Category: Arm’s Length Principle

The authoritative statement of the arm’s length principle as used in transfer pricing is found in paragraph 1 of Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention, which forms the basis of bilateral tax treaties involving OECD member countries and an increasing number of non-member countries.

Article 9 provides: [Where] conditions are made or imposed between the two [associated] enterprises in their commercial or financial relations which differ from those which would be made between independent enterprises, then any profits which would, but for those conditions, have accrued to one of the enterprises, but, by reason of those conditions, have not so accrued, may be included in the profits of that enterprise and taxed accordingly.

The analysis required to apply the arm’s length principle on controlled transactions is referred to in the transfer pricing guidelines as a comparability analysis. See TPG 1.6.

European Commission vs Belgium and Ireland, February 2019, General Court Case No 62016TJ0131

European Commission vs Belgium and Ireland, February 2019, General Court Case No 62016TJ0131

In 2016, the Commission requested that Belgium reclaim around €700 million from multinational corporations in what the Commission found to be illegal state aid provided under the Belgian “excess profit” tax scheme. The tax scheme allowed selected multinational corporations to exempt “excess profits” from the tax base when calculating corporate tax in Belgium. The European Court of Justice concludes that the Commission erroneously considered that the Belgian excess profit system constituted an aid scheme and orders that decision must be annulled in its entirety, in as much as it is based on the erroneous conclusion concerning the existence of such a scheme. For state aid to constitute an ‘aid scheme’, it must be awarded without requiring “further implementing measures.” According to court, “the Belgian tax authorities had a margin of discretion over all of the essential elements of the exemption system in question.” Belgium could ... Continue to full case
Denmark vs Water Utility Companies, November 2018, Danish Supreme Court, Case no 27/2018 and 28/2018

Denmark vs Water Utility Companies, November 2018, Danish Supreme Court, Case no 27/2018 and 28/2018

These two triel cases concerned the calculation of the basis for tax depreciation (value of assets) in a number of Danish Water utility companies which had been established in the years 2006 – 2010 in connection with a public separation of water supply and wastewater utility activities. The valuation of the assets would form the basis for the water utility companies’ tax depreciation. The transfer was controlled and subject to Danish arm’s length provisions. The Supreme Court found that the calculation method (DCF) used by the Danish Tax Agency did not provide a suitable basis for calculating the tax value of the transferred assets. The Court stated that for water supply and wastewater treatment it is true that the companies are legaly obligated to provide these facilities and that the governmental regulation of the activity – the “rest in itself” principle – means that no income can be ... Continue to full case
Malawi vs Eastern Produce Malawi Ltd, July 2018, Malawi High Court, JRN 43 af 2016

Malawi vs Eastern Produce Malawi Ltd, July 2018, Malawi High Court, JRN 43 af 2016

Eastern Produce Ltd is part of Camellia Plc Group, and is is engaged in the growing, production and processing of tea in Malawi. The Malawi tax administration conducted a tax audit and found that transfer prices for intergroup service transactions had not been at arm’s length. However, in the notifications to Eastern Produce Ltd. no reference was made to the local arm’s length regulations – only the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines. Eastern Produce Limited complained to the High Court and argued that: “The decision and proceeding by MRA to use OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) guidelines whilst performing transfer pricing analysis and as a basis for effecting amendments to tax assessments was illegal. CONSIDERATIONS OF THE COURT, EXCERPS “With regard to transfer pricing in 2014, the law was contained in Section 127A. Section 127A provides as follows: “where a person who is not resident in Malawi carries ... Continue to full case
Brazil vs Eli Lilly, April 2018, CARF Case No 1302-002-725F

Brazil vs Eli Lilly, April 2018, CARF Case No 1302-002-725F

This case concerns imports from related companies and use of the RPM method. Click here for translation Brazil vs Eli Lilly 11 april 2018 CARF Case No 1302-002-725F Share: ... Continue to full case
Norway vs. Exxonmobil Production Norway Inc., January 2018, Lagsmanret no LB-2016-160306

Norway vs. Exxonmobil Production Norway Inc., January 2018, Lagsmanret no LB-2016-160306

