Cost of services plus method preferred to other methods.
(i) FP designs and manufactures consumer electronic devices that incorporate advanced technology. In year 1, FP introduces Product X, an entertainment device targeted primarily at the youth market. FP’s wholly-owned, exclusive U.S. distributor, USSub, sells Product X in the U.S. market. USSub hires an independent marketing firm, Agency A, to promote Product X in the U.S. market. Agency A has successfully promoted other electronic products on behalf of other uncontrolled parties. USSub executes a one-year, renewable contract with Agency A that requires it to develop the market for Product X, within an annual budget set by USSub. In years 1 through 3, Agency A develops advertising, buys media, and sponsors events featuring Product X. Agency A receives a markup of 25% on all expenses of promoting Product X, with the exception of media buys, which are reimbursed at cost. During year 3, sales of Product X decrease sharply, as Product X is displaced by competitors’ products. At the end of year 3, sales of Product X are discontinued.
(ii) Prior to the start of year 4, FP develops a new entertainment device, Product Y. Like Product X, Product Y is intended for sale to the youth market, but it is marketed under a new trademark distinct from that used for Product X. USSub decides to perform all U.S. market promotion for Product Y. USSub hires key Agency A staff members who handled the successful Product X campaign. To promote Product Y, USSub intends to use methods similar to those used successfully by Agency A to promote Product X (print advertising, media, event sponsorship, etc.). FP and USSub enter into a one-year, renewable agreement concerning promotion of Product Y in the U.S. market. Under the agreement, FP compensates USSub for promoting Product Y, based on a cost of services plus markup of A%. Third-party media buys by USSub in connection with Product Y are reimbursed at cost.
(iii) Assume that under the contractual arrangements between FP and USSub, the arm’s length consideration for Product Y and the trademark or other intangible property may be determined reliably under one or more transfer pricing methods. At issue in this example is the separate evaluation of the arm’s length compensation for the year 4 promotional activities performed by USSub pursuant to its contract with FP.
(iv) USSub’s accounting records contain reliable data that separately state the costs incurred to promote Product Y. A functional analysis indicates that USSub’s activities to promote Product Y in year 4 are similar to activities performed by Agency A during years 1 through 3 under the contract with USSub. In other respects, no material differences exist in the market conditions or the promotional activities performed in year 4, as compared to those in years 1 through 3.
(v) It is possible to identify uncontrolled distributors or licensees of electronic products that perform, as one component of their business activities, promotional activities similar to those performed by USSub. However, it is unlikely that publicly available accounting data from these companies would allow computation of the comparable transactional costs or total services costs associated with the marketing or promotional activities that these entities perform, as one component of business activities. If that were possible, the comparable profits method for services might provide a reliable measure of an arm’s length result. The functional analysis of the marketing activities performed by USSub in year 4 indicates that they are similar to the activities performed by Agency A in years 1 through 3 for Product X. Because reliable information is available concerning the markup on costs charged in a comparable uncontrolled transaction, the most reliable measure of an arm’s length price is the cost of services plus method in § 1.482-9(e).