China: The Balance Between The Tax Authorities And The Customs ---Another Important Consideration For Transfer Pricing Documentation

Last Updated: 5 June 2015
Article by Rose Zhou, Richard Bao and Julie Zhang

Since the release of The Administrative Measures of Special Taxation Adjustment, as Guoshuifa [2009] No. 2 ("Circular 2") by China State Administration of Taxation (the "SAT") in 2009, the preparation and submission of contemporaneous transfer pricing ("TP") documentation has been compulsory to many enterprises in China. As stipulated in Circular 2, Chinese enterprises who meet the requirements should submit contemporaneous TP documentation to the tax authorities on time. In this regard, many enterprises may naturally regard the submission of TP documentation as the reporting requirement by the tax authorities. But in recent years, not only the tax authorities lay more emphasis on TP documentation, but also the Customs keeps a close eye on it. Especially, for those enterprises who are involved in intercompany import transactions, the TP documentation submitted to the tax authorities has become an important channel for the Customs to understand their TP arrangements. Based on our observations, many enterprises involved in intercompany import transactions have been required by the Customs to submit the TP documentation that had already been submitted to the tax authorities.

Due to the fact that TP can affect not only the import duty but also the corporate income tax ("CIT"), both the tax authorities and the Customs give close attention and scrutiny to the TP arrangements of the enterprises. Whether the TP policy is correct will directly influence the duty, turnover tax, and CIT. From the perspective of the tax authorities, the lower the prices of imported goods are, the more the corporate profits/CIT will be. However, from the perspective of the Customs, they may collect lower duties due to the lower price of imported goods. Therefore, the tax authorities and the Customs are naturally inclined to be at odds with each other on the import pricing. As such, from the perspective of the enterprises, it is increasingly important for them to properly establish TP policies and balance their duty burdens and CIT burdens in order to avoid any investigations by the two authorities.

In practice, we witnessed that some enterprises engaged in import transactions obtain satisfactory profits in China and thus in their TP documentations, they spare no efforts in highlighting their financial performance as "much higher than the comparable profit range". In the view of these enterprises, the profit level which is "much higher than the comparable profit range" could prove to local tax authorities that the intercompany pricing is "more than acceptable" from China perspective. Nevertheless, when reviewing such TP documentation, the Customs will likely draw a conclusion that the functions, risks and assets of the enterprise do not deserve such a high profit level and thus query the rationality of the import price. In other words, the TP documentation which is originally used to prove it reasonable to the tax authorities conversely proves it unreasonable from the Custom's point of view. Therefore, in the process of preparing the TP documentation, it is not appropriate to exaggerate the high profit level of the enterprise. On the contrary, the enterprises should also take duties into account, so as to avoid the potential inquiries from the Customs due to any inadvertent and improper descriptions in the documentation.

In addition to the consideration on the TP documentation from the perspective of the Customs, enterprises who are required to submit the documentation should also be aware that as the New Year begins, the submission deadline of the 2013's documentation is approaching again. In the sixth year ever since the administration of the TP documentation, it is believed that the collection coverage of the documentation will be further widened and for those enterprises obligated to prepare the documentation, the inspection rate will continue to be 100%. The requirement for the submission deadline from the tax authorities will be more strictly followed. In addition, tax authorities have been increasingly experienced in reviewing the documentation. The officials will focus on not only the integrity but also the quality of the related party information disclosed. For example, tax authorities will discuss with the enterprises on the reasonability of the comparables in the benchmarking study as well as the reasonability of the special factors which are to explain the reasons leading to the unsatisfactory profit level. Thus, when preparing the TP documentation, it is recommended that the enterprises shall disclose the relevant information as stipulated in Circular 2 and pay more attention to the quality of the information disclosed in order to meet the requirements of the tax authorities.

In summary, the preparation of the TP documentation is of great importance to the enterprises with legal obligations. The enterprises should prepare the TP documentation deliberately and carefully since that the TP documentation has been no longer the simple document and information disclosure to meet the compliance; instead, it is an important approach to risk prevention as well as a vital means to prove the rationality of TP arrangements when facing the challenges from the tax authority and the Customs. It is essential for the enterprises to make a full consideration of the interests of both authorities so as to avoid the undeserved inquiry from any of the authorities due to the unintentional and inappropriate disclosure. Meanwhile, the preparation of the TP documentation could help the enterprises review their TP arrangements, identify potential TP risks as well as ways for improvement, in order to mitigate TP risks in China.

Originally published January, 2014.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.