BEPS and Transfer Pricing: Action 8

December 13, 2023

The BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) initiative led by the OECD and the G20 has transformed the international tax landscape. Among the 15 actions that make up this plan, Action 8 stands out for addressing practices that generate base erosion and profit shifting through the strategic movement of intangibles among group members. In this article, we will explore in depth the key elements of Action 8, highlighting the need for clear and comprehensive rules to ensure equitable distribution of benefits and fair taxation.

Defining Intangibles: The Importance of a Broad and Clear Definition

The essential first step of Action 8 involves the adoption of a broad and clearly delineated definition of intangibles. These intangible assets, ranging from intellectual property to know-how to trademarks, are often strategically moved between related entities to minimize the tax burden. An accurate definition is essential to close loopholes and ensure that all intangible assets are properly identified and taxed.

Profit Allocation: Focus on Value Creation Instead of Separating It

One of the key points of Action 8 is to ensure that the benefits associated with the transfer and use of intangibles are properly allocated according to value creation. Rather than allowing profits to be separated from value creation, it seeks to establish rules that reflect the actual contribution of each related entity to the revenue generation process. This not only ensures fair taxation, but also promotes transparency and fairness in the global tax system.

Transfer Pricing Rules: Addressing Transfers of Intangibles That Are Difficult to Valuate

Given the complexity and unique nature of many intangible assets, Action 8 proposes the development of specific transfer pricing rules or special measures for transfers of intangibles that are difficult to value. This seeks to avoid price manipulation that may arise in the valuation of intangible assets, ensuring that their economic value is properly reflected in tax reports.

Update of the Regulations on Cost-Sharing Mechanisms

Another key aspect of Action 8 involves the need to update the regulation on cost-sharing mechanisms. These mechanisms, when used inappropriately, can distort the allocation of profits and enable tax avoidance. The revision and strengthening of these standards are crucial to ensure that the costs associated with the creation and maintenance of intangibles are distributed fairly and in accordance with the actual contributions of each entity.

Challenges in International Implementation and Coordination

The implementation of Action 8 is not without its challenges. The diversity of business structures and the need for accurate data to properly assess risks and functions are significant obstacles. Coordination between jurisdictions is crucial to ensure that transfer pricing principles are applied consistently, avoiding loopholes and ensuring fair taxation.

The risk of inconsistencies in implementation at the global level is evident, and to overcome this challenge, a firm commitment by countries is required to adopt and apply the guidelines proposed by the OECD in a consistent manner.

Transparency and Country-by-Country Reporting (CbCR): Key Tools for Fiscal Equity

A key instrument to address the challenges of Action 8 is the implementation of the Country-by-Country Report (CbCR). This mechanism requires multinational enterprises to provide tax authorities with detailed information on their operations, income, and tax payments in each jurisdiction in which they operate.

The CbCR fosters transparency and makes it easier for authorities to identify potential risks of base erosion. In addition, it empowers jurisdictions to take preventive and corrective measures, thereby strengthening countries’ capacity to effectively address tax avoidance strategies.

Opportunities for Fiscal Equity and Sustainable Development

Despite the challenges, the implementation of Action 8 opens up significant opportunities. By emphasizing tax equity, the distribution of the tax burden among jurisdictions can be improved, contributing directly to sustainable development. Fairly generated tax revenues can be used for investments in infrastructure, public services, and social programs, generating a positive impact on local communities and the global economy.

Conclusion: Towards Fairer and More Transparent International Taxation

In conclusion, BEPS Action 8 represents a significant step towards building a fairer and more transparent international tax system. By developing rules that prevent base erosion and profit shifting in intangible transfers, the groundwork is laid for more equitable taxation in line with current economic realities. Clarity in the definition of intangibles, benefit-based allocation based on value creation, specific rules for complicated valuations, and updated cost-sharing mechanisms are essential elements to achieve an international tax system that promotes tax justice and economic sustainability.