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Weekly IRS Roundup August 30 – September 3, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of August 30, 2021 – September 3, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

August 30, 2021: With September being National Preparedness Month, the IRS reminded everyone to develop an emergency preparedness plan—especially with the height of hurricane season approaching and the ongoing wildfires. To prepare, taxpayers should secure and duplicate essential tax and financial documents.

August 31, 2021: The IRS postponed various tax filing and payment deadlines for victims of Hurricane Ida. Affected individuals and businesses will have until January 3, 2022, to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period. This means individuals who had a valid extension to file their 2020 return due to run out on October 15, 2021, will now have until January 3, 2022, to file. However, tax payments related to 2020 tax returns that were due on May 17, 2021, are not eligible for this relief. This extension also applies to quarterly estimated income tax payments due on September 15, 2021.

September 1, 2021: The IRS issued a practice unit on general principles for foreign tax credits, specifically addressing foreign tax credits as changed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

September 2, 2021: The IRS issued final regulations, modifying previous regulations relating to IRS administrative proceedings, to reflect limitations that are required by the enactment of the Taxpayer First Act of 2019. The regulations implement new rules regarding the persons who may be provided books, papers, records or other data obtained pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 7602 for the sole purpose of providing expert evaluation and assistance to the IRS. The regulations adopt further limitations on the type of non-governmental attorneys to whom any books, papers, records or other data may be provided. Under the final regulations, IRS contractors are prohibited from asking substantive questions of a summoned witness under oath or asking a summoned person’s representative to clarify an objection or assertion of privilege.

September 3, 2021: The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2021-40, announcing that it will not issue private letter rulings or determination letters on whether certain transactions are considered an act of self-dealing under Internal Revenue Code Section 4941.

September 3, 2021: The IRS issued Notice 2021-52, providing travel per diem rates for 2021 – 2022.

September 3, 2021: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandums and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Emily Mussio in our Chicago office for this week’s roundup.




Weekly IRS Roundup July 13 – July 17, 2020

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of July 13, 2020 – July 17, 2020. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

July 14, 2020: The IRS issued a news release on a proposed redesigned partnership form for tax year 2021 (filing season 2022). The proposed form is designed to provide greater clarity for partners on how to compute their US income tax liability with respect to items of international tax relevance, including claiming deductions and credits. Comments are due by September 14, 2020.

July 16, 2020: The IRS issued a notice requesting comments concerning consent to extend the time to assess tax with respect to gain recognition agreements covered by section 367 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). Form 8838 is used to extend the statute of limitations for US persons who transfer stock or securities to a foreign corporation. The form is filed when the transferor makes a gain recognition agreement. This agreement allows the transferor to defer the payment of tax on the transfer. The IRS uses Form 8838 so that it may assess tax against the transferor after the expiration of the original statute of limitations. Comments are due on or before September 14, 2020.

July 16, 2020: The IRS released various prescribed rates for federal income tax purposes for August 2020, including the applicable federal rates under section 1274(d); the adjusted applicable federal rates under section 1288(b); the adjusted federal long-term rate and the long-term tax-exempt rate under section 382(f); the appropriate percentages for determining the low-income housing credit under section 42(b)(1); and the federal rate for determining the present value of an annuity, an interest for life or for a term of years, or a remainder or a reversionary interest under section 7520.

July 17, 2020: The IRS provided a notice of public hearing on proposed regulations clarifying that certain deductions allowed to an estate or non-grantor trust are not miscellaneous itemized deductions and thus are not affected by the suspension of the deductibility of miscellaneous itemized deductions for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026. The proposed regulations also provide guidance on determining the character, amount and allocation of deductions in excess of gross income succeeded to by a beneficiary on the termination of an estate or non-grantor trust. The public hearing is being held on Wednesday, August 12, 2020, at 10:00 am. The IRS must receive speakers’ outlines of the topics to be discussed at the public hearing by Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

July 17, 2020: The IRS released a Competent Authority Arrangement between the authorities of Switzerland and the United States regarding the interpretation of the term “North American Free Trade Agreement” (NAFTA). NAFTA is being superseded by the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement [...]

