Category: Commodity Transactions

Commodity transactions are transactions involving mining and extraction commodities (oil, gas and minerals) and agricultural commodities (wheat, coffee, cocoa, fruit, sugar, meat etc.). Transfer pricing issues related to commodity transactions are often related to marketing and sales hubs in low tax jurisdictions, eg. use of the Singapore-sling scheme. See also about “the sixth method”.

Australia vs Glencore, September 2019, Federal Court of Australia, Case No FCA 1432

Australia vs Glencore, September 2019, Federal Court of Australia, Case No FCA 1432

Glencore Australia (CMPL) sold copper concentrate produced in Australia to its Swiss parent, Glencore International AG (GIAG). The tax administration found, that the price paid by Glencore International AG to Glencore Australia for the copper concentrate in the relevant years according to a price sharing agreement was less than the price that might reasonably be expected to have been paid in an arm’s length dealing between independent parties. ‘The amended assessments included in the taxpayer’s assessable income additional amounts of $49,156,382 (2007), $83,228,784 (2008) and $108,675,756 (2009) referrable to the consideration which the Commissioner considered would constitute an arm’s length payment for the copper concentrate sold to Glencore International AG in each of the relevant years. The Federal Court of Australia found in favor of Glencore. “Accordingly I find that the taxpayer has established that the prices that CMPL was paid by GIAG for the ... Continue to full case
Glencore in $680 million Transfer Pricing Dispute with HMRC

Glencore in $680 million Transfer Pricing Dispute with HMRC

In a publication of preliminary results for 2018 mining giant Glencore reports a major tax assessment issued by HMRC in December 2018. “UK Tax Audit In December 2018, HMRC issued formal transfer pricing, permanent establishment and diverted profits tax assessments for the 2008 – 2017 tax years, amounting to $680 million. The Group intends to appeal and vigorously contest these assessments, following, over the years, various legal opinions received and detailed analysis conducted, supporting its positions and policies applied, and therefore the Group has not provided for the amount assessed. Management does not anticipate a significant risk of material changes in estimates in this matter in the next financial year.“ Share: ... Continue to full case
Australia vs BHP Billiton, January 2019, Federal Court of Australia,  Case No [2019] FCAFC 4

Australia vs BHP Billiton, January 2019, Federal Court of Australia, Case No [2019] FCAFC 4

Mining group BHP Billiton had not in it’s Australian CfC income included income from associated British group companies from sales of Australian goods through Singapore. The tax authorities held that the British companies in BHP’s dual-listed company structure fell within a definition of “associate”, and part of the income should therfore be taxed in Australia under local CfC legislation. In December 2017 BHP won the case in an administrative court but this decision was appealed to the Federal Court by the authorities. The Federal Court found in favor of the tax authority. The court found that both BHP’s Australian and British arms are associates, and therefore subject to tax in Australia under Australien CfC rules. BHP has now asked the High Court for leave to appeal. Australia v BHP jan 2019 FC AFC 4 Share: ... Continue to full case
Canada vs Cameco Corp., October 2018, Tax Court of Canada, Case No 2018 TCC 195

Canada vs Cameco Corp., October 2018, Tax Court of Canada, Case No 2018 TCC 195

Canadian mining company, Cameco Corp., sells uranium to a wholly owned trading hub, Cameco Europe Ltd., registred in low tax jurisdiction, Switzerland, which then re-sells the uranium to independent buyers. The parties had entered into a series of controlled transactions related to this activity and as a result the Swiss trading hub, Cameco Europe Ltd., was highly profitable. Following an audit, the Canadian tax authorities issued a transfer pricing tax assessment covering years 2003, 2005, 2006, and later tax assessments for subsequent tax years, adding up to a total of approximately US 1.5 bn in taxes, interest and penalties. The tax authorities first position was that the controlled purchase and sale agreements should be disregarded as a sham as all important functions and decisions were in fact made by Cameco Corp. in Canada. As a second and third position the tax authorities held that the Canadian transfer ... Continue to full case
Russia vs Togliattiazot, September 2018, Russian Arbitration Court, Case No. No. А55-1621 / 2018

