China: 从欧盟苹果案看我国公平竞争审查制度

Last Updated: 3 March 2017
Article by Dentons  

2016年8月30日,欧盟委员会("欧委会")认定爱尔兰政府给予苹果公司差别税收待遇(selective tax treatment)的行为违反了欧盟竞争法项下有关国家援助(state aid)的规定,导致苹果公司与其他公司相比在税务方面获得了显著的竞争优势,扭曲了市场竞争。根据欧委会的决定,爱尔兰政府需向苹果公司追缴从2003年到2014年间高达130亿欧元的税款和利息。 1欧委会竞争委员Margrethe Vestager表示,欧委会的这一决定传达出了一个明确的信息,即欧盟成员国不得向任何企业提供不公平的税收优惠,无论他们是欧盟企业还是外国企业、大型企业还是小型企业以及是否属于某一集团。 2

适逢欧委会的上述决定,我国政府在2016年6月1日出台了《国务院关于在市场体系建设中建立公平竞争审查制度的意见》(国发〔2016〕34号,"34号文"),其中也明确要求各级政府部门不得违法给予特定经营者优惠政策。目前34号文的实施细则尚在制定之中,而本文希望先行通过欧盟苹果案探讨未来政府优惠政策审查中需要考虑的一些问题。

1. 国家援助与行政垄断

国家援助与垄断协议、滥用市场支配地位、合并控制并列为欧盟四大竞争执法领域,与我国《反垄断法》以及34号文所规制的行政垄断有着共通之处。欧盟在上世纪八十年代提出建立内部单一市场的基本政策,以促进货物、资金、服务和人员在市场内的自由流动。然而,国家援助有可能使国家以财政手段对个别企业、行业实施差别待遇,以使企业获得不正当的竞争优势,不利于各成员国共同建设单一市场。与欧盟的情形十分类似,随着社会主义市场经济的不断发展,建立统一开放、竞争有序的国内市场成为我国的基本政策和目标,而行政垄断所产生的地区封锁、行业垄断、区域发展不平衡等问题阻碍了这一基本政策和目标的实现。

通过比较欧盟对国家援助的规制和我国对行政垄断的规制,可以看出二者存在一定的相似之处。《欧盟运行条约》(TFEU)规定欧盟成员国实施国家援助需事先向欧委会进行申报,并由欧委会定期审查 3,若欧委会认定成员国所实施的国家援助"与内部市场相抵触",可决定要求成员国收回其已经给予的援助。 4对于行政垄断而言,34号文要求对于行政机关发布的命令、决定等规范性文件应先行自我审查,而这体现了对行政机关可能干预市场竞争行为的事先审查。

然而,34号文尚未以法律的形式固定下来,且其中并无涉及审查政府优惠政策的具体方式、程序、内容、纠正措施、司法救济等一系列问题(需要由实施细则考虑),相比之下,欧盟从条约、条例、法院判决、欧委会的决定或通告等方面都对国家援助有着系统规定,理论和实务较为完善,对于未事先申报而进行的非法国家援助也有相应的处理办法。因此,通过分析欧盟苹果案将有助于我们了解审查政府优惠政策时所需考虑的一些问题。

2. 欧盟苹果案

2.1 案件概况

在8月30日的新闻发布会上,Margrethe Vestager解释了爱尔兰政府对苹果公司实施国家援助的具体方式。位于美国的苹果公司在爱尔兰设立了两家子公司,分别为苹果国际销售公司(Apple Sales International, "ASI")和苹果欧洲运营公司(Apple Operations Europe, "AOE")。ASI负责苹果产品在欧洲大陆的销售,因此苹果产品在欧洲大陆的利润几乎全部归于ASI公司名下。需要说明的是,爱尔兰的企业所得税税率仅为12.5%,在欧盟成员国中处于较低水平。

