In the dawn years of transfer pricing, when the bulk of international trade focused on tangible goods, relatively little attention was devoted to the analysis of transactions involving services. The 1968 U.S. Treasury Regulations governing intercompany services focused on the allocation and apportionment of costs with respect to services undertaken for the benefit of the related parties, roughly in line with the current Services Cost Method, and provided a high level discussion of the services that were an integral part of the business activity of a member of a controlled group without elaborating on the methods to be used to test compliance with the arm’s length standard (Section 1.482-2(b) (1968)). In the 1995 Transfer Pricing Guidelines from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”), the analysis of pricing of intracompany services occupied a mere 15 pages. In the mid-2000s, there was a renewed focus on the pricing of intercompany services. First to the stage were the U.S. Treasury Regulations in Section 1.482-9 promulgated in August of 2009, followed by several International Practice Units in 2014 through 2017, and then by the OECD with a revised Chapter VII in the 2017 OECD Guidelines. The increased attention is not surprising: over the last 20 years, from 1999 to 2019, the growth of trade in services far outpaced that of tangible goods (215% vs 137% for exports and 199% vs 143% for imports), with particularly robust performance in maintenance and repair, financial, and business services. Continue Reading Intercompany Services: The Next Frontier of Transfer Pricing Disputes
Assume the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) is auditing your company’s transfer pricing. The administrative process is starting to break down, and it looks as if the IRS might assert a sizeable income adjustment. What is your duty to save documents for a potential upcoming court case?
In February 2021, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) issued a handbook linked with the official roll-out of its International Compliance Assurance Programme (“ICAP”). ICAP was first introduced as a pilot in January 2018 (“ICAP 1.0”) as a voluntary program where MNE groups may receive “comfort and assurance” from multiple tax administrations as to the veracity of the MNE group’s transfer pricing allocations and numerous types of international transactions. While some notable countries did not participate in ICAP 1.0 (for example, Germany), the pilot program received positive reviews by a number of MNE groups. In March 2020, the OECD enhanced the pilot program (“ICAP 2.0”) to encourage more countries to join. On March 22, 2021, the OECD announced an initial list of twenty countries that are participating in the official program.
The headline news about the U.S. Tax Court’s decision on the value of Michael Jackson’s estate might have been a shock to some – or, perhaps, to many. The King of Pop’s inflation-adjusted earnings since his death in 2009, according to the Forbes magazine, were $2.1 billion. His annual earnings in 2016 were $825 million, the highest single-year payday ever recorded by a front-of-camera celebrity. And yet his image and likeness at the time of his death was valued at a meager $4 million by the U.S. Tax Court.
The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (“IRAS”) has issued transfer pricing guidance for centralized activities of multinational enterprise (“MNE”) groups in Singapore to assist taxpayers in analysing such activities between related parties and identifying factors that may affect transfer prices for these activities and the transfer pricing methods that may be appropriate.
The guidance (in the form of a so called e-Tax Guide, which the IRAS issues from time to time in order to express its views and policies on certain matters to taxpayers) is important considering that Singapore is being adopted as a destination by a significant number of MNEs for housing their global as well as regional headquarters (“HQ”). The e-Tax Guide aims to analyse potential inter-company transactions that may be carried out by MNEs through their Singapore-based HQ and discusses the approach to determine the arm’s length price in respect of such transactions.
Amount B aims to standardize the remuneration of related party distributors that perform baseline marketing and distribution activities in a manner that is aligned with the arm’s length principle. Its purpose is two-fold: First, Amount B is intended to simplify the administration of transfer pricing rules for tax administrations and reduce compliance costs for taxpayers. Second, Amount B is intended to enhance tax certainty and reduce controversy between tax administrations and taxpayers.
