One of the main challenges treasurers face when setting up a cash pool or an in-house bank is setting an appropriate interest rate for the resulting transactions. This topic, among others, has been addressed in the recently published OECD transfer pricing guidelines on financial transactions. As expected, the OECD has left it to the taxpayers and advisors to translate the guidance into concrete methodologies for compliance. Zanders has designed a cloud-based solution that automates the entire process.
The pricing of intercompany treasury transactions is subject to transfer pricing regulation. In essence, treasury and tax professionals need to ensure that the pricing of these transactions is in line with market conditions, also known as the arm’s length principle, thereby avoiding unwarranted profit shifting.
We have has been assisting dozens of multinationals on this topic through our Transfer Pricing Suite (TPS). The TPS enables them to set interest rates on intercompany transactions in a compliant and automated way. Each year, clients price over 3000 intercompany loans using this self-service solution.
Cash Pooling Solution
In February 2020, the OECD published the first-ever international consensus on financial transactions transfer pricing. One of the key topics of the document relates to the determination of internal pooling interest rates. As a reaction, Zanders has launched a co-development initiative with key clients to design a Cash Pooling Solution that determines the arm’s length interest rates for physical cash pools, notional cash pools and in-house banks.
The goal of this new solution is to present treasury and tax professionals with a user-friendly workflow that incorporates all compliance areas as well as treasury insights into the pooling structure. The three main compliance areas for treasury professionals are:
- 1.Ensuring that participants have a financial incentive to participate in the pooling structure. Entities participating in the pool should be ‘better off’ than they would be if they went directly to a third-party bank. In other words, participants’ pooled rates should be more favorable than their stand-alone rates. The OECD sets out a step-by-step approach to improve interest conditions for participating entities to distribute the synergies towards the participants.
First, the total pooling benefit should be calculated. This total pooling benefit is the financial advantage for a group compared to a non-pooled cash management set-up. The total pooling benefit can be broken down into a netting benefit and an interest rate benefit. The netting benefit arises from offsetting debit and credit balances. The interest rate benefit arises from more beneficial interest rate conditions on the cash pool or in-house bank position, compared to stand-alone current accounts.
Once the total pooling benefit has been calculated, it should be allocated over the leader entity and the participating entities. Therefore, a functional analysis of the pooling structure should be made to identify which entities contribute most in terms of their balances, creditworthiness and the administration of the pool. The allocated amount should be priced into the interest rates. A deposit rate will thus receive a pooling premium. A withdrawal rate will incorporate a pooling discount.
2.Ensuring a correct tax treatment of the cash pool transactions. Pooling structures are primarily in place to optimize cash and liquidity management. Therefore, tax authorities will expect to see the balances of cash pool participants fluctuate around zero. Treasury professionals should monitor positions to prevent participants from having a structural balance in the pool. If the balance has a longer-term character, tax authorities can classify such pooling position as a longer-term intercompany loan. Consequently, monitoring structural balances can lower tax risk significantly.
3.Appropriate documentation should be in place for each time treasury determines the pooling interest rates. The documentation should include the methodology as well as all specifics of the transfer pricing analysis. Proper documentation will enable the multinational to substantiate the interest rates during tax audits.
Multinationals are confronted with a significant compliance burden to comply with these new guidelines. Different hurdles can be identified, ranging from access to the appropriate market data to a considerable and recurring time investment in determining and documenting the internal deposit and withdrawal rates for each pooling structure.
It remains to be seen how auditors treat these new guidelines, but the recent increased focus on transfer pricing seems to indicate that this will be a topic that may need additional attention in the coming years.
Zanders Inside solutions
In order to support treasury and tax professionals in this area, Zanders Inside launched its cloud-based Cash Pooling Solution. This solution will focus on each of the three compliance areas as described above. In addition, the solution leverages a high degree of automation to support the entire end-to-end process. It offers a cost-effective alternative for the manual process that multinationals go through.