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As businesses seek to unlock new markets and resources, cross-border trade has become more and more prevalent. Northern Ireland is not exempt and may indeed become a bigger player on the world stage being dubbed ‘the world's most exciting economic zone’ by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, following the introduction of the Windsor Framework.
Where businesses span tax jurisdictions, tax authorities will seek to ensure profits are allocated appropriately. In the UK, the government have introduced new ‘transfer pricing’ rules that come into effect for accounting periods commencing on or after 1 April 2023.
Transfer pricing is a means of pricing transactions between connected parties. It is based on the internationally recognised ‘arm’s length’ principle which seeks to determine what the price would have been if the transactions had been carried out by independent parties (i.e. at arm’s length).
It has been more than six years since the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) presented a number of recommendations to improve the international tax landscape. One recommendation included a requirement to develop rules regarding transfer pricing documentation (BEPS Action 13).
The UK Government’s response to this recommendation sees the introduction of new requirements consisting of:
- a Master File containing standardised information relevant for all multinational enterprise (MNE) group members;
- a Local File referring specifically to material transactions of the local taxpayer; and
- a Country-by-Country (CbC) report for the largest MNE groups containing aggregate data on the global allocation of income, profit, taxes paid and economic activity among the tax jurisdictions in which it operates.
The UK had not previously introduced specific documentation requirements as there were already broad record keeping requirements in place. This did, however, create a degree of uncertainty for UK businesses, leading to inconsistency with the approach taken by businesses.
Prior to 1 April 2023, the Country-by-Country report was already required to be maintained by ‘very large groups’ (i.e. where global consolidated revenues are €750 million or more). The newly updated legislation will now require those same groups to also maintain a Master File and Local Files, adding more complexity to the compliance process.
Small groups (defined as having less than 50 employees, and either turnover or gross assets not exceeding €10 million) are fully exempt from transfer pricing documentation requirements. There are still transfer pricing documentation requirements for Medium groups, however the new standardised requirements are not considered compulsory at this time.
The importance of transfer pricing cannot be understated as many tax authorities take a keen interest. The UK government, in particular, have settled a record number of transfer pricing enquiry cases in FY22 (175), increasing over 41% compared to FY21 (124), proving this is a focus area for the UK government. Even though the new transfer pricing rules are not compulsory for every business, it is certainly worth every business taking the time to consider what documentation is currently in place and whether this can fully satisfy the arm’s length principle.
Here at Grant Thornton we have recently strengthened our international tax team by brining on a new Director - Jonathan Megaw. Jonathan previously worked for over 10 years with HMRC, where he led UK Corporation Tax compliance checks into numerous international tax issues as well as preparing international tax issues for litigation. If we can help with any transfer pricing or international tax queries, please reach out and let us know.