Tag: Burden of proof (Onus)

Preface paragraph 18

In seeking to achieve the balance between the interests of taxpayers and tax administrators in a way that is fair to all parties, it is necessary to consider all aspects of the system that are relevant in a transfer pricing case. One such aspect is the allocation of the burden of proof. In most jurisdictions, the tax administration bears the burden of proof, which may require the tax administration to make a prima facie showing that the taxpayer’s pricing is inconsistent with the arm’s length principle. It should be noted, however, that even in such a case a tax administration might still reasonably oblige the taxpayer to produce its records to enable the tax administration to undertake its examination of the controlled transactions. In other jurisdictions the taxpayer may bear the burden of proof in some respects. Some OECD member countries are of the view that Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention establishes burden of proof rules in transfer pricing cases which override any contrary domestic provisions. Other countries, however, consider that Article 9 does not establish burden of proof rules (cf. paragraph 4 of the Commentary on Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention). Regardless of which party bears the burden of proof, an assessment of the fairness of the allocation of the burden of proof would have to be made in view of the other features of the jurisdiction’s tax system that have a bearing on the overall administration of transfer pricing rules, including the resolution of disputes. These features include penalties, examination practices, administrative appeals processes, rules regarding payment of interest with respect to tax assessments and refunds, whether proposed tax deficiencies must be paid before protesting an adjustment, the statute of limitations, and the extent to which rules are made known in advance. It would be inappropriate to rely on any of these features, including the burden of proof, to make unfounded assertions about transfer pricing. Some of these issues are discussed further in Chapter IV ...

Chapter IV paragraph 4.5

This section describes three aspects of transfer pricing compliance that should receive special consideration to help tax jurisdictions administer their transfer pricing rules in a manner that is fair to taxpayers and other jurisdictions. While other tax law compliance practices are in common use in OECD member countries – for example, the use of litigation and evidentiary sanctions where information may be sought by a tax administration but is not provided – these three aspects will often impact on how tax administrations in other jurisdictions approach the mutual agreement procedure process and determine their administrative response to ensuring compliance with their own transfer pricing rules. The three aspects are: examination practices, the burden of proof, and penalty systems. The evaluation of these three aspects will necessarily differ depending on the characteristics of the tax system involved, and so it is not possible to describe a uniform set of principles or issues that will be relevant in all cases. Instead, this section seeks to provide general guidance on the types of problems that may arise and reasonable approaches for achieving a balance of the interests of the taxpayers and tax administrations involved in a transfer pricing inquiry ...

Chapter IV paragraph 4.11

Like examination practices, the burden of proof rules for tax cases also differ among OECD member countries. In most jurisdictions, the tax administration bears the burden of proof both in its own internal dealings with the taxpayer (e.g. assessment and appeals) and in litigation. In some of these countries, the burden of proof can be reversed, allowing the tax administration to estimate taxable income, if the taxpayer is found not to have acted in good faith, for example, by not cooperating or complying with reasonable documentation requests or by filing false or misleading returns. In other countries, the burden of proof is on the taxpayer. In this respect, however, the conclusions of paragraphs 4.16 and 4.17 should be noted ...

Chapter IV paragraph 4.12

The implication for the behaviour of the tax administration and the taxpayer of the rules governing burden of proof should be taken into account. For example, where as a matter of domestic law the burden of proof is on the tax administration, the taxpayer may not have any legal obligation to prove the correctness of its transfer pricing unless the tax administration makes a prima facie showing that the pricing is inconsistent with the arm’s length principle. Even in such a case, of course, the tax administration might still reasonably oblige the taxpayer to produce its records that would enable the tax administration to undertake its examination. In some countries, taxpayers have a duty to cooperate with the tax administration imposed on them by law. In the event that a taxpayer fails to cooperate, the tax administration may be given the authority to estimate the taxpayer’s income and to assume relevant facts based on experience. In these cases, tax administrations should not seek to impose such a high level of cooperation that would make it too difficult for reasonable taxpayers to comply ...

