Transfer Pricing Case: Colombia vs. Industria Nacional de Gaseosas S.A. (INDEGA)


The transfer pricing case between Colombia and Industria Nacional de Gaseosas S.A. (INDEGA) is a decision with implications for multinational enterprises (MNEs) and tax authorities worldwide. The case, adjudicated by the Council of State in April 2024, centred on the allocation of profits between INDEGA and its foreign subsidiaries, raising critical questions about applying the arm’s length principle and the role of transfer pricing in international taxation. This comprehensive analysis delves into the case’s background, judicial reasoning, and significance while exploring the value of transfer pricing expertise and preventative measures that MNEs can implement to mitigate risks and ensure compliance.

Summary and Analysis of the Case

Case Information:

  • Court: Council of State, Administrative Litigation Chamber, Fourth Section
  • Case No: 25000-23-37-000-2014-00372-01 (26674)
  • Applicant: Industria Nacional de Gaseosas S.A. (INDEGA)
  • Defendant: U.A.E. Dirección de Impuestos y Aduanas Nacionales (DIAN)
  • Judgment Date: 18 April 2024
  • Councillor Rapporteur: Milton Chaves García

Judgment Summary:


  • INDEGA filed its income tax return for the taxable year 2010 and corrected it in 2013.
  • DIAN issued a ruling in 2013, proposing a higher tax payable, a penalty for inaccuracy, and reduction to zero of the credit balance originally assessed, based on a new transfer pricing analysis.
  • INDEGA appealed, defending the comparability adjustment and the use of the ROTC profitability indicator.


  • The core issue was whether the comparability adjustment proposed by INDEGA for transfer pricing was justified.
  • The dispute also involved the appropriateness of the financial indicator used (ROTC vs. ROCE) and the selection of comparable companies.

Key Points from the Judgment:

  1. Comparability Adjustments:
    • Adjustment Justification: INDEGA argued that its accounting standards differed from those of the comparable companies, necessitating adjustments for fair comparison. Specifically, reimbursements for advertising expenses were treated as non-operating income, affecting financial indicators.
    • Technical Expert Opinion: The court considered expert evidence that highlighted differences in accounting standards between Colombian regulations and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
    • Court’s Conclusion: The court found that the adjustments proposed by INDEGA were reasonable and justified to achieve better comparability between INDEGA and the comparable companies.
  2. Financial Indicator Used:
    • ROTC vs. ROCE: INDEGA used the ROTC (Return on Operating Costs) indicator, while DIAN proposed the ROCE (Return on Capital Employed) indicator. DIAN argued that ROTC was not objective due to the involvement of related-party transactions.
    • Court’s Conclusion: The court accepted the use of the ROTC indicator by INDEGA, considering it a more appropriate measure given the nature of the transactions and the adjustments made.
  3. Selection of Comparable Companies:
    • DIAN’s Selection: DIAN rejected the comparables selected by INDEGA and proposed its own set of comparables using different criteria.
    • Court’s Conclusion: The court found that DIAN’s selection was inconsistent and unjustified, supporting INDEGA’s original selection and adjustments.
  4. Penalty for Inaccuracy:
    • Court’s Conclusion: The court ruled that the penalty for inaccuracy was inappropriate as INDEGA complied with the arm’s length principle and made justified adjustments to its financial indicators.

Transfer Pricing Method Used:

Transactional Net Margin Method (TNMM):

  • Profitability Indicator: INDEGA used the ROTC (Return on Operating Costs) as the profitability indicator, which is aligned with the TNMM.
  • Comparability Adjustments: INDEGA proposed adjustments to account for differences in accounting standards, specifically reclassifying non-operating income as operating income to better reflect the economic reality of its transactions with related parties.

The Council of State upheld the judgment in favor of INDEGA, recognizing the appropriateness of the comparability adjustments and the use of the ROTC profitability indicator in the transfer pricing analysis. The court emphasized the need for reasonable adjustments to achieve comparability and fairness in transfer pricing evaluations, aligning with the principles of the TNMM. This judgment reinforces the importance of considering accounting differences and making necessary adjustments to ensure transactions between related parties comply with the arm’s length principle.

The Arm’s Length Principle

The arm’s length principle is a cornerstone of transfer pricing regulations. It stipulates that transactions between related parties should be priced as if they were conducted between independent entities operating at arm’s length. This principle aims to prevent the artificial shifting of profits among entities within a multinational group for tax avoidance purposes.

In the INDEGA case, the Colombian tax authorities contended that the company’s transfer pricing methods did not adhere to the arm’s length principle, resulting in an understatement of profits in Colombia and an overstatement of profits in lower-tax jurisdictions where INDEGA’s subsidiaries were located.

Implications for Multinationals and Revenue Services

The INDEGA case has significant implications for multinational enterprises and revenue services worldwide. 

For Multinationals

For MNEs, the case serves as a stark reminder of the importance of adhering to the arm’s length principle and ensuring that transfer pricing practices accurately reflect the economic reality of transactions.

