In a long-awaited decision, the US Tax Court recently held that gain realized by a foreign taxpayer on the sale of a partnership engaged in a US trade or business was a sale of a capital asset not subject to US tax, declining to follow Revenue Ruling 91-32. The government has yet to comment regarding its intentions to appeal.
Wrapping up July—and Looking Forward to August
Tax Controversy Activities in August:
August 7, 2017: Elizabeth Erickson and Kristen Hazel will be representing McDermott Will & Emery at the 2017 US Captive Awards in Burlington, Vermont. McDermott has been shortlisted in the Law Firm category.
August 8, 2017: Tom Jones is presenting an update on Captive Insurance Tax in Burlington, Vermont, at the Vermont Captive Insurance Association Annual Conference “Mission: Possible”— the largest captive insurance conference in the US by number of paid attendees.
August 18, 2017: Todd Welty is speaking at the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants Advanced Estate Planning Conference about:
- Current developments in federal transfer taxes
- Current state of federal tax reform
- Proposed changes to state death tax laws and the impact of those changes on estate
- Gift and trust planning
- Consistent basis regulations
- The state of valuation discounts
- Recent rulings on defined value clauses and charitable gifts
August 23, 2017: Tom Jones is presenting an update on Annual Federal & State Tax at the North Carolina Captive Insurance Association Annual Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Wrapping up July:
Our July 2017 blog posts are available on taxcontroversy360.com, or read each article by clicking on the titles below. To receive the latest on state and local tax news and commentary directly in your inbox as they are posted, click here to subscribe to our email list.
We have previously discussed, in March and October of 2016, the various levels of deference given to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance, whether it is in published or private form. For revenue rulings, courts traditionally apply Skidmore deference, which essentially looks at the persuasiveness of the ruling. Under this standard, and the IRS’s position in its procedural regulations, if a ruling contains the same material facts and its analysis is persuasive, courts will generally defer to it.
The Tax Court’s recent opinion in Grecian Magnesite Mining, Industrial & Shipping Co., SA, v. Commissioner, 149 TC No. 3 (July 13, 2017), is a friendly reminder that just because a revenue ruling addresses the same material facts present in a taxpayer’s case does not automatically mean that courts will side with the IRS. In Grecian, a revenue ruling contained three fact patterns which were essentially the same as the taxpayer’s facts. The ruling held that gain realized by a foreign partner upon disposing of its interest in a United States partnership should be analyzed on an asset-by-asset basis, and that to the extent the partnership’s assets would give rise to effectively connected income (ECI) if sold by the partnership, the departing partner’s pro rata share of such gain should be treated as ECI. Despite this conclusion, the Tax Court rejected the IRS’s argument that the ruling was entitled to deference and required upholding the IRS’s deficiency determination. Rather, the court noted that the ruling’s discussions of the relevant partnership provisions was “cursory in the extreme” and it criticized the ruling’s treatment of the United States taxation of international transactions. As a result, the court declined to accord any deference to the ruling and ultimately found that the taxpayer’s position was correct as to the issue addressed in the ruling.
Practice Point: Although many revenue rulings contained detailed discussions and analysis of the tax laws, some are based on blanket statements of law that are not supported by relevant authorities. In these situations, taxpayers and their advisors should carefully consider whether a court would afford any deference to such a blanket statement.
On February 19, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a 30-plus-page practice unit regarding interest expense of a foreign corporation engaged in a U.S. trade or business. As is the case with all practice units, the IRS cautions that practice units are not official pronouncements of law or directives and cannot be used, cited or relied upon as such. Even so, the IRS generally acknowledges that practice units provide a general discussion of a concept, process or transaction. This can be helpful from a taxpayer’s perspective. This is especially true for interest expense allocation calculations under Treasury Regulation § 1.882-5, one of the more complicated calculations for taxpayers to make.
The practice unit begins with a graph that illustrates possible circumstances where the interest expense allocation process described in the practice unit can apply. The practice unit then breaks down the four steps for determining interest expense allocations. The four steps are:
- Determine the amount of U.S. assets.
- Determine the amount of U.S. booked liabilities.
- Determine what elections the taxpayer has made to compute the interest expense deduction.
- Calculate the allocable interest expense to the U.S. trade or business.