Australia - Transfer pricing now referred to as “profit shifting” 

November 15: The recent introduction of subdivision 815 has provided the Commissioner with significantly broader powers to make transfer pricing adjustments in Australia.

Subdivision 815 has brought a new approach to Australia’s domestic analysis—which arguably goes beyond the traditional Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) transactional focus by requiring an examination of “arm's length financial and commercial conditions.”


Subdivision 815 also provides broad authority for “reconstruction,” which lacks the explicit OECD caveat that such authority is to be used only in “exceptional circumstances.”


In line with OECD work on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), these new rules well equip the Commissioner to combat perceived taxpayer “profit shifting.”

Nomenclature

There has been a subtle shift in the nomenclature used by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Earlier in March 2013, the ATO released a publication, Overview of International profit-shifting risks and activities in the ATO, in which the ATO started referring to transfer pricing more broadly as “profit shifting.” This evocative language has since been retained in ATO publications and correspondence, including the newly commenced International Structuring and Profit Shifting (ISAPS) program started this month and requesting information on global group activity and profit by location.

What’s in a name? What does it mean?

It is clear that the ATO will continue to focus on transfer pricing in the traditional transaction pricing sense. However, the name change signals a shift to a broader examination of the relationships, structures, and interactions with related parties outside the transactions.


In order to manage their tax exposure and reputational risk, taxpayers need to be vigilant in setting and documenting their transfer pricing policies. In particular, taxpayers must determine that their positions are commercial and well supported for the ATO’s stated focus areas:


  • Low profitability / losses
  • Financing transactions / structures
  • Marketing hubs and support payments
  • eCommerce
  • Intangibles
  • Unique arrangements with limited comparables

Read a November 2013 report prepared by the KPMG member firm in Australia.


For more information, contact a KPMG tax professional in Australia:


Jermey Capes

+61 2 9335 7873




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