The Global Effect of the Glaxo Case : The Increase of Transfer Pricing Conflicts between the OECD and the US

by Hallbäck, Camilla; Gustafsson, Sara

Abstract (Summary)
This master’s thesis compares the OECD transfer pricing recommendations with the transfer pricing rules of the US. The main focus is the ethical pharmaceutical industry and intangible property, in particular marketing intangibles. The Glaxo case is used to illustrate how the US takes advantage of areas of uncertainty to increase the country’s tax revenue. The US shows little consideration for the OECD’s objectives of having a set of universally applicable transfer pricing rules. The purpose of this master’s thesis is to explain and analyze why the IRS took a new approach on marketing intangibles in the Glaxo case, evaluate the global effect of the Glaxo case, and discuss how similar situations should be dealt with in the future.The natural forum to achieve universally harmonized transfer pricing rules is the OECD. When the OECD fails to provide adequate recommendations, the US and other countries take matters into their own hands by constructing rules deviating from the recommendations of the OECD. These rules tend to put the countries’ interests first creating a competitive international transfer pricing community harmful to MNEs. The consequence is a negative effect on global trade and investment.In the Glaxo case the US took advantage of the area of uncertainty regarding intangible property and marketing intangibles to serve its own purpose and came up with a new approach on marketing intangibles. This approach has consequences for all MNEs with affiliates in the US and distributors outside the US. The new approach states that the value of a product is attributable to the marketing activities conducted by a US subsidiary rather than to R&D carried out by a UK parent. The new approach may affect distributors outside the US since the value they have can be allocated to a US affiliate conducting marketing and sales activities. The ethical pharmaceutical industry depends on intangible property and R&D is the most important value-driver in this industry. In addition, the characteristics of the ethical pharmaceutical industry are such that ethical pharmaceutical companies are priority targets of the IRS’s audits. If the IRS’s new approach prevails, the negative consequences for the ethical pharmaceutical industry as well as the society as a whole may be severe.There are three main conclusions and recommendations in this master’s thesis. First, the Member countries of the OECD have to respect the principle of transfer pricing as neutral concept. Second, tax authorities must take into consideration the sound business reasons of MNEs and understand their need for tax predictability. Finally, it is in the interest of all countries to cooperate and establish a uniform interpretation and application of transfer pricing thereby avoiding double taxation and creating a balance in the international transfer pricing community.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Högskolan i Jönköping

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:transfer pricing marketing intangibles the arm s length principle pharmaceutical industry


Date of Publication:01/28/2008

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