FedEx Corporation, previously the victor in a closely watched dispute regarding the government’s regulatory attempt to prevent taxpayers from claiming foreign tax credits on offset earnings (131 AFTR 2d 2023-1284 (W.D. Tenn. 2023)), recently filed a motion for judgment in the US District Court for the Western District of Tennessee to confirm its resulting refund amount. FedEx says it filed the motion because the government ended negotiations for a joint proposal of judgment, told FedEx to file a motion and said it would oppose the motion based on a new argument that would reduce FedEx’s refund amount. The government did not provide a written description of its new argument, so FedEx forged ahead with what it could gather based on conversations with the government and filed its motion on March 8, 2024.

According to FedEx, the government’s new argument appears to rest on a different regulation (Treasury Regulation Section 1.965-5(c)(1)(i)), which limits foreign tax credits by withholding taxes paid to a foreign jurisdiction. This is known as the “Haircut Rule.” FedEx provides several reasons why the government’s argument based on the Haircut Rule should be rejected, including that the rule cannot apply where a taxpayer did not claim foreign tax credits based on withholding taxes, that the rule itself is procedurally deficient under the Administrative Procedure Act and that the government is simply too late in presenting the argument.

Practice Point: Given the late stage of the litigation, the government will likely face headwinds to get the court to consider its argument of whether the Haircut Rule applies. It is unclear from the motion how transparent the government was with the court while the parties attempted to reach a mutually agreeable refund computation. However, it appears fairly clear that the government could have argued the Haircut Rule as an alternative to its main position throughout the course of the 2023 briefing before the court. As with any argument newly conceived in the heat of litigation, parties should carefully consider the consequences of waiting to bring the argument to the court’s attention (with one of those consequences being that such new argument is rejected for dilatoriness).

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