OECD Article 9 (with commentary)

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ARTICLE 9 ASSOCIATED ENTERPRISES

1. Where

  • an enterprise of a Contracting State participates directly or indirectly in the management, control or capital of an enterprise of the other Contracting State, or
  • the same persons participate directly or indirectly in the management, control or capital of an enterprise of a Contracting State and an enterprise of the other Contracting State,

and in either case conditions are made or imposed bet ween the two enterprises in their commercial or financial relations which differ from those which would be made between independent enterprises, then any profits which would, but for those conditions, have accrued to one of the enterprises, but, by reason of those conditions, have not so accrued, may be included in the profits of that enterprise and taxed accordingly.

2. Where a Contracting State includes in the profits of an enterprise of that State – and taxes accordingly – profits on which an enterprise of the other Contracting State has been charged to tax in that other State and the profits so included are profits which would have accrued to the enterprise of the first mentioned State if the conditions made between the two enterprises had been those which would have been made between independent enterprises, then that other State shall make an appropriate adjustment to the amount of the tax charged therein on those profits. In determining such adjustment, due regard shall be had to the other provisions of this Convention and the competent authorities of the Contracting States shall if necessary, consult each other.

COMMENTARY ON ARTICLE 9

CONCERNING THE TAXATION OF ASSOCIATED ENTERPRISES

1. This Article deals with adjustments to profits that may be made for tax purposes where transactions have been entered into between associated enterprises (parent and subsidiary companies and companies under common control) on other than arm’s length terms. The Committee has spent considerable time and effort (and continues to do so) examining the conditions for the application of this Article, its consequences and the various methodologies which may be applied to adjust profits where transactions have been entered into on other than arm’s length terms. Its conclusions are set out in the report entitled Transfer Pricing Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and Tax Administrations,’ which is periodically updated to reflect the progress of the work of the Committee in this area. That report represents internationally agreed principles and provides guidelines for the application of the arm’s length principle of which the Article is the authoritative statement.

Paragraph 1

2. This paragraph provides that the taxation authorities of a Contracting State may, for the purpose of calculating tax liabilities of associated enterprises, re-write the accounts of the enterprises if, as a result of the special relations between the enterprises, the accounts do not show the true taxable profits arising in that State. It is evidently appropriate that adjustment should be sanctioned in such circumstances. The provisions of this paragraph apply only if special conditions have been made or imposed between the two enterprises. No re-writing of the accounts of associated enterprises is authorised if the transactions between such enterprises have taken place on normal open market commercial terms (on an arm’s length basis).

3. As discussed in the Committee on Fiscal Affairs’ Report on “Thin Capitalisation” there is an interplay between tax treaties and domestic rules on thin capitalisation relevant to the scope of the Article. The Committee considers that:

a) the Article does not prevent the application of national rules on thin capitalisation insofar as their effect is to assimilate the profits of the borrower to an amount corresponding to the profits which would have accrued in an arm’s length situation;

b) the Article is relevant not only in determining whether the rate of interest provided for in a loan contract is an arm’s length rate, but also whether a prima facie loan can be regarded as a loan or should be regarded as some other kind of payment, in particular a contribution to equity capital;

c) the application of rules designed to deal with thin capitalisation should normally not have the effect of increasing the taxable profits of the relevant domestic enterprise to more than the arm’s length profit, and that this principle should be followed in applying existing tax treaties.

4. The question arises as to whether special procedural rules which some countries have adopted for dealing with transactions between related parties are consistent with the Convention. For instance, it maybe asked whether the reversal of the burden of proof or presumptions of any kind which are sometimes found in domestic laws are consistent with the arm’s length principle. A number of countries interpret the Article in such a way that it by no means bars the adjustment of profits under national law under conditions that differ from those of the Article and that it has the function of raising the arm’s length principle at treaty level. Also, almost all member countries consider that additional information requirements which would be more stringent than the normal requirements, or even a reversal of the burden of proof, would not constitute discrimination within the meaning of Article 24. However, in some cases the application of the national law of some countries may result in adjustments to profits at variance with the principles of the Article. Contracting States are enabled by the Article to deal with such situations by means of corresponding adjustments (see below) and under mutual agreement procedures.