表1. 欧盟成员国企业所得税税率(节选) 5

国家 税率(%)
比利时 33.99
法国 33.33
意大利 31.4
德国 29.65
卢森堡 29.22
爱尔兰 12.5

爱尔兰政府于1991年通过一项税收裁定(tax ruling),允许苹果公司将营利转移至ASI的一个总部(Head Office)之下。然而,该总办事处本身"只存在于纸面之上",没有实际的商业运营。根据爱尔兰的裁定,该总部可享受零税率的待遇。因此苹果公司将实际税率控制在了极低的水平,2014年仅为0.005%。AOE和ASI一样,也采取了类似的模式以达到避税的目的。

2.2审查程序和实体标准

根据欧盟的规定,成员国实施的任何国家援助都需要事前向欧委会进行申报。收到申报后,欧委会若认为不构成援助或援助不与内部市场相抵触,则会做出不反对援助的决定。若经初步审查后认为存在与内部市场相抵触的情形,则欧委会可决定开展正式调查。

而在本案中,爱尔兰政府的税收裁定显然未曾向欧委会进行过申报。但是,没有申报并不意味着欧委会就没有调查权。根据欧盟理事会相关条例,欧委会有权在掌握了无论任何来源的有关非法援助信息后,立即对该信息进行检查,并自行决定启动调查。 6事实上,早在2014年,欧委会就宣布对爱尔兰、荷兰等国给予苹果、星巴克等公司的税收裁定是否违反国家援助的规定展开调查;同时欧委会透露调查线索来源于有关上述公司享受巨额减税待遇的媒体报道。 7

欧委会在初步审查违法援助后,可以发出禁令先行禁止或收回已经给予的援助。在确定援助非法后,欧委会可以要求成员国收回最多十年内的全部援助外加一定利息。

在实体认定标准方面,欧委会根据TFEU第107条、欧委会第651/2014号条例、欧盟理事会第2015/1588号条例等的豁免规定来进行判断。目前苹果案的决定全文还未公开,但根据欧委会公布的对荷兰给予星巴克优惠税收裁定的决定来看,欧委会首先认定了援助确实存在,其次认定了援助导致的差别待遇以及该待遇的受益人。接下来欧委会对援助与内部市场的相容性(compatibility)进行了分析,并指出荷兰没有完成其举证责任,有效地证明其实施的援助可以得到豁免。最后欧委会对其实施援助行为的非法性(unlawfulness)进行了认定,认为荷兰没有履行其申报义务就直接实施了援助行为是非法的。

2.3 司法救济

本案中,苹果公司对欧委会的决定不服,于是向欧洲法院提起了上诉。 8一般来说,法院若要认定爱尔兰的税收裁定属于非法的国家援助,首先要对其税收裁定是否属于"援助"进行判断。援助的形式一般有政府补贴、国家投资等,税收优惠也是其中一种比较普遍的援助形式。分析TFEU第107条可以看出援助的要件之一即为可归属于国家行为或利用国家资源实施。 9在司法实践中,法院总结出了一个"可归因测试"(imputability test)以确定该行为是否属于国家行为。这一点在认定通过国有企业实施的援助的性质时具有重要意义。本案中的税收裁定是爱尔兰政府作出的,显然可以归属于国家行为,因此在这一点上并无太多讨论空间。

其次,法院需要判断苹果公司是否因爱尔兰的税收裁定而获利。如前所述,欧委会认定由于爱尔兰的税收裁定,苹果公司享受了长达二十年的税收优惠,其实际公司税率由2003年的1%下降到了2014年的0.005%。而苹果公司却称欧委会的数字不符合实际,其首席律师Bruce Sewell接受媒体采访时称"我们按规定为苹果在爱尔兰的经营活动支付了12.5%的税......我们不理解委员会的数字是从哪来的。" 10双方对此各执一词,最终的数字还需法院进行认定。

