Profit Attribution Challenges in a Digital Economy – A Transfer Pricing Analysis of the EU Virtual Permanent Establishment Concept

In this article, the authors discuss some implications for multinational enterprises of the proposed introduction of a “virtual permanent establishment” (virtual PE) by the European Commission. First, the authors discuss the update of the PE definition, i.e. the virtual PE. Second, the authors discuss how the profit attribution to this updated PE definition is intended to work and to what extent this profit attribution is aligned with value creation of MNEs in a digital economy as highlighted by the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines. It can be concluded that the EC proposal is not in line with the existing consensus on the taxation of the digital economy and artificially aims to be in accordance with the OECD Guidelines. The authors suggest that the EC considers the recommendations by the OECD more thoroughly in tackling this difficult issue of taxation of the digital economy.