OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines (2017)

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.1

There is no legal or universally accepted definition of business restructuring. In the context of this chapter, business restructuring refers to the cross-border reorganisation of the commercial or financial relations between associated enterprises, including the termination or substantial renegotiation of existing arrangements. Relationships with third parties (e.g. suppliers, sub-contractors, customers) may be a reason for the restructuring or be affected by it.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.2

Business restructurings may often involve the centralisation of intangibles, risks, or functions with the profit potential attached to them. They may typically consist of:

  • Conversion of full-fledged distributors (that is, enterprises with a relatively higher level of functions and risks) into limited-risk distributors, marketers, sales agents, or commissionnaires (that is, enterprises with a relatively lower level of functions and risks) for a foreign associated enterprise that may operate as a principal,
  • Conversion of full-fledged manufacturers (that is, enterprises with a relatively higher level of functions and risks) into contract manufacturers or toll manufacturers (that is, enterprises with a relatively lower level of functions and risks) for a foreign associated enterprise that may operate as a principal,
  • Transfers of intangibles or rights in intangibles to a central entity (e.g. a so-called “IP company”) within the group,
  • The concentration of functions in a regional or central entity, with a corresponding reduction in scope or scale of functions carried out locally; examples may include procurement, sales support, supply chain logistics.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.3

There are also business restructurings whereby more intangibles or risks are allocated to operational entities (e.g. to manufacturers or distributors). Business restructurings can also consist of the rationalisation, specialisation or de-specialisation of operations (manufacturing sites and/or processes, research and development activities, sales, services), including the downsizing or closing of operations. The arm’s length principle and guidance in this chapter apply in the same way to all types of transactions comprising a business restructuring, irrespective of whether they lead to a more centralised or less centralised business model.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.4

Some of the reasons reported by business for restructuring include the wish to maximise synergies and economies of scale, to streamline the management of business lines and to improve the efficiency of the supply chain, taking advantage of the development of web-based technologies that has facilitated the emergence of global organisations. Furthermore, business restructurings may be needed to preserve profitability or limit losses, e.g. in the event of an over-capacity situation or in a downturn economy.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.5

This chapter contains a discussion of the transfer pricing aspects of business restructurings, i.e. of the application of Article 9 (Associated Enterprises) of the OECD Model Tax Convention and of these Guidelines to business restructurings.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.6

Business restructurings are typically accompanied by a reallocation of profit potential among the members of the MNE group, either immediately after the restructuring or over a few years. One major objective of this chapter in relation to Article 9 is to discuss the extent to which such a reallocation of profit potential is consistent with the arm’s length principle and more generally how the arm’s length principle applies to business restructurings. The implementation of integrated business models and the development of global organisations may complicate the application of the arm’s length principle, which determines the profit of members of an MNE group by reference to the conditions which would have been made between independent enterprises in comparable transactions and comparable circumstances. This complexity in applying the arm’s length principle in practice is acknowledged in these Guidelines (see paragraphs 1.10-1.11). Notwithstanding this issue, these Guidelines reflect the OECD Member countries’ strong support for the arm’s length principle and for efforts to describe its application and refine its operation in practice (see paragraphs 1.14-1.15). When discussing the issues that arise in the context of business restructurings, the OECD has kept this complexity in mind in an attempt to develop approaches that are realistic and reasonably pragmatic.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.7

This chapter only covers transactions between associated enterprises in the context of Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention and does not address the attribution of profits within a single enterprise on the basis of Article 7 of the OECD Model Tax Convention, as this is the subject of the Report on the Attribution of Profits to Permanent Establishments.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.8

Domestic anti-abuse rules and CFC legislation are not within the scope of this chapter. The domestic tax treatment of an arm’s length payment, including rules regarding the deductibility of such a payment and how domestic capital gains tax provisions may apply to an arm’s length capital payment, are also not within the scope of this chapter. Moreover, while they raise important issues in the context of business restructurings, VAT and indirect taxes are not covered in this chapter.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.9

