Transfer Pricing & Cost Contribution Agreements

Transfer Pricing & Cost Contribution AgreementsDresser-Rand India Pvt Ltd vs. ACIT (ITAT Mumbai)

The assessee entered into a ‘Cost contribution agreement’ with its parent company pursuant to which it paid a sum of Rs. 10.55 crores as its share of the costs. The Transfer Pricing Officer (TPO), AO & DRP disallowed the expenditure on the ground that (i) the ALP was ‘Nil’ as no real services had been availed by the assessee and the arrangement was not genuine, (ii) the cost sharing could not be on the basis of head count but on the basis of actual services availed by the assessee, (iii) the expenditure was “excessive & unreasonable” u/s 40A(2) and (iv) as there was no TDS, the disallowance u/s 40(a)(i) had to be made. The assessee also rendered field services to its associated enterprises where it granted a discount of 10% over the price charged to third parties on the basis that such discount was a part of reciprocal global policy. It was held that the ALP had to be computed by ignoring the discount. On appeal by the assessee, HELD:

As reported by ITAT.ORG:

(i) The Transfer Pricing Officer was not entitled to determine the ALP under the cost contribution agreement at “Nil” on the basis that the assessee did not need the services at all. How an assessee conducts his business is entirely his prerogative and it is not for the revenue authorities to decide what is necessary for an assessee and what is not. The Transfer Pricing Officer went beyond his powers in questioning the commercial wisdom of the assessee’s decision to take benefit of its parent company’s expertise. Further, the Transfer Pricing Officers argument that the assessee did not benefit from the services is irrelevant because whether there is benefit or not has no bearing on the ALP of the services. The fact that similar services may have been granted in the past on gratuitous basis is also irrelevant in determining the ALP. The argument that no evidence of services having been rendered was produced is not acceptable because the assessee did produce voluminous evidence before the DRP which was not dealt with. The DRP ought to have dealt with the material and given reasons. Matter remanded to the AO to determine actual rendering of services (Vodafone Essar Ltd vs. DRP 240 CTR 263 (Del) followed);

(ii) A cost contribution arrangement has to be consistent with the arm’s length principle. The assessee’s share of overall contribution to costs must be consistent with the benefits expected to be received, as an independent enterprise would have assigned to the contribution in hypothetically similar situation. The TPO’s objection that the cost should be shared in the ratio of actual use of services and should be charged as per Indian employee costs is not acceptable. There is no objective way in which the use of services can be measured and as is the commercial practice even in market factors driven situation, the costs are shared in accordance with some objective criterion, including sales revenues and number of employees. The question of charging as per domestic employee costs cannot be a basis of allocating the costs because such an allocation will deal with some hypothetical pricing whereas the allocations are to be done for the actual costs incurred;

(iii) The disallowance of payment under the ‘cost contribution agreement’ u/s 37(1) & 40A(2) is not justified because the payment did not involve mark-up and was at arms length price. The services were for furtherance of the assessee’s business interests;

(iv) The disallowance of payment u/s 40(a)(i) for want of TDS is not justified because the payment was not taxable in the AE’s hands under Article 5 & 12 of the India-USA DTAA as the AE did not have a PE and the services did not constitute “fees for included services”. (GE India Technology Centre 327 ITR 456 (SC) followed);

(v) The TPO’s argument that in charging for the services rendered to the AE, a 10% discount could not be given is not acceptable because (i) the assessee had followed the TNMM for determination of ALP which had not been disputed as the appropriate method, (ii) Even under CUP, all sales need not be at the same price and there can be variations of prices for the same product or services on grounds such as quantum of business, risk factors, etc. Discount is a normal occurrence even in independent business situations. The material factor is whether the 10% discount is an arm’s length discount and there is nothing on record to suggest that it is not so.

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