Determination of Arm’s Length Price (ALP)

I. Section 92C of the Act provides for computation of arms lengths price. Sub-section (1) of this section provides the set of methods for determination of arms length price and mandates application of the most appropriate method for determination of arms length price (ALP). Sub-Section (2) of section 92C provides that where more than one price is determined by application of most appropriate method, the arms length price shall be taken to be the arithmetic mean of such prices. The proviso to this sub-section was inserted by Finance Act, 2002 with effect from 01.04.2002 to ensure that in case variation of transaction price from the arithmetic mean is within the tolerance range of 5%, no adjustment was required to be made to transaction value.

Subsequently, disputes arose regarding the interpretation of the proviso. Whether the tolerance band is a standard deduction or not, in case variation of ALP and transaction value exceeded the tolerance band. Different courts interpreted it differently.

In order to bring more clarity and resolving the controversy the proviso was substituted by Finance Act (No.2), 2009. The substituted proviso not only made clear the intent that 5% tolerance band is not a standard deduction but also changed the base of determination of the allowable band, linked it to the transaction price instead of the earlier base of Arithmetic mean. The amendment clarified the ambiguity about applicability of 5% tolerance band, not being a standard deduction.

However, the position prior to amendment by Finance (No.2) Act, 2009 still remained ambiguous with varying judicial decisions. Some favouring departmental stand and others the stand of tax payer. There is, therefore, a need to bring certainty to the issue by clarifying the legislative intent in respect of first proviso to sub-section (2) which was inserted by the Finance Act, 2002.

It is, therefore, proposed to amend the Income Tax Act to provide clarity with retrospective effect in respect of first proviso to section 92C(2) as it stood before its substitution by Finance Act (No.2), 2009 so that the tolerance band of 5% is not taken to be a standard deduction while computing Arm’s Length Price and to ensure that due to such retrospective amendment already completed assessments or proceedings are not reopened only on this ground.

The amendments proposed above shall be effective retrospectively from 1st April, 2002 and shall accordingly apply in relation to the Assessment Year 2002-03 and subsequent Assessment Years.

II. In respect of amendment, which was brought by the Finance (No. 2) Act, 2009, the explanatory memorandum clearly mentioned the legislative intent of the amended provision to be applicable to all proceedings pending as on 01.10.2009 before the Transfer Pricing Officer. However, subsequent decisions of certain judicial authorities have created doubts about applicability of this proviso to proceedings pending as on 01.10.2009. There is need to clarify the legislative intent of making the proviso applicable for all assessment proceedings pending as on 01.10.2009 instead of it being attracted only in respect of proceeding for assessment year 2010-11 and subsequent assessment years.

It is, therefore, proposed to amend the Income Tax Act to provide clarity that second proviso to section 92C shall also be applicable to all proceedings which were pending as on 01.10.2009. [The date of coming in force of second proviso inserted by Finance (No.2) Act, 2009].

The amendments will take effect retrospectively from 1st October, 2009.

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