupies half a floor in a big tower in Brussels” and employs at the least six full-time workers.  

Other Issues in Belgium

Hardly the primary time that LVMH has been taken to job over its dealings in Belgium, the group’s chairman Bernard Arnault sought Belgian citizenship in 2012, proper across the time that then-president François Hollande introduced a plan to impose a 75 % revenue tax charge on the nation’s highest earners. Arnault insisted that the transfer was not aimed toward escaping French taxes (together with hypothesis that such citizenship would have allowed his youngsters to keep away from paying inheritance taxes in France). He in the end withdrew the appliance, however not with out going through widespread backlash, together with from Hollande. 

Still but, Arnault settled with Belgian prosecutors in June 2017 in reference to a case opened in 2012. The matter centered on the chairman’s switch of his complete 31 % stake in his non-public household unit holding business, Groupe Arnault (a sum that French publication Libération reported on the time was price as much as 6.5 billion euros) to Pilinvest, a personal Belgian entity that he maintains, thereby, elevating purple flags from a tax perspective. In mild of the December 2011 switch and the preferable tax remedy in Belgium, which observes an inheritance tax of solely three % in contrast with 11 % in France, and no wealth tax, not like France, Belgian authorities initiated a prison probe.

Reports acknowledged on the time that Pilinvest was arrange in Belgium simply as France ready to introduce a 75 % supertax, which a spokesman for LVMH contradicted, asserting that Pilinvest was created in Belgium in 1999, had operated as a holding business since then, and “has always respected current legislation and has a tax agreement with Belgian authorities.”

Fast ahead 5 years to June 2017, and the parties managed to settle the matter, albeit “without any prejudicial admission of guilt on [Arnault’s] part,” prosecutors confirmed, with out providing any additional particulars.

LVMH owns more than 70 different luxury brands, from vogue homes and wonder manufacturers to wine and spirits firms, and generated $59.1 billion in income in 2019, alone. 


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