Paragraph 2

5. The re-writing of transactions bet ween associated enterprises in the situation envisaged in paragraph 1 may give rise to economic double taxation (taxation of the same income in the hands of different persons), in so far as an enterprise of State A whose profits are revised upwards will be liable to tax on an amount of profit which has already been taxed in the hands of its associated enterprise in State B. Paragraph 2 provides that in these circumstances, State B shall make an appropriate adjustment so as to relieve the double taxation.

6. It should be noted, however, that an adjustment is not automatically to be made in State B simply because the profits in State A have been increased; the adjustment is due only if State B considers that the figure of adjusted profits correctly reflects what the profits would have been if the transactions had been at arm’s length. In other words, the paragraph may not be invoked and should not be applied where the profits of one associated enterprise are increased to a level which exceeds what they would have been if they had been correctly computed on an arm’s length basis. State B is therefore committed to make an adjustment of the profits of the affiliated company only if it considers that the adjustment made in State A is justified both in principle and as regards the amount.

6.1 Under the domestic laws of some countries, a taxpayer may be permitted under appropriate circumstances to amend a previously-filed tax return to adjust the price for a transaction between associated enterprises in order to report a price that is, in the taxpayer’s opinion, an arm’s length price. Where they are made in good faith, such adjustments may facilitate the reporting of taxable income by taxpayers in accordance with the arm’s length principle. However, economic double taxation may occur, for example, if such a taxpayer-initiated adjustment increases the profits of an enterprise of one Contracting State but there is no appropriate corresponding adjustment to the profits of the associated enterprise in the other Contracting State. The elimination of such double taxation is within the scope of paragraph 2. Indeed, to the extent that taxes have been levied on the increased profits in the first-mentioned State, that State may be considered to have included in the profits of an enterprise of that State, and to have taxed, profits on which an enterprise of the other State has been charged to tax. In these circumstances, Article 25 enables the competent authorities of the Contracting States to consult together to eliminate the double taxation; the competent authorities may accordingly, if necessary, use the mutual agreement procedure to determine whether the initial adjustment met the conditions of paragraph 1 and, if that is the case, to determine the amount of the appropriate adjustment to the amount of the tax charged in the other State on those profits so as to relieve the double taxation.

7. The paragraph does not specify the method by which an adjustment is to be made. OECD member countries use different methods to provide relief in these circumstances and it is therefore left open for Contracting States to agree bilaterally on any specific rules which they wish to add to the Article. Some States, for example, would prefer the system under which, where the profits of enterprise X in State A are increased to what they would have been on an arm’s length basis, the adjustment would be made by re-opening the assessment on the associated enterprise Y in State B containing the doubly taxed profits in order to reduce the taxable profit by an appropriate amount. Some other States, on the other hand, would prefer to provide that, for the purposes of Article 23, the doubly taxed profits should be treated in the hands of enterprise Y of State B as if they may be taxed in State A; accordingly, the enterprise of State B is entitled to relief in State B, under Article 23, in respect of tax paid by its associate enterprise in State A.

8. It is not the purpose of the paragraph to deal with what might be called “secondary adjustments“. Suppose that an upward revision of taxable profits of enterprise X in State A has been made in accordance with the principle laid down in paragraph 1 and suppose also that an adjustment is made to the profits of enterprise Y in State B in accordance with the principle laid down in paragraph 2. The position has still not been restored exactly to what it would have been had the transactions taken place at arm’s length prices because, as a matter of fact, the money representing the profits which arc the subject of the adjustment is found in the hands of enterprise Y instead of in those of enterprise X. It can be argued that if arm’s length pricing had operated and enterprise X had subsequently wished to transfer these profits to enterprise Y, it would have done so in the form of, for example, a dividend or a royalty (if enterprise Y were the parent of enterprise X) or in the form of, for example, a loan (if enterprise X were the parent of enterprise Y) and that in those circumstances there could have been other tax consequences (e.g. the operation of a withholding tax) depending upon the type of income concerned and the provisions of the Article dealing with such income.