Pillar One assumes that distribution and marketing activities would be identified as in-scope based on a narrow scope of activities, set by reference to a defined “positive list” and “negative list” of activities that should and should not be performed to be considered in scope. Quantitative indicators would then be applied to further support and validate the identification of in-scope distributors. It is anticipated that amount B could be based on return on sales, with potentially differentiated fixed returns to account for the different geographic locations and/or industries of the in-scope distributors. Given the narrow scope of Amount B, there is currently no provision for Amount B to increase with the functional intensity of the activities of in-scope distributors. Amount B would not supersede advance pricing agreements or mutual agreement proceeding settlements agreed before the implementation of Amount B.
Under one proposal, the implementation of Amount B would operate under a rebuttable presumption, namely, that an entity that acts as a buy/sell distributor and performs the defined baseline marketing and distribution activities qualifying for the Amount B return would render it in scope, but that it will be possible to rebut the application of Amount B by providing evidence that another transfer pricing method would be the most appropriate to use under the arm’s length principle. While one group of OECD members prefers a narrow approach, another group prefers a broader approach that would also provide standardized remuneration for commissionaires or sales agents, or for distribution entities whose profile differs from the baseline marketing and distribution activities discussed below.
In the U.S., transfer pricing benchmarking under the Comparable Profits Method (“CPM”) or Transactional Net Margin Method (“TNMM”) depends on the availability of public company financial data. In recent years, the decreasing number of U.S. listed and non-exchange traded companies has made this benchmarking more challenging, not only due to the smaller population from which the comparable can be selected: Many of the remaining listed and non-exchange traded companies are either large companies that own intangibles or small companies that often operate at a loss. This trend should prompt transfer pricing practitioners to consider new, creative approaches in selecting comparable companies for purposes of CPM/TNMM, and in appropriate cases, to re-consider transactional or other methods that do not rely on publicly available profitability data. Further, an APA might now be a prudent choice to obtain certainty, even if APAs had not been considered necessary or worthwhile from a cost-benefit perspective in the past to mitigate tax risk.
Benchmarking—the process of screening, selecting, and analyzing comparable companies—is time consuming. Analysts can spend innumerable hours every year preparing transfer pricing documentation, with a substantial portion of that time dedicated to benchmarking. Even with improvements in the quality of databases (which offer a vast array of quantitative and qualitative data), the sets of potential comparables that analysts must sift through are often enormous.
With the applications of artificial intelligence (or “AI”) expanding by the day, it is time to start thinking about whether AI could automate parts of the benchmarking process.
On March 23, 2021, the United States’ Advance Pricing and Mutual Agreement Program (“APMA Program”) released its 2020 annual report (“2020 Annual Report”) to the public concerning advance pricing agreements (“APAs”). COVID-19 has caused unprecedented disruptions to taxpayers and tax administrations alike, but the 2020 Annual Report shows that the APMA Program remained highly productive in 2020. Last year taxpayers filed 121 APA requests—the same amount as in 2019. And in 2020, APMA executed 127 APAs—seven more than the prior year.
Overview. As discussed in prior blog posts, Amount A is a proposed new taxing right over a share of residual profit of MNE groups that fall within its defined scope. The calculation and allocation of Amount A will be determined through a formula that is not based on the Arm’s Length Principle (ALP). The formula will apply to the tax base of a group (or segment where relevant) and will involve three components: Step 1: a profitability threshold to isolate the residual profit potentially subject to reallocation; Step 2: a reallocation percentage to identify an appropriate share of residual profit that can be allocated to market jurisdictions under Amount A (the “allocable tax base”); and Step 3: an allocation key to distribute the allocable tax base amongst the eligible market jurisdictions (i.e. where nexus is established for Amount A). This three-step formula to determining the Amount A quantum could be delivered through two approaches: a profit-based approach or a profit margin-based approach. A profit-based approach would start the calculation with the Amount A tax base determined as a profit amount (e.g. an absolute profit of EUR 10 million) whereas a profit-margin approach would start the calculation with the Amount A tax base determined as a profit margin (e.g. a PBT to revenue of 15%). Both approaches would apply the three steps of the allocation formula similarly, and hence would deliver the same quantum of Amount A taxable in each market jurisdiction.