In this step the functions in relation to risk of the associated enterprises that are parties to the transaction are analysed. The analysis provides information about how the associated enterprises operate in relation to the assumption and management of the specific, economically significant risks, and in particular about which enterprise or enterprises perform control functions and risk mitigation functions, which enterprise or enterprises encounter upside or downside consequences of risk outcomes, and which enterprise or enterprises have the financial capacity to assume the risk. This step is illustrated by the following examples and conclusions are drawn from these examples in subsequent paragraphs of Section D.1.2.
Company A seeks to pursue a development opportunity and hires a specialist company, Company B, to perform part of the research on its behalf. Under step 1 development risk has been identified as economically significant in this transaction, and under step 2 it has been established that under the contract Company A assumes development risk. The functional analysis under step 3 shows that Company A controls its development risk through exercising its capability and authority in making a number of relevant decisions about whether and how to take on the development risk. These include the decision to perform part of the development work itself, the decision to seek specialist input, the decision to hire the particular researcher, the decision of the type of research that should be carried out and objectives assigned to it, and the decision of the budget allocated to Company B. Company A has mitigated its risk by taking measures to outsource development activities to Company B which assumes the day-to- day responsibility for carrying out the research under the control of Company A. Company B reports back to Company A at predetermined milestones, and Company A assesses the progress of the development and whether its ongoing objectives are being met, and decides whether continuing investments in the project are warranted in the light of that assessment. Company A has the financial capacity to assume the risk. Company B has no capability to evaluate the development risk and does not make decisions about Company A’s activities. Company B’s risk is mainly to ensure it performs the research activities competently and it exercises its capability and authority to control that risk through making decisions about the processes, expertise, and assets it needs. The risk Company B assumes is distinct from the development risk assumed by Company A under the contract, and which is controlled by Company A based on the evidence of the functional analysis.
Company B manufactures products for Company A. Under step 1 capacity utilisation risk and supply chain risk have been identified as economically significant in this transaction, and under step 2 it has been established that under the contract Company A assumes these risks. The functional analysis under step 3 provides evidence that Company B built and equipped its plant to Company A’s specifications, that products are manufactured to technical requirements and designs provided by Company A, that volume levels are determined by Company A, and that Company A runs the supply chain, including the procurement of components and raw materials. Company A also performs regular quality checks of the manufacturing process. Company B builds the plant, employs and trains competent manufacturing personnel, and determines production scheduling based on volume levels determined by Company A. Although Company B has incurred fixed costs, it has no ability to manage the risk associated with the recovery of those costs through determining the production units over which the fixed costs are spread, since Company A determines volumes. Company A also determines significant costs relating to components and raw materials and the security of supply. The evaluation of the evidence concludes that Company B performs manufacturing services. Significant risks associated with generating a return from the manufacturing activities are controlled by Company A. Company B controls the risk that it fails to competently deliver services. Each company has the financial capacity to assume its respective risks.
