Transfer Pricing Resource

On July 27, 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Alta Wind v. United States, reversed and remanded what had been a resounding victory for renewable energy. The US Court of Federal Claims had ruled that the plaintiff was entitled to claim a Section 1603 cash grant on the total amount paid for wind energy assets, including the value of certain power purchase agreements (PPAs).

We have reported on the Alta Wind case several times in the past two years:

Government Appeal of Alta Wind Supports Decision to File Suit Now

Court Awards $206 Million to Alta Wind Projects in Section 1603 Grant Litigation; Smaller Award to Biomass Facility

Court Awards $206 Million to Alta Wind Projects in Section 1603 Grant Litigation; Smaller Award to Biomass Facility

Act Now To Preserve Your Section 1603 Grant

SOL and the 1603 Cash Grant – File Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

In reversing the trial court, the appellate court failed to answer the substantive question of whether a PPA that is part of the sale of a renewable energy facility is creditable for purposes of the Section 1603 cash grant.

Trial Court Decision

The Court of Federal Claims awarded the plaintiff damages of more than $206 million with respect to the cash grant under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the Section 1603 Grant). The court held that the government had underpaid the plaintiff its Section 1603 Grants arising from the development and purchase of large wind facilities when it refused to include the value of certain PPAs in the plaintiffs’ eligible basis for the cash grants. The trial court rejected the government’s argument that the plaintiffs’ basis was limited solely to development and construction costs. Instead, the court agreed with the plaintiffs that the arm’s-length purchase price of the projects prior to their placed-in-service date informed the projects’ creditable value. The court also determined that the PPAs specific to the wind facilities should not be treated as ineligible intangible property for purposes of the Section 1603 Grant. This meant that any value associated with the PPAs would be creditable for purposes of the Section 1603 Grant.

Federal Circuit Reverses and Remands 

The government appealed its loss to the Federal Circuit. In its opinion, the Federal Circuit reversed the trial court’s decision, and remanded the case back to the trial court with instructions. The Federal Circuit held that the purchase of the wind facilities should be properly treated as “applicable asset acquisitions” for purposes of Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 1060, and the purchase prices must be allocated using the so-called “residual method.” The residual method requires a taxpayer to allocate the purchase price among seven categories. The purpose of the allocation is to discern what amount of a purchase price should be ascribed to each category of assets, which may have significance for other parts of the IRC. For example, if the purchase price includes depreciable plant equipment and non-depreciable property (e.g., cash and marketable securities), the residual method asks the taxpayer to allocate the total purchase price between the property classes.

The Federal Circuit remanded the case back to the Claims Court to determine the proper allocation of the purchase prices of the wind facilities.

Why Is This Case Important?  

If you are in the renewable energy industry, this decision is likely very important. Indeed, there are numerous taxpayers who did not receive the full amount of their Section 1603 Grant based upon the government’s reduction of the claim for the value of a PPA. This case will have precedential effect on those taxpayers’ claims. Moreover, the decision will affect how the industry prices deals for renewable facilities. These transactions have historically involved substantial financial modeling based upon cash flows.

The Federal Circuit Left the Primary Issue Unanswered

The Federal Circuit left the primary issue in the case, whether the PPA is creditable for purposes of the Section 1603 Grant, to the trial court to decide on remand. Accordingly, if the trial court determines that the PPAs cannot be divorced from the wind farm facilities assets, they will be correctly allocated to “Class V” in IRC section 1060, and will be credit able for purposes of the Section 1603 Grant. Implicitly, this is what the trial court had already decided, and the result would obtain the same economic result for the plaintiff as its original ruling. We will continue to follow this matter to see whether the trial court follows the prevailing thinking on this issue and of a decade of legal support.

The main attraction in the US Tax Court (Tax Court) is just a few weeks away. On March 5, 2018, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) square-off for a much anticipated six-week trial before Judge Lauber. The parties recently filed their Pretrial Memoranda in the case, although the IRS’s memorandum was filed under seal. TCCC’s Pretrial Memorandum gives us deep insight into the issues and how the trial will be conducted. The primary issue in the $3 billion transfer pricing case is the proper amount of the arm’s length royalties payable by six foreign licensees to TCCC for the licenses of TCCC’s trademarks and certain other intangible property for exploitation in international markets. In its Pretrial Memorandum, TCCC contends that the IRS’s application of an approximately 45 percent royalty rate using a bottler-based Comparable Profit Margin (CPM) that allocates to TCCC more than 100 percent of the aggregate operating (after accounting for the amounts paid pursuant to the Royalty Closing Agreement) profits of the six foreign licensees is arbitrary and capricious. Continue Reading Let’s Get Ready to Rumble – Coca Cola Concentrates on Trial Preparation

Wrapping Up January – and Looking Forward to February

We invite you to view all of the topics we discussed over the last month and take a look at the upcoming tax controversy events where our lawyers will be speaking in February.

Upcoming Tax Controversy Activities in February:

February 15, 2018: David Noren will be presenting “Tax disruption: Adjusting to the shifting transfer pricing landscape” at the 2018 Tax Council Policy Institute Symposium in Washington, DC.

On January 23, 2018, the International Compliance Assurance Programme (ICAP) was launched at an orientation event in Washington, DC. The ICAP pilot is a voluntary program in which the participants will use country-by-country reporting and other information to establish multilateral agreements in order to establish early tax certainty and assurance. The ICAP handbook can be found here.

