Compatibility between the OECD’s Hard-to-Value Intangibles Methodology and the Arm’s Length Standard: What Is the Way Forward?

This article studies the compatibility between the hard-to-value intangibles (HTVIs) methodology adopted by the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines (OECD TPG) 2017 and the arm’s length standard (ALS). This new methodology provides tax administrations with a useful tool for dealing with the information asymmetry problem in relation to taxpayers when assessing transactions involving intangibles for which the valuation is highly uncertain. However, certain features of this new approach may contradict the ALS as enshrined in article 9(1) of the OECD Model and, consequently, as internalized at a domestic level within the income tax law and tax treaty network of many jurisdictions around the world. In this context, this article provides a comprehensive analysis of the OECD’s HTVIs methodology, from its conception in the United States to its final incorporation within the TPG, the tensions with the ALS that may lead to normative conflicts in different jurisdictions, and, lastly, the possible solutions that could amend this discrepancy.