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, November 2020, Full Federal Court of Australia, Case No FCAFC 187

Australia vs Glencore, November 2020, Full Federal Court of Australia, Case No FCAFC 187

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) referable 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
Canada vs Cameco Corp., June 2020, Federal Court of Appeal, Case No 2020 FCA 112.

Canada vs Cameco Corp., June 2020, Federal Court of Appeal, Case No 2020 FCA 112.

Cameco, together with its subsidiaries, is a large uranium producer and supplier of the services that convert one form of uranium into another form. Cameco had uranium mines in Saskatchewan and uranium refining and processing (conversion) facilities in Ontario. Cameco also had subsidiaries in the United States that owned uranium mines in the United States. In 1993, the United States and Russian governments executed an agreement that provided the means by which Russia could sell uranium formerly used in its nuclear arsenal. The net result of this agreement was that a certain quantity of uranium would be offered for sale in the market. Cameco initially attempted to secure this source of uranium on its own but later took the lead in negotiating an agreement for the purchase of this uranium by a consortium of companies. When the final agreement was signed in 1999, Cameco designated ... Continue to full case
Zambia vs Mopani Copper Mines Plc., May 2020, Supreme Court of Zambia, Case No 2017/24

Zambia vs Mopani Copper Mines Plc., May 2020, Supreme Court of Zambia, Case No 2017/24

Following an audit of Mopani Copper Mines Plc. the Zambian Revenue Authority (ZRA) found that the price of copper sold to related party Glencore International AG had been significantly lower than the price of copper sold to third parties. A tax assessment was issued where the ZRA concluded that the internal pricing had not been determined in accordance with the arm’s length principle, and further that one of the main purposes for the mis-pricing had been to reduce tax liabilities. Mopani Copper Mines Plc. first appealed the decision to Zambia’s Tax Appeal Tribunal, and after a decision was handed down by the Tribunal in favor of the ZRA, a new appeal was filed with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court dismissed Mopani’s appeal and ruled in favor of the ZRA. App-024-2017-Mopani-Copper-Mines-Plc-Vs-Zambia-Revenue-Authority-20th-May-2020-Mambilima-Cj-Malila-And-Mutuna-JJS ... Continue to full case
Australia vs BHP Biliton Limited, March 2020, HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA, Case No [2020] HCA 5

Australia vs BHP Biliton Limited, March 2020, HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA, Case No [2020] HCA 5

BHP Billiton Ltd, an Australian resident taxpayer, is part of a dual-listed company arrangement (“the DLC Arrangement”) with BHP Billiton Plc (“Plc”). BHP Billiton Marketing AG is a Swiss trading hub in the group which, during the relevant years, was a controlled foreign company (CFC) of BHP Billiton Ltd because BHP Billiton Ltd indirectly held 58 per cent of the shares in the Swiss trading hub. BHP Billiton Plc indirectly held the remaning 42 per cent. The Swiss trading hub purchased commodities from both BHP Billiton Ltd’s Australian subsidiaries and BHP Billiton Plc’s Australian entities and derived income from sale of these commodities into the export market. There was no dispute that BHP Billiton Marketing AG’s income from the sale of commodities purchased from BHP Billiton Ltd’s Australian subsidiaries was “tainted sales income” to be included in the assessable income of BHP Billiton Ltd under ... Continue to full case
Russia vs PJSC Uralkali, November 2019, Supreme Court Review Panel, Case No. А40-29025/2017

Russia vs PJSC Uralkali, November 2019, Supreme Court Review Panel, Case No. А40-29025/2017

PJSC Uralkali, produced and sold fertilizers (“potassium chloride”) through a related Swiss trader. Uralkali had informed the authorities about the controlled transaction and submitted the required TP documentation. To substantiate the pricing of the transaction they had applied the transactional net margin method (TNMM) with the Swiss trader as the tested party. The Russian tax authorities disapproved of the choice of method and the way the method had been applied. They conducted an analysis, using the CUP method, and determined the the prices used in the controlled transaction deviated from price quotations of an independent pricing agency (Argus). Hence a tax assessment was issued. PJSC Uralkali disapproved of the assessment and brought the case to court. The court of first instance supported Uralkali’s position, and argued that the tax authority should have applied the same TP method as the Taxpayer. Failure of the tax authority ... Continue to full case
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
Russia vs PJSC Uralkali, April 2019, Court of Appeal, Case No. А40-29025/2017

Russia vs PJSC Uralkali, April 2019, Court of Appeal, Case No. А40-29025/2017

PJSC Uralkali, produced and sold fertilizers (“potassium chloride”) through a related Swiss trader. Uralkali had informed the authorities about the controlled transaction and submitted the required TP documentation. To substantiate the pricing of the transaction they had applied the transactional net margin method (TNMM) with the Swiss trader as the tested party. The Russian tax authorities disapproved of the choice of method and the way the method had been applied. They conducted an analysis, using the CUP method, and determined the the prices used in the controlled transaction deviated from price quotations of an independent pricing agency (Argus). Hence a tax assessment was issued. PJSC Uralkali disapproved of the assessment and brought the case to court. The court of first instance supported Uralkali’s position, and argued that the tax authority should have applied the same TP method as the Taxpayer. Failure of the tax authority ... Continue to full case
Russia vs RIF Trading House, April 2019, Moscow City Court, Case No. No. A40-241020/18

Russia vs RIF Trading House, April 2019, Moscow City Court, Case No. No. A40-241020/18

In 2014, RIF Trading House sourced and bought agricultural products in Russia – wheat, barley, corn and peas. These products were then exported to a trader in the UAE, which turned out to be related to RIF Trading House. However, RIF Trading House had not provide information on the relationship, nor the required transfer pricing documentation on the controlled transactions. Following an audit, the Russian Federal Tax Service came to the conclusion that the export prices had been lowered in the supply of products to the trader in UAE. The Russian Federal Tax Service independently conducted a transfer pricing analysis – functional analysis, analyzed the market, commodity exchange prices (Platts, ICAR) etc., and then issued a tax assessment where combinations of pricing methods and adjustments had been applied to determine the pricing of the controlled transactions and thus the income of RIF Trading House. Disagreeing ... 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.“ ... 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 ... Continue to full case
Russia vs LLC "Bulatovskiy Basalt", November 2018, Court of Appeal, Case No. A05-5548/2018

Russia vs LLC “Bulatovskiy Basalt”, November 2018, Court of Appeal, Case No. A05-5548/2018

Bulatovskiy Basalt LLC extracted and sold basalt rubble. The rubble was sold to three related intermediaries, whom in turn, resold the rubble to the final buyers. The resale price was on average double the transfer price. The tax authorities considered that the sole purpose of incorporating intermediaries into the sales structure was to obtain an unreasonable tax benefit in the form of underestimation of the profits from the sale of rubble and the tax base. According to the tax authorities, Bulatovskiy Basalt LLC could instead have enter into contracts with the final buyers directly. The tax authorities issued an assessment of income based on the resale of the rubble to the final Consumers. Bulatovskiy Basalt LLC brought the case to Court. The courts of the first and second instance ruled in favor of Bulatovskiy Basalt LLC. The courts took into account the existence of reasonable ... 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 ... 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 ... 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” ... 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