接下来,法院需进一步判断该税收裁定是否违法。尽管制定税收政策属于每一个成员国的主权,但其制定的政策不得与欧盟的内部市场相抵触。根据欧盟的规定,任何税率和税收适用范围的调整须具备"普遍"性质,即涵盖所有行业、所有地域以及所有的企业和消费者等,否则该税收政策将使特定企业获得额外经济利益和竞争优势,很可能构成TFEU第107条所禁止的国家援助。 11在实践中,法院会对税收政策是否具有选择性(selectivity)进行分析。在 Belgium and Forum 187 v. Commission案中,法官称选择性的基本认定标准为"所实施的税收政策的本质是否为其所在的宏观税收政策的克减(derogation),且是否在本可适用于全部经营者的情况下仅适用于部分经营者。" 12由此我们可以分析得出,判断税收政策是否具有选择性,应对照宏观的税收政策来分析。如果一项税收政策与宏观税收政策的逻辑相冲突,仅使得部分经营者获得利益,则应被认定为是与内部市场相抵触的。本案中爱尔兰政府共对苹果公司做出了两次税收裁定,第一次为1991年,第二次为2007年。虽然从公开渠道未能获得两次税收裁定的文本,无法直接确定该裁定是否只针对苹果公司,但是从目前欧委会的裁定来看,爱尔兰的税收裁定给予了苹果公司其他企业所享受不到的选择性待遇或者差别待遇。

最后,在建立了爱尔兰政府的税收裁定的选择性后,法院还要考虑此类情形是否可以豁免。除TFEU第107条第2、3款规定的豁免情形以外, Commission Regulation 1998/2006对"小额援助"(de minimis aid)的豁免进行了规定:三个财政年内对企业的援助总额小于20万欧元的,不认为构成法律所禁止的国家援助。 13在本案中,若欧委会的认定属实,那么苹果公司所获得的援助总额显然远远超过这一豁免标准。因此从理论上来看,苹果公司的上诉似乎并无太多可能为本案带来转机。Margrethe Vestager也曾自信地公开表示:"这一调查进行了三年,目的就是确保我们能够做出一个可靠的决定,而我坚信我们做到了这一点。" 14

3. 对我国审查政府优惠政策的启示

通过上述苹果案,我们认为未来对政府优惠政策进行公平竞争审查时可能需要考虑以下一些问题。

3.1 审查主体

欧委会是国家援助的执法机构或者审查主体,具有很强的独立性和权威性。相比之下,34号文对于政府优惠政策的公平竞争审查采取自我审查方式,也即制定或提供优惠政策的政府部门即为审查主体。就此而言,我国政府优惠政策的审查主体难免缺乏独立性,恐难做到公平审查;虽然国家反垄断执法机构可以对违法政府优惠政策进行事后干预和提出处理建议,但这就无法发挥公平竞争审查事前干预的时间和成本优势。

实际上,34号文并非国家首次处理政府优惠政策和公平竞争的冲突问题,近几年国家曾先后在2014年11月27日发布《国务院关于清理规范税收等优惠政策的通知》(国发〔2014〕62号)和2015年5月10日发布《国务院关于税收等优惠政策相关事项的通知》(国发〔2015〕25号,"25号文"),决心全面清理和规范各级政府在税收、非税等收入和财政支出等方面实施的优惠政策,以(1)维护公平的市场竞争环境,促进形成全国统一的市场体系,发挥市场在资源配置中的决定性作用,(2)落实国家宏观经济政策,打破地方保护和行业垄断,推动经济转型升级,(3)严肃财经纪律,预防和惩治腐败,维护正常的收入分配秩序,(4)深化财税体制改革,推进依法行政,科学理财,建立全面规范、公开透明的预算制度。此外,25号文还要求各级政府在制定新的税收等优惠政策时,除法律、行政法规已有规定事项外,涉及税收或中央批准设立的非税收入的,应报国务院批准后执行;其他由地方政府和相关部门批准后执行。

综合以上,就政府优惠政策的审查主体而言,看上去34号文和25号文需要进行协调。目前而言,34号文的实施将涉及在国务院建立部际联席工作机制,其中应该会包括负责25号文所述审批的部门(如财政部)。如此而言,对于政府优惠政策进行公平竞争审查的实际审查主体有可能并非制定或提供优惠政策的政府部门,而这也将有助于提高公平审查的独立性和权威性。

3.2 审查程序

为了提高审查效率,可以考虑设置初步审查和进一步审查的程序。在初步审查阶段,除了要求进行自我审查外,由25号文引出的实际审查主体还可以将拟制定的给予特定经营者的优惠政策进行公示(涉及国家秘密的除外),征求第三方意见。如果第三方提出合理的反对意见,则再开展进一步审查。

