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March 12, 2015

Transfer Pricing Update: Australia Safe Harbors

The Australian Taxation Office (“ATO”) recently published Practice Statement Law Administration (“PS LA”), online guidance for safe harbors regarding the simplification of transfer pricing record keeping. The PS LA explains the Australian Commissioner will not review a taxpayer’s transfer pricing records beyond confirming the taxpayer’s eligibility if certain safe harbor requirements are met.

The guidance provides safe harbors to the following:

Safe harbor conditions for Small (non-distribution) taxpayers:

  • Consolidated turnover is not greater than AUD 25 million; 
  • Has not incurred 3 or more consecutive years of losses;
  • Has no intercompany transactions with entities in “specified countries” (countries considered “high risk”);
  • Has not restructured in the year;
  • Has no intercompany transactions involving royalties, research and development, and license fees and arrangements;
  • Not classified as a distributor; and
  • No more than 15% of total turnover is comprised of “specified intercompany services” (services considered “high risk”).
  • Safe harbor conditions for Small-to-medium sized distributors:
  • Turnover for the distributor is no greater than AUD 50 million and has an operating margin of at least 3% on a 3-year basis;
  • Has no intercompany transactions with entities in “specified countries;”
  • Has not restructured in the year; and
  • Has no intercompany transactions involving royalties, research and development, and license fees and arrangements.

Safe harbor conditions for Low-risk intragroup services:

  • The markup on low-risk service revenue is at least 7.5% or the markup on low-risk service expense is no more than 7.5%; and
  • One of the following conditions is met: (1) No more than AUD 1 million of absolute intercompany services or (2) Greater than AUD 1 million of absolute intercompany services, with service expense comprising of no more than 15% of total expense and the service revenue comprising of no more than 15% of total revenue;
  • Has not incurred 3 or more consecutive years of losses;
  • Has no intercompany transactions with entities in “specified countries”;
  • Has not restructured in the year; and
  • No more than 15% of total turnover is comprised of “specified intercompany services.”

Safe harbor conditions for Low-level intragroup loans:

  • Australian group has a combined borrowed and loan amount of AUD 50 million or less;
  • The interest rate paid on the amounts borrowed is not more than the variable Reserve Bank of Australia indicator lending rate for “small business; variable; residential-secured; term loans”;
  • Has not incurred 3 or more consecutive years of losses;
  • Has no intercompany transactions with entities in “specified countries” (countries considered “high risk”); and
  • Has not restructured in the year.

However, there are certain limitations to the safe harbors. Any taxpayer paying or receiving royalties or license fees are excluded from the safe harbor. Furthermore, the distribution safe harbor applies to the whole group. Specifically, the whole group’s main activity must be classified as a distributor and the distribution segment cannot be segmented. Finally, safe harbor for interest only applies to inbound interest expenses (there is no safe harbor for outbound interest revenue).

If you have further questions regarding transfer pricing or safe harbors, feel free to contact our Transfer Pricing expert Josh Finfrock at jfinfrock@cbiz.com.


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