Russia vs Togliattiazot, September 2018, Russian Arbitration Court, Case No. No. А55-1621 / 2018

A Russian company, Togliattiazot, supplied ammonia to the external market through a Swiss trading hub, Nitrochem Distribution AG. The tax authority found that the selling price of the ammonia to Nitrochem Distribution AG had not been determined by Togliattiazot in accordance with the arm’s length principle but had been to low. Hence, a transfer pricing assessment was issued where the CUP method was applied. At first, the company argued that Togliattiazot and Nitrochem Distribution AG were not even affiliates. Later, the company argued that transfer prices had been determined in accordance with the TNM-method. The court ruled in favor of the Russian tax authority. Based on information gathered by the tax authorities – SPARK-Interfax and Orbis Bureau Van Djik bases, Switzerland’s trade register, Internet sites, and e-mail correspondence etc – the tax authorities were able to prove in court, the presence of actual control between ... Continue to full case
Africa - Mining and Transfer Pricing

Africa – Mining and Transfer Pricing

Most Sub Saharan African jurisdictions see the area of mineral transfers/sales as the main transfer pricing risk, but only few have systems in place to check if prices applied to minerals transferred to related parties comply with the arm’s length principle. Studies highlights a strong need for capacity strengthening in the area of transfer pricing throughout the African continent and for enhancing the knowledge of mining industry within tax authorities. South Africa has, for many years, been the leader in transfer pricing audits among the African countries. But emerging countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, are now making a concerted effort to develop transfer pricing capability. In Tanzania, for example, the Acasia Mining Plc. was recently  issued a USD 190 billion tax bill. The assessment demonstrates a strong political will in Africa to address transfer pricing non-compliance. A paper commissioned by the World Bank highlights transfer pricing issues within the ... Continue to full case

Canada vs Cameco, November 2017, Pending case – C$2.2bn in taxes

Several mining companies are beeing audited by the Canadian Revenue Agency for aggressive tax planning and tax evasion schemes. Among the high-profile companies that have filed pleadings with the Canadian Tax Court are Cameco, Silver Wheaton, Burlington Resources, Conoco Funding Company and Suncor Energy. The CRA says, the companies inappropriately ran international transactions through subsidiary companies in low-tax foreign jurisdictions. In the Cameco case the Revenue Agency has audited years 2003 to 2015 and challenged Cameco Canada’s arrangements with a Swiss subsidiary. Cameco sells uranium to its marketing subsidiary in Switzerland, which re-sells it to buyers, incurring less tax than the company would through its Canadian office. The CRA position is that Cameco Canada was in fact carrying the uranium business – not Swiss Cameco subsidiary. The total tax bill for the 13 years: $2.1-billion, plus interest and penalties. Three tax years are currently being ... Continue to full case

South Africa vs. Kumba Iron Ore, 2017, Settlement 2.5bn

A transfer pricing dispute between South African Revenue Service and Sishen Iron Ore, a subsidiary of Kumba Iron Ore, has now been resolved in a settlement of ZAR 2.5bn. The case concerned disallowance of sales commissions paid to offshore sales and marketing subsidiaries in Amsterdam, Luxembourg and Hong Kong. Since 2012, Kumba Iron Ore’s international marketing has been integrated with the larger Anglo American group’s Singapore-based marketing hub. The settlement follows a similar investigations into the transfer pricing activities of Evraz Highveld Steel, which resulted in a R685 million tax claim against the now-bankrupt company related to apparent tax evasion using an Austrian shell company between 2007 and 2009. Share: ... Continue to full case

South Africa vs. Sasol, Oct. 2017, $878 million tax case

A tax dispute over a potential 11.6 billion rand ($878 million) charge between South Africa -based international chemicals and energy company Sasol and the Revenue Service will play out in South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal within the next 12 months. June 30. 2017 a R1.2-billion tax liability was approved by the Tax Court in a case against Sasol by SARS relating to the company’s international crude oil procurement activities between 2005 and 2012. The Tax Court further reported that the final tax amount along with other tax principles raised by SARS in relation to Sasol Oil’s crude purchases in 2013 and 2014, would result in a further tax exposure of R11.6-billion, thus uplifting the total tax liability to R12.8-billion. Aug. 14. 2017 the supreme court granted Sasol’s application for leave to appeal the tax court ruling. Sasol’s dispute with the tax authority comes after ... Continue to full case

US vs. Cameco, July 2017, Settlement of $122th.

