In most transfer pricing disputes, the taxpayer squares off with the IRS or some other taxing authority, and the issue is the amount of tax due. But, in some cases, a company’s transfer pricing policies can lead to disputes between private parties. It is important for tax-department personnel to be aware of the risks from these private disputes so that they can take them into account when setting up intercompany documentation and transfer pricing policies. Examples include:

Continue Reading Private Transfer Pricing Disputes

On March 22, 2024 the IRS’s Advance Pricing Mutual Agreement Program (“APMA” or the “Program”) released Announcement 2024-16 which provides their annual Advance Pricing Agreement (“APA”) report (the “Report”), and the statistics show a record-breaking result for 2023 – 156 APAs resolved.  APMA resolves actual and potential transfer pricing disputes and other competent authority matters through United States’ bilateral income tax conventions.  This Report focuses on APAs (a solution to prevent future transfer pricing disputes) during calendar year 2023 and provides statistical information about the APA applications received and resolved, including countries involved, types of transactions, and transfer pricing methods.  Key takeaways and our observations are noted here.

Continue Reading APA Statutory Report Reveals Successful 2023 for APMA

On February 19, 2024, the OECD Inclusive Framework on BEPS published its long-awaited final report on Pillar One – Amount B.[i]  The report details guidance on the “simplified and streamlined approach” (formerly known as Amount B) for applying the arm’s length principle to certain “baseline marketing and distribution activities.”  While offering some potential benefits in terms of reducing the need for comparables analyses and avoiding some disputes about comparables selection and adjustments, it is nevertheless narrow in scope, complex in application, and will likely give rise to inconsistencies in implementation throughout the world and more controversy. 

Continue Reading Amount B: Some Benefits, More Burdens

The IRS has made it clear once again that transfer pricing remains a key focus in its ongoing enforcement efforts.[1]  And with significant additional resources to do so over the next decade, the IRS is likely to focus some of these resources on taxpayers who have not undergone a transfer pricing audit in recent years or, perhaps, ever.  For example, while the IRS is onboarding the many new transfer pricing experts it hired in 2023, it has sent compliance alerts to certain U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations that distribute goods in the U.S. where the IRS thinks that these subsidiaries are not paying their fair share of tax on the profit they earn on their U.S. activity.[2] Taxpayers would be wise to take this time to prepare for an audit by reviewing their material intercompany transactions and undertaking a transfer pricing risk assessment.

Continue Reading Transfer Pricing Audits: What Taxpayers Can Do to Prepare

On January 29, 2024, the OECD released the results and statistics for its growing International Compliance Assurance Program (“ICAP”).[1] The data spans the life of the ICAP program, dating back to the first pilot program that began in January 2018, through its full program operations as of October 2023. In all, the statistics generally suggest that the program has been efficient and productive, with most participants receiving mostly low-risk outcomes from tax administrations.

Continue Reading ICAP: Life in the Fast Lane

“Implicit support” comes charging out of the gates as an early candidate for Word or Phrase of the Year for 2024. 

Before year’s end, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel dropped a new generic legal advice memorandum (“GLAM”), AM 2023-008, titled “Effect of Group Membership on Financial Transactions under Section 482 and Treas. Reg. § 1.482-2(a).” The GLAM visits some familiar territory, including the “realistic alternatives” principle, this time in the intracompany lending context.  

Continue Reading Happy New Year.  Here’s a GLAM on Implicit Support.

In a recent case, Villa-Arce v. Commissioner,[1] a whistleblower sent information to the IRS that he believed showed that the company was using improper transfer pricing practices and taking unjustified deductions. The IRS opened an examination that resulted in other adjustments, but none based on the information from the whistleblower. For that key reason, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the Tax Court decision that the whistleblower was not entitled to an award for the collection of proceeds from the unrelated adjustments. Yet while the whistleblower walked away empty-handed, the case illustrates a unique type of transfer pricing and audit risk that comes from whistleblowers that companies should recognize. And given the indefinite nature of transfer pricing and the potential amount of dollars at stake, we will likely see more whistleblower actions involving transfer pricing.

Continue Reading Blowing the Whistle on Transfer Pricing

Last week, the IRS released a mysterious new audit “campaign” that may implicate – inadvertently or otherwise – transfer pricing practices. The campaign, which was announced on August 8, is simply entitled “Inflated Cost of Goods Sold.”   

The only glimmer of explanation the IRS gives as to what exactly this is all about is the brief statement that the campaign “focuses on LB&I taxpayers that have indications of inflated Cost of Goods Sold to reduce taxable income.”

But this tells us very little. Absent book-tax differences (e.g., FIFO/LIFO materials inventory conventions), an increase in COGS will always decrease taxable income. This is hardly revelatory. Two old IRS practice units from 2014 (“Purchase of Tangible Goods from Foreign Parent – CUP Method” and “Sale of Tangible Goods from a CFC to USP – CUP Method”) recognize the truism that increasing COGS reduces taxable income. So what? What facets of COGS gives the IRS concern? Direct Labor? Overhead? Standard Material Costs? Variances?

Continue Reading Compliance Campaign: COGS Cops Coming

In a recent case, the IRS sued a corporate taxpayer in district court for supposedly unpaid taxes—without issuing a notice of deficiency first. The taxpayer claimed that this move was improper, but the district court sided with the IRS. In an opinion issued in June, the court held that the deficiency process is essentially optional for the IRS.

Continue Reading Liberty Global and the Burden of Proof

In Moore v. U.S., Mr. and Mrs. Moore challenge the constitutionality of the transition tax under § 965. The Moores ask the Supreme Court to reaffirm a realization requirement for income taxable under the Sixteenth Amendment. The Moores argue that this realization requirement applies to § 965 and that §965, as a tax on unrealized gain, is unconstitutional. In contrast, the government argues that the transition tax is a permissible extension of tax regimes like Subpart F that already tax undistributed corporate earnings. (See our recent client alert on the case generally.)

A ruling on the realization requirement bears on whether Pillar Two might be constitutional in the United States. Specifically, a ruling that § 965 does not comply with a realization requirement, if not suitably cabined, could imperil the ability of the U.S. to implement Pillar Two legally, because Pillar Two might be viewed as similarly not complying with the realization requirement.  

Continue Reading Moore and Pillar Two: Possible Interactions