We discuss the Ghana Revenue Authority tackling shareholder loans AND not adhering to the OECD TP Guidelines.
10.4. It may be the case that the balance of debt and equity funding of a borrowing entity that is part of an MNE group differs from that which would exist if it were an independent entity operating under the same or similar circumstances. This situation may affect the amount of interest payable by the borrowing entity and so may affect the profits accruing in a given jurisdiction.
10.5. Commentary to Article 9 of the OECD Model Tax Convention notes at paragraph 3(b) that Article 9 is relevant “not only in determining whether the rate of interest provided for in a loan contract is an arm’s length rate, but also whether a prima facie loan can be regarded as a loan or should be regarded as some other kind of payment, in particular a contribution to equity capital.” (As discussed in the Committee on Fiscal Affairs’ Report on “Thin Capitalisation” adopted by the Council of the OECD on 26 November 1986 and reproduced in Volume II of the full version of the OECD MTC at page R (4)-1).
10.8. Although this guidance reflects an approach of accurate delineation of the actual transaction in accordance with Chapter I to determine the amount of debt to be priced, it is acknowledged that other approaches may be taken to address the issue of the balance of debt and equity funding of an entity under domestic legislation before pricing the interest on the debt so determined. These approaches may include a multi-factor analysis of the characteristics of the instrument and the issuer.
10.9. Accordingly, this guidance is not intended to prevent countries from implementing approaches to address the balance of debt and equity funding of an entity and interest deductibility under domestic legislation, nor does it seek to mandate accurate delineation under Chapter I as the only approach for determining whether purported debt should be respected as debt.
10.12. In accurately delineating an advance of funds, the following economically relevant characteristics may be useful indicators, depending on the facts and circumstances: the presence or absence of a fixed repayment date; the obligation to pay interest; the right to enforce payment of principal and interest; the status of the funder in comparison to regular corporate creditors; the existence of financial covenants and security; the source of interest payments; the ability of the recipient of the funds to obtain loans from unrelated lending institutions; the extent to which the advance is used to acquire capital assets; and the failure of the purported debtor to repay on the due date or to seek a postponement.
10.13. For example, consider a situation in which Company B, a member of an MNE group, needs additional funding for its business activities. In this scenario, Company B receives an advance of funds from related Company C, which is denominated as a loan with a term of 10 years. Assume that, in light of all good-faith financial projections of Company B for the next 10 years, it is clear that Company B would be unable to service a loan of such an amount. Based on facts and circumstances, it can be concluded that an unrelated party would not be willing to provide such a loan to Company B due to its inability to repay the advance. Accordingly, the accurately delineated amount of Company C’s loan to Company B for transfer pricing purposes would be a function of the maximum amount that an unrelated lender would have been willing to advance to Company B, and the maximum amount that an unrelated borrower in comparable circumstances would have been willing to borrow from Company C, including the possibilities of not lending or borrowing any amount (see comments upon “The lender’s and borrower’s perspectives” in Section C.1.1.1 of this chapter). Consequently, the remainder of Company C’s advance to Company B would not be delineated as a loan for the purposes of determining the amount of interest which Company B would have paid at arm’s length.
10.26. From the perspective of the borrower, the relevant functions would usually refer to ensuring the availability of funds to repay the principal and the interest on the loan in due time; providing collateral, if needed; and monitoring and fulfilling any other obligation derived from the loan contract (see comments upon “The lender’s and borrower’s perspectives” in Section C.1.1.1 of this chapter).
10.93. Arm’s length interest rates can also be based on the return of realistic alternative transactions with comparable economic characteristics. Depending on the facts and circumstances, realistic alternatives to intra-group loans could be, for instance, bond issuances, loans which are uncontrolled transactions, deposits, convertible debentures, commercial papers, etc. In the evaluation of those alternatives as potential comparables it is important to bear in mind that, based on facts and circumstances, comparability adjustments may be required to eliminate the material effects of differences between the controlled intra-group loan and the selected alternative in terms of, for instance, liquidity, maturity, existence of collateral or currency.
10.94. When considering issues of comparability, the possibility of internal CUPs should not be overlooked.
10.95. Whereas it is unlikely that an MNE group’s average interest rate paid on its external debt meets the comparability requirements to be considered as an internal CUP, it may be possible to identify potential comparable loans within the borrower’s or its MNE group’s financing with an independent lender as the counterparty. As with external CUPs, it may be necessary to make appropriate adjustments to improve comparability. See Example 1 at 1.164 – 1.166.
C.1.2.6. Bank opinions
10.107. In some circumstances taxpayers may seek to evidence the arm’s length rate of interest on an intra-group loan by producing written opinions from independent banks, sometimes referred to as a “bankability” opinion, stating what interest rate the bank would apply were it to make a comparable loan to that particular enterprise.
10.108. Such an approach would represent a departure from an arm’s length approach based on comparability since it is not based on comparison of actual transactions. Furthermore, it is also important to bear in mind the fact that such letters do not constitute an actual offer to lend. Before proceeding to make a loan, a commercial lender will undertake the relevant due diligence and approval processes that would precede a formal loan offer. Such letters would not therefore generally be regarded as providing evidence of arm’s length terms and conditions.