Tag: COVID-19 specific costs

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 59

In response to COVID-19, some taxpayers may seek to assert force majeure in situations where it is not contained within the relevant intercompany agreement (assuming here that the law governing the contract is not a civil law jurisdiction where force majeure would automatically apply), may seek to change an existing intercompany agreement to insert a force majeure clause, or may seek to assert that a renegotiation at arm’s length would have similar economic outcomes. In these circumstances, tax administrations should carefully review such assertions in light of the accurately delineated transaction (including consideration of the conduct of the parties, both past and present) and the economically relevant circumstances of the transaction. Tax administrations should therefore review the agreements and/or the conduct of associated enterprises, in light of the guidance in section D of Chapter I of the OECD TPG, together with observations of relevant behaviour of independent parties and this guidance, in order to ascertain whether any such assertion, revision ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 58

For example, assume that Company G in Jurisdiction G provides manufacturing services to Company H under a long-term manufacturing services agreement that includes a force majeure clause. The government in jurisdiction G mandates the closure of the manufacturing facility for a certain specified short-term period, which may be extended depending on the duration of the pandemic. Given the lack of clarity on the extent of the disruption, it would be important to analyse the contract to see if the disruption qualifies as a force majeure event and consider whether, at arm’s length, Company G or Company H would seek to invoke the clause. Assuming that a clause may be legally invoked under the relevant legal framework, given the long-term nature of the relationship and the short-term nature of the disruption, it may be the case that neither company would invoke the clause, even if it did qualify as a force majeure event. If the disruption was for a longer period, ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 57

Where one party to a controlled transaction seeks to invoke force majeure, the agreement and underlying legal framework within which force majeure may be invoked should form the starting point of a transfer pricing analysis. It cannot be automatically assumed that where a relevant intercompany contract contains a force majeure clause that the COVID-19 pandemic is sufficient for a party to that contract to invoke force majeure, nor can it be automatically assumed in the absence of such a clause in the intercompany contract that a renegotiation with a potentially similar outcome at arm’s length would be inappropriate (see paragraph 59 below). Whether COVID-19 constitutes a force majeure in a particular case will depend on the plain language of the force majeure provision (and possibly also on how that provision interacts with other terms, such as certain terms of the controlled transaction itself). In addition, it will be relevant to analyse the conduct of the parties in reviewing an existing ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 56

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a party may attempt to assert that the extreme circumstances justify the non-performance of a contract and this may be achieved through invoking a force majeure clause, which defines circumstances beyond the control of parties to a transaction that can frustrate or render impossible contractual performance. For instance, force majeure events arising in the context of COVID-19 could be the prohibition of activities by a governmental body, for example through the enforced closure of production or retail facilities ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 55

Force majeure clauses may be invoked in order to suspend, defer, or release an enterprise from its contractual duties without liability in certain situations.33 This may result in losses for enterprises because of the loss of a customer, supplier or an ordinarily profitable contract, and could also lead to the closure of business operations and associated restructuring costs. 33 Note that these guidelines do not seek to legally define concepts such as “force majeure” or provide comment on when it may legally be invoked, but instead focus on the transfer pricing implications of the existence of the force majeure concept and its invocation. The “force majeure” concept originated in civil law systems. While the doctrine does not apply automatically in all civil law countries, certain European civil law countries at least implicitly recognise the force majeure principle in their civil codes (i.e. it may not be necessary to include it in a contract because the statutory force majeure provisions apply ... Read more

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 ... Read more

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 ... Read more

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 ... Read more

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 ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 50

At arm’s length, exceptional costs may or may not be passed on (wholly or partially) to customers or suppliers depending on who has the responsibility to bear such costs and (including in cases in which such responsibility is not expressly provided for) the consequences of the accurate delineation of the controlled transaction (including risk assumption) and the comparability analysis. For example, which party ultimately bears such costs might be influenced by the competitiveness of the industry within which the activity occurs and how demand responds to changes in price. For example, a manufacturer in a highly competitive market, with undifferentiated products, may be unable to pass on exceptional costs to its customers, without experiencing a decline in demand for its services (unless its competitors are passing on similar costs). However, a similar manufacturer that produces differentiated products in a comparatively uncompetitive industry may be able to pass on these costs to its customers, at least partially, without experiencing a decline ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 49