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Weekly IRS Roundup April 27 – May 1, 2020

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of April 27 – May 1, 2020. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

April 28, 2020: The IRS published Large Business and International (LB&I) Process Unit on the substantiation of foreign tax credits for individuals. For an individual to claim a foreign tax credit, individual taxpayers must submit Form 1116 with their US federal income tax return. At the request of the IRS, the taxpayer must provide evidence supporting the foreign taxes claimed on Form 1116.

April 28, 2020: The IRS published LB&I Concept Unit on the installment method under IRC § 453. An installment sale occurs when a seller receives at least one payment in a tax year after the disposition. An installment sale is reported on a Form 6252.

April 30, 2020: The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2020-29, temporarily allowing for the electronic submission of letter ruling requests, closing agreements, determination letters, information letters from the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, and for determination letters issued by the IRS LB&I Division.

April 30, 2020: The IRS published Notice 2020-32, which provides guidance regarding the deductibility of certain otherwise deductible expenses incurred in a taxpayer’s trade or business when the taxpayer receives a loan (covered loan) pursuant to the Paycheck Protection Program under § 7(a)(36) of the Small Business Act. Notice 2020-32 provides that no deduction is allowed for US federal income tax purposes if the payment of the expense results in forgiveness of a covered loan pursuant to § 1106(b) of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

May 1, 2020: The IRS released Notice 2020-36, which contains a proposed revenue procedure to update the procedures under which recognition of exemption from federal income tax for organizations described in IRC § 501(c) may be obtained on a group basis for subordinate organizations affiliated with and under the general supervision or control of a central organization. The proposed revenue procedure would modify and supersede Revenue Procedure 80-27, 1980-1 C.B. 677 (as modified by Rev. Proc. 96-40, 1996-2 C.B. 301).

May 1, 2020: The Department of Treasury and IRS released a notification that a public hearing is being held on Wednesday May 20, 2020 via teleconference. The public hearing will be on the proposed regulations that provide guidance relating to the allocation and apportionment of deductions and creditable foreign taxes, the definition of financial services income, foreign tax redeterminations, availability of foreign tax credits under the transition tax, and the application of the foreign tax credit limitation to consolidated groups. The IRS must receive speakers’ outlines of the topics to be discussed at the public hearing by Monday, May 11, 2020. If no outlines are received by May 11, 2020, the public hearing will be cancelled.

May 1, 2020: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, [...]

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Eighth Circuit Applies Subjective Standard to Reasonable Basis Penalty Defense

On April 24, 2020, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit published its opinion in Wells Fargo & Co. v. United States, No. 17-3578, affirming a district court’s holdings that the taxpayer was not entitled to certain foreign tax credits and was liable for the negligence penalty for claiming the credits. Much has been written about the substantive issue, which we will not discuss here. Instead, we focus on the Eighth Circuit’s divided analysis relating to the reasonable basis defense to the negligence penalty.

In Wells Fargo, the taxpayer relied solely on the reasonable basis defense to the government’s assertion of penalties. Under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 6662(b)(1), a taxpayer is liable for penalty of 20% of an underpayment of its taxes attributable to its “negligence.” Various defenses are potentially applicable to the negligence penalty, which we recently discussed in detail here. One such defense is if the taxpayer can show it had a “reasonable basis” for its position. Under Treas. Reg. § 1.6662-3(b), this defense applies if the taxpayer’s return position was “reasonably based on” certain authorities specified in the regulations.

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Expansion of Subpart F under the Tax Reform Act

Under Subpart F, certain types of income and investments of earnings of a foreign corporation controlled by US shareholders (controlled foreign corporation, or CFC) are deemed distributed to the US shareholders and subject to current taxation. The recent tax reform legislation (Public Law No. 115-97) increased the amount of CFC income currently taxable to US shareholders, and expanded the CFC ownership rules, which means more foreign corporations are treated as CFCs.