Company A has acquired ownership of a tangible asset and enters into contracts for the use of the asset with unrelated customers. Under step 1 utilisation of the tangible asset, that is the risk that there will be insufficient demand for the asset to cover the costs Company A has incurred, has been identified as an economically significant risk. Under step 2 it is established that Company A has a contract for the provision of services with another group company, Company C; the contract does not address the assumption of utilisation risk by the owner of the tangible asset, Company A. The functional analysis under step 3 provides evidence that another group company, Company B, decides that investment in the asset is appropriate in light of anticipated commercial opportunities identified and evaluated by Company B and its assessment of the asset’s anticipated useful life; Company B provides specifications for the asset and the unique features required to respond to the commercial opportunities, and arranges for the asset to be constructed in accordance with its specifications, and for Company A to acquire the asset. Company C decides how to utilise the asset, markets the asset’s capabilities to third-party customers, negotiates the contracts with these third party customers, assures that the asset is delivered to the third parties and installed appropriately. Although it is the legal owner of the asset, Company A does not exercise control over the investment risk in the tangible asset, since it lacks any capability to decide on whether to invest in the particular asset, and whether and how to protect its investment including whether to dispose of the asset. Although it is the owner of the asset, Company A does not exercise control over the utilisation risk, since it lacks any capability to decide whether and how to exploit the asset. It does not have the capability to assess and make decisions relating to the risk mitigation activities performed by other group companies. Instead, risks associated with investing in and exploiting the asset, enhancing upside risk and mitigating downside risk, are controlled by the other group companies. Company A does not have control over the economically significant risks associated with the investment in and exploitation of the asset. The functional contribution of the legal owner of the asset is limited to providing financing for an amount equating to the cost of the asset. However, the functional analysis also provides evidence that Company A has no capability and authority to control the risk of investing in a financial asset. Company A does not have the capability to make decisions to take on or decline the financing opportunity, or the capability to make decisions on whether and how to respond to the risks associated with the financing opportunity. Company A does not perform functions to evaluate the financing opportunity, does not consider the appropriate risk premium and other issues to determine the appropriate pricing of the financing opportunity, and does not evaluate the appropriate protection of its financial investment. Companies A, B and C all have financial capacity to assume their respective risks.
Carrying out steps 1-3 involves the gathering of information relating to the assumption and management of risks in the controlled transaction. The next step is to interpret the information resulting from steps 1-3 and to determine whether the contractual assumption of risk is consistent with the conduct of the parties and the other facts of the case by analysing (i) whether the associated enterprises follow the contractual terms under the principles of Section D.1.1; and (ii) whether the party assuming risk, as analysed under (i), exercises control over the risk and has the financial capacity to assume risk.
The significance of step 4 will depend on the findings. In the circumstances of Examples 1 and above, the step may be straightforward. Where a party contractually assuming a risk applies that contractual assumption of risk in its conduct, and also both exercises control over the risk and has the financial capacity to assume the risk, then there is no further analysis required beyond step 4(i) and (ii) to determine risk assumption. Companies A and B in both examples fulfil the obligations reflected in the contracts and exercise control over the risks that they assume in the transaction, supported by financial capacity. As a result step 4(ii) is satisfied, there is no need to consider step 5, and the next step to consider is step 6.
In line with the discussion in relation to contractual terms (see Section D.1.1), it should be considered under step 4(i) whether the parties’ conduct conforms to the assumption of risk contained in written contracts, or whether the contractual terms have not been followed or are incomplete. Where differences exist between contractual terms related to risk and the conduct of the parties which are economically significant and would be taken into account by third parties in pricing the transaction between them, the parties’ conduct in the context of the consistent contractual terms should generally be taken as the best evidence concerning the intention of the parties in relation to the assumption of risk.
Consider for example, a manufacturer, whose functional currency is US dollars, that sells goods to an associated distributor in another country, whose functional currency is euros, and the written contract states that the distributor assumes all exchange rate risks in relation to this controlled transaction. If, however, the price for the goods is charged by the manufacturer to the distributor over an extended period of time in euros, the currency of the distributor, then aspects of the written contractual terms do not reflect the actual commercial or financial relations between the parties. The assumption of risk in the transaction should be determined by the actual conduct of the parties in the context of the contractual terms, rather than by aspects of written contractual terms which are not in practice applied. The principle can be further illustrated by Example 7 in the Annex to Chapter VI, where there is an inconsistency between the contractual assumption of risk and the conduct of the parties as evidenced by the bearing of costs relating to the downside outcome of that risk.
