Taxpayers large and small desire closure with respect to tax reporting positions. This can occur in several ways, one of which is the closing of the limitations period for assessing additional tax. In this article published in the November-December 2021 issue of the International Tax Journal, McDermott Partners Andrew R. Roberson and Kevin Spencer discuss recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance relating to the limitations period for omitted Subpart F income.
LB&I Announces Five New Campaigns
On September 10, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International (LB&I) Division announced five new audit “campaigns.” These new campaigns follow: (1) the initial 13 campaigns announced on January 31, 2017; (2) followed by 11 campaigns announced on November 3, 2017; (3) five campaigns announced on March 13, 2018; six campaigns announced on May 21, 2018; and five campaigns announced on July 2, 2018.
The following five new LB&I campaigns are listed by title and description:
Section 199 – Claims Risk Review
Public Law 115-97 repealed the Domestic Production Activity Deduction (DPAD) for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017. This campaign addresses all business entities that may file a claim for additional DPAD under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 199. The campaign objective is to ensure taxpayer compliance with the requirements of IRC Section 199 through a claim risk review assessment and issue-based examinations of claims with the greatest compliance risk.
Syndicated Conservation Easement Transactions
The IRS issued Notice 2017-10, designating specific syndicated conservation easement transactions as listed transactions, requiring disclosure statements by both investors and material advisors.
This campaign is intended to encourage taxpayer compliance and ensure consistent treatment of similarly situated taxpayers by ensuring the easement contributions meet the legal requirements for a deduction, and the fair market values are accurate. The initial treatment stream is issue-based examinations. Other treatment streams will be considered as the campaign progresses.
Foreign Base Company Sales Income: Manufacturing Branch Rules
In general, foreign base company sales income (FBCSI) does not include income of a controlled foreign corporation (CFC) derived in connection with the sale of personal property manufactured by such corporation. However, if a CFC manufactures property through a branch outside its country of incorporation, the manufacturing branch may be treated as a separate, wholly owned subsidiary of the CFC for purposes of computing the CFC’s FBCSI, which may result in a subpart F inclusion to the U.S. shareholder(s) of the CFC.
The goal of this campaign is to identify and select for examination returns of U.S. shareholders of CFCs that may have underreported subpart F income based on certain interpretations of the manufacturing branch rules. The treatment stream for the campaign will be issue-based examinations.
1120F Interest Expense/Home Office Expense
This campaign addresses compliance on two of the largest deductions claimed on Form1120-F, U.S. Income Tax Return of a Foreign Corporation. Treasury Regulation Section 1.882-5 provides a formula to determine the interest expense of a foreign corporation that is allocable to their effectively connected income. The amount of interest expense deductions determined under Treasury Regulation Section 1.882-5 can be substantial. Treasury Regulation Section 1.861-8 governs the amount of home office expense deductions allocated to effectively connected income. Home office expense allocations have been observed to be material amounts compared to the total deductions taken by a foreign corporation.
The campaign compliance strategy includes the identification of aggressive positions in these areas, such as the use of apportionment [...]
IRS Releases International Tax Guidance
Happy New Year to all our readers! To start off the New Year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released two pieces of guidance on international tax issues which are noteworthy. Each is briefly discussed below.
The first piece of guidance is Notice 2018-7, which announces the IRS’s intent to issue regulations for determining amounts included in gross income by a United States shareholder under Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 951(a)(1) by reason of Code Section 965. The IRS has requested comments on the Notice and has indicated that it expects to issue additional guidance under Code Section 965.
The second piece of guidance is a Practice Unit on the substantial contribution test for the controlled manufacturing exception under the Code Section 954 regulations. This Practice Unit discusses the substantial contribution test and provides insight into the IRS’s approach in analyzing this issue in examinations of taxpayers. We previously posted about the purpose of Practice Units here, but to briefly recap this type of guidance is intended as job aids and training materials for IRS employees. A complete list of Practice Units can be found here.
Tax Planning in a World of Increased Transparency
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.
A 360-Degree View: November and December 2017
Wrapping Up November – and Looking Forward to December
Please 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 December.
Upcoming Tax Controversy Activities in December:
December 14, 2017: Catherine Battin, Britt Haxton, Kristen Hazel, Mary Kay Martire, Jane May, Sandra McGill and Judith Wethall will be hosting the Tax in the City® – A Year in Review event, which will focus on the state and local impact, as well as the federal and international aspects of tax reform.
December 14, 2017: Thomas Jones will be presenting the webinar, “Understand how the new Tax Reform bill will affect the status of captive insurers and hear the latest 2017 tax developments” for the Vermont Captive Insurance Association.
