The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) published guidance on 19 June 2020 regarding COVID-19 economic impacts on transfer pricing arrangements.
COVID-19 economic impacts on transfer pricing arrangements
This information aims to assist those economically affected by COVID-19 when preparing documentation to support the arm's length nature of their transfer pricing arrangements.
It does not address whether related party arrangements that have been terminated, amended or replaced due to COVID-19, would satisfy arm's length conditions. If you are considering such changes to these arrangements, we encourage you to engage with us as early as possible.
How we assess the economic impacts of COVID-19 on transfer pricing arrangements
The effects of COVID-19 on the Australian economy are not yet known or quantifiable and the impacts on specific industries and businesses will vary widely. We acknowledge that some businesses will be negatively affected by COVID-19, which may lead to a reduction in revenues, increased expenses, and changes to profit outcomes.
When undertaking transfer pricing compliance activities, we seek to understand the facts and the individual circumstances by assessing:
Emphasis will be placed on gathering evidence to support any changes to, or impacts on, the business as a result of COVID-19. You should consider documenting these changes as they are considered and implemented.
How to support the arm's length nature of your transfer pricing outcomes
Analyses of comparable company benchmarking may not reliably support arm's length outcomes of continuing transfer pricing arrangements where they are impacted by COVID-19, particularly in the short term.
On this basis, we will seek to understand the financial outcomes you would have achieved 'but for' the impact of COVID-19. This analysis may include:
PCG 2019/1 and COVID-19 impacts
We are not currently seeking to review PCG 2019/1 due to the effect of COVID-19. We consider the appropriateness of PCGs where analysis or further benchmarking indicates there is a material movement in the information used to develop the risk assessment framework.
Breaching an APA due to COVID-19
We understand that your business may be negatively impacted by COVID-19.
For taxpayers with an advance pricing arrangement (APA) in place, this could potentially result in a breach of the critical assumptions in the APA. In those circumstances, we encourage you to proactively engage with us as soon as you become aware a breach of the APA terms has occurred or is likely to occur. See How to support the arm's length nature of your transfer pricing outcomes for examples of areas of enquiry we may consider.
We will seek to understand the impact on the APA of the breach and consider appropriate outcomes. This could include:
Those currently in an APA process without an agreed APA
If you're currently engaged with us in the APA process but don't have an agreed APA in place, we will continue to honour our commitment to work with you on your application. Standard APA processes and analyses apply where your economic performance is not significantly impacted by COVID-19.
If you are significantly affected by COVID-19, it may be difficult to progress the APA application without objective evidence of any impact experienced or high uncertainty around potential outcomes.
In these cases, we'll discuss placing cases on hold or considering whether the APA process can be mutually ended. You can then lodge when you have a greater level of certainty on the impact.
Bilateral APAs will need to be considered in consultation with the corresponding jurisdictions.
If you have questions or require assistance, email us at International@ato.gov.au. Alternatively, if you have a dedicated key relationship manager, you can contact them directly for assistance.