Tag: Comparability analysis

A comparability analysis is a comparison of a controlled transaction with an uncontrolled transaction or transactions. Controlled and uncontrolled transactions are comparable if none of the differences between the transactions could materially affect the factor being examined in the methodology (e.g. price or margin), or if reasonably accurate adjustments can be made to eliminate the material effects of any such differences.

European Commission vs. Amazon and Luxembourg, May 2021, State Aid - European General Court, Case No T-816/17 and T-318/18

European Commission vs. Amazon and Luxembourg, May 2021, State Aid – European General Court, Case No T-816/17 and T-318/18

In 2017 the European Commission concluded that Luxembourg granted undue tax benefits to Amazon of around €250 million.  Following an in-depth investigation the Commission concluded that a tax ruling issued by Luxembourg in 2003, and prolonged in 2011, lowered the tax paid by Amazon in Luxembourg without any valid justification. The tax ruling enabled Amazon to shift the vast majority of its profits from an Amazon group company that is subject to tax in Luxembourg (Amazon EU) to a company which is not subject to tax (Amazon Europe Holding Technologies). In particular, the tax ruling endorsed the payment of a royalty from Amazon EU to Amazon Europe Holding Technologies, which significantly reduced Amazon EU’s taxable profits. This decision was brought before the European Court of Justice by Luxembourg and Amazon. Judgement of the EU Court  The European General Court found that Luxembourg’s tax treatment of Amazon was not illegal under EU State aid rules. According to a press release ” The ... Continue to full case
Italy vs E.I S.r.l., February 2021, Administrative Court, Case No 12/02/2021 n. 546

Italy vs E.I S.r.l., February 2021, Administrative Court, Case No 12/02/2021 n. 546

Transactions had taken place between E.I. S.r.l. and a related Spanish company, S. Sa. where the pricing had been determined based on the cost plus method. An assessment was issued by the tax authorities on the basis of a “comparable” transactions (internal CUP) between the E.I. S.r.l. and an independent third company where the price had been higher. The Court of first instance held in favour of E.I S.r.l. This decision was appealed by the tax authorities. Judgement of the Court The Court dismissed the appeal of the tax authorities and decided in favour of E.I. S.r.l. Excerpts: “The Commission observes that the judges at first instance correctly and in detail reasoned their decisions, with a wealth of detail and a careful examination of all the circumstances examined. On the other hand, the Office has slavishly repeated its observations, merely objecting to the fact that they were not given due consideration by the first instance judges.” “The OECD Guidelines state ... Continue to full case
Czech Republic vs. STARCOM INTERNATIONAL s.r.o., February 2021, Regional Court , Case No 25Af 18/2019 - 118

Czech Republic vs. STARCOM INTERNATIONAL s.r.o., February 2021, Regional Court , Case No 25Af 18/2019 – 118

A tax assessment had been issued for FY 2013 resulting in additional taxes of to CZK 227,162,210. At first the tax administration disputed that the applicant had purchased 1 TB SSDs for the purpose of earning, maintaining and securing income. It therefore concluded that the Starcom Internatioal had not proved that the conditions for tax deductions were met. On appeal, the tax administrator changed its position and accepted that all the conditions for tax deductions were met, but now instead concluded that Starcom Internatioal was a connected party to its supplier AZ Group Czech s.r.o. It also concluded that the transfer prices had been set mainly for the purpose of reducing the tax base within the meaning of Section 23(7)(b)(5) of the ITA. It was thus for the tax authorities to prove that Starcom Internatioal and AZ Group Czech s.r.o. (‘AZ’) were ‘otherwise connected persons’ and that the prices agreed between them differed from those which would have been agreed ... Continue to full case
OECD Guidance on the transfer pricing implications of the COVID-19 pandemic

OECD Guidance on the transfer pricing implications of the COVID-19 pandemic

Unique economic conditions arising from COVID-19 and government responses to the pandemic have led to practical challenges for the application of the arm’s length principle. For taxpayers applying transfer pricing rules for the financial years impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and for tax administrations that will be evaluating this application, there is an urgent need to address these practical questions. The OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and Tax Administrations 2017 (“OECD TPG”) are intended to help tax administrations and multinational enterprises (“MNEs”) find mutually satisfactory solutions to transfer pricing cases and should continue to be relied upon when performing a transfer pricing analysis, including under the possibly unique circumstances introduced by the pandemic. Accordingly, guidance have been issued focusing on how the arm’s length principle and the OECD TPG apply to issues that may arise or be exacerbated in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than on developing specialised guidance beyond what is currently addressed in the ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 82