Chapter IV paragraph 4.13

In jurisdictions where the burden of proof is on the taxpayer, tax administrations are generally not at liberty to raise assessments against taxpayers which are not soundly based in law. A tax administration in an OECD member country that applies the arm’s length principle, for example, could not raise an assessment based on a taxable income calculated as a fixed percentage of turnover and simply ignore the arm’s length principle. In the context of litigation in countries where the burden of proof is on the taxpayer, the burden of proof is often seen as a shifting burden. Where the taxpayer presents to a court a reasonable argument and evidence to suggest that its transfer pricing was arm’s length, the burden of proof may legally or de facto shift to the tax administration to counter the taxpayer’s position and to present argument and evidence as to why the taxpayer’s transfer pricing was not arm’s length and why the assessment is correct. On the other hand, where a taxpayer makes little effort to show that its transfer pricing was arm’s length, the burden imposed on the taxpayer would not be satisfied where a tax administration raised an assessment which was soundly based in law ...

Chapter IV paragraph 4.14

When transfer pricing issues are present, the divergent rules on burden of proof among OECD member countries will present serious problems if the strict legal rights implied by those rules are used as a guide for appropriate behaviour. For example, consider the case where the controlled transaction under examination involves one jurisdiction in which the burden of proof is on the taxpayer and a second jurisdiction in which the burden of proof is on the tax administration. If the burden of proof is guiding behaviour, the tax administration in the first jurisdiction might make an unsubstantiated assertion about the transfer pricing, which the taxpayer might accept, and the tax administration in the second jurisdiction would have the burden of disproving the pricing. It could be that neither the taxpayer in the second jurisdiction nor the tax administration in the first jurisdiction would be making efforts to establish an acceptable arm’s length price. This type of behaviour would set the stage for significant conflict as well as double taxation ...

Chapter IV paragraph 4.15

Consider the same facts as in the example in the preceding paragraph. If the burden of proof is again guiding behaviour, a taxpayer in the first jurisdiction being a subsidiary of a taxpayer in the second jurisdiction (notwithstanding the burden of proof and these Guidelines), may be unable or unwilling to show that its transfer prices are arm’s length. The tax administration in the first jurisdiction after examination makes an adjustment in good faith based on the information available to it. The parent company in the second jurisdiction is not obliged to provide to its tax administration any information to show that the transfer pricing was arm’s length as the burden of proof rests with the tax administration. This will make it difficult for the two tax administrations to reach agreement in competent authority proceedings ...

Chapter IV paragraph 4.16

In practice, neither countries nor taxpayers should misuse the burden of proof in the manner described above. Because of the difficulties with transfer pricing analyses, it would be appropriate for both taxpayers and tax administrations to take special care and to use restraint in relying on the burden of proof in the course of the examination of a transfer pricing case. More particularly, as a matter of good practice, the burden of proof should not be misused by tax administrations or taxpayers as a justification for making groundless or unverifiable assertions about transfer pricing. A tax administration should be prepared to make a good faith showing that its determination of transfer pricing is consistent with the arm’s length principle even where the burden of proof is on the taxpayer, and taxpayers similarly should be prepared to make a good faith showing that their transfer pricing is consistent with the arm’s length principle regardless of where the burden of proof lies ...

Chapter IV paragraph 4.17

The Commentary on paragraph 2 of Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention makes clear that the State from which a corresponding adjustment is requested should comply with the request only if that State “considers that the figure of adjusted profits correctly reflects what the profits would have been if the transactions had been at arm’s length”. This means that in competent authority proceedings the State that has proposed the primary adjustment bears the burden of demonstrating to the other State that the adjustment “is justified both in principle and as regards the amount.” Both competent authorities are expected to take a cooperative approach in resolving mutual agreement cases ...

Chapter V paragraph 5.2

This chapter provides guidance for tax administrations to take into account in developing rules and/or procedures on documentation to be obtained from taxpayers in connection with a transfer pricing enquiry or risk assessment. It also provides guidance to assist taxpayers in identifying documentation that would be most helpful in showing that their transactions satisfy the arm’s length principle and hence in resolving transfer pricing issues and facilitating tax examinations ...