Under step 4(ii) it should be determined whether the party assuming the risk under the contract, taking into account whether the contractual terms have been applied in the conduct of the parties under step 4(i), controls the risk and has the financial capacity to assume the risk. If all the circumstances set out in Example 1 remain the same except for the fact that the contract between Company A and Company B allocates development risk to Company B, and if there is no evidence from the conduct of the parties under step 4(i) to suggest that the contractual allocation of risk is not being followed, then Company B contractually assumes development risk but the facts remain that Company B has no capability to evaluate the development risk and does not make decisions about Company A’s activities. Company B has no decision-making function which allows it to control the development risk by taking decisions that affect the outcomes of that risk. Based on the information provided in Example 1, the development risk is controlled by Company A. The determination that the party assuming a risk is not the party controlling that risk means that further consideration is required under step 5.
If the circumstances of Example 2 remain the same except for the fact that, while the contract specifies that Company A assumes supply chain risks, Company B is not reimbursed by Company A when there was a failure to secure key components on time, the analysis under step 4(i) would show that contractual assumption of risk has not been followed in practice in regard to that supply chain risk, such that Company B in fact assumes the downside consequences of that risk. Based on the information provided in Example 2, Company B does not have any control over the supply chain risk, whereas Company A does exercise control. Therefore, the party assuming risk as analysed under step 4(i), does not under step 4(ii) exercise control over that risk, and further consideration is required under step 5.
In the circumstances of Example 3, analysis under step 4(i) shows that the assumption of utilisation risk by Company A is consistent with its contractual arrangements with Company C, but under step 4(ii) it is determined that Company A does not control risks that it assumes associated with the investment in and exploitation of the asset. Company A has no decision-making function which allows it to control its risks by taking decisions that affect the outcomes of the risks. Under step 4(ii) the party assuming risk does not control that risk, and further consideration is required under step 5.
In some cases, the analysis under step 3 may indicate that there is more than one MNE that is capable of exercising control over a risk. However, control requires both capability and functional performance in order to exercise control over a risk. Therefore, if more than one party is capable of exercising control, but the entity contractually assuming risk (as analysed under step 4(i)) is the only party that actually exercises control through capability and functional performance, then the party contractually assuming the risk also controls the risk.
Furthermore, in some cases, there may be more than one party to the transaction exercising control over a specific risk. Where the associated enterprise assuming risk (as analysed under step 4(i)) controls that risk in accordance with the requirements set out in paragraphs 1.65 – 1.66, all that remains under step 4(ii) is to consider whether the enterprise has the financial capacity to assume the risk. If so, the fact that other associated enterprises also exercise control over the same risk does not affect the assumption of that risk by the first-mentioned enterprise, and step 5 need not be considered.
Where two or more parties to the transaction assume a specific risk (as analysed under step 4(i)), and in addition they together control the specific risk and each has the financial capacity to assume their share of the risk, then that assumption of risk should be respected. Examples may include the contractual assumption of development risk under a transaction in which the enterprises agree jointly to bear the costs of creating a new product.
If it is established that the associated enterprise assuming the risk as analysed under step 4(i) either does not control the risk or does not have the financial capacity to assume the risk, then the analysis described under step 5 needs to be performed.
In light of the potential complexity that may arise in some circumstances when determining whether an associated enterprise assuming a risk controls that risk, the test of control should be regarded as being met where comparable risk assumptions can be identified in a comparable uncontrolled transaction. To be comparable those risk assumptions require that the economically relevant characteristics of the transactions are comparable. If such a comparison is made, it is particularly relevant to establish that the enterprise assuming comparable risk in the uncontrolled transaction performs comparable risk management functions relating to control of that risk to those performed by the associated enterprise assuming risk in the controlled transaction. The purpose of the comparison is to establish that an independent party assuming a comparable risk to that assumed by the associated enterprise also performs comparable risk management functions to those performed by the associated enterprise.
If it is established in step 4(ii) that the associated enterprise assuming the risk based on steps 1 – 4(i) does not exercise control over the risk or does not have the financial capacity to assume the risk, then the risk should be allocated to the enterprise exercising control and having the financial capacity to assume the risk. If multiple associated enterprises are identified that both exercise control and have the financial capacity to assume the risk, then the risk should be allocated to the associated enterprise or group of associated enterprises exercising the most control. The other parties performing control activities should be remunerated appropriately, taking into account the importance of the control activities performed.
