In mainland Europe, a commissionaire is an attendant, messenger or subordinate employed in hotels, whose chief duty is to attend at railway stations, secure customers, take charge of their luggage, carry out the necessary formalities with respect to it and have it sent on to the hotel. They are also employed in Paris as street messengers, light porters, etc.
Under commercial and tax law in civil law jurisdictions (much of mainland Europe), a commissionaire arrangement is a variation on agency, under which the principal is not bound to the customer by actions of the commissionaire.
Corps of Commissionaires
It can also refer to an employee of a Corps of Commissionaires. The original Corps of Commissionaires was founded in England during 1859 by Captain Sir Edward Walter, K.C.B. (1823–1904) to provide employment for former members of the armed services.
Canadian Corps of Commissionaires
The Canadian Corps was formed for the same purpose in 1925 with the opening of offices in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. A national organization was realized by 1950 with the opening of the St. John's, Newfoundland office. In 1982, the Canadian Corps had grown to more than 10,000 employees, which virtually doubled the complement of its British parent.
To meet its growing demands for personnel after the September 11 attacks in 2001, Commissionaires began accepting civilians. While in today's organization not all Commissionaires are veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces or Royal Canadian Mounted Police service, the organization's mandate still is to provide meaningful employment to veterans. A significant proportion of their current members are veterans and the Corps hires about 1,200 veterans every year. Today, Commissionaires employs over 19,000 people with offices operating in all ten provinces and three territories.
Members of the Corps are often used as trained security guards in major companies and other organizations. The main role of a Commissionaire is the protection of people, property and information. Commissionaires are found in many Federal establishments across Canada guarding everything from museum pieces to live ammunition and government files.
After 12 years service a member is eligible for the Commissionaires Long Service Medal.
Law and taxation
In European civil law jurisdictions (e.g., France, Germany), a commissionaire is a person who acts in their own name for the account of a principal. The principal is contractually bound to deliver (through the commissionaire) the goods sold to the customer; the commissionaire is contractually bound to the principal to remit the price received to the principal. In addition, the commissionaire is contractually bound to the customer to deliver the goods sold on the terms agreed. No relationship is created between the customer and the principal. The commissionaire is remunerated by commission, and paid by the principal. The commissionaire does not take title to the goods.
A civil law commissionaire arrangement creates agency in common law countries, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
For tax purposes in civil law jurisdictions, a commissionaire is not generally viewed as a dependent agent by virtue of the commissionaire status. Thus, the activities and place of business of a commissionaire are not attributed to the principal. Use of a commissionaire arrangement has historically been considered to prevent a seller of goods (the principal) from having a permanent establishment in the commissionaire's country if the principal has no other presence in that country. However, this view has been challenged by tax authorities in France and Norway.
- The French Administrative Court of Appeal in Paris held in Zimmer Ltd on 2 February 2007 that the French commissionaire of the UK principal constituted a French permanent establishment of that company. On 31 March 2010, the Conseil d'Etat, held in cases no. 304715 and 308525 that Zimmer SAS did not create a permanent establishment for Zimmer Ltd. under the commissionaire agreement. The Oslo, Norway administrative court (a first level court) found similarly on 16 December 2009.
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