The OECD’s MAP awards for 2020 - not quite the BAFTAs, but (perhaps) still exciting for tax practitioners and authorities – were released alongside the 2020 MAP statistics on the OECD’s third Tax Certainty Day on 22 November 2021.

Last year, at the 2019 MAP awards (somewhat counter-intuitively – or perhaps intuitively, but only for the tax world - the annual awards are named after the year to which they relate rather than the year during which they are presented), the UK won two – for the shortest average time to close transfer pricing and other cases of, respectively 21 and 6 months.

The 2020 awards presented this year did not go as well from the UK’s perspective. Switzerland has taken the lead for transfer pricing cases – with approximately 20 months, while the UK has dropped down the list with around a 35 month average. Australia holds the 2020 title for the shortest time to close other MAP cases with 6 months whereas the UK is joint 4th with a 12 month average.

Why has the UK got slower at resolving MAP cases? Obviously, COVID caused significant disruption and HMRC’s resources were more stretched than ever with the additional responsibilities HMRC staff took on. But I also see that the UK has nearly halved the number of legacy cases on the MAP inventory during the course of 2020 so perhaps it was dealing with these legacy cases that increased the average time to close MAP cases.

The statistics show that the number of transfer pricing cases has kept increasing – up almost 15% since 2019 whereas other MAP cases have decreased slightly (by 2%). In the UK, although 105 transfer pricing cases were closed, another 135 cases were opened leaving an end inventory of 331. This is significantly less than the open transfer pricing cases in Italy (723!), India (709), Germany (636) and the US (619). The number of cases closed in the UK is also significantly more than in 2019 (72).

One final point to note: there was a new category in the awards for 2020 – most improved jurisdiction – which was won by Ireland which saw an increase by 27 of cases closed with unilateral relief or full agreement in 2020 compared to 2019.