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Designing and Implementing a Transfer Pricing System

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Designing and Implementing a Transfer Pricing System Undoubtedly the introduction of transfer pricing documentation requirements and detailed tax return disclosures has dominated the transfer pricing discussion
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Designing and Implementing a Transfer Pricing System Undoubtedly the introduction of transfer pricing documentation requirements and detailed tax return disclosures has dominated the transfer pricing discussion in China recently, and this will be discussed in detail in chapter titled Transfer Pricing Disclosures and Documentation. However, what is often overlooked is the need to design and implement the optimal transfer pricing system well ahead of focusing on documentation. Giving appropriate time for this early in the business cycle helps to ensure that the transfer pricing system is the most tax effective, consistent with the business model and commercial objectives, and documented efficiently. It will also help mitigate and manage transfer pricing risk exposure. With this in mind, this chapter is focused on the design of an optimal transfer pricing system as well as selecting and applying an appropriate transfer pricing methodology. The Transfer Pricing Associates group has applied a framework referred to as the Transfer Pricing Process. The Transfer Pricing Process addresses transfer pricing and the business risks around it as a business process by allowing the MNC to link how it operates its business to a transfer pricing system in a simple and logical way. The process is captured in the diagram below. C. Devonshire-Ellis et al. (eds.), Transfer Pricing in China, China Briefing, DOI: / _2, Ó Asia Briefing Ltd 8 Designing and Implementing a Transfer Pricing System Each of the four boxes in the transfer pricing process is discussed in more detail in the following sections. Box 1: Identify the Relevant Business Context Every industry is different and even within the same industry, each company has a very different strategy, internal organization, brand, and objectives as well as function, asset and risk profile. Identifying this business context as early as possible assists in closing the gap between the business reality and the perspective of the various tax authorities. This process combines internal and external sources of information to draw a concise picture of the MNC s business, the industry in which it operates and the key functions of each of the group companies. Given that it is vital for tax authorities to acquire a solid understanding of the business of an MNC before starting to investigate and scrutinise its transfer pricing system, Box 1 is a crucial step in the transfer pricing process. Broadly speaking, Box 1 consists of the industry analysis and functional analysis, each of which is discussed below. Industry Analysis The OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines as well as the transfer pricing regulations of all countries, including China, recognize that external economic factors can impact the transfer pricing between related entities. For this reason, the guidelines suggest that it is useful to include in transfer pricing documentation an analysis of the taxpayer s industry. Specifically, an industry analysis should include: Macroeconomic factors impacting the industry Description of the key characteristics of the industry, such as: growth rates (historical and forecast) barriers to entry success factors regulatory framework level of competition key players and market shares. Market forecasts and anticipated impact on companies in the industry For example, the global economic crisis in 2008 and 2009 and performance of the macro economy would go a long way towards explaining the low profitability of an entity during this period; that is, to demonstrate that reasons other than non-arm s length transfer pricing are responsible for the profitability of the company. Box 1: Identify the Relevant Business Context 9 From a tax authority perspective, industry trends help them identify suitable cases for a transfer pricing risk review. Also, once the tax authority has carried out a transfer pricing review or audit in respect of one taxpayer in a particular industry, it has often been the case that the tax authority will use the industry knowledge acquired from that review in order to carry out reviews and audits of other players in the same industry. The types of information contained within an industry analysis are available in external resources such as: analyst reports industry research reports annual reports of major players in the industry general media and other information typically available on the internet. Functional Analysis The other key aspect of Box 1 of the Transfer Pricing Process is the functional analysis. The functional analysis is an overview of the key activities performed by the entity, the assets used and risks borne. It provides a perspective on the role of the entity in the total value chain of the group. Each business is unique in terms of the combination of functions, assets and risks. The following table gives an indication, as an example only, of the types of functions to be included in a functional analysis, as well as the associated assets and risks. Functions Assets Risks Management Office equipment, Market risk know-how R&D Patents R&D risk Procurement Supplier lists Inventory risk Manufacturing Know-how, factory Capacity risk, product liability risk Marketing Brand Market risk, marketing risk Sales Brand, customer lists Market risk, credit risk Logistics Warehouse Freight risk, inventory risk Finance and administration Office equipment Foreign exchange risk So what is the best way to complete the functional analysis? Speaking to key personnel to understand their key roles and responsibilities and how each division interacts with one another within the company (often referred to by practitioners as the functional analysis interview ) also allows the MNC to gain a better insight to its business, the industry and key responsibilities of different companies in the group. In most cases, the head of each business division can provide: an overview of the value chain an explanation of their roles and responsibilities and interaction with other functions and group entities 10 Designing and Implementing a Transfer Pricing System decision making processes within the group and risks borne relevant industry information and trends as they impact the company The functional analysis is an aspect of a transfer pricing report that companies can potentially perform themselves with little or minimal support from an advisor, assuming the company has internal