An analysis of the weaknesses in transfer pricing legislation pertaining to intellectual property
On 8 June 2012, National Treasury amended Regulation 10(1) (c) of the Exchange Control Regulations to specifically include intellectual property. In so doing, all companies wishing to dispace intellectual property to an offshore destination had to obtain prior approval from National Treasury. However, National Treasury is reticent to grant permission to reassign these assets, as revenue from intellectual property is perceived to contribute vastly to the South African tax revenue. This amendment came into being shortly after the dismissal in the Oilwell case. This case, in essence, held that intellectual property is not capital for the purposes intended by National Treasury, and therefore no prior approval to assign it offshore is required from National Treasury. This dismissal led to a large outflow of intellectual property to tax favourable foreign locations. At the same time, it exposed transfer pricing risks that had previously gone unnoticed. Although these risks have once again been mitigated by the amendment to Regulation 10(1) (c), it does not mean that it is now a thing of the past, best left forgotten. The South African government intends to relax or abolish all exchange control regulations in the future. At present the exact date when this is to take place is not known. Once the exchange control regulations are abolished, the transfer pricing risks associated with intellectual property will once again come to the forefront and will lead to significant loss to South African tax revenue. The three main risks that became apparent during the period before the amendment to Regulation 10(1) (c) are the following: * Transfer pricing risk consisting of mainly: - A lack of a comparables database to enable tax administrators to determine an appropriate arm’s length price for intellectual property. - A lack of the relevant skills, experience and knowledge required to accurately assess transfer prices of intellectual property. * Challenges in obtaining relevant, comprehensive and timely information to accurately determine arm’s length prices for intellectual property transactions. * A lack of understanding the principle of economic substance and legislation in South Africa to define economic substance parameters. * In this mini-dissertation, these weaknesses are discussed in more detail to highlight to SARS the trials it faces when the exchange controls regulations are expelled. Various ways in which these flaws can be challenged head-on are also presented.