This chapter starts from the premise that the arm’s length principle and these Guidelines do not and should not apply differently to restructurings or post-restructuring transactions than to transactions that were structured as such from the beginning. The relevant question under Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention and the arm’s length principle is whether there are conditions made or imposed in a business restructuring that differ from the conditions that would be made between independent enterprises. This is the theoretical framework in which all the guidance in this chapter should be read. The guidance in this chapter is composed of two parts: the first part provides guidance on the determination of the arm’s length compensation for the restructuring itself; the second part addresses the remuneration of post-restructuring controlled transactions. Both parts should be read together, and applied in accordance with the guidance provided in the rest of these Guidelines, and in particular in Chapter I.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.10

A business restructuring may involve cross-border transfers of something of value, e.g. of valuable intangibles, although this is not always the case. It may also or alternatively involve the termination or substantial renegotiation of existing arrangements, e.g. manufacturing arrangements, distribution arrangements, licences, service agreements, etc. The first step in analysing the transfer pricing aspects of a business restructuring is to accurately delineate the transactions that comprise the business restructuring by identifying the commercial or financial relations and the conditions attached to those relations that lead to a transfer of value among the members of the MNE group. This is discussed in Section B. Section C discusses the recognition of accurately delineated transactions that comprise the business restructuring. The relationship between a business restructuring and the reallocation of profit potential is addressed in Section D. The transfer pricing consequences of the transfer of something of value are discussed in Section E of this part and the transfer pricing consequences of the termination or substantial renegotiation of existing arrangements are discussed in Section F.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.11

For transfer pricing purposes, the aim of the analysis is to determine whether, under Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention, conditions have been made or imposed in transactions comprising a business restructuring that differ from those that would be made or imposed between independent enterprises; and, if so, to determine the profits which would, but for those conditions, have accrued to one of the enterprises, but, by reason of those conditions, have not so accrued, and include them in the profits of that enterprise and tax them accordingly.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.12

The arm’s length principle requires an evaluation of the conditions made or imposed between associated enterprises, at the level of each of them. The fact that a business restructuring may be motivated by sound commercial reasons at the level of the MNE group, e.g. in order to try to derive synergies at a group level, does not answer the question whether it is arm’s length from the perspectives of each of the restructured entities.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.13

The application of the arm’s length principle to a business restructuring must start, as for any controlled transaction, with the identification of the commercial or financial relations between the associated enterprises involved in the business restructuring and the conditions and economically relevant circumstances attaching to those relations so that the controlled transactions comprising the business restructuring are accurately delineated. In this regard, the general guidance in Section D. 1 of Chapter I is applicable. This guidance requires the examination of the economically relevant characteristics of the commercial or financial relations between the associated enterprises, and in particular the contractual terms of the business restructuring (Section D. 1.1); the functions performed by each party to the restructuring, before and after the restructuring, taking into account assets used and risks assumed (Section D. 1.2); the economic circumstances of the parties (Section D. 1.4) and business strategies (Section D. 1.5). In addition, the analysis should be informed by a review of the business reasons for and the expected benefits from the restructuring, including the role of synergies, and the options realistically available to the parties. As stated in paragraph 1.33, these conditions and economically relevant circumstances of the accurately delineated transactions that comprise the business restructuring will then be compared with the conditions and economically relevant circumstances of comparable transactions between independent enterprises.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.14

Aspects of identifying the commercial or financial relations between the parties which are particularly relevant to determining the arm’s length conditions of business restructurings, are analysed in the following sections:

  • The accurate delineation of the transactions comprising the business restructuring and the functions, assets and risks before and after the restructuring (see Section B.1);
  • The business reasons for and the expected benefits from the restructuring, including the role of synergies (see Section B.2);
  • The other options realistically available to the parties (see Section B.3).