resources and sufficient expertise available. If an advisor is engaged, the critical point is to ensure that at least one internal person is nominated to coordinate the process and be actively involved. This ensures that the project runs efficiently which saves costs but, perhaps even more importantly, enables a knowledge transfer from the advisor to the company s internal team. This intangible will ensure that the process can be streamlined in the future, and more importantly that the report is implemented is intended. Box 2: Design and Implement the Transfer Pricing System The design of a transfer pricing system determines the appropriate return for each of the group companies as well as ensures the alignment of the transfer pricing system with the business model and commercial objectives. The roles and responsibilities captured for each of the group entities (through the functional analysis) address, from a management accounting perspective, the parameters for determining the success or failure of performing each activity. From a tax perspective, the same process enables the allocation of the operating margin to each of the group companies in the value chain. In the design of a transfer pricing system, the concept of responsibility centers is useful. The purpose of this concept is to link the business reality and the way the MNC does business to the appropriate method of compensation for each group company. The concept of responsibility centers looks at transfer pricing as a steering and controlling instrument, which is being used by the MNC to ensure that each of the group companies focus on their own roles and responsibilities. Each set of attributes reflecting a certain role and responsibility profile can, more or less, be matched with one of the following labels: Investment center Profit center Cost center Revenue center Expense center 1 In the following section, a practical illustration is provided of how these concepts can be applied to various common operating structures in China in respect of 1 Although often referred to interchangeably, expense centers differ from cost centers in that the activities of the former tend to be core in nature while the activities of the latter tend to be non-core in nature. Box 2: Design and Implement the Transfer Pricing System 11 procurement, manufacturing and distribution operations (note: this classification is important as it greatly simplifies the transfer pricing methodology selection process). Appendix 1 contains the Manual for Responsibility Centers. Procurement Option 1 Services Model: Cost Center Under a service model, the purchasing unit performs only services of a coordinating and otherwise supportive nature. The purchasing unit does not take ownership of the materials and assumes a low level of risks. The responsibility profile of the purchasing unit is a cost center, and the service fee is determined using the cost plus method. Option 2 Commission Agent Model: Revenue Center Under a commission agent model, the purchasing company develops activities with some value added, basically related to market intelligence. Like the service model, the purchasing company does not take ownership of the inventory and assumes a low level of risk. The responsibility profile of the purchasing unit is usually a revenue center, and the transfer pricing policy is based on a commission fee calculated as a percentage of the purchase value. Under this option it is also possible that some volume discounts or other forms of purchasing-related bonuses will be recognized by the purchasing company. The 12 Designing and Implementing a Transfer Pricing System purchasing company will need to allocate these amounts to the entities proportionately for which the purchases are being made, at appropriate intervals. Option 3 Buy/Sell Model Under a buy/sell model, the purchasing unit develops activities with a high added value. Among the activities performed are market intelligence, inventory and manufacturing management, quality control, finance and logistics. The purchasing company takes ownership of the materials purchased and usually assumes inventory, exchange and logistics risks. The responsibility profile of the purchasing unit is usually a profit center, and the transfer pricing policy is designed with reference to savings achieved. Manufacturing Option 1 Toll Manufacturer: Cost Center Under a toll manufacturing model, the toll manufacturer performs a processing function on behalf of a related party principal and does not take title to raw materials. It holds only minimal intangibles related to the manufacturing processes and is rewarded through a toll manufacturing fee calculated as a mark-up on processing costs, which is paid by the manufacturing principal. Such entities are classified as cost centers. Box 2: Design and Implement the Transfer Pricing System 13 Option 2 Contract Manufacturer: Cost Center The contract manufacturing model is similar to the toll manufacturer, except that the contract manufacturer does take title to raw materials and may be involved in procurement of such materials. Finished goods are sold to the manufacturing principal and priced to enable the contract manufacturer to earn an arm s length mark-up on total costs. Contract manufacturers are also classified as cost centers. Option 3 Fully Fledged Manufacturer: Profit Center The fully fledged manufacturer is responsible for sourcing materials, undertaking production and potentially selling to third parties on its own risk as well as to related party distributors. It bears a range of risks related to pricing and markets and owns intangibles related to the manufacturing process, products and potentially brands. Such entities are classified as profit centers. Distribution Option 1 Sales Representative/Sales Agent: Cost/Revenue Center A sales representative or sales agent is responsible for understanding the local market, identifying customers and negotiating sales. Such entities do not take title to finished goods and the legal and typically physical flow is from the related party 14 Designing and Implementing a Transfer Pricing System entity. They therefore bear no risk on inventory and receivables but may bear some market risk. They are either remunerated on a cost-plus basis (cost center) or on a commission based on notional sales generated (revenue center). Option 2 Full Risk Distributor: Profit Center At the other end of the distributor spectrum is the full risk distributor. Such entities purchase from related party manufacturers and are fully responsible for holding inventory, logistics, local marketing and sales. They bear market, inventory, credit and other risks consistent with these functions. In the responsibility center matrix they are classified as profit centers. A limited risk distributor has the