PepsiCo – Full Federal Court of Australia finds that concentrate purchases by an Australian soft drink bottler could not be recharacterized as trademark royalties for withholding tax purposes

A U.S. company (PepsiCo) entered into an “exclusive bottling appointment” (“EBA”) with an independent Australian bottling company (the “Bottler”). PepsiCo agreed in the EBA to sell, or cause a related entity to sell, beverage concentrate to the Bottler, for bottling and sale, and granted the Bottler the right to use the Pepsi and Mountain Dew trademarks in this regard. In fact, the concentrate was sold by an Australian company in the PepsiCo group (the “Seller“) to the Bottler. There was a similar arrangement for the licensed bottling and sale by the Bottler of Gatorade pursuant to an EBA with another U.S. company in the Pepsi group (“SVC”).

Perram and Jackman JJ found that, since as a matter of contractual interpretation, all of the amounts paid by the Bottler to the Seller were consideration for the sold concentrate, none of such payments could be treated as a trademark royalty that was subject to Australian withholding tax. Furthermore, none of the concentrate selling price was owed to either US company, so that such payments were not derived by a non-resident of Australia. Accordingly, the Commissioner’s assessment of Australian withholding tax on a portion of the consideration was reversed. These conclusions arose under the domestic withholding tax provision, so that no reference was required to the terms of the Australia-US tax treaty.

Neal Armstrong. Summaries of PepsiCo, Inc v Commissioner of Taxation [2024] FCAFC 86 under Treaties – Income Tax Conventions – Art. 12.