An assessment was issued by the Norwegian tax authorities for years 2009 2010 and 2011 concerning the interest on a loan between Exxonmobil Production Norway Inc. (EPNI) as the lender and Exxon Mobile Delaware Holdings Inc. (EMDHI) as the borrower. Both EPNI and EMDHI are subsidiaries in the Exxon Group, where the parent company is domiciled in the United States. The loan agreement between EPNI and EMDHI was entered into in 2009. The loan had a drawing facility of NOK 20 billion. The agreed maturity was 2019, and the interest rate was fixed at 3 months NIBOR plus a margin of 30 basis points. The agreement also contained provisions on quarterly interest rate regulation and a interest adjustment clause allowing the lender to adjust the interest rate on changes in the borrower’s creditworthiness. The dispute concerns the margin of 30 basis points and the importance ... Continue to full case
Europe vs Hamamatsu, Dec 2017, European Court of Justice, Case No C-529-16

Europe vs Hamamatsu, Dec 2017, European Court of Justice, Case No C-529-16

The case concerns the effect of transfer pricing year-end adjustments on VAT – the relationship between transfer pricing and the valuation of goods for customs (VAT) purposes (Hamamatsu case C-529/16). Hamamatsu Photonics Deutschland GmbH (Hamamatsu) is a German subsidiary of the Japanese company Hamamatsu, and it acts as a distributor of optical devices purchased from the parent company. The transfer pricing policy of the group, which is covered by an Advanced Pricing Agreement (APA) with the German Tax Authorities, provides that the consideration paid by Hamamatsu to purchase the goods sold allows Hamamatsu Photonics a target profit. Hamamatsu accounted for an operating margin below the threshold agreed upon in the APA. The Japanese parent company consequently carried out a downward adjustment to allow the achievement of the target profitability by its German subsidiary. Hamamatsu filed a refund claim for the higher customs duties paid on ... Continue to full case
Spain vs. Afinsa and Filatelico, Nov. 2017, Supreme Court, Case no 4008/2017

Spain vs. Afinsa and Filatelico, Nov. 2017, Supreme Court, Case no 4008/2017

The Supreme Court of Spain ruling in the Afinsa Tangibles SA stamp-fraud case – a pyramid scheme that cheated 350,000 people out of billions of dollars. One of the biggest fraud cases in the history of Spain. In May 2016, the head offices of two investment firms, Forum Filatelico and Afinsa Tangibles, were sealed off by 300 police officers who seized documents, bundles of banknotes worth €10 million and various works of art. The directors of the companies was accused of fraud, embezzlement, criminal insolvency, money laundering and tax evasion. Although Forum Filatelico reported post-tax profits of nearly €90 million in 2004, investigations revealed that both companies were effectively bankrupt, with more than €3.5 billion unaccounted for. Share: ... Continue to full case
US-vs-Analog-Devices-Subsidiaries-Nov-22-2016-United-State-Tax-Court-147-TC-no-15

US-vs-Analog-Devices-Subsidiaries-Nov-22-2016-United-State-Tax-Court-147-TC-no-15

The US Tax Court held that a closing agreement did not result in retroactive indebtedness. Analog Devices Corp. repatriated cash dividends from a foreign subsidiary and claimed an 85% dividends received deduction for FY 2005, cf. US regs § 965. No related party indebtedness was reported by the company which would have limited the deduction available. During the audit of Analog Devises Corp. the IRS claimed that a 2 pct. royalty from the subsidiary should be increased to 6% for FY 2001-2005. This was accepted and Analog Devises Corp. entered into a closing agreement with the IRS. The US Tax Court held that the closing agreement concerning accounts receivable, cf. the increased royalty, was not related party indebtedness for the purposes of § 965. US vs Analog Devices & Subsidiaries, Nov 22 2016, United State Tax Court 147 TC no 15 Share: ... Continue to full case
Spain vs. CÍTRICOS Y REFRESCANTES, S.A., Oct. 2016