3.3 审查内容

除了审查政府部门制定的优惠政策以外,还需要考虑某些政府部门可能变相给予优惠政策,包括利用自己能够控制的国有企业对特定经营者进行投资、提供贷款、低价出租厂房等等。因此,在34号文的实施细则中,可以考虑对优惠政策的含义进行细化。

3.4 纠正措施

如果出现了未经国务院批准或虽经自我审查但实际上有违公平竞争的优惠政策,那么政府部门是否以及如何从享受了优惠政策的特定经营者处追回所给予的优惠。在此方面,欧盟苹果案中欧委会要求爱尔兰政府追缴苹果公司在十年间享受的130亿欧元的税收优惠。

34号文中仅规定了有序清理存量,对以合同协议等形式给予企业的优惠政策以及部分立即终止会带来重大影响的政策措施设置过渡期,留出必要的缓冲空间;对已兑现的优惠政策,不溯及既往。但是,其并未明确规定对于违法的新优惠政策,政府是否以及如何采取追回优惠的纠正措施。

实践中,一些企业已经询问其能否接受某一地方政府给予的优惠,因为他们担心如果该优惠违法,他们可能会被要求退还优惠,而这可能影响他们的经营和财务安排。举例而言,苹果的代工厂富士康在郑州投资建设了规模巨大的手机生产基地,使河南省外贸总值迅速跃居中部六省之首,而有学者粗略估计河南省各级政府为吸引富士康的"招商成本"——政府投入、土地和税收等方面的优惠等约为120亿至150亿元左右。 15

因此,34号文实施细则中可以考虑明确是否存在追回优惠的纠正措施,给予政府部门和市场上经营者以明确的预期。

3.5 司法救济

无论对于享受了优惠政策的特定经营者,还是该特定经营者的竞争对手,都有可能提出行政诉讼,就政府优惠政策公平竞争审查相关事项寻求司法救济。对于特定经营者而言,可能的情形如其优惠被追回;对于其竞争对手而言,可能的情形如公平竞争审查的程序和实体方面存在问题。为了尽量避免行政诉讼风险,对于政府优惠政策进行公平竞争审查时需要注意程序的透明度和实体的可预见性(参见上文3.4)。

欧盟苹果案是我们了解欧盟版的公平竞争审查制度(即国家援助制度)的经典案例,通过该案我们可以看出在政府优惠政策的公平竞争审查方面存在不少具体问题需要我们进一步的研究,从而完善34号文实施细则并使之得以有效率的实施。另外,考虑到我国各地方政府在历史上习惯于通过各自的优惠政策争夺投资项目,谋求政绩,34号文在实施过程中可能阻力重重。对此,一方面需要转变地方政府思想,另一方面也需要提醒经营者,其获得的优惠政策一旦违法可能被追回,以此使经营者能够主动要求地方政府在提供优惠政策时切实进行公平竞争审查。总之,为使34号文的顶层设计不至落空,政府和市场经营者需要共同努力,而在此方面竞争政策和竞争文化的倡导和推广将起到关键作用。

注释:

[1] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-2923_en.htm

[2] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-16-2926_en.htm

[3] Art. 108(1), (3), TFEU

[4] Art. 16, Council Regulation (EC) No 2015/1589

[5] 2015毕马威全球税率调查

[6] Art.12, Council Regulation (EC) No.2015/1589

[7] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-663_en.htm

[8] Art.263, TFEU

[9] Art.107, TFEU

[10] "'纯属政治闹剧',苹果还将上诉欧盟税收裁决",http://weibo.com/ttarticle/p/show?id=2309351000014016065205156492

[11] 周牧,"欧盟国家援助制度研究"

[12] Belgium and Forum 187 v. Commission, 293

[13] Art. 2, Commission Regulation 1998/2006

[14] "欧盟反垄断负责人:就算苹果上诉 我们也能赢",http://tech.ifeng.com/a/20160831/44445117_0.shtml

[15] http://www.eeo.com.cn/2014/1122/269066.shtml

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6 Dec 2017, Webinar, New York, United States

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8 Dec 2017, Seminar, Johannesburg, South Africa

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