With the developments happening globally that are aimed at curbing base erosion and profit shifting by multinationals, improving the resolution of transfer pricing disputes has been identified as one of the key issues. This thesis investigates the challenges uniquely faced by African countries that militate against the use of the OECD transfer pricing dispute resolution mechanisms. The thesis starts by reflecting on the effect of transfer pricing manipulation by multinational enterprises in Africa in particular. Transfer pricing manipulation is one of the causes of the so-called tax gap, which is, the gap between anticipated and actual revenue collection. The aggression by revenue authorities against transfer pricing manipulation in order to close this gap has triggered a lot of transfer pricing adjustments. These adjustments have resulted in multiple transfer pricing disputes.
In the analysis of the adopted OECD dispute resolution mechanisms, the thesis focuses on the effectiveness of the mutual agreement procedure (MAP), the advance pricing arrangement (APA) and the mandatory binding arbitration (MBA). It identifies the problems that result in the failure of or the delay in the resolution of many transfer pricing disputes by analysing the domestic frameworks that exist in four African countries namely: South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana.
The thesis identifies problems such as the absence of a tax treaty network within the African continent, the use of underdeveloped double tax agreements and the lack of commitment from African countries to subscribe to and ratify multilateral conventions. These problems delay or stifle the resolution of tax treaty disputes. They also cause uncertainty for taxpayers and lead to continued tax avoidance by multinational enterprises that essentially avoid paying tax in African countries where the economic activities of these enterprises take place.
The thesis also identifies the importance of other OECD supporting tools such as the exchange of tax information in the resolution of transfer pricing disputes. It focuses on tools such as country by country reports, the master file, the local file and simultaneous tax examination as covered by the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters.
The thesis contributes to the resolution of the identified problems with transfer pricing dispute resolution in Africa by recommending certain improvements that can be effected. These recommendations entail, regarding the MAP, the expansion of tax treaty networks by African countries and the establishment of a Tax Treaty Dispute Resolution Committee by ATAF.
Regarding the APA, it is recommended that African countries should sign the multilateral instrument (MLI) and make use of advance tax rulings (ATRs) as alternatives. With respect to the MBA, this thesis recommends that African countries should use optional arbitration by effectively using article 25(4) of the OECD Model tax convention (MTC). It also recommends that African countries must enhance their tax transparency by ratifying multilateral conventions that seek to address international tax co-operation and to improve compliance with transfer pricing documentation requirements in order to make the resolution of transfer pricing disputes more effective.