What Is an Arm’s Length Transaction? Its Importance, With Examples


In this comprehensive article, we delve into the concept of an arm’s length transaction—a business deal where independent parties act without influence from each other. We explore its significance in various sectors, including real estate, finance, and taxation. Learn about the key differences between arm’s length and non-arm’s length transactions, their legal and financial implications, and their role in fostering fairness and transparency in business practices.

What is an arm’s length transaction?

An arm’s length transaction refers to a business deal where buyers and sellers operate independently, free from mutual influence. Both parties act in their self-interest, ensuring fairness and transparency. This concept is particularly crucial in real estate, as deals affect lenders, taxes, and market comparables.

Understanding arm’s length transactions

In real estate, arm’s length transactions involve impartial buyers and sellers, leading to a sale price close to fair market value. This value accounts for factors like location, condition, and comparable prices. It has implications on financing, taxes, and market stability.

Arm’s length vs. non-arm’s length transactions

Arm’s length transactions contrast with non-arm’s length transactions, which involve related parties. Relatives and companies with shared shareholders conduct non-arm’s length deals. Such transactions may have preferential terms based on existing relationships, influencing pricing and tax liabilities.

Arm’s length transactions and fair market value (FMV)

Arm’s length transactions ensure fairness by reflecting accurate market conditions. This is especially vital in real estate. Fair market value (FMV) is determined by location, comparable prices, home condition, size, and economic factors.

Example of an arm’s length transaction

Consider a hypothetical scenario involving a father, John, and his son, Henry. If John sells his house to a neutral party at a mutually agreed price, it’s an arm’s length transaction. However, if he sells it to Henry at a discounted rate due to their relationship, it becomes a non-arm’s length deal.

Why are arm’s length transactions important?

Arm’s length transactions are vital due to their legal and tax implications. Multinational corporations must ensure fair market value in transactions with affiliates worldwide to meet tax requirements. These transactions promote fairness, protect shareholders, and encourage reasonable business practices.

Examples of non-arm’s length transactions

Non-arm’s length transactions include family-related deals and preferential appointments within companies. These transactions can harm transparency, market integrity, and shareholder interests.


Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.

  • Ensures fair market value
  • Promotes transparency
  • Encourages independent business practices
  • Complexity in determining value
  • Potential for disputes
  • May limit preferential deals

Frequently asked questions

What is the significance of arm’s length transactions in real estate?

Arm’s length transactions prevent biased pricing and ensure that properties are valued accurately.

Can non-arm’s length transactions have legal consequences?

Yes, non-arm’s length deals can lead to legal and regulatory challenges, particularly in cases of preferential treatment.

How do arm’s length transactions impact taxation?

Arm’s length transactions are essential to ensure proper tax payments, especially for multinational corporations with global affiliates.

Key takeaways

  • Arm’s length transactions involve independent parties acting without influence.
  • These transactions ensure fairness and transparency in various sectors.
  • They have legal and tax implications and promote reasonable business practices.
  • Non-arm’s length transactions involve related parties and may lack transparency.
  • Understanding arm’s length transactions is crucial for informed decision-making.
View article sources
  1. LB&I International Practice Service Transaction Unit – Internal Revenue Service
  2. What is considered a “fair arms length transaction?” – Jefferson County PVA
  3. Arm’s length – Cornell Law School
  4. Relational exchanges versus arm’s-length transactions during institutional transitions – Springer Science
  5. The Rise and Fall of Arm’s Length: A Study in the Evolution of U.S. International Taxation – University of Michigan Law School
  6. Non-Arm’s Length Transaction: What Is It and How Does It Work? – SuperMoney
  7. Real Estate Financing – SuperMoney