same transaction and goods flow as a full risk distributor, however it generally bears a more limited range of market, inventory and other risks. Such entities are classified as revenue centers. From the examples above, it should be noted that the classification of responsibility centers is based on the underlying economic reality with strong reference to the functions, assets and risks assumed by the entity. The use of the responsibility center concept provides a clear and logical framework for analysis and overcomes the confusion from the typical labels used in transfer pricing such as limited risk distributor, commissionaire and contract R&D provider which typically do not explain all business models and their underlying economic reality. Once the multinational group s business process has been analyzed and the various group companies have been classified in this way, the transfer pricing policy as well as the choice of transfer pricing methodology becomes clear. Box 3: Documentation of the Transfer Pricing System 15 Box 3: Documentation of the Transfer Pricing System Box 3 involves the preparation of transfer pricing documentation, which broadly consists of the following elements: Industry analysis to place the functional analysis in the context of the industry in which the multinational group operates Functional analysis description of the key transactions, functions, assets and risks of the entity under review, to enable the classification of the entity and guide the selection of transfer pricing methodology Design of the system, and selection of the most appropriate transfer pricing methodology Benchmarking using the most appropriate methodology normally involving searches of financial databases Preparation of transfer pricing documentation in the China context is discussed in some detail in chapter titled Transfer Pricing Disclosures and Documentation. Below, one specific type of documentation the transfer pricing master file is discussed in detail. The Transfer Pricing Master File Many MNCs adopt a coordinated approach to the preparation of transfer pricing documentation since this is easier to administer and considerably more cost-efficient in practice than preparing documentation on a local country-by-country basis. The coordinated approach involves creating a master file that contains the core elements of transfer pricing documentation that are generally required by all tax authorities around the world as part of their transfer pricing regulations. The origins of the master file were in Europe. In 2002, the EU Joint Transfer Pricing Forum (JTPF), was set up and in 2003 the OECD requested the JTPF to address regional transfer pricing documentation requirements. According to the JTPF, the preparation of a large number of separate and unique sets of transfer pricing documentation on a per-country basis, as a consequence of different documentation requirements within the EU, is not a cost effective proposition. EU member states argued that they often are unable to examine transfer prices due to noncompliance by taxpayers with documentation requirements. In practice a master file for Europe and even globally has proven to be a feasible alternative to more traditional country-by-country regulations regarding transfer pricing documentation. In the case of China, if an MNC has multiple entities throughout China, it is possible to apply the master file concept to create one central report which can then be efficiently converted into entity-specific documentation if needed. Once the core documentation has been prepared, it generally satisfies 70 80% of the requirements of each of the tax authorities in the countries in which the 16 Designing and Implementing a Transfer Pricing System multinational does business. If a particular country requires transfer pricing documentation prepared specifically in respect of the local entity, this can be done easily and cost effectively by utilizing the information and documentation already prepared as part of the master file, with some amendments to render it specific to the local entity, and perhaps with some additional economic analysis. The key benefits for multinationals in adopting a master file approach: Ensures a consistent approach to the classification of group companies, selection of methodologies and economic analysis Considerably ease the maintenance and updating on an ongoing basis multinationals are better able to take control, and stay in control, of their transfer pricing systems Enhance efficiency since multinationals only need to prepare specific local documentation where the regulations require it or in the event of a high transfer pricing risk Transfer Pricing Software In recent years an increasing tendency has emerged amongst large MNCs to use software products to create transfer pricing documentation packages. The automation of the documentation process will become increasingly important as the compliance burden for MNCs grows, as more countries introduce mandatory documentation requirements. It is important to recognize that the investment in such software would typically be most viable for larger MNCs with multiple entities in China and globally as well as the required in-house resources to implement and coordinate the relevant input into the software. Software can create considerable efficiencies in transfer pricing compliance and should be seen as one component of the transfer pricing process. Transfer Pricing Methods The following are the recognized transfer pricing methods in the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines as well as in China: Comparable Uncontrolled Price Method Resale Price Method Cost-plus Method Transactional Net Margin Method Profit Split Method Other appropriate methods that comply with the arm s length principle The selection of an appropriate transfer pricing method should be guided by the level of comparability of data used and the reliability of the results. The following are descriptions of the accepted transfer pricing methods. Transfer Pricing Software 17 Comparable Uncontrolled Price Method (CUP) The CUP method takes the prices that are charged by arm s length parties or to non-related parties in conducting the same or similar transactions with the related party transactions as the arm s length price. The CUP method is potentially applicable to all types of related party transactions. The CUP method requires a high level of comparability and if available would generally provide the best benchmark of an arm s length price for a related party transaction. However, in practice, it is rare to find a reliable CUP outside of commodity or financial services products with a publicly listed price. The CUP can either be applied on an internal or external basis
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