The Cost Plus Method in Transfer Pricing


The UAE’s emergence as a manufacturing and service hub necessitates a comprehensive understanding of transfer pricing methods for multinational enterprises (MNEs) operating within its borders. Here, we look into the Cost Plus Method, a widely used approach for establishing arm’s-length pricing in scenarios where goods or services are provided between related entities.

The Cost Plus Method is particularly relevant in manufacturing and service industries where a company provides goods or services to related entities. This method focuses on adding an appropriate markup to the costs incurred by the supplier, ensuring that the price charged to a related party reflects what would have been charged in a comparable transaction between independent entities.


Key Elements of the Cost Plus Method


  1. Understanding the Method:

Imagine a company in Dubai manufactures garments and sells them to a related distributor in France. The Cost Plus Method would involve calculating all the production costs incurred by the Dubai company (cost base). Then, a markup reflecting the typical profit margin earned by independent garment manufacturers in similar situations would be added to this cost base to arrive at the transfer price for the garments sold to the French distributor.

  1. Cost Base and Markup Determination:
  • Cost Base: Accurately identifying all relevant costs is crucial. This typically includes direct costs (materials, labor) and indirect costs (factory overhead, administrative expenses) associated with producing the goods or providing the services.
  • Markup: The markup should be established by analyzing profit margins earned by similar companies in the same industry for comparable transactions. Market research and industry data are essential for selecting an appropriate markup that reflects typical profitability in such scenarios.
  1. Applications and Limitations:
  • Industries: The Cost Plus Method is well-suited for manufacturing industries where goods are produced by one related party and sold to another. It can also be applied in service industries for transactions between related entities, such as IT support or administrative services provided within an MNE.
  • Strengths: The method offers a clear and verifiable approach, particularly when cost data is readily available and comparable industry benchmarks for markups exist.
  • Challenges: Assigning all costs accurately to the controlled transaction can be complex. Selecting an appropriate markup that reflects market realities can be challenging, especially when data on comparable transactions is limited.
  1. Documentation and Compliance:

Maintaining meticulous documentation is vital for upholding the use of the Cost Plus Method during tax audits. This documentation should include:

  • Detailed records of all cost calculations associated with producing the goods or services.
  • A clear explanation of the chosen markup percentage and the rationale behind its selection, referencing industry data or comparable transactions.
  • Transparent justifications for using the Cost Plus Method and the chosen approach for cost allocation and markup determination.

The UAE, like many countries, emphasizes adherence to international tax practices. Comprehensive documentation strengthens compliance with both domestic and global transfer pricing regulations.

An example illustrating the Cost Plus Method


A UAE-based company provides marketing services (e.g., social media management) to a related company in Canada. The Cost Plus Method could be used to determine the transfer price for these services in the following manner:

  1. The UAE company would calculate all the costs incurred in providing the marketing services (e.g., salaries, software subscriptions).
  2. Then, they would research the typical profit margins earned by independent marketing agencies in the UAE for similar services to establish an appropriate markup.

By adding this markup to the cost base, they arrive at an arm’s-length transfer price for the marketing services provided to the Canadian affiliate.

Find out more about the cost plus method of transfer pricing


The Cost Plus Method, when used effectively, promotes transparent transfer pricing for MNEs in the UAE. This ensures compliance and tax efficiency, solidifying the UAE’s position as a global trade hub. However, proper cost allocation, markup selection, and documentation are crucial. This is where our CFO services in Dubai to navigate these complexities.

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