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.15

Restructurings can take a variety of different forms and may involve two or more members of an MNE group. For example, a simple pre-restructuring arrangement could involve a full-fledged manufacturer producing goods and selling them to an associated full-fledged distributor for on-sale into the market. The restructuring could involve a modification to that two-party arrangement, whereby the distributor is converted to a limited risk distributor or commissionnaire, with risks previously assumed by the full-fledged distributor being assumed by the manufacturer (taking into account the guidance in Section D. 1 of Chapter I. Frequently, the restructuring will be more complicated, with functions performed, assets used and risks assumed by either or both parties to a pre-restructuring arrangement shifting to one or more members of the group.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.16

In order to determine whether, at arm’s length, compensation would be payable upon a restructuring to any restructured entity within an MNE group, and if so the amount of such compensation as well as the member of the group that should bear such compensation, it is important to accurately delineate the transactions occurring between the restructured entity and one or more other members of the group. For these purposes, the detailed guidance in Section D of Chapter I of these Guidelines is applicable.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.17

Where the conditions of a business restructuring have been formalised by the MNE group in writing (e.g. written contractual agreements, correspondence and/or other communications), those agreements provide the starting point for delineating the transactions comprising the business restructuring between the MNEs involved. The contractual terms may describe the roles, responsibilities and rights of the restructured entity under the pre-restructuring arrangement (including in relevant circumstances those existing under contract and commercial law) and of the manner and extent to which those rights and obligations change as a result of the restructuring. However, where no written terms exist, or where the facts of the case, including the conduct of the parties, differ materially from the written terms of any agreement between them or supplement these written terms, the actual transactions comprising the business restructuring must be deduced from the facts as established, including the conduct of the parties (see Section D. 1.1 of Chapter I).

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.18

The accurate delineation of the transactions comprising the business restructuring requires performing a functional analysis that seeks to identify the economically significant activities and responsibilities undertaken, assets used or contributed, and risks assumed before and after the restructuring by the parties involved. Accordingly, the analysis focuses on what the parties actually do and the capabilities, as well as the type and nature of assets used or contributed by the parties in a pre-restructuring and post-restructuring scenarios. See Section D. 1.2 of Chapter I. Given the importance of risk in the analysis of business restructurings, the following section provides specific guidance on the analysis of risk in transactions comprising the business restructuring.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.19

Risks are of critical importance in the context of business restructurings. Usually, in the open market, the assumption of risk associated with a commercial opportunity affects the profit potential of that opportunity, and the allocation of risk assumed between the parties to the arrangement affects how profits or losses resulting from the transaction are allocated through the arm’s length pricing of the transaction. Business restructurings often result in local operations being converted into low risk operations (e.g. “low risk distributors”, or “low risk contract manufacturers”) and being remunerated with a relatively low (but generally stable) return on the grounds that the economically significant risks are assumed by another party to which the profits or losses associated with those risks are allocated. For this reason, an examination of the allocation of risks between associated enterprises before and after the restructuring is an essential part of the functional analysis. Such analysis should allow tax administrations to assess the transfer of the economically significant risks of the business that is restructured and the consequences of that transfer for the application of the arm’s length principle to the restructuring itself and to the post-restructuring transactions.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.20

The framework and detailed guidance for analysing risk laid out in Section D. 1.2.1 of Chapter I is applicable for purposes of undertaking an analysis of risks in the context of business restructurings, and in particular for determining which party assumes a specific risk by reference to control and financial capacity. It is crucial to apply this framework to determine which party assumes specific risks before the restructuring and which party assumes specific risks following the restructuring. For example, where a restructuring purports to transfer inventory risk, it is relevant to examine not only the contractual terms, but also the conduct of the parties under Step 3 in the framework (e.g. where any inventory write-downs are taken before and after the restructuring, whether there is any indemnification for those inventory write-downs, which party or parties perform risk control functions and have the financial capacity to assume the risks). The results of this analysis may establish that before the restructuring one party assumed the inventory risk and that same party continues to do so after the restructuring notwithstanding a change in contractual terms. In that situation, the risk would continue to be allocated to that same party. References in this Chapter to “transfer of risk”, “relocation of risk, “shifting of risk” or “laying off of risk” should be read in the context of the guidance in Section D. 1 of Chapter I. In particular, the transferee of the risk is considered to assume the risk when the conditions set out in the framework for analysing risk in controlled transactions (Section D. 1.2.1 of Chapter I) are met.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.21