David Kautter Named Acting IRS Commissioner
Today, President Trump announced his intention to designate David Kautter to be the Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue effective November 13, 2017. John Koskinen, the current Commissioner of Internal Revenue, is near the end of his term, which ends on November 12, 2017. The Commissioner’s role is to preside over the nation’s tax system and manage an agency consisting of more than 80,000 employees with a budget in excess of $11 billion.
Mr. Kautter has been the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (Tax Policy) since August 2017. Prior to that, he was the Leader of the Washington National Tax practice at RSM US LLP. From 2011–2015, he was a Managing Director at American University, Kogod School of Business. From 1974–1979 and 1982–2010, he worked in a variety of roles with EY, ranging from compensation and benefits issues to domestic and international tax issues. From 1979–1982, he was Tax Legislative Counsel for former Senator John Danforth. Mr. Kautter graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame and obtained his law degree from Georgetown University. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed here.
Globalism vs. Populism in the International Tax World
Adoption of the base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) action items in specific countries can be expected to alter traditional multi-national enterprises (MNE) tax strategy processes. In this regard, it is appropriate to note that tax authorities and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) often seem to overlook, or conveniently ignore, that MNE strategies are often a function of the rules established by countries to develop their own tax base (at the expense of other countries). In other words, countries, in their respective self-interests, grant incentives of various sorts to encourage economic investment. MNEs take advantage of these incentives to minimize their tax liabilities, which the BEPS process views as, somehow, inappropriate behavior of MNEs denuding the tax base of other countries.
Like water going downhill, MNE planning strategies will utilize the most efficient path to achieve desired objectives. This is a fiduciary duty to shareholders. Effective tax rates are a major expense of all MNEs, which need to be managed as effectively as possible in a competitive world. For example, if Country A offers an incentive such that MNE #1 makes an investment in Country A, as opposed to Country B which offers no such incentive, the net result is that jobs and economic activity are created in Country A not B. Country B may perceive that its tax has been eroded. But who has done this? Country A via its incentive or MNE #1?
International tax disputes arise when Country B challenges the activity of MNE #1 asserting that it should have been paying tax in Country B. If there is a treaty between Countries A and B, there could be a mutual agreement procedure (MAP) proceeding. If that proceeding stalls for whatever reason, then all parties would benefit from processes that would lead to resolution.
The transparency demanded by the Country-by-Country (CbC) package and related matters evolving on a unilateral country basis (seeking, once again, to attract tax base away from other countries) will create new opportunities and paradigms for MNE effective tax rate strategies. It may be that these evolutions will drive planning and acquisition strategies toward treaty or non-treaty protected corporate structures designed to: (i) take advantage of new opportunities created by the new regimes; and (ii) minimize transfer pricing exposures, imposition of exit or other taxes on the movement of intangibles or other assets, and so on. As these strategies evolve, the net result may not be an outcome that was anticipated by organizers of the BEPS project. This was certainly the case with respect to design of our current international tax system just after World War I.
These evolutions in the international tax world reflect, not surprisingly, what is evolving in the global political world. The popular press regularly addresses what is often described as globalism vs. populism, which reflects an apparent trend of voters and governments to focus less on the global good and more on local needs. The same phenomenon appears to be evolving in the world of cross-border [...]
IRS Publishes Another IPU on Transfer Pricing
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continues to publish International Practice Units (IPUs) on transfer pricing. As explained in our prior post, the IRS has provided guidance on the three requirements to come within the transfer pricing rules in IRC section 482. The IRS continues to expend its limited resources on international tax issues, arming its field agents with extensive directions on how to audit transfer pricing issues. It is clear that international tax issues are and will continue to be the focus of IRS agents in auditing multinational entities.
IRS Releases Practice Unit on Allocation of Interest Expense
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.
Introducing McDermott’s Blog Series on LB&I’s International Practice Units
As part of an overall strategy and reorganization to utilize resources more efficiently, the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS’s) Large Business and International (LB&I) Division has developed a series of International Practice Units. These Practice Units typically consist of a set of slides explaining how agents in the field should approach a particular issue of interest in international tax or transfer pricing. A complete list of these Practice Units can be found here.
The IRS intends the Practice Units to serve as “job aids and training materials” and as “a means for collaborating and sharing knowledge among IRS employees.” The first group was published at the end of 2014, and the IRS has steadily released new Practice Units ever since. Presently, the IRS has published over 100 practice units on a wide range of international topics.
Practice Units provide general explanations of international tax concepts, as well as information about specific types of transactions. Practice Units are not official pronouncements of law, and cannot be used, cited or relied upon for support. Nonetheless, they provide taxpayers with a window into the IRS’s current thinking about these issues. Moreover, Practice Units may be helpful to anticipate the IRS’s approach relating to specific international issues. Over the next few months, Tax Controversy 360 will unveil a series of posts highlighting individual Practice Units of special interest—please stay tuned!