The pilot program includes eight Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) Forum on Tax Administration (FTA) member tax administrations and eight multinational entities (one headquartered in each of the eight countries including: Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States). Under the program, the participant will engage with several jurisdictions at once in order to efficiently establish and address the specific international tax risks posed by its transfer pricing and permanent establishments. The tax administrations will jointly review the information supplied by the participant and will coordinate any follow-up questions. The participant can then engage with the tax administrations simultaneously, preventing the need for multiple APAs and resulting in fewer disputes. Continue Reading Multilateral-APA-Like Program to Create International Tax Certainty for Pilot Participants

US tax reform finally occurred in 2017 with what was formerly referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the Act). The headline from a corporate standpoint is reduction in the maximum rate from 35 percent to 21 percent beginning in 2018. In the international context, the Act: (i) embraces a territorial system as exists with most of its trading partners; (ii) seeks to protect the US tax base from perceived cross-border erosion; and (iii) enacts an incentive for certain economic investments in the United States at a globally attractive effective tax rate (13.125 percent).

The purpose of this post is not to review the technical provisions of the Act, but to note that as each multinational enterprise (MNE) evaluates its impact on its effective tax rate strategy (both opportunities and hazards), an item to keep on the agenda may be “could a bilateral APA be of assistance?” Continue Reading US Tax Reform: Potential Role of the APA Program

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International (LB&I) Division recently released several directives (LB&I Directives) geared toward transfer pricing. LB&I acknowledges that significant LB&I resources are devoted to transfer pricing issues, and such issues make up a substantial portion of the LB&I inventory. It appears that these directives are aimed at ensuring that LB&I resources are utilized in the most efficient and effective manner on transfer pricing issues. A link to each LB&I Directive and a short summary is provided below.

Interim Instructions on Issuance of Mandatory Transfer Pricing Information Document Request (IDR) in LB&I Examinations

This LB&I Directive advises LB&I examiners that it is no longer necessary to issue the mandatory transfer pricing information document request (IDR) to taxpayers that have filed Form 5471, Information Return of U.S. Person with Respect To Certain Foreign Corporations, or Form 5472, Information Return of a 25% Foreign-Owned U.S. Corporation or a Foreign Corporation Engaged in a U.S. Trade or Business, or engaged in cross-border transactions. An update to Part 4.60.8 of the Internal Revenue Manual will be made in the future to further explain this change. Continue Reading IRS Releases Several Transfer Pricing Directives

Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) are facing an evolving international tax landscape with long-term implications for tax compliance, planning and controversy. Understanding these changes requires continual effort. Tax Executives Institute recently invited us to explore Country-by-Country (CbC) reporting issues at the 2017 Global Tax Symposium in Houston, Texas. We had a lively discussion and know this will be a hot topic as jurisdictions begin reviewing the CbC reports.

As background, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project has been a key driver of international tax reform.  BEPS “Action 13” outlined a CbC reporting standard that has been adopted in more than 55 jurisdictions. The CbC report is an annual filing obligation identifying, among other things, the amount of revenue, profit before income tax, and income tax paid and accrued for each tax jurisdiction in which the taxpayer does business. The resulting transparency directly affects global tax strategies since the CbC report is subject to automatic exchange provisions and more than 1,000 such relationships have been established worldwide. Tax authorities will be using this information to perform tax risk assessments so taxpayers need heightened sensitivity to the breadth and depth of information available through the CbC report. If you are involved in the process of preparing a CbC report, discussing the CbC report with a tax authority, or are otherwise interested in how the CbC report could be used by a tax authority, the OECD’s Handbook on Effective Tax Risk Assessment is a valuable resource.

Continue Reading Tax Planning in a World of Increased Transparency

On November 6, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released two new International Practice Units (IPUs) relating to Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) for inbound and outbound tangible goods transactions. The IPUs provide a summary of the APA process, the types of APAs, and the interpretation and impact of an APA. The IPUs focus on the APA analysis for inbound distributors and outbound distributors. As we have previously noted, this high-level guidance to field examiners signals the IRS’s continued focus on international tax issues.

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


Read the full issue of Focus on Tax Strategies & Developments

Coca-Cola is seeking a re-determination in Tax Court of certain Internal Revenue Service (IRS) transfer-pricing adjustments relating to its 2007–2009 tax years. In the case, the IRS moved for partial summary judgment seeking a ruling that a 1996 Internal Revenue Code Section 7121 “closing agreement” executed by the parties is not relevant to the case before the court.

Closing Agreement Background

Following an audit of the taxpayer’s transfer pricing of its tax years 1987–1989, the parties executed a closing agreement for Coca-Cola’s 1987–1995 tax years. In the closing agreement, the parties agreed to a transfer pricing methodology, in which the IRS agreed that it would not impose penalties on Coca-Cola for post-1995 tax years if Coca-Cola followed the methodology agreed upon. Despite following the agreed-to methodology for its post-1995 tax years, the IRS determined income tax deficiencies for Coca-Cola’s 2007–2009 tax years, arguing that pricing was not arm’s-length. Continue Reading Tax Court: Prior Closing Agreement May Have Relevance in Coca-Cola’s Transfer Pricing Case