Singapore is one of the world’s top shipping and commodity hub. Hence, transfer pricing (TP) is becoming increasingly important as most global commodity firms have set up operations in Singapore. In response to this issue, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) released the transfer pricing guidelines for commodity marketing and trading activities (e-Tax guide) on 24 May 2019.
Largely adopted from the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines 2017, the e-Tax guide analyses the economic value of taxpayers’ commodity marketing/trading (CMT) activities in Singapore and aims to assist taxpayers to comply with the arm’s length principle and TP documentation requirements.
The e-Tax guide recognises that a CMT entity may act at different levels of the market across a range of customers, suppliers and commodities, or transact with the same party at different times or under different circumstances for different commercial objectives. The CMT entity may take different forms such as a support service provider, marketing agent, distributor or full-fledged trader.
IRAS recognises that a CMT entity and its related parties may have the ability to enter into more varied arrangements than independent parties. Therefore, IRAS would not disregard a related party commodity transaction or replace it with an alternative transaction provided that it is commercially rational.
The e-Tax guide recognises that CMT activities involve not just buying and selling commodities, but a wide spectrum of activities, such as sourcing, collecting real time market intelligence, managing logistics, optimising physical movement and delivery of cargoes, determining commodity placement strategy, sales and marketing, blending, storage, building and maintaining customer relationships, managing risks and cash flows, and financial management.
The intensity of functions performed by a CMT entity can vary based on the nature of the related party commodity transaction which in turn defines its contribution to value. Therefore, accurate delineation of the actual related party commodity transaction is imperative in determining the arm’s length price. In addition, the decision-making capacity and capacity to exercise authority of the CMT entity should be considered when identifying the functions performed.
Given the complexity of the commodity market and the characteristics of commodities, specialised expertise is necessary to conduct CMT activities and manage risks. The e-Tax guide has noted that valuable intangibles may be developed and utilised by CMT entities such as trading and logistical know-how, customer and supplier relationships and other software or tools used in performing CMT activities. Consequently, the use of these assets must be considered when determining the transfer price.
To assume a risk for transfer pricing purpose, the party must be able to control the risk and has the financial capacity to assume the risk. The e-Tax guide provided an extensive list of examples of risks relevant to CMT activities and the ways to control these risks. These risks are summarised as follows:
Economic Value and Taking Title to Commodity
Taxpayers must consider the contribution made by CMT entity to the overall value creation in the group supply chain. Value creation is not based on number of functions performed, but rather the economic significance of the functions in terms of frequency, nature and value.
In addition, the e-Tax guide has stated that taking title to commodity alone is not sufficient to determine the overall functional profile of the taxpayer. The taxpayer may assume limited inventory risk but may still contribute significant economic value to its related party.
IRAS accepts the use of the five internationally accepted methods as set out in the IRAS Transfer Pricing Guidelines to price related party commodity transactions. Other methods may also be used provided that the outcome of that method satisfies the arm’s length principle and the CMT entity would need to explain and maintain proper transfer pricing documentation on reasons for choosing the other method.
When selecting the most appropriate method, taxpayers should consider the following:
A CMT entity should not always be assumed as the tested party. If the functional analysis of the related party commodity transaction indicates that the related party of the CMT entity has less complex functional profile, the related party could be the tested party. This is because it would be easier to find more comparable data and the choice of such a party as the tested party would also likely result in the need for fewer comparability adjustments and hence, greater accuracy in the adjustments made.
Comparable Uncontrolled Price (CUP) Method
Resale Price Method (RPM)
Cost Plus Method (CPM) / Transactional Net Margin Method (TNMM) – Full Cost Mark-Up
Profit Split Method (PSM)
TNMM – Operating Margin
TNMM – Berry Ratio and Value-Added Cost Mark-up
TNMM – Return on Asset
Appropriate where assets (rather than costs or sales) are a better indicator of the value of the CMT activities carried out in a related party transaction. For example, contract manufacturing activities.
CMT entities are required to prepare transfer pricing documentation if they meet certain conditions as addressed in the IRAS Transfer Pricing Guidelines – Fifth Edition. In failure to do so, CMT entities shall be liable to a fine not exceeding SG$10,000.
In addition, any transfer pricing adjustments made by IRAS are subject to a surcharge of 5% regardless of whether there is tax payable on the adjustments.
Our firm can assist with transfer pricing documentation fully compliant with IRAS’s requirements at affordable price. We can assist with
local file and master file for Singapore and other countries.
Contributed by consultant Samuel Tay
Samuel was attached to two international accounting firms prior to joining Transfer Pricing Solutions Asia. He has prepared transfer pricing documentation for clients from the Asia Pacific region (e.g. Malaysia, Singapore and Australia).
His expertise includes handling transfer pricing engagements and conducting benchmarking studies for companies from various industries such as oil and gas, shipping, chemical, wood, jewellery and the electronics industry.
In his spare time, Samuel enjoys reading and playing sports.
Contributed by our Director Adriana Calderon
Adriana is the co-founder of Transfer Pricing Solutions Asia and Transfer Pricing Solutions Malaysia and Lead Partner in Asia.
Adriana has extensive international experience with Big Four and mid-tier firms advising multinational companies in the areas of corporate and international taxation across South America, the US, Australia and the Asia Pacific Region.
As a TP practitioner, Adriana has advised companies in the Asia Pacific Region across various industries and in a wide range of projects associated with planning.
Adriana also enjoys teaching and is a regular speaker and facilitator of Transfer Pricing seminars and workshops in Singapore. She is a transfer pricing trainer for the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants and Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals.
Adriana lives in Singapore with her family and is a mother to two energetic boys.
Australia | +61 (3) 59117001 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Singapore | +65 31585806 | email@example.com
Malaysia | +603 2298 7153 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The OECD guidance emphasised that, besides interest rates, all terms and conditions of the financing transactions (including the volume of debt) should be tested against the arm’s length principle.
Are your controlled transactions in line with the transfer pricing legislation? Mistakes in pricing will roll over from year to year. It is crucial to identify mispricing as soon as possible to better manager the transfer pricing risk.
A US multinational company with subsidiaries around the world, including Singapore, recently prepared new US transfer pricing documentation.
The company applies their transfer pricing policies on a global basis. The US tax director instructs the Singapore tax director to use this documentation. Is the US documentation acceptable in Singapore?