In exceptional circumstances, it may be the case that no associated enterprise can be identified that both exercises control over the risk and has the financial capacity to assume the risk. As such a situation is not likely to occur in transactions between third parties, a rigorous analysis of the facts and circumstances of the case will need to be performed, in order to identify the underlying reasons and actions that led to this situation. Based on that assessment, the tax administrations will determine what adjustments to the transaction are needed for the transaction to result in an arm’s length outcome. An assessment of the commercial rationality of the transaction based on Section D.2 may be necessary.
Following the guidance in this section, the accurately delineated transaction should then be priced in accordance with the tools and methods available to taxpayers and tax administrations set out in the following chapters of these Guidelines and taking into account the financial and other consequences of risk-assumption, and the remuneration for risk management. The assumption of a risk should be compensated with an appropriate anticipated return, and risk mitigation should be appropriately remunerated. Thus, a taxpayer that both assumes and mitigates a risk will be entitled to greater anticipated remuneration than a taxpayer that only assumes a risk, or only mitigates, but does not do both.
In the circumstances of Example 1 in paragraph 1.83, Company A assumes and controls the development risk and should bear the financial consequences of failure and enjoy the financial consequences of success. Company B should be appropriately rewarded for the carrying out of its development services, incorporating the risk that it fails to do so competently.
In the circumstances of Example 2 in paragraph 1.84, the significant risks associated with generating a return from the manufacturing activities are controlled by Company A, and the upside and downside consequences of those risks should therefore be allocated to Company A. Company B controls the risk that it fails to competently deliver services, and its remuneration should take into account that risk, as well as its funding costs for the acquisition of the manufacturing plant. Since the risks in relation to the capacity utilisation of the asset are controlled by Company A, Company A should be allocated the risk of under-utilisation. This means that the financial consequences related to the materialisation of that risk including failure to cover fixed costs, write-downs, or closure costs should be allocated to Company A.
The consequences of risk allocation in Example 3 in paragraph 1.85 depend on analysis of functions under step 3. Company A does not have control over the economically significant risks associated with the investment in and exploitation of the asset, and those risks should be aligned with control of those risks by Companies B and C. The functional contribution of Company A is limited to providing financing for an amount equating to the cost of the asset that enables the asset to be created and exploited by Companies B and C. However, the functional analysis also provides evidence that Company A has no capability and authority to control the risk of investing in a financial asset. Company A does not have the capability to make decisions to take on or decline the financing opportunity, or the capability to make decisions on whether and how to respond to the risks associated with the financing opportunity. Company A does not perform functions to evaluate the financing opportunity, does not consider the appropriate risk premium and other issues to determine the appropriate pricing of the financing opportunity, and does not evaluate the appropriate protection of its financial investment. In the circumstances of Example 3, Company A would not be entitled to any more than a risk-free return as an appropriate measure of the profits it is entitled to retain, since it lacks the capability to control the risk associated with investing in a riskier financial asset. The risk will be allocated to the enterprise which has control and the financial capacity to assume the risk associated with the financial asset. In the circumstances of example, this would be Company B. Company A does not control the investment risk that carries a potential risk premium. An assessment may be necessary of the commercial rationality of the transaction based on the guidance in Section D.2 taking into account the full facts and circumstances of the transaction. (Company A could potentially be entitled to less than a risk-free return if, for example, the transaction is disregarded under Section D.2.)
Guidance on the relationship between risk assumption in relation to the provision of funding and the operational activities for which the funds are used is given in paragraphs 6.60-6.64. The concepts reflected in these paragraphs are equally applicable to investments in assets other than intangibles.
A party should always be appropriately compensated for its control functions in relation to risk. Usually, the compensation will derive from the consequences of being allocated risk, and therefore that party will be entitled to receive the upside benefits and to incur the downside costs. In circumstances where a party contributes to the control of risk, but does not assume the risk, compensation which takes the form of a sharing in the potential upside and downside, commensurate with that contribution to control, may be appropriate.