MNEs must now be more vigilant in their transfer pricing practices, conducting thorough comparability analyses, and allocating profits that align with the functions, assets, and risks of each entity within the group. Robust documentation and transparency are also crucial to withstand scrutiny from tax authorities.

For Revenue Services

The case reinforces the need for increased scrutiny and enforcement of transfer pricing regulations. Tax authorities are likely to intensify their efforts to identify and challenge transfer pricing practices that artificially shift profits to lower-tax jurisdictions.

The case also highlights the importance of international cooperation and information exchange among tax authorities. As MNEs operate across multiple jurisdictions, effective transfer pricing enforcement requires collaboration and coordination among revenue services to consistently apply the arm’s length principle.

The Value of Transfer Pricing Expertise

In the complex transfer pricing realm, the expertise of seasoned professionals like Prof. Dr. Daniel N. Erasmus and his Tax Risk Management (TRM™) team is invaluable. Their expertise encompasses the following critical areas:

  1. Compliance and Risk Management: TRM™ ensures that MNEs comply with local and international tax regulations, minimizing the risk of tax audits, adjustments, and penalties. They assist in preparing robust transfer pricing documentation that can withstand scrutiny from tax authorities.
  2. Strategic Tax Planning: TRM™ assists MNEs in strategically planning their intercompany transactions to optimize tax efficiency. This involves setting transfer prices that reflect the economic reality of the transactions and align with the arm’s length principle.
  3. Dispute Resolution: In disputes with tax authorities, TRM™ provides critical support in defending the MNE’s transfer pricing policies. Their expertise is crucial in litigation and negotiation processes to achieve favourable outcomes.
  4. Economic Analysis and Valuation: Transfer pricing involves complex economic analyses and valuations, particularly for intangible assets. TRM™ has the necessary skills to conduct these analyses accurately and ensure that transfer prices are set appropriately.
  5. Training and Education: As the head of academics at the I/I/T/F Academy of Tax Law, Prof. Dr. Erasmus emphasizes the importance of education and training in transfer pricing. He leads postgraduate programs and workshops that equip tax professionals with the knowledge to handle transfer pricing issues proficiently.

Preventative Measures: Tax Steering Committees and Risk Management

While the expertise of professionals is invaluable in resolving transfer pricing disputes, MNEs can also implement preventative measures to mitigate risks and avoid such situations altogether. One effective approach is to establish a dedicated tax steering committee.

A tax steering committee is a cross-functional team that oversees all tax-related matters, ensuring the company’s tax strategy aligns with its business objectives and complies with relevant regulations. This committee should include members with deep expertise in transfer pricing and tax risk management to provide oversight and strategic direction.

The responsibilities of a tax steering committee in the context of transfer pricing may include:

  1. Policy Development: Develop and implement comprehensive transfer pricing policies that align with the arm’s length principle and comply with local and international regulations.
  2. Documentation and Compliance: Ensure that all intercompany transactions are documented accurately and that transfer pricing documentation is prepared and maintained by regulatory requirements.
  3. Monitoring and Review: Regularly review transfer pricing practices to identify and address potential issues proactively.
  4. Training and Awareness: Conduct training sessions for relevant personnel to understand the importance of transfer pricing compliance and the implications of non-compliance.
  5. Risk Management: Conduct regular benchmarking studies and economic analyses to ensure that transfer prices are set at arm’s length and proactively identify and mitigate potential transfer pricing risks.
  6. Dispute Prevention and Resolution: Engage with tax authorities to negotiate advance pricing agreements (APAs), which provide certainty on transfer pricing methods and reduce future dispute risk. Maintain open lines of communication with tax authorities to address any concerns or queries promptly.

By implementing a proper tax steering committee and adopting preventative measures, MNEs can ensure compliance, optimize their tax strategies, and mitigate the risks associated with transfer pricing disputes. This proactive approach safeguards the MNE’s interests and fosters a transparent and cooperative relationship with tax authorities.

Click here to download our FREE eBook on setting up a Steering Committee.

Closing Thoughts

The transfer pricing case between Colombia and INDEGA is an important decision that underscores the importance of adhering to the arm’s length principle and ensuring that transfer pricing practices accurately reflect the economic reality of transactions. The case serves as a wake-up call for MNEs to reevaluate their transfer pricing strategies and prioritize robust documentation, transparency, and compliance with international regulations.

Moreover, the case highlights the value of transfer pricing expertise. To mitigate risks and avoid costly disputes, MNEs should consider implementing preventative measures, such as establishing a dedicated tax steering committee. 

As transfer pricing regulations continue to evolve and tax authorities intensify their scrutiny, MNEs must remain vigilant and proactive in managing their transfer pricing strategies. By leveraging the expertise of seasoned professionals and implementing robust risk management processes, MNEs can navigate the complex transfer pricing landscape with greater confidence and effectiveness, ensuring compliance and minimizing the risk of costly disputes.

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