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Transfer Pricing Documentation in Singapore: Tax Facts to Know

Transfer Pricing Documentation in Singapore: Tax Facts to Know

Transfer Pricing adherence in Singapore is not just complex; it is compulsory and stringently enforced. While companies may not need to submit transfer pricing documentation along with their corporate tax returns, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) requires that businesses be ready to submit transfer pricing documentation within 30 days upon request. 

To compound matters, any oversight or delay in producing the required documentation can lead to substantial penalties. We encourage our clients to understand what documents need to be maintained and the best practices for managing these documents efficiently.

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This awareness can safeguard businesses against the risks of non-compliance, including financial penalties and potential damage to reputation. With the high stakes, this article aims to provide a clear and thorough guide on the requirements for transfer pricing documentation in Singapore.

This ensures that your business remains compliant, informed, and prepared for any inquiry from the IRAS. Read on to ensure you know exactly what documents to have on file and how to manage them effectively.

Understanding Transfer Pricing in Singapore

The Fundamentals of Transfer Pricing

Transfer Pricing is a critical aspect of tax planning for any multinational corporation or business involved in cross-border dealings within related entities. In essence, transfer pricing involves setting the prices for goods, services, and intangible assets sold between associated legal entities within an MNE Group. 

In Singapore, like in many other jurisdictions, transfer pricing is scrutinised under local tax laws to ensure that it adheres to the arm’s length principle.

Essentially, it means that the transaction terms between related parties mirror those established between independent parties under similar circumstances, i.e. fair market prices.

Understanding Contemporaneous Transfer Pricing Documentation

Companies in Singapore must prepare and keep contemporaneous transfer pricing documentation to prove that the related party transactions are performed according to the arm’s length principle. If the gross turnover of the Singapore entity (based on standalone financials) exceeds S$10 million, it is mandatory to prepare Transfer Pricing Documentation as per the Income Tax (Transfer Pricing Documentation) Rules.

Contemporaneous transfer pricing documentation encompasses the records and data used to establish transfer prices for related party transactions before or as the transactions occur. 

IRAS considers transfer pricing documentation to be contemporaneous if it is prepared by no later than the due date for filing the Income Tax Return for the fiscal year during which the transactions were conducted.

In compiling this documentation, it is imperative to use the most current information and data available to demonstrate the basis for the transfer prices set for these transactions.

Maintaining accurate and timely transfer pricing documentation is crucial as it aids in the review process by tax authorities and plays a key role in addressing any transfer pricing disputes that might arise. 

Failure to provide documentation that supports arm’s length pricing, or lack of proper documentation, can lead to significant complications. These may include double taxation resulting from pricing adjustments made by IRAS or international tax bodies, potential penalties, and other punitive measures.

Alternate Dispute Resolution

IRAS allows a Singapore taxpayer to resolve tax disputes arising as a result of adjustments made by IRAS or a foreign tax authority to the transfer prices of its related party transactions. The taxpayer may choose to resolve the issues through:

  • Requesting IRAS to resolve the double taxation through the Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP)
  • Avoiding transfer pricing disputes by applying for an Advance Pricing Arrangement (APA) for its related party transactions for future years

Paragraph 10.39 of the e-tax guide on Transfer Pricing clearly states that the success of the above mechanisms depends on the cooperation of the taxpayers. Therefore, one of the factors mentioned by IRAS is that the taxpayer should provide access to the Transfer Pricing Documentation. 

Thus, it becomes imperative for the taxpayer to have the TPD in place as the document will be critical during discussions. The absence of Transfer Pricing Documentation and other supporting documents may lead to the discontinuance of MAP or APA.

Singapore’s Regulatory Environment

Singapore rigorously enforces its transfer pricing rules to uphold its tax system’s integrity and adhere to international tax standards. The local laws are designed to prevent tax evasion and discourage profit shifting from high-tax jurisdictions to those with lower taxes. 

This compliance aligns with global efforts led by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to combat base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS).

Businesses operating in Singapore must comply with these laws and understand how to use them to optimise tax obligations while maintaining transparent reporting standards. 

The IRAS provides a legal framework that includes detailed guidelines on documenting transfer pricing, the methodologies to use, and the repercussions of non-compliance. Adhering to these guidelines is essential to avoid severe penalties, including substantial fines and increased scrutiny in future tax dealings.

Legal Requirements for Transfer Pricing Documentation

Key Legislation and Guidelines

The legal backbone of Singapore’s transfer pricing documentation requirements is detailed in the Income Tax Act, which integrates guidelines aligned with the OECD’s BEPS actions. This framework ensures businesses can substantiate that their transfer pricing practices comply with the arm’s length principle.

Compliance Timeline and Penalties for Non-Compliance

Compliance Timeline

Singaporean regulations mandate that businesses prepare contemporaneous transfer pricing documentation by the due date of their tax return for the relevant Year of Assessment (YA). This proactive approach ensures that documentation is ready if IRAS requests it, emphasising the need for businesses to be continuously compliant.

When IRAS requests specific transfer pricing documentation, companies must submit these documents within 30 days of the request. Failure to meet this deadline can expose the company to penalties.

