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International Tax Planning

What is Transfer pricing & why has it been regulated?

Commercial transactions between the different parts of the multinational groups may not be subject to the same market forces shaping relations between the two independent firms. One party transfers to another goods or services, for a price. That price is known as “transfer price”. This may be arbitrary and dictated, with no relation to cost and added value, diverge from the market forces. Transfer price is, thus, a price which represents the value of good; or services between independently operating units of an organization. But, the expression “transfer pricing” generally refers to prices of transactions between associated enterprises which may take place under conditions differing from those taking place between independent enterprises. It refers to the value attached to transfers of goods, services and technology between related entities. It also refers to the value attached to transfers between unrelated parties which are controlled by a common entity.

Thus, the effect of transfer pricing is that the parent company or a specific subsidiary tends to produce insufficient taxable income or excessive loss on a transaction. For instance, profits accruing to the parent can be increased by setting high transfer prices to siphon profits from subsidiaries domiciled in high tax countries, and low transfer prices to move profits to subsidiaries located in low tax jurisdiction. As an example of this, a group which manufactures products in a high tax country may decide to sell them at a low profit to its affiliate sales company based in a tax haven country. That company would in turn sell the product at an arm’s length price and the resulting (inflated) profit would be subject to little or no tax in that country. The result is revenue loss and also a drain on foreign exchange reserves.

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