30 June 2009

Transactions Between Related Entities: Transfer Pricing in Argentina

When a parent company pays a subsidiary for goods or services or vice versa, complications can arise between the interests of the company and the government. The government wants the local company to charge the highest price for its goods/services and pay the least on goods and services purchased abroad when it comes to transactions between related parties -- thereby increasing the earnings (and thus the income tax that results) of the local company.

In Argentina, companies performing transactions with related entities are required to submit transfer pricing reports, transfer pricing tax returns, and documentation that supports the price that was charged. The government may administratively "modify" the price that was charged for tax purposes if it feels the company is trying to intentionally undercharge related entities (or overpay them in the case that the subsidiary is making payments).

The principle at work is called the "arm's length standard" and it states that the price to be used must be the market price for the goods or services in questions, had the Argentine company been dealing with a non-related party on the open market. This is the principle used for transfer pricing issues in the United States and practically every other country. When it comes to commodities and other goods for export where prices are readily available on a world market, export taxes will be charged based on market prices, without regard to what appears in the invoice, even when the transaction is not between related parties.

Be aware that large multinational corporations often have entire departments dedicated to developing the documentation required justify the prices they charge between their subsidiaries in different countries. It may be more convenient for smaller international businesses that are unwilling to spend the time and money necessary to justify these arrangements to source their goods and services from independent suppliers or distributors rather than through the parent company itself.

Big multinationals are so concerned about this issue they will sometimes sign "advance pricing agreements" between the two governments involved and the company, which allow them to avoid costly tax disputes between dueling governments, each concerned with keeping the profits within their territory.

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