The European Commission (“Commission”) has requested that Spain recover illegal State aid which allowed Spanish companies that bought stakes of 5%, or more, in non-Spanish companies to amortise goodwill derived from acquiring that stake over a 20-year period. Under the scheme a Spanish company could write-off an amount equivalent to the difference between the acquisition price and the market value of the target's underlying assets when it bought a stake in a non-Spanish company. This had the effect of reducing the purchaser's tax base. The Commission decided that the scheme provided Spanish companies with both an economic and a selective advantage over non-Spanish companies engaged in similar transactions. The Commission has ordered Spanish companies to return any tax deducted under the scheme since the date the Commission initiated the investigation (i.e. 21 December 2007). An article in the Financial Times suggests that this cut-off date will result in some large-scale high profile deals in recent years being exempt from recovery action, including Santander's takeover of Abbey in 2005, Telefónica's purchase of O2 in 2006 and Iberdrola's acquisition of Scottish Power in 2007. However, Santander's purchase of Alliance & Leicester last year is likely to be affected by the decision.
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Spain to abolish takeover tax-break scheme
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