A second example relates to the purported transfer of credit risk as part of a business restructuring. The analysis under Section D. 1.2.1 of Chapter I would take into account the contractual terms before and after the restructuring, but would also examine how the parties operate in relation to the risk before and after the restructuring. The analysis would then examine whether the party that contractually assumes the risk controls the risk in practice through relevant capability and decision-making as defined in paragraph 1.65 and has the financial capacity to assume such risk as defined in paragraph 1.64. It is important to note that a party that before the restructuring did not assume a risk under the analysis of Section D. 1.2.1 of Chapter I cannot transfer it to another party, and a party that after the restructuring does not assume a risk under the analysis of Section D. 1.2.1 of Chapter I should not be allocated the profit potential associated with that risk.

  • For example, suppose that before a business restructuring, a full-fledged distributor contractually assumes bad debt risks, which is reflected in the balance sheet at year end. However, the analysis described above establishes that before the business restructuring, decisions about the extension of credit terms to customers and debt recovery were taken by an associated enterprise and not by the distributor, and the associated enterprise reimbursed the costs of irrecoverable debts. It is also determined that the associated enterprise is the only entity that controlled the risk and had the financial capacity to assume the bad debt risk, leading to the conclusion that, before the business restructuring, the risk was not assumed by the distributor. In such a case there is no bad debt risk for the distributor to transfer as part of the business restructuring.
  • In other circumstances it may be found that before the business restructuring the distributor controlled the bad debt risk and had the financial capacity to assume the risk it contractually assumed, but mitigated its risk through indemnification arrangements or debt factoring arrangements with an associated enterprise in exchange for appropriate compensation. Following the business restructuring, the bad debt risk is contractually assumed by that associated enterprise which, as determined under the analysis described above, now controls the risk and has the financial capacity to assume the risk. The risk has, therefore been transferred but the impact on the profits of the distributor going forward compared with the past resulting from the transfer of this risk alone may be limited, because before the restructuring steps had been taken and costs incurred to mitigate the risk outcomes of the distributor.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.22

In any analysis of risks in controlled transactions, one important issue is to assess whether a risk is economically significant, i.e. it carries significant profit potential, and, as a consequence, whether that risk may explain a significant reallocation of profit potential. The significance of a risk will depend on the likelihood of the risk materialising and the size of the potential profits or losses arising from the risk. Accounting statements may provide useful information on the probability and quantum of certain risks (e.g. bad debt risks, inventory risks), if past performance is an indicator of current risks, but there are also economically significant risks that may not be separately recorded as such in the financial accounts (e.g. market risks). If a risk is assessed to be economically insignificant for the entity, then that risk would not explain a substantial amount of the entity’s profit potential. At arm’s length a party would not be expected to lay off a risk that is perceived as economically insignificant in exchange for a substantial decrease in its profit potential.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.23

For instance, where a full-fledged distributor is converted into a limited-risk distributor or commissionnaire resulting in the reduction or elimination of risks relating to inventory in the restructured enterprise, in order to determine whether such risk is economically significant the tax administration may want to analyse:

  • The role of inventory in the business model (for example, speed to market, comprehensive range),
  • The nature of the inventory (for example, spare parts, fresh flowers),
  • The level of investment in inventory,
  • The factors giving rise to inventory write-downs or obsolescence (for example, perishability, pricing pressures, speed of technical improvements, market conditions),
  • The history of write-down and stock obsolescence, and whether any commercial changes affect the reliability of historic performance as an indicator of current risk,
  • The cost of insuring against damage or loss of inventory, and
  • The history of damage or loss (if uninsured).

