Advance Pricing Arrangement - Program report - 2018
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)'s Advance Pricing Arrangement (APA) Program is administered through the CRA's Competent Authority Services Division (CASD), which is part of the International and Large Business Directorate of the International, Large Business and Investigations Branch.
The APA program is a proactive service offered by the CRA to assist taxpayers in preventing transfer pricing disputes that could otherwise arise in future tax years. The main objective of the program is to provide increased certainty regarding future transfer pricing issues in a manner consistent with the Income Tax Act and guidance delivered through the CRA's information circulars and by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The CRA has published an annual report on its APA program since the 2001–2002 fiscal year. A summary of the key findings presented in this year's report is provided below:
- Based on the number of pre-file meetings held with taxpayers in 2018, the CRA had 31 applicants to the program.
- The year 2018 opened with an active case inventory of 67 APAs. Accepted into the program were 32 new cases, three cases were withdrawn, and 25 cases were completed. This resulted in a closing inventory of 71 cases for 2018.
- The vast majority of cases (91%) since 2013-2014 involve taxpayers seeking an APA on a bilateral or multilateral basis, as opposed to 9% of taxpayers seeking an APA on a unilateral basis.
- There is a downward trend for the average time to complete a bilateral APA. In 2018 the average time for completion was 44 months, down from a peak of 52.7 months in 2015-16.
- Cases involving transfers of tangible property made up the largest percentage of APAs in process (39.4%). Cases involving intangible property represented 32.4%, intra-group services represented 21.1% and financing arrangements represented 7.1%.
- In 2018, APAs involving taxpayers with operations in the petroleum sector represented 24% of APAs. Tied at second (16%) were the health sector and the automobile and other transportation equipment. The following sectors each accounted for 8% of APAs: food and beverage, computer and electronics, metals and minerals, and retail trade.
- The CRA is currently engaged in bilateral or multilateral APA processes involving taxpayers from 15 different jurisdictions: Australia, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In line with the OECD's Forum on Tax Administration, one of the overarching goals of the CRA's APA program is to provide taxpayers with an avenue to improve tax certainty.
This year's APA report is the 17th of its kind issued by the CRA on the APA program. The report is targeted to taxpayers, tax representatives, and international tax administrations. The key objectives of this report include:
- enhancing awareness of the CRA's APA program
- notifying taxpayers of changes to the APA program
- providing an operational status update
- identifying issues that may affect the APA program in future years.
Maintaining the approach of previous publications, this year's report continues to emphasize statistical analysis and quantitative data.
In the coming year, the CRA will consider opportunities for improvements to its current APA program. In addition, the CRA plans to update Information Circular 94-4, International Transfer Pricing: Advance Pricing Arrangements (APAs).
The APA program is delivered through the CRA's CASD, which is part of the International and Large Business Directorate, in the International, Large Business and Investigations Branch.
The program is a service offered by the CRA to assist taxpayers to prevent prospective transfer pricing disputes. The main objective of the program is to provide increased certainty for transfer pricing methodologies to be applied to future intercompany transfer pricing transactions in a manner consistent with the Income Tax Act, as well as the guidance of the CRA's information circulars and the OECD.
The APA process is based on co-operation and transparency with the free flow of information. The APA process differs from the CRA's audit process as its focus is on prospective or future tax years rather than tax years that have elapsed. In essence, an APA is an arrangement between a taxpayer and a tax administration that sets out an agreed to transfer pricing methodology, to be used on a prospective basis, for establishing a transfer price which is arm's length for the transactions between related parties. The establishment of a transfer price embodies the arm's length principle as described by the OECD's Transfer Pricing Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and Tax Administrations and the CRA's Information Circular 87-2, International Transfer Pricing.
An APA process is started by a Canadian taxpayer through contact with the CASD. For more information on the CRA's APA program, see Information Circular 94-4, International Transfer Pricing: Advance Pricing Arrangements (APAs).
APA Program: 2018
The following section provides an operational overview of the APA program, along with current trends, issues, and changes to the program.
A taxpayer interested in obtaining an APA must first send a pre-file package to the Director of the CASD to request an APA pre-file meeting. As much as possible, an APA request-information package should include all the information listed in Appendix I of Information Circular 94-4, International Transfer Pricing: Advance Pricing Arrangements (APAs). The division will review the package and will contact the taxpayer to either request more information or, if the information is complete, to schedule a pre-file meeting.
A pre-file meeting, which take places between a taxpayer and the CRA, provides an opportunity for the taxpayer to learn more about the APA program and for the CRA to get clarification on the taxpayer's business, industry, and most importantly, the requested covered transaction(s). The main objective of the meeting is to explore the suitability of the taxpayer and the proposed covered transaction(s) for the APA program.
