International Financial Law Prof Blog

Editor: William Byrnes
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Platform for Collaboration on Tax invites comments on a draft toolkit designed to help developing countries address the lack of comparables for transfer pricing analyses

Responding to a request by the Development Working Group of the G20, the Platform for Collaboration on Tax – a joint initiative of the IMF, OECD, UN and World Bank Group – has OECD developed a draft toolkit designed to assist developing countries in an important area of international tax policy: transfer pricing. The Platform is now seeking public feedback on that toolkit, which specifically addresses the ways developing countries can overcome a lack of data on "comparables," or the market prices for goods and services transferred between members of multinational corporations.

The toolkit is part of a series of reports by the Platform that are designed to help countries that may have limitations in their capacity to design or administer strong tax systems. Previous reports have included discussions of tax incentives and external support for building tax capacity in developing countries. Helping developing countries build strong and credible transfer pricing regimes is an important part of the Platform's effort to increase the capacity of developing countries to apply the principles of the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project, an initiative that assists countries in protecting their tax bases from aggressive or inappropriate tax planning by multinational corporations.

Transfer pricing – the value assigned to transactions between subsidiaries of multinational corporations – is an increasingly critical issue in a globalised world. This draft toolkit (A Toolkit for Addressing Difficulties in Accessing Comparables Data for Transfer Pricing Analyses) examines how tax administrations can evaluate the correctness of the transfer prices set by multinationals when there is insufficient information available to governments on market-based transactions that are comparable to those reported by the multinational corporation ("comparables"). The toolkit offers advice on making the best use of data that exists and options for monitoring the behaviour of multinational corporations in situations in which no data is available.

The discussion draft first seeks to put the search for potential comparables in context, emphasising the importance of accurately defining the transaction to ensure the subsequent search for comparables is as efficient and effective as possible. Next, sources of potential comparables data are considered, and practical tools such as step-by-step screening templates are suggested. To address situations where there is a systemic lack of comparables data, the draft considers potential policy options such as the development of safe harbours. The toolkit will also be available in French and Spanish.

In addition, since the pricing of transactions in the extractive industries is an issue of particular relevance to many low-income countries, the draft toolkit also addresses the information gaps on prices of minerals sold in an intermediate form. The supplementary material on minerals pricing (Addressing the Information Gaps on Prices of Minerals Sold in an Intermediate Form) provides a systematic process that could be used by tax administrations to map the transformation chain for a particular mineral, identify key traded products and establish common industry pricing practices. Detailed case studies demonstrating the process are then provided for copper, gold, thermal coal and iron ore. The supplementary material is also available in French (Combler le manque d’informations sur les prix des minéraux vendus sous une forme intermédiaire) and will shortly be available in Spanish.

The Platform partners now seek comments by 21 February from interested stakeholders on the draft toolkit, including the supplementary material on minerals pricing, with the aim of finalising it in the coming months.

Questions to consider

  1. Does this toolkit effectively help address the challenges identified by developing countries in finding the data needed to carry out a transfer pricing analysis as part of a tax audit?
  2. How can better use of administrative information, in a way that maintains taxpayer confidentiality, be effectively facilitated at a country and regional level?
  3. How could the reliability of potential comparables from other geographic markets be tested?
  4. Are there best practices or other reliable approaches for dealing with a lack of comparables not addressed in the discussion draft?
  5. What other adjustments for geographic market differences could be made, and in what circumstances? How could the reliability of such adjustments be empirically tested?
  6. Do the mineral pricing case studies accurately reflect market trading terms? Are there other adjustments that would be routinely made when these mineral products are sold?

Please do not restrict yourself to these questions; any other views you have on the addressing the lack of comparables for transfer pricing analyses and on information gaps on prices of minerals sold in an intermediate form would be welcome.

Comments and input on the draft will be taken into consideration in finalising the toolkit. Comments should be sent by e-mail no later than 21 February 2017 to, a common comment box for all the Platform organisations.

TP book coverLexis’ Practical Guide to U.S. Transfer Pricing is updated annually to help multinationals cope with the U.S. transfer pricing rules and procedures, taking into account the international norms established by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It is also designed for use by tax administrators, both those belonging to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and those belonging to the tax administrations of other countries, and tax professionals in and out of government, corporate executives, and their non-tax advisors, both American and foreign.  Fifty co-authors contribute subject matter expertise on technical issues faced by tax and risk management counsel.  Free download of chapter 2 here

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