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.24

Some businesses have indicated that multinational businesses, regardless of their products or sectors, have reorganised their structures to provide more centralised control and management of manufacturing, research and distribution functions. The pressure of competition in a globalised economy, savings from economies of scale, the need for specialisation and the need to increase efficiency and lower costs have all been described as important in driving business restructurings. Where anticipated synergies are put forward by a taxpayer as an important business reason for the restructuring, it would be a good practice for the taxpayer to document, at the time the restructuring is decided upon or implemented, what these anticipated synergies are and on what assumptions they are anticipated. This is a type of documentation that is likely to be produced at the group level for non-tax purposes, to support the decision-making process of the restructuring. For Article 9 purposes, it would be a good practice for the taxpayer to document the source of these synergies and how these anticipated synergies impact at the entity level in applying the arm’s length principle (see Section D.8 of Chapter I). Care should be taken to ensure that, where deliberate concerted group actions are taken through a business restructuring, the associated enterprises contributing to the synergistic benefit after the restructuring are appropriately remunerated (see the example in the following paragraph). Furthermore, while anticipated synergies may be relevant to the understanding of a business restructuring, care must be taken to avoid the use of hindsight in ex post analyses (see paragraph 3.74).

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.25

For example, a business restructuring may involve the setting up by an MNE group of a central procurement operation that replaces the procurement activities of several associated enterprises. Similar to the guidance at paragraph 1.160 the MNE group has taken affirmative steps to centralise purchasing in a single group company to take advantage of volume discounts and potential savings in administrative costs. In accordance with the guidance in Chapter I, the benefits due to deliberate concerted group action should be allocated to the associated enterprises whose contributions create the synergies. However, in a business restructuring, the central procurement company may also contractually assume risk associated with buying, holding, and on-selling goods. As stated in the previous section, an analysis of risk under the framework provided in Section D. 1.2.1 of Chapter I will determine the economic significance of the risk and which party or parties assume that risk. Although the central procurement operation is entitled to profit potential arising from its assumption of the risk associated with buying, holding, and on-selling goods, it is not entitled to retain profits arising from the group purchasing power because it does not contribute to the creation of synergies (see paragraph 1.168).

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.26

The fact that a business restructuring may be motivated by anticipated synergies does not necessarily mean that the profits of the MNE group will effectively increase after the restructuring. It may be the case that enhanced synergies make it possible for the MNE group to derive additional profits compared to what the situation would have been in the future if the restructuring had not taken place, but there may not necessarily be additional profits compared to the pre-restructuring situation, for instance if the restructuring is needed to maintain competitiveness rather than to increase it. In addition, expected synergies do not always materialise – there can be cases where the implementation of a global business model designed to derive more group synergies in fact leads to additional costs and less efficiency.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.27

The arm’s length principle is based on the notion that independent enterprises, when evaluating the terms of a potential transaction, will compare the transaction to the other options realistically available to them, and they will only enter into the transaction if they see no alternative that offers a clearly more attractive opportunity to meet their commercial objective. In other words, independent enterprises would only enter into a transaction if it does not make them worse off than their next best option. Consideration of the other options realistically available may be relevant to comparability analysis, to understand the respective positions of the parties.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.28

Thus, in applying the arm’s length principle, the tax administration should evaluate each transaction as accurately delineated under the guidance in Section D of Chapter I and consider the economically relevant characteristics taken into account by the parties in reaching the conclusion that there is no option realistically available that offers a clearly more attractive opportunity to meet their commercial objectives than the restructuring adopted (see paragraph 1.38). In making such assessment, it may be necessary or useful to assess the transactions comprising the business restructuring in the context of a broader arrangement of economically related transactions.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.29

At arm’s length, there are situations where the restructured entity would have had no clearly more attractive option realistically available to it than to accept the conditions of the restructuring, e.g. a contract termination – with or without indemnification as discussed at Section F below. In longer-term contracts, this may occur by invoking an exit clause that allows for one party to prematurely exit the contract with just cause. In contracts that allow either party to opt out of the contract, the party terminating the arrangement may choose to do so because it has determined, subject to the terms of the termination clause, that it is more favourable to stop using the function, or to internalise it, or to engage a cheaper or more efficient provider or to seek more lucrative opportunities. If the restructured entity transfers rights or other assets or an ongoing concern to another party, it might however be compensated for such a transfer as discussed in Section E below.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.30