The difference between ex ante and ex post returns discussed in particular in Section D of Chapter VI arises in large part from risks associated with the uncertainty of future business outcomes. As discussed in paragraph 1.78 the ex ante contractual assumption of risk should provide clear evidence of a commitment to assume risk prior to the materialisation of risk outcomes. Following the steps in this section, the transfer pricing analysis will determine the accurate delineation of the transaction with respect to risk, including the risk associated with unanticipated returns. A party which, under these steps, does not assume the risk, nor contributes to the control of that risk, will not be entitled to unanticipated profits (or required to bear unanticipated losses) arising from that risk. In the circumstances of Example 3 (see paragraph 1.85), this would mean that neither unanticipated profits nor unanticipated losses will be allocated to Company A. Accordingly, if the asset in Example 3 were unexpectedly destroyed, resulting in an unanticipated loss, that loss would be allocated for transfer pricing purposes to the company or companies that control the investment risk, contribute to the control of that risk and have the financial capacity to assume that risk, and that would be entitled to unanticipated profits or losses with respect to the asset. That company or companies would be required to compensate Company A for the return to which it is entitled as described in paragraph 1.103.
This section of Chapter I provides guidance on how to determine a risk-free rate of return and a risk-adjusted rate of return in those situations where an associated enterprise is entitled to any of those returns under the guidance in this chapter and Chapter VI of these Guidelines.
Where, in accordance with the guidance in this Chapter, the accurate delineation of the actual transaction shows that a funder lacks the capability, or does not perform the decision-making functions, to control the risk associated with investing in a financial asset, it will be entitled to no more than a risk-free return as an appropriate measure of the profits it is entitled to retain (see paragraph 1.103 and its footnote). In this context, the funder’s costs related to the borrowing associated to the funding should be taken into account in determining the risk-free rate of return, and subject to other constraints, the funded party would still be entitled to a deduction up to an arm’s length amount in respect of the funding. The difference between those amounts would be allocable to the party exercising control over the investment risk in accordance with the guidance in this chapter.
A risk-free rate of return is the hypothetical return which would be expected on an investment with no risk of loss. Ultimately, there is no investment with zero risk, and the reliability of available proxies for approximating a risk-free rate of return will depend on prevailing facts and circumstances.
An approach which is widely used in practice is to treat the interest rate on certain government issued securities as a reference rate for a risk-free return, as these securities are generally considered by market practitioners not to carry significant default risk. The intention of the guidance in this section is to outline an approach for reference purposes without suggesting that a particular government security should always be used to determine a risk-free rate.
To eliminate currency risk, the reference security for determining the risk-free rate would need to be a security issued in the same currency as the investor’s cash flows, i.e. the functional currency of the investor rather than its country of domicile. When there are multiple countries issuing bonds in the same currency, the reference point for the risk-free rate of return should be the government security with the lowest rate of return as any difference in rate must be due to differences in risk between the issuers (see paragraph 10.33).
Another relevant aspect in determining the risk-free rate of return will be the temporal proximity of the reference security to the tested transaction. The security should ideally be issued at the time, or have a similar remaining maturity, as the controlled transaction was entered into to eliminate the effect of differences which may be present between securities issued at different times (see paragraph 10.32).
Another key consideration would be the maturity of the financial instrument. The duration of the reference security should match the duration of the investment since the duration of an investment will usually affect its price. The duration of the controlled investment should be determined as part of the process of accurate delineation of the actual transaction. For example, a financial instrument which is short-term under the written contractual terms between the parties but which is consistently replaced with a new instrument may, depending upon the exact facts and circumstances, be accurately delineated as a long-term investment.
