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Transfer Pricing


Transfer pricing refers to the rules and methods used in determining the price at which goods and services are exchanged between divisions within the same company. It is significant in taxation and financial accounting, especially for transactions across international borders where it affects the allocation of income among different tax jurisdictions. These prices aim to reflect market value while enabling a fair allocation of profits among different corporate entities within a group.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Transfer Pricing” is: Trans·fer Pric·ing = /trænsˈfɜːr ˈpraɪsɪŋ/

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>Transfer Pricing allows for the regulation of transactions between related business entities: This means that goods, services, or even intangible property are exchanged between associated enterprises located in different countries. These transactions should be in compliance with tax laws and regulations to ensure that they are carried out fairly and prevent tax evasion or profit shifting.</li><li>Costs, profits and overall operational efficiency can be optimized: By establishing appropriate transfer prices, businesses can optimize their resource allocation, manage intra-group transactions efficiently and thus increase their profitability. It also plays a key role in achieving strategic objectives and managing tax liabilities effectively.</li><li>Transfer Pricing is heavily regulated and scrutinized by tax authorities: It is necessary to have thorough documentation and justifiable pricing methods to avoid penalties. This is because any manipulation of transfer prices can lead to tax avoidance. Therefore, multinational companies are required to employ arm’s length principles when establishing transfer prices. This principle states that the amount charged by one party to another for a particular product must be the same as if the parties were not related, ensuring that there is no unfair profit shifting.</li></ol>


Transfer Pricing is important in business/finance because it plays a key role in the distribution of revenues and costs among different entities within a corporation, particularly those operating in more than one country. It serves to determine the cost at which services, goods, or assets move between associated entities within an organization. It significantly impacts taxable income, financial reporting, and ultimately, a company’s profitability. It provides a mechanism for centralizing profits and avoiding double taxation, as the price determination is subject to regulations driven by tax authorities. However, incorrect transfer pricing can lead to legal issues and financial penalties. Therefore, companies need to establish proper transfer pricing strategies to optimize their global tax position while following international laws and regulations.


Transfer pricing serves a significant role in the operations and fiscal strategies of multinational corporations. Essentially, it’s a value attached to the goods or services transferred between associated entities within the same corporate group, essentially facilitating inter-divisional transactions. The purpose of transfer pricing is multi-fold, including fostering goal congruence throughout the company, aiding in the optimal allocation of resources, encouraging management autonomy, and serving as a means to evaluate the performance of different divisions within the company.Apart from its internal purposes, transfer pricing also influences the tax liabilities of businesses, given that tax jurisdictions might differ across where the entities of a corporate group are located. It helps companies shift profits from high-tax jurisdictions to those with lower tax rates, potentially leading to significant cost reductions by minimizing corporate tax burdens. However, to prevent abuse of this system, numerous nations have deployed tax laws and regulations governing transfer pricing, necessitating corporations to set their intercompany transaction prices at arm’s length, i.e., the price between independent, unrelated entities in similar transactions.


1. Starbucks Corporation: In the early 2010s, Starbucks UK drew a lot of public attention due to an alleged transfer pricing abuse. It was found that Starbucks UK was paying high royalty fees to its Dutch headquarters for coffee roasting, recipe rights, and using Starbucks’ branding. These transactions resulted in Starbucks UK showing little to no profit, effectively lowering their corporate tax liability in the UK. This case is an example of a strategic abuse of transfer pricing to shift profits into lower tax jurisdictions.2. Google Inc: Google is known to have used a structure known as a “Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich” to reduce its tax liability. In this structure, Google transferred its foreign profits from an Irish subsidiary to a Dutch company with no employees, and then on to a Bermuda-based Irish company. The use of transfer pricing amongst these subsidiaries enabled Google to save billions in tax payments.3. Amazon Inc: Amazon was investigated by both the US Internal Revenue Service and the European Commission for its transfer pricing policies. It was found that Amazon had a royalty fee agreement with its subsidiary in Luxembourg, Amazon EU Sarl. Large portions of Amazon’s profits were shifted to this subsidiary, where a favorable tax ruling allowed almost all of these transferred profits to go untaxed. It demonstrated a practice of inflating or deflating transfer pricing to deliver gains.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Transfer Pricing?

Transfer pricing refers to the prices charged for goods, services, and intellectual property sold or shared between divisions within a company. It involves setting a price for goods and services sold between controlled (or related) legal entities within an enterprise.

Why is Transfer Pricing important?

This is important because it can affect the allocation of an enterprise’s total profit among the countries, units or divisions where it does business. This can, in turn, affect the amount of tax a business pays.

How is Transfer Pricing regulated?

On a global scale, transfer pricing regulations are based on the ‘arm’s length principle’. This principle states that the price charged between related parties should be the same as if the parties were not related.

What is the role of OECD in Transfer Pricing?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides guidelines for implementing the arm’s length principle, which most countries follow.

What are the potential consequences of non-compliance with Transfer Pricing?

Non-compliance with transfer pricing rules could lead to fines, penalties, and adjustments to the taxable income of a company by tax authorities. Most importantly, it can damage the reputation of the business.

Could you give me an example of Transfer Pricing?

As an example, if a US-based company sells goods to its UK-based subsidiary, the price set on these goods is the transfer price. The relevant tax authorities may review the transactions to ensure the price is aligned with the market rate.

How does Transfer Pricing affect tax liabilities?

Since transfer pricing influences how profits are allocated among different divisions of a company in different countries, it impacts where and how much corporate income tax the company must pay.

What are Transfer Pricing methods?

Transfer pricing methods include the Comparable Uncontrolled Price (CUP) method, the Resale Price Method (RPM), the Cost Plus Method (CPM), the Transactional Net Margin Method (TNMM), and the Profit Split Method (PSM). The selection of a method depends on the nature of the transactions and the availability of reliable information.

Related Finance Terms

  • Arm’s Length Principle
  • Profit Allocation
  • Tax Evasion
  • Multinational Enterprises
  • Advance Pricing Agreement

Sources for More Information

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