At arm’s length, there are also situations where an entity would have had one or more options realistically available to it that would clearly offer more attractive opportunities to meet their objectives than to accept the conditions of the restructuring (taking into account all the relevant conditions, including the commercial and market conditions going forward, the profit potential of the various options and any compensation or indemnification for the restructuring), including possibly the option not to enter into the restructuring transaction. In such cases, an independent party may not have agreed to the conditions of the restructuring and adjustments to the conditions made or imposed may be necessary.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.31

The reference to the notion of options realistically available is not intended to create a requirement for taxpayers to document all possible hypothetical options realistically available. Rather, the intention is to provide an indication that, if there is a realistically available option that is clearly more attractive, it should be considered in the analysis of the conditions of the restructuring.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.32

In the master file (see Annex I to Chapter V), taxpayers are asked to describe any important business restructuring transactions occurring during the year. In addition, in the local file, taxpayers are asked to indicate whether the local entity has been involved in or affected by business restructurings occurring during the year or immediately past year and to explain the aspects of such transactions affecting the local entity (see Annex II to Chapter V).

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.33

As part of their transfer pricing documentation, MNE groups are recommended to document their decisions and intentions regarding business restructurings, especially as regards their decisions to assume or transfer significant risks, before the relevant transactions occur, and to document the evaluation of the consequences on profit potential of significant risk allocations resulting from the restructuring. In describing the assumption of risk as part of a business restructuring, it is recommended that taxpayers use the framework set out in Section D. 1.2.1 of Chapter I.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.34

MNEs are free to organise their business operations as they see fit. Tax administrations do not have the right to dictate to an MNE how to design its structure or where to locate its business operations. In making commercial decisions, tax considerations may be a factor. Tax administrations, however, have the right to determine the tax consequences of the structure put in place by an MNE, subject to the application of treaties and in particular of Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention. This means that tax administrations may make, where appropriate, adjustments to profits in accordance with Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention and other types of adjustments allowed by their domestic law (e.g. under general or specific anti-abuse rules), to the extent that such adjustments are compatible with their treaty obligations.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.35

Business restructurings often lead MNE groups to implement global business models that are hardly if ever found between independent enterprises, taking advantage of the very fact that they are MNE groups and that they can work in an integrated fashion. For instance, MNE groups may implement global supply chains or centralised functions that may not be found between independent enterprises. This lack of comparables does not mean that the implementation of such global business models is not arm’s length. Every effort should be made to determine the pricing for the restructured transactions as accurately delineated under the arm’s length principle. A tax administration should not disregard part or all of the restructuring or substitute other transactions for it unless the exceptional circumstances described in paragraph 1.122 are met. In those cases, the guidance in Section D.2 of Chapter I may be applicable. The structure that for transfer pricing purposes, replaces that actually adopted by the taxpayers should comport as closely as possible with the facts of the actual transaction undertaken whilst achieving a commercially rational expected result that would have enabled the parties to come to a price acceptable to both of them at the time the arrangement was entered into. For example, where one element of a restructuring arrangement involves the closing down of a factory, the structure adopted for transfer pricing purposes cannot ignore the reality that the factory no longer operates. Similarly, where one element of a restructuring involves the actual relocation of substantive business functions, the structure adopted for transfer pricing purposes cannot ignore the fact that those functions were actually relocated.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.36

In assessing the commercial rationality of a restructuring under the guidance for non-recognition under Section D.2 of Chapter I, the question may arise whether to look at one transaction in isolation or whether to examine it in a broader context, taking account of other transactions that are economically inter-related. It will generally be appropriate to look at the commercial rationality of a restructuring as a whole. For instance, where examining a sale of an intangible that is part of a broader restructuring involving changes to the arrangements relating to the development and use of the intangible, then the commercial rationality of the intangible sale should not be examined in isolation of these changes. On the other hand, where a restructuring involves changes to more than one element or aspect of a business that are not economically inter-related, the commercial rationality of particular changes may need to be separately considered. For example, a restructuring may involve centralising a group’s purchasing function and centralising the ownership of valuable intangible property unrelated to the purchasing function. In such a case, the commercial rationality of centralising the purchasing function and of centralising the ownership of valuable intangible property may need to be evaluated separately from one another.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.37

