27 avril 2005

Les joies de l'optimisation fiscale 

Dans Slate, Edward Jay Epstein explique comment faire pour financer un blockbuster américain avec l'argent du contribuable allemand :
Germany allows investors in German-owned film ventures to take an immediate tax deduction on their film investments, even if the film they're investing in has not yet gone into production. If a German wants to defer a tax bill to a more convenient time, a good way to do it is by investing in a future movie. The beauty of the German laws as far as Hollywood is concerned is that, unlike the tax laws in other countries, they don't require that films be shot locally or employ local personnel. German law simply requires that the film be produced by a German company that owns its copyright and shares in its future profits. This requisite presents no obstacle for studio lawyers.

The Hollywood studio starts by arranging on paper to sell the film's copyright to a German company. Then, they immediately lease the movie back—with an option to repurchase it later. At this point, a German company appears to own the movie. The Germans then sign a "production service agreement" and a "distribution service agreement" with the studio that limits their responsibility to token—and temporary—ownership.

For the privilege of fake ownership, the Germans pay the studio about 10 percent more than they'll eventually get back in lease and option payments. For the studio, that extra 10 percent is instant profit. It is truly, as one Paramount executive told me, "money for nothing." In the case of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Paramount sold the copyright to a group of German investors for $94 million through Tele-München Gruppe, a company headed by German mogul Herbert Kloiber. Paramount then repurchased the film for $83.8 million in lease and option payments. The studio's $10.2 million windfall paid the salaries of star Angelina Jolie ($7.5 million) and the rest of the principal cast.

Dans cet exemple laracroftien, la déduction d'impôt est donc forcément supérieure au 10,2 millions de dollars que coûte à la société allemande la propriété du film. J'aimerais bien pouvoir trouver le texte fiscal allemand qui permet cette combine, afin d'avoir un peu plus de détails (l'article a l'air de dire qu'il s'agit juste de repousser une charge fiscale dans le temps, et pas de la supprimer). A supposer que j'arrive à comprendre tout ça ensuite, ce qui n'est pas gagné non plus.