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Transfer Pricing (“TP”) regulations have been at the forefront of corporate headlines over the last few years due to the increasing number of controversies resulting out of tax structuring by multinational companies in India. What makes the topic both contentious and interesting is that regulators view the various techniques applied to inter-corporate transactions as purportedly planned with the intent of achieving benefits of comparable labor cost and tax advantage at the cost of a countries tax revenues.
Hence, there was a need to introduce a uniform and internationally accepted mechanism of determining reasonable, fair and equitable profits and tax in India in the case of such multinational enterprises.
Statutory rules and regulations
A separate code on transfer pricing under Sections 92 to 92F of the Indian Income Tax Act, 1961 (“the Act”) covers intra-group cross-border transactions and specified domestic transactions. Since the introduction of the code, transfer pricing has become the most important international tax issue affecting multinational enterprises operating in India. The regulations are broadly based on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) Guidelines and describe the various transfer pricing methods, impose extensive annual transfer pricing documentation requirements and contain harsh penal provisions for noncompliance.
The Indian Transfer Pricing Code prescribes that income arising from international transactions or specified domestic transactions between associated enterprises should be computed having regard to the arm’s length price. It has been clarified that any allowance for an expenditure or interest or allocation of any cost or expense arising from an international transaction or specified domestic transaction also shall be determined having regard to the arm’s-length price. The Act defines the terms international transactions, specified domestic transactions, associated enterprises and arm’s length price.
Type of transactions covered
The Indian transfer pricing regulations are applicable to an international transaction as well as to specified domestic transactions entered into two (or more) associated enterprises. Section 92B of the Act defines the term “international transaction” to mean a transaction between two (or more) associated enterprises involving the sale, purchase or lease of tangible or intangible property; provision of services; cost-sharing arrangements; lending/borrowing of money; or any other transaction having a bearing on the profits, income, losses or assets of such enterprises.
Further, the Finance Act 2012 extended the application of transfer pricing regulations to “specified domestic transactions”, being the following transactions with certain related domestic parties, if the aggregate value of such transactions exceeds INR 5 crore:
Associated enterprises (“AEs”)
The relationship of associated enterprises is defined by Section 92A of the Actto cover direct/ indirect participation in the management, control or capital of an enterprise by another enterprise. It also covers situations in which the same person (directly or indirectly) participates in the management, control or capital of both the enterprises. For the purposes of the above definition, Section 92A of the Act specifies certain parameters have been laid down based on which two enterprises would be deemed as AEs.
Arm’s length principle and pricing methodologies
The term ‘arm’s length price’ is defined by Section 92F of the Act to mean a price that is applied or is proposed to be applied to transactions between persons other than AEs in uncontrolled conditions. The following methods have been prescribed by Section 92C of the Act for the determination of the arm’s-length price:
These regulations require a taxpayer to determine an arm’s-length price for international transactions or specified domestic transactions. However, transfer pricing provisions will not apply if the arm’s-length price would result in a downward revision in the income chargeable to tax in India.
Taxpayers are required to maintain, on an annual basis, a set of extensive information and documents relating to international transactions undertaken with AEs or specified domestic transactions. Rule 10D of the Income Tax Rules, 1962 prescribes detailed information and documentation that has to be maintained by the taxpayer.
Further, it is mandatory for all taxpayers, without exception, to obtain an independent accountant’s report in respect of all international transactions between associated enterprises or specified domestic transactions. The report has to be furnished by the due date of the tax return filing (i.e. on or before 30 November) to avoid stringent penalties prescribed for noncompliance with the provisions of the transfer pricing code.