There can be group-level business reasons for an MNE group to restructure. However, it is worth re-emphasising that the arm’s length principle treats the members of an MNE group as separate entities rather than as inseparable parts of a single unified business (see paragraph 1.6). As a consequence, it is not sufficient from a transfer pricing perspective that a restructuring arrangement makes commercial sense for the group as a whole: the arrangement must be arm’s length at the level of each individual taxpayer, taking account of its rights and other assets, expected benefits from the arrangement (i.e. any consideration of the post-restructuring arrangement plus, if applicable, any compensation payments for the restructuring itself), and realistically available options. Where a restructuring makes commercial sense for the group as a whole on a pre-tax basis, it is expected that an appropriate transfer price (that is, any compensation for the post-restructuring arrangement plus, if applicable, any compensation payments for the restructuring itself) would generally be available to provide arm’s length compensation for each accurately delineated transaction comprising the business restructuring for each individual group member participating in it.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.38

Under Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention, the fact that a business restructuring arrangement is motivated by a purpose of obtaining tax benefits does not of itself warrant a conclusion that it is a non-arm’s length arrangement. The presence of a tax motive or purpose does not of itself justify non-recognition of the parties’ characterisation or structuring of the arrangement. However, tax benefits at a group level do not determine whether the arm’s length principle is satisfied at the entity level for a taxpayer affected by the restructuring (see previous paragraph). Moreover, as indicated in paragraph 1.122, the fact that a MNE group as a whole is left worse off on a pre-tax basis may be a relevant pointer in determining the commercial rationality of the restructuring.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.39

An independent enterprise does not necessarily receive compensation when a change in its business arrangements results in a reduction in its profit potential or expected future profits. The arm’s length principle does not require compensation for a mere decrease in the expectation of an entity’s future profits. When applying the arm’s length principle to business restructurings, the question is whether there is a transfer of something of value (an asset or an ongoing concern) or a termination or substantial renegotiation of existing arrangements and that transfer, termination or substantial renegotiation would be compensated between independent parties in comparable circumstances. These two situations are discussed in Sections E and F below.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.40

In these Guidelines, “profit potential” means “expected future profits”. In some cases it may encompass losses. The notion of “profit potential” is often used for valuation purposes, in the determination of an arm’s length compensation for a transfer of intangibles or of an ongoing concern, or in the determination of an arm’s length indemnification for the termination or substantial renegotiation of existing arrangements, once it is found that such compensation or indemnification would have taken place between independent parties in comparable circumstances.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.41

In the context of business restructurings, profit potential should not be interpreted as simply the profits/losses that would occur if the pre-restructuring arrangement were to continue indefinitely. On the one hand, if an entity has no discernible rights or other assets at the time of the restructuring, then it has no compensable profit potential. On the other hand, an entity with considerable rights or other assets at the time of the restructuring may have considerable profit potential, which must ultimately be appropriately remunerated in order to justify the sacrifice of such profit potential.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.42

In order to determine whether at arm’s length the restructuring itself would give rise to a form of compensation, it is essential to understand the restructuring, including the changes that have taken place, how they have affected the functional analysis of the parties, what the business reasons for and the anticipated benefits from the restructuring were, and what options would have been realistically available to the parties, as discussed in Section B.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.43

General guidance on the transfer pricing aspects of risks is found in Section D. 1.2.1 of Chapter I, and the reallocation of risk following a business restructuring should be analysed under the framework set out in that Section in order to determine whether the party allocated risk following the restructuring controls the risk and has the financial capacity to assume the risk.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.44