9. These secondary adjustments, which would be required to establish the situation exactly as it would have been if transactions had been at arm’s length, depend on the facts of the individual case. It should be noted that nothing in paragraph 2 prevents such secondary adjustments from being made where they are permitted under the domestic laws of Contracting States.

10. The paragraph also leaves open the question whether there should be a period of time after the expiration of which State B would not be obliged to make an appropriate adjustment to the profits of enterprise Y following an upward revision of the profits of enterprise X in State A. Some States consider that State B’s commitment should be open-ended – in other words, that however many years State A goes back to revise assessments, enterprise Y should in equity be assured of an appropriate adjustment in State B. Other States consider that an open-ended commitment of this sort is unreasonable as a matter of practical administration. In the circumstances, therefore , this problem has not been dealt with in the text of the Article; but Contracting States are left free in bilateral conventions to include, if they wish, provisions dealing with the length of time during which State B is to be under obligation to make an appropriate adjustment (see on this point paragraphs 39, 40 and 41 of the Commentary on Article 25). Contracting States may also wish to address this issue through a provision limiting the length of time during which a primary adjustment may be made pursuant to paragraph 1; such a solution avoids the economic double taxation that may otherwise result where there is no corresponding adjustment following the primary adjustment. Contracting States that wish to achieve that result may agree bilaterally to add the following paragraph after paragraph 2:

“3. A Contracting State shall not include in the profits of an enterprise, and tax accordingly, profits that would have accrued to the enterprise but by reason of the conditions referred to in paragraph 1 have not so accrued, after (bilaterally agreed period) from the end of the taxable year in which the profits would have accrued to the enterprise. The provisions of this paragraph shall not apply in the case of fraud, gross negligence or willful default.”

11. If there is a dispute between the parties concerned over the amount and character of the appropriate adjustment, the mutual agreement procedure provided for under Article 25 should be implemented; the Commentary on that Article contains a number of considerations applicable to adjustments of the profits of associated enterprises carried out on the basis of the present Article (following, in particular, adjustment of transfer prices) and to the corresponding adjustments which must then be made in pursuance of paragraph 2 thereof (see in particular paragraphs 10, 11, 12, 33, 34, 40 and 41 of the Commentary on Article 25).

Observation on the Commentary

12. (Renumbered and amended on 31 March 1994)

13. (Deleted on 31 March 1994)

14. (Deleted on 22 July 2010)

15. The United States observes that there may be reasonable ways to address cases of thin capitalisation other than changing the character of the financial instrument from debt to equity and the character of the payment from interest to a dividend. For instance, in appropriate cases, the character of the instrument (as debt) and the character of the payment (as interest) may be unchanged, but the taxing State may defer the deduction for interest paid that otherwise would be allowed in computing the borrower’s net income.

Reservations on the Article

16. The Czech Republic reserves the right not to insert paragraph 2 in its conventions but is prepared in the course of negotiations to accept this paragraph and at the same time to add a third paragraph limiting the potential corresponding adjustment to bona-fide cases.

17 . Italy reserves the right to insert in its treaties a provision according to which it will make adjustments under paragraph 2 of Article 9 only in accordance with the procedure provided for by the mutual agreement article of the relevant treaty.

18 . Australia reserves the right to propose a provision to the effect that, if the in formation available to the competent authority of a Contracting State is inadequate to determine the profits to be attributed to an enterprise, the competent authority may apply to that enterprise for that purpose the provisions of the taxation law of that State, subject to the qualification that such law will be applied, as far as the information available to the competent authority permits, in accordance with the principles of this Article.

19. Hungary and Slovenia reserve the right to specify in paragraph 2 that a correlative adjustment will be made only if they consider that the primary adjustment is justified.