Due to difficulties in practice, practical solutions might be considered for estimating the risk-free rate of return. For instance, assume a situation where Company A, a member of an MNE group, is not entitled to any more than a risk-free return under the guidance in this chapter in relation to an advance of funds with a term of one year to an associated enterprise, Company B. In approximating that return, the starting point would be to identify a security issued at the time of the provision of the funding in the same currency as Company A’s functional currency. Assume that the tax administration of Country X, where Company A is resident, identifies three securities issued in Company A’s functional currency by the governments of Country X, Country Y and Country Z with a term of one year. The credit ratings of the issuing governments are A for Country X, B for Country Y and AA for Country Z. In specifying a minimum credit rating for the issuing government to consider the issued security as a risk-free investment comparable to the controlled financial transaction, the tax administration of Country X may select the security issued by Country Z as a reference for the risk-free rate of return since it represents the lowest rate of return available at the time of the provision of the funding on all outstanding government bonds in the relevant currency with a term of one year.
To approximate risk-free rate of returns, highly rated government issued securities are not the only reference, and other alternatives may be considered on prevailing facts and circumstances of each case, for instance interbank rates, interest rate swap rates or repurchase agreements of highly rated government issued securities.
The risk-free rate of return may be relevant, for example, as a component in calculating a risk- adjusted rate of return on an investment or as the return allocable to an investor who has provided funding but has not assumed any of the risks related to the funding.
As stated in paragraph 6.61, “where a party providing funding exercises control over the financial risk associated with the provision of funding, without the assumption of, including the control over, any other specific risk, it could generally only expect a risk-adjusted rate of return on its funding.” (See paragraphs 1.85 and 1.103).
Therefore, in determining the risk-adjusted rate, it is important to identify and differentiate the financial risk which is assumed by the funder in carrying on its financing activity, and the operational risk that is assumed by the funded party and is connected to the use of the funds, e.g. for developing an intangible asset. Guidance on the relationship between risk assumption in relation to the provision of funding and the operational activities for which the funds are used is given in paragraphs 6.60 – 6.64.
For instance, consider a situation where Company F advances a loan to an associated enterprise, Company D, which undertakes the development of an intangible. Consider further that under the guidance in this chapter it is determined that Company F controls and consequently is allocated the financial risk associated with funding the development of the intangible, including the potential risk of Company D failing to develop the intangible and therefore being unable to repay the loan. However, Company F does not assume the risk of developing the intangible, which is entirely assumed by Company D under the accurate delineation of the actual transaction. Accordingly, in the event that the ex post results derived from the exploitation of the developed intangible were higher (or lower) than the results calculated on an ex ante basis, Company F would not be entitled to that difference but to a risk-adjusted rate of return as described in this section.
In general, the expected risk-adjusted rate of return on a funding transaction can be considered to have two components, i.e. the risk-free rate and a premium reflecting the risks assumed by the funder.
When the funder is assuming the financial risk under the guidance in this chapter and is therefore exposed to the potential playing out of that risk, it will encounter the upside and downside consequences of that risk outcome. Therefore, the assumption of that risk will warrant an expected remuneration higher than a risk-free rate of return.
A risk-adjusted rate of return can be determined under different approaches, for example, based on the return of a realistic alternative investment with comparable economic characteristics or the cost of funds (see Section C.1.2).
It may be possible to find a reasonable indicator of a risk-adjusted rate of return from comparable uncontrolled transactions or by considering realistically available alternative investments reflecting the same risk profile. Depending on the facts and circumstances, realistic alternatives to an intra-group loan could be bond issuances or loans which are uncontrolled transactions (see paragraph 10.93).
Another approach to determining the risk-adjusted rate of return would be to add a risk premium to the risk-free return, based on the information available in the market on financial instruments issued under similar conditions and circumstances.
For instance, consider the same fact pattern as described in paragraph 1.114 but, in this particular scenario, assume that Company A is found to be entitled to a risk-adjusted rate of return under this chapter. To determine that return, the tax administration of Country X considers adding a risk premium to the risk- free rate of return, i.e. the security issued by the government in Country Z with a term of one year. To estimate the risk-adjusted return, Country X’s tax administration considers that corporate bonds issued by independent parties resident in Country X operating in the same industry as Company B yield a return comparable to the one that an independent party would have expected had it invested its funds in Company B under comparable circumstances.