Canadian mining company, Cameco Corp, has settled a tax dispute and will pay the IRS $122,000 for income years 2009-2012. Cameco’s dispute with tax authorities relates to its offshore marketing structure and transfer pricing. Cameco sells uranium to its marketing subsidiary in Switzerland, which re-sells it to buyers, incurring less tax than the company would through its Canadian office. Cameco says it has a marketing subsidiary in Switzerland because most customers are located outside Canada. Share: ... Continue to full case
Tanzania vs. Acacia Mining Plc, July 2017, $150 billion tax bill

Tanzania vs. Acacia Mining Plc, July 2017, $150 billion tax bill

The London-based gold mining firm, Acacia Mining Plc, the largest mining company operating in Tanzania, was in July 2017 issued a $190 billion tax bill. The bill is split into $40 billion in unpaid taxes and an additional $150 billion in interest and penalties. The case is based on the findings of government-appointed committees. Following the release of a government-ordered audit of the mining industry, Acacia Mining was  accused of operating illegally in the country and tax evasion. The charge covers alleged under-declared export revenues from the Bulyanhulu and Buzwagi mines over periods between 2000 and 2017. For its part, Acacia, while refuting the government’s findings, “re-iterates that it has fully declared all revenues”. Share: ... Continue to full case
Russia vs Uralkaliy PAO, July 2017, Moscow Arbitration Court, Case No. A40-29025/17-75-227

Russia vs Uralkaliy PAO, July 2017, Moscow Arbitration Court, Case No. A40-29025/17-75-227

A Russian company, Uralkaliy PAO, sold potassium chloride to a related trading company in Switzerland , Uralkali Trading SA. Following an audit, the Russian tax authority concluded that Uralkaliy PAO had set the prices at an artificially low level. A decision was therefore issued, ordering the taxpayer to pay an additional tax of 980 million roubles and a penalty of 3 million roubles. Uralkaly PAO had used the transactional net margin method (TNMM). The reasons given for not using the CUP method was that no publicly accessible sources of information on comparable transactions between independent parties existed. The range of return on sales for 2012 under the TNMM was 1.83% – 5.59%, while Uralkali Trading SA’s actual profit margin was 1.81%. The court supported the taxpayer’s choice of pricing method (TNMM), and since the Swiss trader’s actual profit margin did not exceed the upper limit of the range, ... Continue to full case
South Africa vs Sasol, 30 June 2017, Tax Court, Case No. TC-2017-06 - TCIT 13065

South Africa vs Sasol, 30 June 2017, Tax Court, Case No. TC-2017-06 – TCIT 13065

The taxpayer is registered and incorporated in the Republic of South Africa and carries on business in the petrochemical industry. It has some of its subsidiaries in foreign jurisdictions. Business activities include the importation and refinement of crude oil. This matter concerns the analysis of supply agreements entered into between the XYZ Corp and some of its foreign subsidiaries. It thus brings to fore, inter alia the application of the South African developing fiscal legal principles, namely, residence based taxation, section 9D of the Income Tax Act 58 of 1962 and other established principles of tax law, such as anti-tax avoidance provisions and substance over form. Tax avoidance is the use of legal methods to modify taxpayer’s financial situation to reduce the amount of tax that is payable SARS’s ground of assessment is that the XYZ Group structure constituted a transaction, operation or scheme as ... Continue to full case

Australia vs Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, April 2017 – Going to Court

