Finance ministry fine-tuning guidelines for transfer pricing modes

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 10, 2013 21:02 hrs

The vehement protests by industry against transfer pricing adjustments do not seem to have deterred the income tax (I-T) department from exploring new grounds to enhance tax collection.

The finance ministry has initiated deliberations to finalise norms for transfer pricing of intangibles, safe harbour rules, risk assessment and documentation, definition of permanent establishment, tax treaty issues related to tradable permits and defining meaning of beneficial owner.

Tax experts and industry chambers have been asked by the ministry for their views on these issues, said a senior I-T official in the know.

The official added the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and development (OECD) had already floated discussion papers on these issues.

Transfer pricing refers to the valuations of transactions between associated companies in various countries. The I-T department has been making huge adjustments in the past few years in the accounts filed by the companies for computing taxation.

Interestingly, suggestions have been invited on various issues raised in the OECD draft discussion document on transfer pricing of intangibles such as trademarks and goodwill value, keeping in view the erosion of revenue base of India.

The I-T department is likely to soon finalise its views on safe harbour rules pertaining to the transfer pricing norms for specific industry segments, after reviewing the suggestions received from different quarters.

Risk assessment and the documentation required for transfer pricing calculations and taxation purposes have also been a grey area. The I-T department is now devising risk identification criteria and formulating approaches to risk assessment. In the next few months, clear guidelines for maintenance of the documentation for transfer pricing purposes will be firmed up.

As a part of this whole exercise, the department is striving to outline various aspects of defining and application of the concept of beneficial ownership in the transfer pricing framework.

According to the official, Budget 2013-14 could give indications on the direction in which the government wants to move in these areas. He said the department could issue specific guidelines in the next financial year.

The government has already introduced an advance pricing agreement (APA) mechanism in the current financial year to bring certainty in the transfer pricing tax liabilities of companies.

Tax experts, however, are of the opinion that handling of transfer pricing in India by the tax authorities is in developing stage and, hence, requires major fine-tuning and improvement.

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