Under an approach based on the cost of funds, the controlled transaction would be priced by adding a profit margin to the costs incurred by the lender to raise the funds advanced to the borrower. That mark-up should be proportionate to the risk assumed by the lender and calculated according to the guidance provided in paragraphs 10.97 – 10.100.
Differences in the specific characteristics of property or services often account, at least in part, for differences in their value in the open market. Therefore, comparisons of these features may be useful in delineating the transaction and in determining the comparability of controlled and uncontrolled transactions. Characteristics that may be important to consider include the following: in the case of transfers of tangible property, the physical features of the property, its quality and reliability, and the availability and volume of supply; in the case of the provision of services, the nature and extent of the services; and in the case of intangible property, the form of transaction (e.g. licensing or sale), the type of property (e.g. patent, trademark, or know-how), the duration and degree of protection, and the anticipated benefits from the use of the property. For further discussion of some of the specific features of intangibles that may prove important in a comparability analysis involving transfers of intangibles or rights in intangibles, see Section D.2.1 of Chapter VI.
Depending on the transfer pricing method, this factor must be given more or less weight. Among the methods described at Chapter II of these Guidelines, the requirement for comparability of property or services is the strictest for the comparable uncontrolled price method. Under the comparable uncontrolled price method, any material difference in the characteristics of property or services can have an effect on the price and would require an appropriate adjustment to be considered (see in particular paragraph 2.16). Under the resale price method and cost plus method, some differences in the characteristics of property or services are less likely to have a material effect on the gross profit margin or mark-up on costs (see in particular paragraphs 2.29 and 2.47). Differences in the characteristics of property or services are also less sensitive in the case of the transactional profit methods than in the case of traditional transaction methods (see in particular paragraph 2.75). This however does not mean that the question of comparability in characteristics of property or services can be ignored when applying transactional profit methods, because it may be that product differences entail or reflect different functions performed, assets used and/or risks assumed by the tested party. See paragraphs 3.18–3.19 for a discussion of the notion of tested party.
In practice, it has been observed that comparability analyses for methods based on gross or net profit indicators often put more emphasis on functional similarities than on product similarities. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, it may be acceptable to broaden the scope of the comparability analysis to include uncontrolled transactions involving products that are different, but where similar functions are undertaken. However, the acceptance of such an approach depends on the effects that the product differences have on the reliability of the comparison and on whether or not more reliable data are available. Before broadening the search to include a larger number of potentially comparable uncontrolled transactions based on similar functions being undertaken, thought should be given to whether such transactions are likely to offer reliable comparables for the controlled transaction.
Arm’s length prices may vary across different markets even for transactions involving the same property or services; therefore, to achieve comparability requires that the markets in which the independent and associated enterprises operate do not have differences that have a material effect on price or that appropriate adjustments can be made. As a first step, it is essential to identify the relevant market or markets taking account of available substitute goods or services. Economic circumstances that may be relevant to determining market comparability include the geographic location; the size of the markets; the extent of competition in the markets and the relative competitive positions of the buyers and sellers; the availability (risk thereof) of substitute goods and services; the levels of supply and demand in the market as a whole and in particular regions, if relevant; consumer purchasing power; the nature and extent of government regulation of the market; costs of production, including the costs of land, labour, and capital; transport costs; the level of the market (e.g. retail or wholesale); the date and time of transactions; and so forth. The facts and circumstances of the particular case will determine whether differences in economic circumstances have a material effect on price and whether reasonably accurate adjustments can be made to eliminate the effects of such differences. More detailed guidance on the importance in a comparability analysis of the features of local markets, especially local market features that give rise to location savings, is provided in Section D.6 of this chapter.