Penalties for Non-compliance

The penalties for non-compliance with transfer pricing documentation requirements in Singapore are significant and intended to enforce adherence to tax laws. A taxpayer is liable upon conviction to a fine of up to S$10,000 if it commits an offence under these circumstances:

  • Not preparing TP documentation by the time of the tax return
  • Not preparing TP documentation with the details, form, and content as dictated in the TP Documentation Rules
  • Not retaining the TP documentation for at least 5 years from the end of the basis period where the transaction took place
  • Not submitting the TP documentation within 30 days from the date of the written notice served by the Comptroller requesting the taxpayer to submit TP documentation
  • For intentionally and knowingly providing false or misleading documentation

Given these strict implications, it is paramount for businesses operating in Singapore to maintain comprehensive and accurate transfer pricing documentation. This facilitates compliance with local tax laws and minimises the risk of costly penalties and legal challenges.

Essential Documents for Transfer Pricing Compliance

Structuring Comprehensive Reporting through Master File, Local File, and Country-by-Country Report

As part of Singapore’s commitment to adhere to global tax standards, the documentation structure for transfer pricing follows the recommendations set by the OECD. 

This structured approach is encapsulated in three key documents: the Master File, the Local File, and the Country-by-Country Report (CbCR), each designed to meet specific aspects of these global standards.

  1. Master File: Recommended by the OECD, the Master File provides a comprehensive overview of the global operations of multinational companies, encapsulating essential information about the overall business, its organisational structure, and transfer pricing policies. This document offers tax authorities a macroscopic view of the company’s financial and operational positions worldwide. Singapore does not have a separate Master File requirement. The contents as per OECD Master File requirements are required to be incorporated in the Local File as far as they relate to the related party transactions and the business of the Singapore entity.
  2. Local File: Specifically focusing on each tax jurisdiction, the Local File details the transactions of the local affiliate — such as the one in Singapore — providing detailed analyses to justify the transfer pricing methods used for transactions. This ensures compliance with local regulations while adhering to OECD principles for transparency and the arm’s length standard.
  3. CbCR: Also stemming from OECD recommendations, the CbCR is required for large Singapore-headquartered MNEs (with at least S$1,125 million in group revenue per year in the preceding FY along with other requirements) and provides a country-wise breakdown of revenue, taxes paid, and other key financial metrics. This report is essential for risk assessment and compliance evaluation, offering insights into how profits are allocated and taxed across various countries.

Importance of OECD-Aligned Documentation in Compliance

The incorporation of the Master File, Local File, and CbCR into the MNE’s reporting process supports local compliance and aligns with international efforts to enhance transparency and curb tax avoidance. 

By following OECD guidelines, companies also ensure that their documentation is comprehensive and globally accepted, minimising risks of non-compliance and enhancing the efficiency of cross-border tax reviews.

Leveraging Local Expertise for Transfer Pricing Compliance

It is clear that the complexities of transfer pricing in Singapore, as outlined so far, require meticulous attention to compliance and strategic documentation. Given the intricate requirements and significant penalties for non-compliance, partnering with a local service provider like InCorp can prove invaluable.

InCorp’s expertise provides deep on-the-ground insights into local regulations and international standards, ensuring that your transfer pricing strategies meet legal requirements and optimise your tax liabilities. 

Our customised solutions help tailor your TP documentation to reflect accurate, up-to-date transfer pricing practices, essential for maintaining financial transparency and minimising risks. 

Additionally, InCorp can support audit defences and ongoing regulatory updates to ensure that your business remains compliant as laws evolve, safeguarding your company’s reputation and financial interests in a dynamic global business environment. 

Given the critical nature of transfer pricing compliance, having an expert like InCorp by your side is a decision you’ll appreciate in every audit and financial review.

Where to Next With InCorp

Adhering to the rigorous demands of transfer pricing documentation in Singapore requires a strategic, well-informed approach. With stringent regulations and the potential for significant penalties, it is crucial to ensure that your compliance measures are up to scratch. 

As outlined in this guide, understanding and implementing the structured documentation required by the IRAS — aligned with OECD guidelines — is a regulatory obligation and a strategic advantage. 

If the complexities of transfer pricing seem daunting, remember that you do not have to manage them alone. InCorp’s team of experts is well-versed in both local nuances and global standards.

We are ready to help you optimise your transfer pricing strategies and ensure seamless compliance. Contact us today to fortify your business against compliance risks and leverage transfer pricing for strategic benefit.

FAQs About Transfer Pricing Documentation in Singapore

  • Transfer pricing documentation in Singapore includes detailed records that businesses must maintain to prove transactions between related parties are at arm's length, complying with local and international tax laws.
  • Compliance with transfer pricing documentation is crucial to avoid penalties, ensure accurate tax reporting, and maintain a company’s reputation within Singapore’s strict regulatory environment.
  • InCorp provides expert guidance on transfer pricing compliance, helping businesses align their documentation with IRAS requirements and OECD guidelines, minimising risks, and optimising tax strategies.

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About the Author

Nipun Arora

Nipun has over 14 years of experience in transfer pricing, having worked with the Big 4 accounting firms for most of his career. Nipun provides advisory services on transfer pricing to SMEs and multinational companies from the industries of automotive, retail, telecom, FMCG, and luxury goods. He assists clients in preparing year-end transfer pricing documentation to ensure their Transfer Pricing policies adhere to the arm’s length principle and the BEPS Action Plan.

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