New Safe Harbour Regime Notified by CBDT

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In order to reduce transfer pricing disputes, to provide certainty to taxpayers, to align safe harbour margins with industry standards and to enlarge the scope of safe harbour transactions, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has notified a new safe harbour regime based on the report of the Committee set up in this regard.

A safe harbour is a provision of a statute or a regulation that specifies that certain conduct will be deemed not to violate a given rule. To put in differently, from the perspective of Transfer pricing provisions the safe harbour rules provides a window for the taxpayers wherein in case of defined circumstances the income-tax authorities shall accept the transfer pricing declared by the taxpayer.

Safe harbours provide for circumstances in which a certain category of taxpayers can follow a simple set of rules under which transfer prices are automatically accepted by the revenue authorities. Safe harbour provisions offer essentially benefits to taxpayers and tax administrators with benefits of compliance relief, administrative simplicity and certainty.

Section 92CB of the Income-tax Act provides for framing of safe harbour rules. The determination of arms length price u/s 92C or 92CA of the Act is subject to these safe harbour rules. The definition of safe harbour rule provided in section 92CB means circumstances in which the Income-tax Authority shall accept the transfer price declared by the assessee.

The salient features of new Safe Harbour Regime are:

It has come into effect from 1st of April, 2017, i.e. A.Y. 2017-18 and shall continue to remain in force for two immediately succeeding years thereafter, i.e. up to A.Y. 2019-2020.

Assessees eligible under the present safe harbour regime up to AY 2017-18 shall also have the right to choose the safe harbour option most beneficial to them.

A new category of transactions being “Receipt of Low Value-Adding Intra-Group Services” has been introduced.

The new safe harbour regime is available for transactions limited to Rs. 200 crore in provision of software development services, provision of information technology-enabled services, provision of knowledge process outsourcing services, provision of contract research and development services wholly or partly relating to software development and provision of contract research and development services wholly or partly relating to generic pharmaceutical drugs.

In respect of transactions involving provision of software development services and provision of information technology-enabled services, safe harbour margins have been reduced to peak rate of 18% from 22% in the previous regime.

In respect of transactions involving provision of knowledge process outsourcing services, a graded structure of 3 different rates of 24%, 21% and 18% has been provided, based on employee cost to operating cost ratio, replacing the single rate of 25% in the previous regime.

In respect of transactions involving provision of contract research and development services wholly or partly relating to software development and provision of contract research and development services wholly or partly relating to generic pharmaceutical drugs, safe harbour margins have been reduced to 24% from 30% and 29% respectively in the previous regime.

Risk spreads on intra-group loans denominated in foreign currency will be benchmarked to the 6-month London Inter-Bank Offer Rate (LIBOR) as on 30th September of the relevant year and on loans denominated in Indian Rupees to the 1-year SBI MCLR as on 1st April of the relevant year.

The safe harbour regime is optional to taxpayers.

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