On March 28, 2017, the US Tax Court (Tax Court) issued its opinion in Good Fortune Shipping SA v. Commissioner, 148 T.C. No. 10, upholding the validity of Treas. Reg. § 1.883-4. The taxpayer had challenged the validity of the regulation’s provision that stock in the form of “bearer shares” cannot be counted for purposes of determining the more-than-50-percent ownership test under Internal Revenue Code (Code) section 883(c)(1), but the Tax Court held that the regulation was valid under the two-step analysis of Chevron USA, Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, 467 U.S. 837 (1984), and applied it in ruling for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). We previously discussed the Tax Court’s opinion here. The taxpayer appealed the Tax Court’s decision to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Circuit).
Andrew (Andy) R. Roberson focuses his practice on tax controversy and litigation matters. He represents clients before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Examination Division and Appeals Office and has been involved in more than 50 matters at all levels of the federal court system, including the US Tax Court, several US courts of appeal and the Supreme Court. Andy has experience settling tax disputes through alternative dispute resolution procedures, including Fast Track Settlement and Post-Appeals Mediation, and in representing clients in Compliance Assurance Process (CAP) audits. He also represents individuals in Global High Wealth Industry Group audits and in connection with offshore disclosure programs. Read Andy Roberson's full bio.
We previously posted on the Order by the US District Court for the Western District of Texas in Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Internal Revenue Service, Dkt. No. 1:16-CV-944-LY (W.D. Tex. Sept. 29, 2017). To recap, the district court held that Treas. Reg. § 1.7874-8T was unlawfully issued because it violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) by not providing affected parties with notice and an opportunity to comment on the temporary regulations. In addition to the APA analysis, the court’s Order was noteworthy for its conclusion that the plaintiff’s claims were not barred by the Anti-Injunction Act because the regulations did not involve assessment or collection of tax.
As we updated our readers, the government appealed the Order to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. However, the case was stayed while the regulation underwent notice and comment. And, on July 11, 2018, Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service issued final regulations addressing inversion standards. On July 26, 2018, the government moved to dismiss its appeal with prejudice as moot. The Fifth Circuit has granted the government’s motion, thus ending the dispute.
Because the case was dismissed by the Fifth Circuit, the district court’s Order remains on the books. But what value does that Order have? As a technical matter, district court opinions are not precedential. However, lack of precedential value does not render the Order meaningless. If another court addressing a similar issue were to find the district court’s analysis to be well-reasoned and thorough, it might consider it persuasive on deciding the issue. One would certainly expect that a subsequent court would, at a minimum, have to address the Order if faced with a similar issue. For more reading on the precedential and persuasive value of opinions and order, see here.
Practice Point: The Order in the Chamber of Commerce case may be helpful to taxpayers desiring to challenge regulations on APA grounds and provides authority for a pre-enforcement challenge. It remains to be seen whether other courts will find the Order persuasive.
On July 18, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a Practice Unit advising IRS agents on the framework to follow in analyzing the tax treatment of transaction costs incurred by taxpayers in executing business practices. The latest Practice Unit provides guidance to IRS examiners in determining whether transaction costs must be capitalized or can be immediately deducted, and focuses on the so-called INDOPCO regulations contained in Treasury Regulation § 1.263-5. (For more information and background, see here.)
According to the Practice Unit, there is a three-step process applied to analyze a transaction costs issue:
- Determine whether the taxpayer is the proper legal entity to take the transaction costs into account for tax purposes;
- Determine whether the costs facilitate the transaction; and
- Determine how the taxpayer should treat facilitative costs it must capitalize.
The key considerations and outcomes for each step are illustrated in the Practice Unit as follows:
Practice Point: Determining whether transaction costs must be capitalized or can be deducted is sometimes a difficult process. The IRS has attempted to create bright-line rules in this area, but invariably there are factual situations not covered by the INDOPCO regulations and disputes that may arise. Understanding the IRS’s approach to examining transaction costs, as set forth in this Practice Unit, may assist taxpayers under examination in resolving these types of issues.
On July 2, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International (LB&I) Division announced the identification and selection of five new campaigns. These new campaigns follow the initial 13 campaigns announced on January 31, 2017, followed by 11 campaigns announced on November 3, 2017, 5 campaigns announced on March 13, 2018, and six campaigns announced on May 21, 2018.
The following are the five new LB&I campaigns by title and description:
- Restoration of Sequestered AMT Credit Carryforward
LB&I is initiating a campaign for taxpayers improperly restoring the sequestered Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) credit to the subsequent tax year. Refunds issued or applied to a subsequent year’s tax, pursuant to IRC Section 168(k)(4), are subject to sequestration and are a permanent loss of refundable credits. Taxpayers may not restore the sequestered amounts to their AMT credit carryforward. Soft letters will be mailed to taxpayers who are identified as making improper restorations of sequestered amounts. Taxpayers will be monitored for subsequent compliance. The goal of this campaign is to educate taxpayers on the proper treatment of sequestered AMT credits and request that taxpayers self-correct.
