On July 15, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Rev. Proc. 2016-40. This revenue procedure provides safe harbors in which the IRS will not assert that a distributing corporation, D, lacks control of another corporation, C, within the meaning of Code section 355(a)(1)(A) when D acquires putative control of C through C’s issuance of stock and C subsequently engages in a transaction that actually or effectively reserves the effect of the stock issuance. In general, D can only distribute the stock of C to D shareholders in a tax-free spin-off under Code section 355 if D has control of C within the meaning of Code section 368(c) immediately before the spin-off. To satisfy the control requirement of section 368(c), D must have 80 percent of the vote and 80 percent of each nonvoting class of C stock. Historically, in situations in which D owned less than 80 percent of the stock of C, D would satisfy this requirement by having C recapitalize its stock into “high vote” and “low vote” classes of stock immediately before the spin-off. D would then distribute the “high vote” stock with more than 80 percent of the vote of all C stock to D shareholders in a tax-free spin-off under section 355. However, publicly traded corporations often dislike having multiple classes of stock with different voting rights outstanding. As a result, when C becomes an independent publicly traded corporation following the spin-off, it often seeks to recapitalize its “high vote” and “low vote” classes of stock into a single class with identical voting rights. Prior to 2013, the IRS issued a number of private letter rulings permitting C to engage in such recapitalizations following its first regularly scheduled board meeting after a spin-off without retroactively causing the spin-off to fail to be tax-free under section 355. In 2013, the IRS announced it would no longer issue such rulings while it studied the issue.


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