Spain vs. CÍTRICOS Y REFRESCANTES, S.A., Oct. 2016

The CÍTRICOS case is about the use of TNM-method in Spain prior to 2006. Article 16 of the pre-reform 2006 TRLIS, picked up the implementation of this method as a preferred respect to other methods. Following the amendment of the article, this preference has disappeared, invoking a new and more in line with the principles of the OECD. – Method net margin operations (TNMM) applied by the Administration. This method was not expressly admitted by the Spanish legislation prior to the 2006 reform. The tax administration justify their application of the method in the following notes: – Article 9 of the Hispano-Dutch Convention (Being market valuation of related-party transactions between an entity resident with a Dutch resident entity). In either case, when the two enterprises in their relations, joined by accepted conditions imposed, which differ from those which would be made between independent enterprises, the ... Continue to full case
Australia vs. Tech Mahindra Limited, September 2016, Federal Court, Case no. 2016 ATC 20-582

Australia vs. Tech Mahindra Limited, September 2016, Federal Court, Case no. 2016 ATC 20-582

This case is about the interpretation of Article 7 (the business profits rule) and Article 12 (the royalties provision) of the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of India for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income. The issue was misuse of the provision in article 12 about cross-border royalties and article 7 about business profits. The case was brought before the Supreme Court, where special leave to appeal was refused 10 March 2017. Australia-vs-TECH-MAHINDRA-LIMITED-September-2016-Federal-Court-case-no-2016-ATC-20-582 Share: ... Continue to full case
US vs. Boston Scientific Corporation, July 2016

US vs. Boston Scientific Corporation, July 2016

Boston Scientific Corporation entered into a Stipulation of Settled Issues with the IRS that is intended to resolve all disputes related to transfer pricing issues for Guidant Corporation’s 2001 through 2006 tax years and Boston Scientific’s 2006 and 2007 tax years. The Stipulation of Settled Issues is contingent upon the IRS Office of Appeals applying the same basis of settlement to all transfer pricing issues for Boston Scientific’s 2008 through 2010 tax years. If finalized, the settlement would resolve substantially all aspects of the controversy, and Boston Scientific would make net tax payments to the IRS of approximately $275 million. US-vs.-Boston-Scientific-Corp Share: ... Continue to full case
Sweden vs. Nobel Biocare Holding AB, HFD 2016 ref. 45

Sweden vs. Nobel Biocare Holding AB, HFD 2016 ref. 45

In January 2003, a Swedish company, Nobel Biocare Holding AB, entered into three loan agreements with its Swiss parent company. The loans had 15, 25 and 30 maturity respectively, with terms of amortization and with a variable interest rate corresponding to Stibor plus an interest rate margin of 1.75 percent points for one of the loans and 1.5 percent points for the other two loans. The same day the parent company transfered the loans to a sister company domiciled in the Netherlands Antilles. In June 2008 new loan agreements was signed. The new agreements lacked maturity and amortization and interest rates were stated in accordance with the Group’s monthly fixed interest rates. Amortization continued to take place in accordance with the provisions of the 2003 agreement, and the only actual change in relation to those agreements consisted in raising the interest rates by 2.5 percent points. These loans were transferred ... Continue to full case
Netherlands vs X BV, June 2016, Supreme Court, Case No 2016:1031 (14/05100)

Netherlands vs X BV, June 2016, Supreme Court, Case No 2016:1031 (14/05100)

In 1996, X BV acquired the right to commercially exploit an intangible asset (Z) for a period of 15 years for $ 63.5 million. X BV then entered a franchise agreements with group companies for the use of Z, including a Spanish PE of Y BV. According to the franchise agreement Y BV paid X BV a fee. According to X, in the calculation of the loss carry forward in Spain the franchise fee should not be fully attributed to the PE in Spain due to existing rules on internal roaylties. X states that the loss carry forward amounts to € 13.1 million. The tax authorities increases the loss carry forward with the fee paid to X, for the use of Z by the Spanish PE. According to the tax authorities, the loss carry forward is € 16.1 million. The District Court finds that no ... Continue to full case
France vs Société Lifestand vivre debout, 15 April 2016, CE

