Arm's Length Relationship Definition

Learn more about what an Arm's Length Relationship is in business.

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Arm's Length Relationship definition

The definition of an arm’s length relationship is a relationship where the parties engaged in a transaction act freely, in their own self-interest, and without unduly influencing each other.

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Generally, the arm’s length relationship definition includes several factors about the parties to the transaction, such as: 

These factors demonstrate that the parties to a transaction have equal bargaining power. 

The arm’s length relationship business definition is where parties act independently, negotiate freely, and have no other relationship outside of the transaction. Additionally, both parties must have the same access to information about each other and the transaction itself. The arm’s length relationship meaning is important in contract law because it helps ensure that a transaction is fair. It also helps set the fair market value of the product or service. 

For example, someone selling their home to a stranger will accept a different price than if they were selling the same home to a friend. Most people would be more likely to cut the friend a deal. Thus, the home sale doesn’t reflect its fair market value.

Arm’s Length Relationship Benefits

Arm’s length relationship benefits include the fact that your transaction is fair, the value of the property sold is fair market value, and no party is acting under duress or undue influence. Both parties to the transaction can act in their own best interests and negotiate for their own benefit. One of the main arm’s length relationship advantages is that each party has equal bargaining power.

Considerations for Non-Arm’s Length Relationship Transactions

Non-arm’s length relationships have disadvantages you should know about. A non-arm’s-length relationship is often referred to as an arm-in-arm relationship. In an arm-in-arm relationship, the parties to the transaction have a pre-existing relationship. It could be familial, business-related, or personal. When you transact business with a friend or family member, you are more likely to cut them a deal. Unfortunately, many tax laws will still tax you based on the fair market value of the property you sold to a friend or family member. Be sure to speak with a tax professional if you do business with a friend or family member.

Other Names for an Arm’s Length Relationship

Another way people refer to an arm’s length relationship is the arm’s length principle. Additionally, the agreement or transaction is called an arm’s length transaction.

Arm’s Length Relationship Examples

What is an arm’s length relationship? Many examples demonstrate the arm’s length relationship definition. One example of an arm’s length relationship transaction is selling your home to someone you do not know. You put it on the market, and an interested buyer makes an offer. You and the buyer negotiate a price, usually through a realtor. Either you come to an agreement, or one of you walks away. If you agree, the price is likely to closely reflect its fair market value because both parties negotiated with their own best interests in mind and with equal access to information.

Conversely, if you sell your home to your family member or friend, you’d be more likely to accept less than fair market value because of your relationship.

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Summary

An arm’s length relationship refers to a business transaction between parties who are essentially strangers, engaging in a transaction where they negotiate freely and voluntarily in their own self-interests. An arm’s length relationship ensures that the deal reflects the fair market value of the offered product or service. 

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Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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