In February 2020, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) released Transfer Pricing Guidance on Financial Transactions (“Guidance”). The Guidance is significant because it is the first time that the OECD’s Transfer Pricing Guidelines have been updated to include guidance on the transfer pricing aspects of financial transactions. The OECD expects that the Guidance should contribute to consistency in the application of transfer pricing and help to avoid transfer pricing disputes and double taxation. The Guidance addresses specific issues related to the pricing of financial transactions, such as treasury functions, intra-group loans, cash pooling, hedging, and guarantees. Those issues are the subject of separate posts. This post covers captive insurance.
The term “captive insurance” is intended to refer to an insurance undertaking or entity substantially all of whose insurance business is to provide insurance policies for risks of entities of the MNE group to which it belongs. The term “reinsurance” refers to a reinsurance undertaking or entity the purpose of which is to provide reinsurance policies for risks of unrelated parties that are in the first instance insured by entities of the MNE group to which it belongs.
Captive Insurers may be self-managed from within the MNE group, or managed by an unrelated service provider (often a division of a large insurance broker). Typically this management would include ensuring compliance with local law, issuing policy documents, collecting premiums, paying claims, preparing reports and providing local directors. If the captive insurance is managed from within the MNE group it is necessary to determine which entity manages it and to appropriately reward that management.
In order to consider the transfer pricing implications of a transaction with a captive insurer, the initial question will be whether the transaction under consideration is one of insurance. This analysis requires consideration of whether the risk has been assumed by the insurer and whether risk diversification has been achieved. Where the captive insurer insures the risk and reinsures it in the open market, it should receive an appropriate reward for the basic services it provides.
With respect to pricing of premiums, comparable uncontrolled prices may be available from comparable arrangements between unrelated parties. These may be internal comparables if the captive insurer has suitably similar business with unrelated customers, or there may be external comparables. Alternatively, actuarial analysis may be an appropriate method to independently determine the premium likely to be required at arm’s length for insurance of a particular risk. The remuneration of the captive insurer can also be arrived at by considering the arm’s length profitability of the captive insurer by reference to a two-staged approach, which takes into account both profitability of claims (the “combined ratio”) and return on capital.