On July 10, 2021, the G20 endorsed a broad framework to advance Pillars One and Two, which includes an aggressive timetable for bringing the new rules into force in 2023. The endorsement came in a Communiqué, which approved the July 1 statement by the 139-country Inclusive Framework. The G20 agreement represents a political consensus on
For over a decade, countries have been looking for ways to tax the digital economy. On July 1, 130 countries announced an agreement that would provide a new taxing right to enable a country to tax a portion of digital profits even in the absence of traditional taxable nexus with the country. This new taxing right is known as “Amount A”. The quantum of Amount A remained a mystery until the publication of the OECD’s “Statement on a Two-Pillar Solution to Address the Tax Challenges Arising From the Digitalisation of the Economy” on July 1, 2021 (the “Statement”) which quantified Amount A to be “between 20-30% of residual profit defined as profit in excess of 10% of revenue” for in-scope enterprises. Although this quantum of Amount A represents a political compromise, a solid theoretical basis underlying that compromise is essential to sustaining consensus.
The early proposals to modify profit allocation and nexus rules for the digital economy enterprises, which ultimately produced Amount A, strived to be based on certain subjective criteria, including the concepts of user participation, marketing intangibles and/or the concept of significant economic presence. The contemplated methods for profit allocation were the Modified Residual Profit Split method, Fractional Apportionment method, and Distribution-based approaches, along with the options for business line and regional segmentation. However, the criteria and methods of the early proposals are nowhere to be found to found in the OECD July 2021 Statement, leaving many questions about Amount A still unanswered. While the final compromise on Pillar One eliminates the focus on digital economy and shifts instead to high profitability when defining in-scope MNEs, the “digital essence” still surrounds Amount A. For one thing, the introduction to the Statement continues to refer to the “two-pillar solution to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy.” Moreover, a widely accepted assumption in the final Pillar One negotiations is that high profits are generated by intangibles and those are increasingly concentrated with digital businesses. Therefore, an analysis of Amount A cannot be divorced from the analysis of the factors that contribute to the digital economy.
On June 5, 2021, the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the G7 countries issued a Communiqué announcing their agreement on the conceptual framework for a substantial revision to global tax policy (the “Communiqué”). The Communiqué puts the G7’s stamp of approval on recent efforts by the OECD (supported by a big push by…
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.
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.
Continue Reading The Vanishing U.S. Comparable
Consider the following hypothetical: Researchers at a US-parented drug company develop an artificial intelligence (or “AI”) system that can identify new therapeutic targets with minimal human intervention. The drug company sells the system to its foreign affiliate in a lower-tax jurisdiction. What is the appropriate valuation of the system on this outbound transfer (e.g., based on the cost to create it or based on the value of the IP it is likely to generate)? And, when the AI system later successfully creates a new therapeutic, which entity will be entitled to the non-routine returns from sales of the therapeutic: the US parent that developed the system, the foreign subsidiary that owns the system that developed the therapeutic, or some combination of both?
Continue Reading Transfer Pricing for AI-Generated Intellectual Property
According to the OECD, the new international taxation framework set forth in its Pillar One blueprint recognizes that in an increasingly digital age, taxing rights can no longer be exclusively determined by reference to physical presence. The blueprint therefore contains new nexus rules for in-scope revenue under Amount A. (For an overview of Pillar One and a discussion of the scope of Amount A, please see our prior blog posts.) The scope tests seek to capture those large MNEs that are able to participate in an active and sustained manner in the economic life of market jurisdictions through engagement extending beyond the mere conclusion of sales, in order to generate profits, without necessarily having a commensurate level of taxable presence in that market (based on existing nexus rules).
The nexus rules are designed to protect the interests of smaller jurisdictions, and in particular developing economies, and their desire to benefit from the new taxing right. The new nexus rules determine entitlement of a market jurisdiction to an allocation of Amount A only. They do not alter the nexus rules for other tax purposes. The new nexus rules could apply differently for ADS (Automated Digital Services) and CFB (Consumer Facing Businesses). For ADS, exceeding a market revenue threshold could be the only test to establish nexus. According to the OECD, the very nature of the ADS allows them to be provided remotely and such businesses generally have a significant and sustained engagement with the market even if there is not a physical presence. For CFB, the OECD believes that the ability to participate remotely in a market jurisdiction is less pronounced. This, together with the additional complexity and compliance costs associated with sourcing revenue derived by CFB and the broad acknowledgment that profit margins are typically lower for CFB compared to ADS, could justify a higher nexus standard for CFB. One approach for satisfying this higher nexus standard is through a higher threshold and the presence of additional indicators (“plus” factors) which would evidence an active and sustained engagement in that jurisdiction beyond mere sales.
The new taxing right established through Amount A of Pillar One only applies to those multinational entity (MNE) groups that fall within the defined scope of Amount A. The scope of Amount A is based on two elements: an activity test and a threshold test.
According to the OECD, the definition of the scope responds to the need to revisit taxing rules in response to a changed economy. The existing international tax rules generally attach a taxing right to profits derived from a physical presence in a jurisdiction. However, given globalization and the digitalization of the economy, the OECD believes that businesses can, with or without the benefit of local operations, participate in an active and sustained manner in the economic life of a market jurisdiction through engagement extending beyond the mere conclusion of sales, in order to increase the value of their products, their sales and their profits.
Just in time for the holidays, the OECD has published detailed guidance about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on transfer pricing. The guidance has useful information for taxpayers and tax administrations alike. It contains general advice on the application of basic transfer pricing principles during the pandemic, as well as specific advice on four issues: (i) comparability analyses, (ii) allocating losses, (iii) government-assistance programs, and (iv) advance pricing arrangements (“APAs”). The OECD guidance is broadly consistent with comments we made in a prior post about the impact of the pandemic on transfer pricing.
Continue Reading OECD Guidance on Pandemic’s Impact on Transfer Pricing
As indicated in an earlier post, the EU Commission had proposed in July to amend the Directive on Administrative Cooperation, to extend the EU tax transparency rules to digital platforms. The Member States have now agreed on the proposal. The agreed proposal on administrative cooperation (DAC 7) will ensure that Member States automatically exchange information on the revenues generated by sellers on digital platforms, whether the platform is located in the EU or not.
Continue Reading New Tax Transparency Rules for Digital Platforms (Update) and More