- S Corporation Distributions
S Corporations and their shareholders are required to properly report the tax consequences of distributions. We have identified three issues that are part of this campaign. The first issue occurs when an S Corporation fails to report gain upon the distribution of appreciated property to a shareholder. The second issue occurs when an S Corporation fails to determine that a distribution, whether in cash or property, is properly taxable as a dividend. The third issue occurs when a shareholder fails to report non-dividend distributions in excess of their stock basis that are subject to taxation. The treatment streams for this campaign include issue-based examinations, tax form change suggestions, and stakeholder outreach.
- Virtual Currency
US persons are subject to tax on worldwide income from all sources including transactions involving virtual currency. IRS Notice 2014-21 states that virtual currency is property for federal tax purposes and provides information on the US federal tax implications of convertible virtual currency transactions. The Virtual Currency Compliance campaign will address noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through multiple treatment streams including outreach and examinations. The compliance activities will follow the general tax principles applicable to all transactions in property, as outlined in Notice 2014-21. The IRS will continue to consider and solicit taxpayer and practitioner feedback in education efforts, future guidance, and development of Practice Units. Taxpayers with unreported virtual currency transactions are urged to correct their returns as soon as practical. The IRS is not contemplating a voluntary disclosure program specifically to address tax non-compliance involving virtual currency.
- Repatriation via Foreign Triangular Reorganizations
In December 2016, the IRS issued Notice 2016-73 which curtails the claimed “tax-free” repatriation of basis and untaxed CFC earnings following the use of certain foreign triangular reorganization transactions. The goal of the campaign is to identify and challenge these transactions by educating and assisting examination teams in audits of these repatriations.
- Section 965 Transition Tax
Section 965 requires United States shareholders to pay a transition tax on the untaxed foreign earnings of certain specified foreign corporations as if those earnings had been repatriated to the US. Taxpayers may elect to pay the transition tax in installments over an eight-year period. For some taxpayers, some or all of the tax will be due on their 2017 income tax return. The tax is payable as of the due date of the return (without extensions).
Earlier this year, LB&I engaged in an outreach campaign to leverage the reach of trade groups, advisors and other outside stakeholders to raise awareness of filing and payment obligations under this provision. The external communication was circulated through stakeholder channels in April 2018.
Practice Point: As the IRS continues to move toward issued-based examinations, campaigns may become more and more important in identifying and auditing certain issues. Taxpayers should be aware of the campaigns and IRS guidance on these areas. As we have previously discussed, Practice Units are helpful tools in understanding the IRS audit process on a particular subject. With limited resources, the IRS must streamline their examination approach. The IRS has determined that there is significant audit risk for taxpayers who have an issue listed in one or the campaigns. If you have one of these issues, be proactive and make sure you have an “audit ready” file in place for when the IRS opens an examination.
The US Tax Court (Tax Court), in a short opinion, provided a reminder to taxpayers that penalties for filing fraudulent returns cannot be avoided by subsequently filing amended returns. In Gaskin v. Commissioner, TC Memo 2018-89, the taxpayer admitted his original returns were fraudulent. While under criminal investigation, he attempted to cure the fraudulent filings by filing amended returns, reporting more than $100,000 of additional tax. Ultimately, the tax due exceeded the amount reported on the amended returns.
Despite admitting his original fraud, the taxpayer argued that the fraud penalty did not apply because the tax due only modestly exceeded the tax reported on his amended returns. The Tax Court disagreed. Relying on the regulations and Supreme Court precedent, the court held that the amount of the underpayment and the fraudulent intent are both determined by reference to original—not amended—returns. It therefore upheld imposition of the fraud penalty.
Practice Point: Don’t file fraudulent returns! All joking aside, this case reminds us that although filing an amended return can cure some infirmities on your return, you have to be very careful in choosing whether to amend a return. As long as you did your best to accurately calculate your tax due on your original return, you are not required to amend that return if you later find out you were wrong. This is true even if the statute of limitations is still open. Indeed, there is no requirement to amend a return. However, there may be reasons to file an amended return; for example, if you know that you will need to base a future return’s position on a previous return’s position (e.g., the amount of earnings and profits stated on the return). Taxpayers need to be mindful, however, that if you amend your return, it must be accurate to the best of your knowledge when you sign it as to all items and any other errors discovered after the original return was filed must also be corrected. Accordingly, you cannot amend only the favorable positions discovered after you filed your original return.
In the wake of tax reform, taxpayers and practitioners alike are anxious for guidance and clarification on how the new laws impact transactions and reporting positions. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has previously stated that implementing tax reform is its highest priority, but that issuing guidance on the entire bill would likely take a substantial amount of time. Since December 2017, the IRS has published a host of notices, revenue procedures and administrative guidance. In some instances, the guidance was mechanical (e.g., Notice 2018-38), and in others it was more substantive (e.g., Notice 2018-28, Notice 2018-18, Rev. Proc. 2018-26).