Singapore marketing hubs are being used by large multinational companies — and billions of dollars in related-party transactions that are being funnelled through the hubs each year. The Australian Tax Office has issued claims of substantial unpaid taxes to mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have revealed through the Senate inquiry they have been issued amended assessments for tax, interest and penalties of $522 million and $107 million respectively. These claims will be challenged in court. The cases centres on the use of commodity trading/marketing hubs established in Singapore colloquially known as the Singapore Sling. The Australian taxation commissioner alleges Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton is using subsidiaries in Singapore to reduce the taxes in Australia. It has been revealed that from 2006 to 2014, BHP Billiton sold $US210 billion worth of resources to its Singapore subsidiary. That was ... Continue to full case
Russia vs Dulisma Oil, January 2017, Russian Court Case No. A40-123426 / 16-140-1066

Russia vs Dulisma Oil, January 2017, Russian Court Case No. A40-123426 / 16-140-1066

This case relates to sales of crude oil from the Russian company, Dulisma Oil,  to an unrelated trading company, Concept Oil Ltd, registered in Hong Kong. The Russian tax authorities found that the price at which oil was sold deviated from quotations published by the Platts price reporting agency. They found that the prices for particular deliveries had been lower than the arm’s length price and issued a tax assessment and penalties of RUB 177 million. Dulisma Oil had set the prices using quotations published by Platts, which is a common practice in crude oil trading. The contract price was determined as the mean of average quotations for Dubai crude on publication days agreed upon by the parties, minus a differential determined before the delivery date “on the basis of the situation prevailing on the market”. Transfer pricing documentation had not been prepared, and the company also failed ... Continue to full case
Norway vs. Total E&P Norge AS, October 2015, Supreme Court  2014/498, ref no. HR-2015-00699-A

Norway vs. Total E&P Norge AS, October 2015, Supreme Court 2014/498, ref no. HR-2015-00699-A

Total E&P Norge AS (Total) is engaged in petroleum exploration and production activities on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Income from such activities is subject to a special petroleum tax, in addition to the normal corporate tax, resulting in a total nominal tax rate of 78%. In 2002-2007, Total sold gas to the controlled trading companies, and the trading companies resold the gas to third parties on the open market. The Supreme Court concluded that Total did not have a right to full access to the comparables. Although section 3-13 (4) of the Tax Assessment Act states that information subject to confidentiality may be given to third parties with the effect that such third parties are subject to the same duty of confidentiality, this rule could not, according to the Supreme Court, be applied in the present case. This was because the very point of the ... Continue to full case
Canada vs. GlaxoSmithKline. October 2012, Supreme Court

Canada vs. GlaxoSmithKline. October 2012, Supreme Court

The Canadian Supreme Court ruled in the case of GlaxoSmithKline Inc. regarding the intercompany prices established in purchases of ranitidine, the active ingredient used in the anti-ulcer drug Zantac, from a related party during years 1990 through 1993. The Supreme Court partially reversed an earlier determination by the Tax Court, upholding a determination by the Federal Court of Appeals in its conclusion that if other transactions are relevant in determining whether transfer prices are reasonable, these transactions should be taken into account. However, the Supreme Court did not determine whether the transfer pricing method used by GlaxoSmithKline Inc. was reasonable, and instead remitted the matter back to the Tax Court. Canada_Glaxo_Supreme-Court Share: ... Continue to full case
Australia vs SNF, June 2011

Australia vs SNF, June 2011

SNF was a member of a global group with headquarters in France. SNF bought polyacrylamides from group companies overseas, and sold them to unrelated end-users in various industries in Australia. From its incorporation in 1990 until 2004, SNF consistently returned tax losses. SNF was subject to a transfer pricing audit. Determinations were made under Division 13 of Part III of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 to adjust the consideration for the company’s international related party transactions to reflect an arm’s length amount. For the income years from 1997 to 2003, the Commissioner made determinations under ss136AD(3) and (4) of the Act as to the arm’s length price of the chemicals. The tax authorities issued notices of assessment in 2007, and subsequently disallowed the taxpayer’s objections to those assessments. Before the Court the commissioner submitted that the taxpayer was able to continue to trade, not ... Continue to full case