Take the example of a conversion of a full-fledged manufacturer into a contract manufacturer. In such a case, while a cost plus reward might be an arm’s length remuneration for undertaking the post-restructuring contract manufacturing operations, a different question is whether there should be indemnification at arm’s length for the change in the existing arrangements which results in the surrender of the riskier profit potential by the manufacturer, taking into account its rights, other assets and economically relevant characteristics. Indemnification is discussed in Section F.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.45

As another example, assume a full-fledged distributor is operating under a long term contractual arrangement for a given type of transaction. Assume that, based on its rights under the long term contract with respect to these transactions, it has the option realistically available to it to accept or refuse being converted into a limited risk distributor operating for a foreign associated enterprise, and that an arm’s length remuneration for such a low risk distribution activity is estimated to be a stable profit of +2% per year while the excess profit potential associated with the risks would now be attributed to the foreign associated enterprise. Assume for the purpose of this example that the restructuring leads to the renegotiation of the existing contractual arrangements, but it does not entail the transfer of assets other than its rights under the long term contract. From the perspective of the distributor, the question arises as to whether the new arrangement (taking into account both the remuneration for the post-restructuring transactions and any compensation for the restructuring itself) is expected to make it as well off as its realistic – albeit riskier – alternatives. If not, this would imply that the post-restructuring arrangement is not priced at arm’s length and that additional compensation would be needed to appropriately remunerate the distributor for the restructuring, or that an assessment of the commercial rationality of the transaction based on Section D.2 may be necessary. Furthermore, for transfer pricing purposes, it is important to determine whether risks contractually transferred as part of the business restructuring, are assumed by the foreign associated enterprise in accordance with the guidance in Section D. 1 of Chapter I.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.46

9.46 At arm’s length, the response is likely to depend on the rights and other assets of the parties, on the profit potential of the distributor and of its associated enterprise in relation to both business models (full-fledged and low risk distributor) as well as the expected duration of the new arrangement. In particular, in evaluating profit potential, it is necessary to evaluate whether historic profits (determined in accordance with the arm’s length principle) are an indicator of future profit potential, or whether there have been changes in the business environment around the time of the restructuring that mean that past performance is not an indicator of profit potential. For example, competing products could have the effect of eroding profitability, and new technology or consumer preferences could render the products less attractive. The consideration of these factors from perspective of the distributor can be illustrated with the following example.

TPG2017
  Chapter IX paragraph 9.46

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.47

In scenario no. 1, the distributor is surrendering a profit potential with significant uncertainties for a relatively low but stable rate of profitability. Whether an independent party would be willing to do so would depend on its anticipated return under both scenarios, on its level of risk tolerance, on its options realistically available and on possible compensation for the restructuring itself. In case scenario no. 2, it is unlikely that independent parties in the distributor’s situation would agree to relocate the risks and associated profit potential for no additional compensation if they had the option to do otherwise. Scenario no. 3 illustrates the fact that the analysis should take account of the profit potential going forward and that, where there is a significant change in the commercial or economic environment, relying on historical data alone will not be sufficient.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.48

Sections E. 1 to E.3 below contain a discussion of some typical transfers that can arise in business restructurings: transfers of tangible assets, of intangibles and rights in intangibles, and of activities (ongoing concern).

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.49

Business restructurings can involve the transfer of tangible assets (e.g. equipment) by a restructured entity to a foreign associated enterprise. One common issue relates to the valuation of inventories that are transferred upon the conversion by a restructured manufacturer or distributor to a foreign associated enterprise (e.g. a principal), where the latter takes title to the inventories as from the implementation of the new business model and supply chain arrangements.

TPG2017 Chapter IX paragraph 9.50

Assume a taxpayer, which is a member of an MNE group, used to operate as a “full-fledged” manufacturer and distributor. According to the pre-restructuring business model, the taxpayer purchased raw materials, manufactured finished products using tangible property and intangibles that belonged to it or were rented/licensed to it, performed marketing and distribution functions and sold the finished products to third party customers. In doing so, the taxpayer assumed a series of risks such as inventory risks, bad debt risks and market risks.

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