Further, it should be noted that certain operating costs may not be viewed as exceptional or non- recurring in circumstances where the costs relate to long-term or permanent changes in the manner in which businesses operate. For example, certain costs relating to teleworking arrangements may become permanent if working from home became more common as a result of the pandemic. Consequently, if the expense is viewed as neither being exceptional nor non-recurring and reflects more common means of doing business, then it should be treated as such when delineating the transaction to which the costs pertain and in undertaking the comparability analysis. Furthermore, it should also be noted that for certain businesses the COVID-19 pandemic has led to reduction in or elimination of certain costs that were typically incurred prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. These will differ depending on the underlying facts and circumstances, but might include expenses on rent, the day-to-day running expenses of a physical office, and travel ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 48

Allocation of operating or exceptional costs would follow risk assumption and how third parties would treat such costs. Thus in order to determine which associated enterprise should bear exceptional costs, it would be first necessary to accurately delineate the controlled transaction, which would indicate who has the responsibility for performing activities related to the relevant costs and who assumes risks related to these activities. For example, if a cost directly relates to a particular risk, then the party assuming that risk would typically bear the costs associated with that risk. Furthermore, the party initially incurring an exceptional cost may not be the party assuming risks associated to that cost at arm’s length, and consequently such costs may need to be passed on to parties that do assume such risks. Thus a thorough analysis should be performed before concluding whether all or part of the operating or exceptional costs should be allocated between related parties ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 47

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many enterprises have incurred exceptional, non-recurring operating costs relevant to differing operating conditions for the pandemic period. These include expenditure on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), reconfiguration of workspaces to enable physical distancing, IT infrastructure expenses relating to test, track and trace obligations and to implement teleworking arrangements. In determining how these costs should be allocated between related parties, it will be important to consider how these costs would be allocated between independent parties operating in comparable circumstances ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 37

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has created conditions in which associated parties may consider whether they have the option to apply force majeure clauses, revoke or otherwise revise their intercompany agreements. This may impact the allocation of losses and COVID-19 specific costs between associated parties, and therefore also requires specific consideration in the current economic environment ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 36

Second, it will be necessary to consider how exceptional, non-recurring operating costs arising as a result of COVID-19 should be allocated between associated parties.19 These costs should be allocated based on an assessment of how independent enterprises under comparable circumstances operate. Separately, as extraordinary costs may be recognised as either operating or non-operating items, comparability adjustments may be necessary to improve the reliability of a comparability analysis. It is important to keep in mind that the treatment in a transfer pricing analysis of “exceptional,” “non-recurring,” or “extraordinary” costs incurred as a result of the pandemic will not be dictated by the label applied to such costs, but by an accurate delineation of the transaction, an analysis of the risks assumed by the parties to the intercompany transaction, an understanding of how independent enterprises may reflect such costs in arm’s length prices, and ultimately how such costs may impact prices charged in transactions between the associated enterprises (see OECD TPG paragraph ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 35

First, it is important to emphasise that the allocation of risks between the parties to an arrangement affects how profits or losses resulting from the transaction are allocated at arm’s length through the pricing of the transaction.18 Hence, the existing guidance on the analysis of risks in commercial or financial relations will be particularly relevant for determining how losses are allocated between associated parties. 18 Paragraph 1.58 of Chapter I of the OECD TPG ... Read more

OECD COVID-19 TPG paragraph 34

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many MNE groups have incurred losses due to a decrease in demand, inability to obtain or supply products or services or as a result of exceptional, non-recurring operating costs.17 The allocation of losses between associated entities can give rise to dispute and hence is an issue that requires consideration given the probable increase in the frequency and magnitude of losses in the current economic environment. When considering the issue of losses and the allocation of COVID-19 specific costs, three issues warrant specific discussion. 17 For example, this might include expenditure on personal protective equipment, on IT infrastructure required to implement a “test and trace” system, measures to reconfigure office space to implement physical distancing requirements, or on other health-related safety equipment ... Read more