With the election of a new government and renewed focus on employment and productivity, Finland is hoping to continue the economic growth that has characterised the country over the past few years. The new transfer pricing legislation will place Finland directly in line with its European neighbours, whilst the passing of the Companies Act in 2006 enabled greater flexibility in financing and cross border transactions. Despite the credit crunch, the number of transactions in Finland was at a record high in 2007, with the number of deals exceeding the previous record set in 2000. With forecasts of slowing economic growth and employment concerns due to ageing populations, the new government is streamlining bureaucracy and focussing on innovation to spur Finland’s economic growth.
Continued foreign direct investment activity
The transaction market was active in 2007 with industrial buyers reentering the market and private equity continuing to sell to private equity. The number of transactions was at a record high, with 768 deals exceeding the previous record set in 2000, and a 17 percent increase in deals over 2006. Finnish companies purchased 105 companies abroad, whilst non-Finnish buyers purchased 101 companies from Finnish sellers. Finnish entities sold businesses covering turnover of €5bln both in Finland and abroad. In total, Finnish companies purchased turnover worth €2.8bn, a decrease from €3.2bn in 2006.
In 2007 majority stake transactions, 110 000 employees were transferred under new shareholder control. As the Finns made the largest transactions abroad, about 38 percent of the group, some 41 000 persons, work outside of Finland. Standout deals include Nokia purchasing Navteq for €5.7bn: the purchase price exceeding 14 times the target’s 2006 turnover; Atria, Finnish food product corporation acquiring Swedish Sardus and Finnish Pouttu and Cargotec did 13 acquisitions in 2007.
The State of Finland sold a 30 percent stake of Kemira Growhow, fertilising business, to the Norwegian Yara. M-real, pulp and paper company, divested Map Merchant in the Netherlands, Zanders plant in Germany,
Petöfi plant in Hungary, Tako in Finland and Meulemans in Belgium.
There were two new listings in the OMX Nordic Exchange: SRV Group in June 2007 and Suomen Terveystalo in April 2007. A rather new phenomenon in 2007 was an IPO through a merger: Tiimari merged with listed Leo Longlife, John Nurminen with listed Kasola, and Trainers’ House with listed Satama Interactive. OMX also organised a new market place, First North, for small growth companies.
Impact of the credit crunch
The credit crunch meant that there was a period in the autumn of 2007 in which transactions were delayed and negotiations between parties took longer. It is likely that some transactions did not take place but overall, the effect was not dramatic. Market value of companies listed in the local Stock Exchange decreased some €24bn within a month according to Talouselämä in February 2008. When comparing the October 2007 peak with the current situation, the market values have decreased some €45bn of which Nokia counts only for €10bn. According to the same source, exits by non-Finnish institutional investors and large private investors have played a big role in this development.
Merger of the Financial Supervision and Insurance Supervisory Authority
The merger of the Financial Supervision and Insurance Authority will essentially cover the same duties as the two existing supervisory authorities. The objective would be to enable companies and organisations in financial markets to operate in a balanced business environment, maintain public confidence in financial markets, foster compliance with good practice and disseminate general knowledge about the financial markets. The centralisation will make it possible to supervise more effectively and take into consideration special characteristics of different industries in the financial sector.
Activities within the financial market, including: Icelandic Glittnir acquiring FIM, investment bank, Danish Danske Bank acquiring Sampo Bank, and offers on the OMX Stock Exchange, will have an effect on the roles and responsibilities of the new authority.
Implications of new government
The new government’s approach to taxation has been a movement toward trying to attract business angels to the country, with the Ministry of Employment and Economy and the Ministry of Finance currently drafting a proposal to offer direct tax incentives. This would take the form of exemption on capital gains after a holding period of three years. The incentive would not be targeted to institutional private equity, and although the details have yet to be released, the purpose is to prepare the package by the end of the year.
