On March 5, 2019, the US Department of Treasury (Treasury) issued a policy statement on the tax regulatory process. We previously wrote an article for Law360 on the policy statement, which can be accessed here. In our article, we noted the disclaimer language in the policy statement that “is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or inequity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, it officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.” We further noted that this same limiting language can be found in Executive Orders issued by the President of the United States, and that courts have generally rejected attempts to rely on such orders containing this language, although it might be possible to analogize the positions in the policy statement to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) statements in CC-2003-014, which instructs IRS employees not to take positions contrary to IRS published guidance.
Timothy (Tim) S. Shuman focuses his practice on corporate and international tax matters for US and non-US multinationals, with particular emphasis on domestic and cross-border acquisitions, dispositions, restructurings and liquidations. He has extensive experience in structuring spin-offs and tax-free reorganizations involving publicly traded and privately held companies, and regularly represents clients in obtaining private letter rulings and other guidance from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He also works on tax issues involving regulated investment companies. Read Tim Shuman's full bio.
We recently wrote an article for Law360 on the US Department of Treasury’s policy statement on the tax regulatory process. The Law360 article, “Significant Changes in IRS Regulatory Process Ahead,” can be accessed here.
As we discussed in a prior post and in our article for Law360, the Supreme Court is poised to decide in Kisor v. Wilkie whether to overrule the Auer deference doctrine. This doctrine, which originated in the 1945 Seminole Rock case, generally affords controlling deference to an agency’s interpretation of its own ambiguous regulations. To date, the petitioner has filed its brief, several amici have filed briefs and the government has filed its brief (links to these documents can be found here). Argument is currently scheduled for March 27, 2019, and an opinion is anticipated by the end of June 2019.
The government’s brief, filed on February 25, 2019, acknowledges that Auer deference raises serious concerns. Specifically, the government states that the basis for the doctrine is unclear, the doctrine is in tension with the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and overly broad deference to agency interpretations can have harmful practical consequences. However, relying on principles of stare decisis, the government advocates for maintaining Auer deference subject to certain prerequisites that would limit the doctrine. These prerequisites include applying deference only after all traditional tools of construction have been exhausted and only if the agency’s interpretation has reasonably interpreted any ambiguity. In deciding whether to defer to the agency’s interpretation, a reviewing court should look at whether the interpretation: (1) was issued with fair notice to regulated parties, (2) is not inconsistent with the agency’s prior views, (3) rests on the agency’s expertise and (4) represents the agency’s considered view (i.e., not merely the views of “mere field officials or other low-level employees”). Presumably these limits would curtail the application of Auer deference in circumstances where the agency’s interpretation is first widely known only because of a litigating position.
Practice Point: The Supreme Court’s decision in Kisor v. Wilkie will be important for taxpayers and their representatives in light of the substantial regulatory guidance issued in the wake of tax reform. We will continue to follow this case and provide updates after argument is held and the case is decided.
On October 31, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) released proposed regulations (REG-114540-18) (the Proposed Regulations) that would prevent, in many cases, income inclusions for corporate US shareholders of controlled foreign corporations (CFCs) under section 956. As a result, among other considerations, the Proposed Regulations could significantly expand the ability of corporate US affiliates to benefit from credit support of CFCs.
Following the 2017 Tax Act, the US tax costs to a corporate US shareholder that sells stock in a controlled foreign corporation (CFC) are significantly reduced. Beginning in 2018, the amount of gain will be generally less than in prior years and most or all such gain will frequently not be subject to any US federal income taxation.
The amount of gain recognized in a sale of course is the difference between the amount realized and the selling shareholder’s adjusted tax basis in the stock of the CFC. The initial basis in the stock of a CFC is increased by the amount of earnings of the CFC and its subsidiaries that was included in the gross income of the domestic corporation under Subpart F (i.e., previously taxed earnings). The increase in basis can be significant as a result of the transition tax Subpart F inclusion of post-1986 earnings of CFCs and the expansion of Subpart F inclusions for global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI).
The gain recognized by a domestic corporation upon the sale of stock in a CFC generally is capital gain subject to a 21 percent tax rate. Section 1248, however, recharacterizes as a deemed dividend all or a portion of the gain. The amount of gain recharacterized generally equals the amount of non-previously taxed earnings of the CFC and its foreign subsidiaries. Provided the domestic corporate shareholder held the CFC stock for at least one year, the amount of the gain recharacterized as a dividend generally is eligible for a 100 percent dividends received deduction under section 245A.
Partners Alexander Lee, Tim Shuman, Britt Haxton and Jay Singer discuss novel concerns facing CFCs in light of tax reform.
A House-Senate conference committee has reached agreement on a compromise version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which includes substantial changes to the corporate and international business taxation rules. The stage now appears to be set for final passage and enactment of the legislation before the end of 2017.
The October 2017 issue of Focus on Tax Strategies & Developments has been published. This issue includes five articles that provide insight into US federal and international tax developments and trends across a range of industries, as well as strategies for navigating these complex issues.
Republican Leaders Release Tax Reform Framework
By David G. Noren Alexander Lee
M&A Tax Aspects of Republican Tax Reform Framework
By Alexander Lee, Alejandro Ruiz and Timothy S. Shuman
State and Local Tax Aspects of Republican Tax Reform Framework
By Peter L. Faber
Grecian Magnesite Mining v. Commissioner: Foreign Investor Not Subject to US Tax on Sale of Partnership Interest
Kristen E. Hazel, Sandra P. McGill and Susan O’Banion
The IRS Attacks Taxpayers’ Section 199 (Computer Software) Deductions
Kevin Spencer, Robin L. Greenhouse and Jean A. Pawlow
The outline of pending tax reform provisions remain vague, but a significant impact on M&A activity is expected by way of corporate tax cuts, interest deductibility, changes to the expensing of capital investments, a reduction of the pass-through tax rate and changes to our international (territorial) tax system.
On April 4, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service and the US Department of the Treasury issued proposed regulations pursuant to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 385 addressing whether an interest in a related corporation is treated as stock or indebtedness for US federal income tax purposes (Proposed Regulations). On June 29, 2016, both the DC Bar Taxation Section and the New York State Bar Association Tax Section submitted comments on the Proposed Regulations. Both Tax Sections urged Treasury not to finalize the Proposed Regulations. The DC Bar Taxation Section letter can be found here and the New York State Bar Association Tax Section letter can be found here.
The Proposed Regulations have been met with substantial criticism by the tax bar and taxpayers alike. The Proposed Regulations would have a significant impact on intercompany debt of multinational groups and could, if finalized in their proposed form, force major changes in the way that taxpayers conduct routine business.