After considering the nature of the request, the availability of information, and the taxpayer's willingness to address potential issues identified during or after the pre-file meeting, a decision is then made as to whether or not the taxpayer will be accepted into the next stage of the APA process. A taxpayer invited to continue in the process has to prepare a detailed APA submission outlining the specifics of the covered transaction(s), including a detailed transfer pricing analysis and all pertinent information necessary for the CRA to review and complete its own transfer pricing analysis. After the CRA has received and reviewed the taxpayer's APA submission for completeness, a decision is made to accept or reject the taxpayer's request for an APA.
Although a taxpayer's acceptance into the APA program is not determined at the pre-file stage, the number of pre-file meetings held in a given period can provide a preliminary forecast of future years' inventory. It can also be used to gauge the current level of interest in the CRA's APA program. In 2018, the CRA held a total of 31 pre-file meetings.
Withdrawals from the APA process can occur during the application stage or after an acceptance of application has been granted for the program. By definition, an application withdrawal occurs when a taxpayer formally engages the CRA in an APA pre-file meeting but either chooses not to pursue an APA or is informed by the CRA that the proposed covered transaction(s) are not well suited for the APA program.
To maintain transparency in the program and to ensure applicants can meet the requirements of an APA, the CRA ensures that taxpayers have the necessary feedback on their proposed transfer pricing methodologies and covered transactions. Based on this feedback, a taxpayer may decide not to pursue an APA, while in other cases, the CRA may decide that it would not be appropriate to accept or pursue an APA with a taxpayer. If the CRA declines an APA request, or chooses not to continue in the APA process, taxpayers are provided with an explanation for the CRA's decision.
As an example, the CRA may decline an APA request when the central issue involves a matter that is before the courts. However, in most cases, taxpayers are given an opportunity to make further representations on any outstanding issues that are preventing their acceptance into the program.
APAs are best suited for current transactions that will likely continue into the future with little to no change, and where the underlying assumptions that form the basis of an APA transfer pricing methodology do not change during the immediate pre-APA period or the APA period itself. Transactions involving one-time events, such as corporate restructurings of a significant nature, are generally outside of the scope of the APA program. Apart from a refusal by the CRA, other reasons why a taxpayer may not pursue an APA may include financial constraints, significant changes in operations such as a business restructuring, and/or changes in personnel.
In 2018, there were six withdrawals from the APA process. Of these, three occurred during the application stage and three after the applications had been accepted into the program. From an efficiency standpoint, the withdrawal of an APA during the application stage instead of during the post submission stage can represent a significant savings of resources for both taxpayers and tax administrations.
On December 31, 2018, 19 applications were under consideration for acceptance to the program (that is, instances where a pre-file meeting has occurred between the CRA and a taxpayer, but a taxpayer had yet to provide the APA submission).
In 2018, 32 new cases were accepted into the program. These new cases are in addition to those cases already reflected as part of inventory from acceptances issued in years past. Outgoing inventory, which includes APAs completed and withdrawn from the program, totalled 28 cases. Closing inventory at the end of 2018 was 71 cases.
|Period||Pre-file meetings||Applications withdrawals||Applications pending||Opening APA balance||APAs accepted||APAs completed||APAs unresolved||APA withdrawals||Closing APA balance||Change in inventory from previous period|
Of the 25 completed APAs in 2018, 23 were bilateral agreements with foreign tax administrations, one was a multilateral agreement and one was a unilateral agreement. This demonstrates a consistent trend whereby the majority of APAs have been bilateral or multilateral APAs involving at least one other foreign tax administration. It can reasonably be concluded that the CRA and applicants to the APA program continue to be focused on bilateral (or multilateral) arrangements to eliminate double-taxation and secure the highest degree of tax certainty.
It is the scope and complexity of a case and not the size of the covered transaction(s) or companies involved, along with other factors such as a taxpayer's co-operation and the availability of necessary quality information, that determine the length of time required to complete an APA. The small number of cases used to calculate the CRA's APA completion time statistics, may lead to a higher variability in the figures presented below, which may lead to distortions resulting from the presence of extreme outliers.
After a case has been accepted into the program, the process that ensues generally requires a substantial investment in time and resources from all stakeholders. Bringing an APA from start to finish is broken down into three distinct stages including:
- due diligence;
- negotiations; and
- post-negotiations stage.
The due diligence stage begins once a candidate is accepted into the program and finishes with the completion of a position paper outlining the CRA's views on the covered transaction(s). Due diligence includes reviewing materials presented by the taxpayer, and may include undertaking site visits, issuing additional queries and/or information requests to permit the CRA to review the APA submission and complete a thorough financial and transfer pricing analysis, and concludes with the formalization of a position for competent authority negotiations.