 

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Santander Holdings USA Asks the Supreme Court to Address Economic Substance Doctrine

From 2003 to 2007, Sovereign Bancorp, Inc. (Sovereign) – now known as Santander Holdings USA, Inc. (Santander) – engaged in a so-called STARS transaction with Barclays Bank. According to Santander, “[b]y engaging in the STARS transaction, Sovereign transferred some of its income tax liability from the United States to the United Kingdom,” it “secured a loan of $1.15 billion,” and it received a payment “which effectively reduced its lending costs.” On its Federal corporate income tax returns for those years, Sovereign claimed foreign tax credits (FTCs) for UK taxes it paid in connection with the STARS transaction. It also claimed deductions for the interest paid on the $1.15 billion loan.

In 2009, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a Notice of Deficiency disallowing Sovereign’s FTCs and its deductions for interest paid on the $1.15 billion loan. The IRS did not challenge Sovereign’s compliance with the statutory and regulatory rules governing FTCs, instead arguing that Sovereign’s STARS transaction lacked “economic substance.” Sovereign paid the deficiency and sued for a refund in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts. When the district court held for Sovereign on both issues, the IRS appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, but only with respect to the FTC issue. The crux of the issue was how to treat the UK taxes and the related FTCs for purposes of the “economic substance” analysis. Relying on Salem Financial, Inc. v. U.S., 786 F.3d 932 (Fed. Cir. 2015), and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. v. Comm’r, 801 F.3d 104 (2d Cir. 2015), the IRS argued that the UK taxes should be treated as an expense but that the related FTCs should be ignored in determining pre-tax profit. Citing IES Indus., Inc. v. U.S., 253 F.3d 350 (8th Cir. 2001), and Compaq Computer Corp. v. Comm’r, 277 F.3d 778 (5th Cir. 2001), Sovereign argued that either both should be included in the profit analysis or both should be ignored. The First Circuit held that Sovereign’s STARS transaction lacked “economic substance,” and upheld the disallowance of the FTCs at issue. In doing so, it treated the UK taxes as expenses that reduced pre-tax profit and ignored the related FTCs, following the Federal and Second Circuit’s approach. Santander Holdings USA, Inc. v. U.S., 844 F.3d 15 (1st Cir. 2016).

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IRS Releases IPU Summarizing Foreign and Domestic Loss Impacts on FTCs

On March 1, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a new International Practice Unit (IPU) summarizing foreign and domestic loss impacts on foreign tax credits (FTC).  The IPU provides a summary of the law regarding worldwide taxation and FTC limitations, followed by explanations and analysis for IRS agents examining FTC issues.  As we have noted previously, this high-level guidance to field examiners signals the IRS’s continued focus on international tax issues.




Supreme Court Denies Review in Highly Contested Foreign Tax Credit Case

On April 18, 2016, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in the foreign tax credit dispute involving Albemarle Corp.  We have previously written about the case here, here, and here, which involved the timeliness of claims for refund pursuant to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 6511(d)(3)(A)’s 10-year limitations period.

Generally, a taxpayer must file a claim for refund within the later of three years from the time the original return was filed, or two years from the time the tax was paid.  Congress extended this period for refund claims related to foreign tax credits (FTC).   IRC section 6511(d)(3)(A) extends the refund limitation period to “10 years from the date prescribed by law for filing the return for the year in which such taxes were actually paid or accrued.” Before IRC section 6511(d)(3)(A) was amended in 1997, the statute required that refund claims be made within 10 years from the date prescribed by law for filing the return for the year with respect to which the claim was made.

In the Albemarle case, the taxpayer filed refund claims related to foreign taxes paid that were more than 10 years after the date the tax returns for the years were due, without extension.  The taxpayer argued that the plain language of the statute permitted it to file a claim for refund within 10 years from the date the payment was in fact (actually) made, which was less than 10 years before the claims were filed.  Both the US Court of Federal Claims and the Federal Circuit disagreed, with the latter holding that the term “actually … accrued” is ambiguous and that Congress intended that the relevant period commenced on the due date of the original returns.

Taxpayers with a similar fact pattern to Albemarle, and who desire to dispute the holding in that case, will want to file suit in local district court to avoid the negative precedent and hope that a court not bound by the Federal Circuit will reach a different decision.  Taxpayers may also want to consider filing protective refund claims in situations where it does not appear that a tax payment to a foreign jurisdiction will actually be made (and there will be enough time to file a formal refund claim with the IRS) within 10 years from the date the US federal income tax return was filed to avoid the situation in Albemarle.




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