On May 31, 2018, the IRS announced an “all hands on deck” effort to implement tax reform through 11 groups working closely with the Treasury Department. The IRS originally stated that it did not plan to release any more proposed regulations before the end of the year. Instead, it would issue tax Forms (with instructions) that would need to be filed by taxpayers before the end of the year. On June 7, 2018, the IRS explained that it does plan to issue proposed regulations “covering all major portions” of the bill starting in September and ending in December 2018 (the IRS specifically plans to finalize the temporary aggregation regulations by September to stop them from sunsetting). The IRS reported it is in “very good shape” to meet these deadlines. Additionally, at a recent American Bar Association Section of Taxation meeting, IRS international counsel acknowledged year-end financial reporting for global companies and stated that international tax regulations are intended to be released in the fall instead of the end of the year. Regulations under Internal Code Section 965 are planned for issuance this summer, and other areas of guidance include global intangible low-tax income, also known as the GILTI tax.
We previously discussed the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) surprising position that for taxpayers making an election under Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 965(h) to pay the transition tax over 8 years through installment payments, any overpayments of 2017 tax liabilities cannot be used as credits for 2018 estimated tax payments or refunded, unless and until the overpayment amount exceeds the full 8 years of installment payments. The IRS’s position has affected many taxpayers, and practitioners have expressed their concerns to the IRS.
On June 4, 2018, the IRS responded to these concerns. Rather than changing its position, the IRS has doubled down; however, the IRS has taken the small but welcome step of allowing some penalty relief for taxpayers affected by the earlier guidance as set forth in new Questions and Answers 15, 16 and 17.
Based on discussions with the IRS, it appears that the IRS’s position is based on the view that it has broad authority under Code Section 6402 to apply overpayments against other taxes owed, and that Code Section 6403 requires an overpayment of an installment payment to be applied against unpaid installments. Thus, the IRS maintains that the Code Section 965 tax liability is simply a part of the tax year 2017 liability, and it is, except for Code Section 965(h) and a timely election thereunder, payable and due by the due date of the 2017 tax return. Any future installments for the Code Section 965 liability are, in the IRS’s view, not part of a tax for a future tax year that has yet to have been determined, as the tax has already been self-assessed by the taxpayer for 2017. Accordingly, the IRS views any overpayments as being applied within the same tax period to the outstanding Code Section 965 tax owed by the taxpayer even though taxpayers making a timely Code Section 965(h) election are not legally required to make additional payments until subsequent years. Continue Reading Tax Reform Insight: IRS Doubles Down on Retention of 2017 Overpayments to Satisfy Future Section 965 Installment Payments
Just 10 days after his inauguration, President Trump signed Executive Order 13771, establishing the tenet of deregulation to be adopted by the Trump administration. Executive Order 13771 outlined the Trump administration’s vision for reducing regulation and controlling regulatory costs, and established a principle that for every one new regulation issued at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination — the “one in, two out” principle. President Trump’s Call for Reducing Tax Regulatory Burdens.
Originally published in Law360, June 2018.
Following up on our prior post, Judge Maurice B. Foley takes over today as Chief Judge of the US Tax Court (Tax Court). The term as Chief Judge spans two years and involves several statutory and administrative duties, including but not limited to the assignment of cases, appointment of Special Trial Judges, review of draft opinions, and determination of which cases will be reviewed by the full court. For those interested in a historical analysis of the Tax Court, which was recently revised in 2014, see here.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been busy in recent months working on implementing the recent tax reform legislation. The latest announcement by the IRS focuses on the $10,000 cap on the amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted for federal income tax purposes. In a press release and release of guidance in the form of Notice 2018-54, the IRS announced that proposed regulations will be issued addressing this issue to help taxpayers understand the relationship between federal charitable contribution deductions in exchange for a tax credit against state and local taxes owed. The press release, Notice and forthcoming proposed regulations are in response to workarounds by various high property tax states allowing local governments to set up charitable organizations that can accept property tax statements. Based on these materials, it is anticipated that the IRS will disagree with the workarounds:
The Treasury Department and the IRS intend to propose regulations addressing the federal income tax treatment of transfers to funds controlled by state and local governments (or other state-specified transferees) that the transferor can treat in whole or in part as satisfying state and local tax obligations. The proposed regulations will make clear that the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code, informed by substance-over-form principles, govern the federal income tax treatment of such transfers. The proposed regulations will assist taxpayers in understanding the relationship between the federal charitable contribution deduction and the new statutory limitation on the deduction for state and local tax payments.
The IRS’s website provides information on the latest IRS news releases, fact sheets and statements. Additionally, we have a dedicated webpage with insights on significant developments related to tax reform.