The comparability of open market transactions or enterprises may be influenced by the receipt of government assistance, affecting both how the parties establish their commercial or financial relations and how they price their transactions. Therefore, when performing a comparability analysis, it may be necessary to take into account the receipt of government assistance when reviewing potential comparables ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 54

Third, adjustments for accounting consistency may be required to improve comparability. Adjustments for accounting consistency are designed to eliminate the effect of differing accounting practices between the controlled and uncontrolled transactions and should be considered if and only if they are expected to increase the reliability of the results of a comparability analysis.32 In some cases, if exceptional costs arising from COVID-19 may be accounted for as either operating or non-operating items by different taxpayers in different transactions, then comparability adjustments may be In other cases there can be differences in whether the COVID-19 related costs are taken into account above or below the gross profit line. For instance, the recognition of the purchase of PPE as an operating cost by the tested party and as a cost of goods sold by a comparable may have a significant impact when computing a profit level indicator based on gross profit and may require a comparability adjustment. 32 Paragraph 3.48 and 3.50 ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 53

Second, when determining a cost basis, it will be important to consider whether the basis should include or exclude exceptional costs that are deemed to relate to the controlled transactions (determination noted above), and, if included in the costs basis, whether such costs should or should not be treated as pass-through costs to which no profit element should be attributed (see paragraph 2.99 of the OECD TPG). Including exceptional costs in the cost basis would transfer these costs to the counterparty, whereas excluding them would have the effect of allocating them to the tested party. Therefore, in determining which approach is most appropriate, it will be important to consider at arm’s length which party to the controlled transaction would have borne these additional costs, which should in turn be informed by the accurate delineation of the transaction.31 31 Paragraph 2.51 and 2.98 of Chapter II of the OECD TPG ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 52

First, exceptional costs should generally be excluded from the net profit indicator except when those costs relate to the controlled transaction as accurately delineated.29 The exclusion of exceptional costs must be done consistently at the level of the tested party and the comparables to ensure a reliable outcome, noting that the availability of this information may be limited.30 Care should be taken in order to ensure that such costs are appropriately measured and are consistently accounted for to the extent possible. 29 Paragraph 2.86 of Chapter II of the OECD TPG.30 Paragraph 2.74 of Chapter II of the OECD TPG ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 51

When performing a comparability analysis, it may be necessary to specifically consider how exceptional costs arising from COVID-19 should be taken into account ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 33

In general, there is no overriding rule on the inclusion or exclusion of loss making comparables in the OECD TPG.15 Accordingly, loss-making comparables that satisfy the comparability criteria in a particular case should not be rejected on the sole basis that they suffer losses in periods affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.16 Consequently, when performing a comparability analysis for FY 2020, it may be appropriate to include loss-making comparables when the accurate delineation of the transaction indicates that those comparables are reliable (e.g. the comparables assume similar levels of risk and that have been similarly impacted by the pandemic). 15 Paragraph 3.64 of Chapter III of the OECD TPG. 16 Paragraph 3.65 of Chapter III of the OECD TPG ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 32

For example, assume that geographic comparability is deemed as the most relevant comparability factor given the nature of the effects of COVID-19 in a particular market. In these circumstances, in order to obtain reliable data from a particular market it may potentially be necessary to relax other comparability criteria, and then refine the sample ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 31

The COVID-19 pandemic has created economic conditions that often differ from those of previous years. In these circumstances, where a taxpayer rolls forward an existing set of comparables to cover FY2020, it may be necessary to review the suitability of these existing comparables and potentially in some cases, it may be useful to revise the set, based on updated search criteria ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 30

One potential solution to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would be to allow for the inclusion of price adjustment mechanisms in controlled transactions. This may provide for flexibility while maintaining an arm’s length outcome. In particular, this approach to the extent permissible by domestic law would allow the adjustment of prices relevant for FY2020 through adjusted invoicing or intercompany payments effectuated in a later period (likely FY2021), when more accurate information to establish the arm’s length transfer price becomes available. In jurisdictions that use the outcome-testing approach, price adjustment mechanisms to reflect updated information relevant to determining an arm’s length price are often used. A jurisdiction that temporarily allows the outcome-testing approach could also temporarily allow the use of price adjustment mechanisms for that purpose and the taxpayer would be expected to describe the application of the price adjustment mechanism in its transfer pricing documentation. Such price adjustment mechanisms (provided that they are consistent with the arm’s length ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 29