France vs Société Lifestand vivre debout, 15 April 2016, CE

In the case of Société Lifestand vivre debout, the Court considered that there was economic control in a situation where the rent for Swiss premises used by a Swiss entity was paid by a French company. The functions related to the activity of the Swiss company were actually performed by the French company. The French manager managed the Swiss company. Consequently, the transactions conducted between these two entities needed to comply with transfer pricing rules. Click here for translation Société Lifestand vivre debout _15_04_2016_CE no 372097 Share: ... Continue to full case
Sweden vs. taxpayer april 2016, Swedish Supreme Administrative Court, HFD 2016 ref. 23

Sweden vs. taxpayer april 2016, Swedish Supreme Administrative Court, HFD 2016 ref. 23

The Swedish Supreme Administrative Court makes it clear that OECD materials  can be used for interpreting Swedish domestic legislation in cases where the domestic legislation is based on OECD guidance and principles. It is also concluded, that the fact that an agreement is given a certain legal term does not mean that the Court i bound by that classification. It is the true meaning of the agreement – based on the facts and circumstances – that matters. Share: ... Continue to full case
France vs. Sté Amycel France, 16 March 2016, CE, No 372372),

France vs. Sté Amycel France, 16 March 2016, CE, No 372372),

In Sté Amycel France the Court held that the Tax Administration must use an “appropriate” comparable when making transfer pricing adjustments. The French company was selling goods to both group companies and unrelated final customers. The tax administration had used a transaction with the third party customers as an internal comparable. However, as the related companies were acting as distributors, the comparison with the pricing applied to a third party customers was considered inappropriate for the purposes of assessing an arm’s length dealing. The court found that the pricing difference actually reflected the fact that the contractual relationship in the two situations was not comparable. Click here for translation France vs Amycel France _16_03_2016_CE no 372372 Share: ... Continue to full case
US vs. Guidant Corporation. February 2016

US vs. Guidant Corporation. February 2016

The U.S. Tax Court held in favor of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, stating that neither Internal Revenue Code §482 nor the regulations thereunder require the Respondent to always determine the separate taxable income of each controlled taxpayer in a consolidated group contemporaneously with the making of the resulting adjustments. The Tax Court further held that §482 and the regulations thereunder allow the Respondent to aggregate one or more related transactions instead of making specific adjustments with respect to each type of transaction. US-vs.-Guidant-Corporation-and-Subsidiares-v.-Commissioner-of-Internal-Revenue Share: ... Continue to full case

US v Coca-Cola, December 2015. US Tax Court

The Coca-Cola Company submitted a petition to the U.S. Tax Court, requesting a redetermination of the deficiencies in Federal income tax for the years ended December 31, 2007, 2008 and 2009, as set forth by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue in a Notice of Deficiency dated September 15, 2015. The total amount in dispute is over $3.3 billion for the 3-year period. Major issues in the dispute include the method used to allocate profit to seven foreign subsidiaries, which use licensed trademarks and formulas to carry out the manufacture and sale of beverage concentrates in markets outside of the United States, as well as the application of correlative adjustments for foreign tax credits. The Coca-Cola Company claims that it used the same allocation method that had been reviewed and approved by the Internal Revenue Service during audits of tax years from 1996 through 2006, the ... Continue to full case
Italy vs SAME DEUTZ FAHR ITALIA s.p.a, July 2015, Supreme Court, no 15282

Italy vs SAME DEUTZ FAHR ITALIA s.p.a, July 2015, Supreme Court, no 15282

This case is about methods applicable for determination of “normal value” in transactions between related companies; the Comparable Uncontrolled Price method (CUP). Click here for translation Italy Supreme-Court-21st-July-2015-n.-15282 Share: ... Continue to full case
US vs. BMC Software. March 2015

US vs. BMC Software. March 2015

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued its ruling on the case of BMC Software, Inc. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. The case discussed issues relating to § 965 regarding repatriation of dividends and § 482. Following an audit, BMC had entered into a Closing Agreement, making primary and secondary adjustments to its transfer pricing arrangements. The Commissioner argued that the secondary adjustment affected BMC’s application of § 965. The court ruled in favor of BMC, reversing the tax court’s previous ruling. US-vs-BMC-Appeal-from-a-Decision-of-the-U.S.-Tax-Court Share: ... Continue to full case
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