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While there is great opportunity for businesses looking to expand globally, organizations are under increasing tax scrutiny. Regardless of your company’s size and level of international involvement—whether you’re working abroad, investing, buying and selling, borrowing or manufacturing—doing business beyond Canada’s borders comes with its fair share of tax risks.
Transfer pricing is a complex area of corporate taxation that is concerned with the intra-group pricing of goods, services, intangibles, and financial instruments. Transfer pricing has become a critical governance issue for companies, tax authorities and policy makers, and represents a principal risk area for multinationals.
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Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has been intensifying its enforcement of transfer pricing laws in recent years, with privately held, mid-market companies increasingly facing scrutiny. Time is running short before the June 30, 2019 deadline for most Canadian corporate tax filers, but it’s not too late to ensure compliance.
Once mainly the concern of the largest multinational corporations, transfer pricing is becoming an increasingly important consideration for privately held, mid-sized companies in Canada.
Transfer pricing obligations are outlined in Section 247 of the Canadian Income Tax Act (ITA), which requires that any transactions between a Canadian operating entity and foreign-based operations within a multinational group must be priced in accordance with arm’s length prices. Transfer pricing rules ensure that the corporate parties to a transaction set appropriate prices for the transaction – and thereby report and pay an appropriate amount of tax in each jurisdiction.
The requirement relates to transactions of any nature, including transfers of inventory and other tangible goods, service fees, management fees, intellectual property licensing transactions, intra-group loan transactions, employee transfers, and others. The broad application of these rules bring companies of all kinds under their scope.
In addition to pricing requirements, transfer pricing laws also include documentation requirements- which generally take the form of a carrot rather than a stick. Formally documenting transactions in a prescribed manner can afford penalty protection in the event the CRA disagrees with the underlying transfer pricing. This is becoming an increasingly important consideration in recent years, as the CRA and other global tax agencies have stepped-up enforcement activities in this area. While large multinationals have been dealing with transfer pricing obligations for decades, many mid-market and smaller companies that have international transactions may not be as well-prepared.
Transfer pricing calculations are often complex
There is a fair amount of complexity surrounding the actual pricing and documentation processes for transfer pricing, which involve highly subjective valuation standards. As a result, every transfer pricing case is different and no “one-size-fits-all” solution exists that is tailored to fit all companies.
Grant Thornton’s Transfer Pricing Group regularly hears questions from the privately held and publicly listed multinationals we specialize in serving. Some of the common concerns include:
- Do I need to prepare a “transfer pricing report”? Or can I do something simpler?
- What exactly constitutes “contemporaneous documentation” per subsection 247(4) for penalty protection?
- Could a study from a prior year be used to support the pricing for the current year?
- Is an intra-group legal agreement between the Canadian legal entity and the foreign operations enough?
- Is it worth preparing any documentation at all if the cross-border intra-group transactions are immaterial?
- What are the potential penalties for getting things wrong?
Clear up the confusion
If any of this sounds familiar, now is the right time to seek assistance. Canadian companies with a December 31 fiscal year-end have until June 30 to file tax returns with the CRA. Although the complexity regarding transfer pricing can seem daunting, Grant Thornton’s Transfer pricing team can assist in answering your questions.