As with other analyses under the OECD TPG, numerous considerations may come into play, including the availability and choice of potential transfer pricing methods and comparables, and the interrelationship among them and the parameters of the testing periods (e.g. a transaction-based method may have a different time frame from a profit-based method). Just as it may improve reliability to use separate or more carefully circumscribed testing periods (or price setting periods) in some fact patterns (see paragraph 27), in other fact patterns the use of combined periods (that include both years that are impacted by the pandemic and years that are not impacted) may improve reliability.14 This approach would aggregate the financial results of FY2020, which may be exceptional, with the more normal results of prior years in order to test the arm’s length nature of the transfer pricing policy applied in FY2020. 14 Paragraphs 3.75 and 3.79 of Chapter III of the OECD TPG ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 28

This aspect is also relevant in performing the comparability analysis. For instance, assume government intervention forces a taxpayer to close its distribution facilities for three months. In undertaking a benchmark analysis, care should be taken in verifying that comparable enterprises have faced similar restrictions or conditions. Otherwise, it might be necessary to adjust the period over which the comparison is performed (e.g. excluding the economic data corresponding to the three months where the taxpayer was unable to operate). Taxpayers and tax administrations should determine on a case-by-case basis the extent to which these adjustments are necessary in circumstances where the potential differences may not have a material impact on the comparability. In this respect, the guidance in paragraphs 3.50 to 3.52 of the OECD TPG is relevant ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 27

As a pragmatic means of addressing divergent economic conditions in the pre- or post-pandemic period, and when the pandemic was in effect and its effects on economic conditions were material, it may be appropriate to have separate testing periods (and periods considered for price setting) for the duration of the pandemic or for the period when certain material effects of the pandemic were most evident. This may be appropriate, so long as the data from independent comparables can be measured over a similar period in a consistent manner. Care should be taken to ensure the financial data of years affected by the pandemic do not unduly distort results from pre- or post-pandemic periods. In addition, government intervention in a market may materially affect the performance of activities. For example, in certain situations, the activities that otherwise normally would have occurred absent the pandemic may not occur in the same manner (or at all) during the period that the government intervention ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 26

The principles outlined in Section B.5 of Chapter III of the OECD TPG regarding the use of multiple year data and averages remain applicable. In ordinary circumstances, the use of multiple year data and multiple year averages for comparability analyses may have certain advantages. For example, it can be used as a means to mitigate the impact of accounting differences, appropriately measure the effects on profitability for the tested party based on its business and product life cycles, and to evaluate the same for the comparables, such that the reliability of the comparison is increased.13 13 Paragraph 3.77 of Chapter III of the OECD TPG ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 24

In the specific circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the application of more than one transfer pricing method may be useful to corroborate the arm’s length price of a controlled transaction. In this context, it is important to note that the arm’s length principle does not require the application of more than one method and that the use of more than one method should follow the guidance in paragraphs 2.2 and 2.12 of the OECD TPG ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 23

Where possible, and on a temporary basis during the pandemic, tax authorities that otherwise use the price-setting approach could consider allowing taxpayers, for those controlled transactions affected by the pandemic, to take into account information that becomes available after the close of the taxable year in filing their returns (where legally permissible and properly described in the transfer pricing documentation). Tax administrations could provide flexibility to allow amendments to FY 2020 tax returns such that transfer prices are set on an arm’s length basis and using available information. Also given the potential for double taxation that may arise as a result of unilateral adjustments, consideration may be given by tax administrations to: Provide for flexibility in the allowance of “compensating adjustments” to be made before the tax return is filed, where it is legally permissible, in order to allow for any available contemporaneous information to be better evaluated by taxpayers and tax administrations such that arm’s length prices can be ... Continue to full case

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 22

The OECD TPG describe two approaches to identify and collect data required to undertake a transfer pricing analysis. The first is a “price-setting,” i.e. an ex-ante approach, which uses historical data updated to reflect any change in economic conditions through the date of the contract. The second is an “outcome-testing” approach, which may incorporate information that becomes available after the close of the taxable year to determine arm’s length conditions and report results on the taxable year to determine arm’s length conditions and report results on the tax return. According to the OECD TPG, both approaches, or a combination of these approaches, are found among OECD member countries.11 11 Paragraph 3.71 of Chapter III of the OECD TPG ... Continue to full case