In the negotiations stage (for bilateral and multilateral APAs only), the CRA engages in government-to-government negotiations with the corresponding foreign tax administration to establish an agreement on the approach and transfer pricing methodology to be used for the APA term. This can often require more analysis, research, and fact-finding to help resolve differences between the CRA's and a foreign tax administration's transfer pricing positions.
The post-negotiations stage pertains to the documentation and signing of a bilateral/ multilateral understanding between the CRA and a foreign tax administration, and similarly the signing of a corresponding domestic APA between the CRA and the Canadian taxpayer. Depending on the complexity of the transfer pricing methodology agreed to during negotiations, as well as the other examples listed below, the time needed to finalize an APA can vary from case to case.
Focusing on the 24 bilateral/multilateral APAs closed in 2018, it took an average of 25.2 months to complete the due diligence stage. An additional 7.9 months were needed for negotiations with the corresponding foreign tax administration. And finally, 10.9 months were needed to draft and finalize the bilateral APA agreements. Overall, for bilateral/multilateral cases completed in 2018, it took an average of 44 months to move from acceptance to completion. There was only one unilateral case closed in 2018 that took 17.8 months to complete.
The total time to complete an APA does not necessarily equal to the sum of the due diligence, negotiations, and post-negotiations stages. In some instances, cases have been put on hold while the CRA waited for more information from a taxpayer. Instances of this nature generally occur when a taxpayer is reconsidering their suitability for the APA program or cannot provide the necessary information needed for the CRA to undertake a thorough financial and transfer pricing analysis. In other cases, delays are due to the APA program requiring additional information from the taxpayer and or the simultaneous exchange of position papers between tax administrations before starting negotiations. Any such delays are included in the times of completion at the respective stages of the APA process. In the coming year, the CRA will be reviewing the APA Program to explore ways to reduce this timeline.
|Period||Type||Number of Cases||Due Diligence (Months)||Negotiations (Months)||Post-Negotiations (Months)||Average Time: Acceptance to Completion (Months)||Median Time: Acceptance to Completion (Months)|
Categories of transactions
The categories of intercompany transactions can broadly be classified into four groups including the transfer of tangible property; the transfer of rights associated with intangible property; intra-group services; and financing. The greatest percentage of APAs continues to be for the cross-border transfer of tangible property. As of December 31, 2018, the breakdown of APAs in process was:
- 39.4% for transfers of tangible property
- 32.4% for intangible property
- 21.1% for intra-group services
- 7.1% for financing arrangements
|Completed||% of total||In progress||% of total||Total||% of total|
Participation by industrial sector
Participation in the APA program by industrial sector generally reflects the pattern of Canadian trade. In 2018, over half of the APA cases (56%) involved taxpayers with operations in the following sectors:
- automobile and other transportation equipment,
Participation by foreign jurisdiction
The CRA is currently engaged in bilateral or multilateral APA processes involving taxpayers from 15 different jurisdictions: Australia, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The breakdown of bilateral and multilateral APAs by country continues to reflect the significant flow of goods and services exchanged between Canada and the United states, representing 54% of APA cases.
Participation by Canadian province or territory
The distribution of APAs across Canada broadly reflects the allocation of Canadian corporate headquarters within the country. Taxpayers located in Ontario represent more than half of all APAs in process, totalling 47 cases or 66%. There are nine cases or 13% involving taxpayers headquartered in Eastern Canada (Quebec and Atlantic provinces). Representation from Western Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) totalled 15 APAs or 21% of cases.
Since its inception in 1990, the APA program has become a key compliance tool for the CRA, while fostering a collaborative and co-operative relationship between taxpayers and other tax administrations and offering a vehicle to improve tax certainty. It demonstrates that communication, transparency, and compromise permit mutually agreeable resolution of complex transfer pricing issues on a proactive basis. The program provides an opportunity for taxpayers to openly discuss the challenges they face in trying to comply with the tax laws of multiple jurisdictions. Prospective tax certainty provided through the program helps to reduce barriers to trade and contributes to the free flow of capital.
With a view to updating the program, the CRA is undertaking a review of its APA process to identify opportunities to improve timeliness. The goal of this, in conjunction with updated information circulars, is to make the APA program more timely and responsive to our taxpayers' needs while ensuring continued compliance with Canada's tax rules.
How to contact the CASD
If you have comments or questions about this report or the services offered by the Competent Authority Services Division, please contact the division:
- by phone, at one of the numbers listed below
- by fax, at 613-990-7370
- by email, at MAP-APA/PAA-APP.CPB/DGPO@cra-arc.gc.ca
- by post or courier:
Competent Authority Services Division
International and Large Business Directorate
International, Large Business and Investigations Branch
Canada Revenue Agency
344 Slater Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0L5
|Johanne Desparois||Manager – Technical Cases||343-291-4746|
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