Despite this, there is also a draft proposal, prepared by the Ministry of Finance, on a new asset classification, which would limit the scope of participation exemption on capital gains. The government recently terminated plans to design a new tax depreciation regime for investments to maintain productive investment activity in Finland. There is also a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) discussion pending, as there is currently no tax element included in the REIT legislation.
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy was established on 1st January and its mandate prescribe duties assigned to the current Ministry of Trade and Industry (excluding matters related to immigration and integration), and functions of the Interior Department for Development of Regions and Public Administration (excluding the Regional and Local Administration Unit). The Ministry’s focus will be on innovation, the employment of labour, reforms to meet the challenges of climate change through energy policies and a focus on developing regional co-operation.
2007 transfer pricing legislation
According to Finnish tax law, associated companies are required to comply with the arm’s length principle in their intra-group transactions. The principle may be applied to adjust the profits of a Finnish company in relation to both domestic and cross-border transactions. An adjustment is possible if the taxpayer has agreed to the transaction on conditions differing from those that would have been agreed to between independent parties. Any profits that would have accrued to the company but for the non-arm’s length terms have not, may be included in the company’s profits.
All companies are obligated to comply with the arm’s length principle in their intra-group tradings, even though the transactions would be exempted from documentation requirements. Documentation must be provided separately for each tax year. Satisfactory documentation is to be prepared in accordance with the model set forth in the EU Code of Conduct (COM (2005) 543 Final), taking into account the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines.
Under the new regulations, a taxpayer is obliged to provide the documentation within 60 days from the date of request by the tax authorities. The revenue may not request documentation before six months from the end of the company’s accounting period under scrutiny. The tax authorities are also entitled to require additional information regarding the documentation, which is to be provided within 90 days from the date of the request. It should be noted that companies are not obliged to file transfer pricing documentation in connection with the corporate income tax return.
An exemption from documentation requirements applies to small and medium-sized enterprises. However, as the independency criteria set by the EU Commission 2003/361 EC Recommendation apply; Finnish companies that are small and medium-sized on stand-alone basis are required to fulfill the documentation requirements if they are controlled by large non-Finnish corporations. A company is not regarded as an SME if, in accordance with the Commissions Recommendation, the company employs more than 250 persons and has an annual turnover exceeding €50m and/or an annual balance sheet total exceeding €43m.
Transfer pricing has been a subject of increasing interest of the Finnish tax administration during the past decade. In the lack of specific documentation requirements and resources, the Finnish revenue has, in terms of numbers, mostly targeted simple issues, e.g. management fees. During the last ten years or so, especially after the establishment of the Tax Office for Major Corporations in late 90’s, the revenue has placed a certain amount of effort in more complex transfer pricing issues on Finnish based large multinational companies.
Legal issues arising from cross border transactions
Cross-border transactions are subject to documentation requirements and the expectation is that the Finnish revenue will actively monitor the Finnish tax base and there will be more inquiries and disputes in this area of practice. Recent discussions in Finnish tax journals and published case law indicate the revenue’s growing interest in business model conversions as well as issues on intellectual property. Finland actively follows the international tax discussion and it may well be that some of the international developments will be adopted in some form in Finland.
With regard to other legal issues arising from cross border transactions, the amendment of The Companies Act in 2006 allowed greater flexibility in financing and these measures are available for transactions where there is a Finnish acquisition vehicle. There are still some pending tax debates on tax treatment, especially in the area of repatriation.
The documentation should include items listed below:
A functional analysis of the transactions undertaken with associated companies, providing information on functions performed, property used and risks assumed
A comparability analysis, including information on comparable transactions or companies, validating the arm’s length level of the applied transfer pricing
A description of the selected pricing method and its application and an explanation of the choice of the selected method
There is less documentation required if the total amount of the intra-group transactions entered into by the taxpayer does not exceed 500,000 euros. According to the section on penalties, a maximum penalty of 25,000 euros may be imposed if the taxpayer has not prepared sufficient documentation in accordance with the regulations. Standard tax penalties may be levied if income is adjusted
For further information:
Tel: +358 20 755 5314