In recent months, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International Division (LB&I) has issued a variety of international tax practice “units” as part of its process to improve tax compliance from identified groups of business taxpayers. The overall process also includes short descriptions of respective “campaigns” and briefly describes the agency’s designated, tailored treatment or treatments for each campaign.

Most recently, it issued a unit on the mutual agreement procedure (MAP), commonly referred to as the Competent Authority Process under bilateral tax treaties (Doc Control No. ISO/P/01_07_03-01). The purpose of the unit is to provide IRS examiners (for the most part, the unit does not address foreign-initiated adjustments) with clear guidance on their responsibility in situations where proposed adjustments will be made in a context in which the taxpayer could potentially face double taxation, consistent with the most recent revenue procedure (Rev. Proc.) 2015-40. The unit also provides a helpful checklist for taxpayers in such situations.

The unit amplifies the guidance in Rev. Proc. 2015-40 with respect to both issues arising in Advance Pricing and Mutual Agreement (APMA) and Treaty Assistance and Interpretation Team (TAIT) (for non-transfer pricing issues). The discussion is consistent with current practice. Critical issues addressed include the following. Continue Reading International Practice Units – Competent Authority

On June 20, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International Division (LB&I) hosted its final webinar regarding LB&I Campaigns. Our previous coverage of LB&I Campaigns can be found here. The webinar focused on two campaigns:  (1) Section 48C Energy Credits and (2) Land Developers – Completed Contract Method.

Continue Reading LB&I’s Final Campaigns Webinar: Section 48C Energy Credits and Completed Contract Method for Land Developers

On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International Division (LB&I) hosted its sixth in a series of eight webinars regarding LB&I Campaigns. Our previous coverage of LB&I Campaigns can be found here. The webinar focused on two cross-border activities campaigns: (1) the Repatriation Campaign and (2) the Form 1120-F Non-Filer Campaign. Below, we summarize LB&I’s comments on the new campaigns.

Repatriation Campaign

In general, the active earnings of foreign subsidiaries are not subject to tax until repatriated to the United States. Typically, those repatriations would be treated as dividends and would be subject to tax. LB&I stated that, through examination experience, it has observed that some taxpayers have engaged in techniques to permit repatriation from such entities while inappropriately avoiding US taxation.

LB&I developed the Repatriation Campaign with three goals in mind. First, LB&I was concerned with developing better objective techniques to identify risks across the broad taxpayer population. Second, LB&I is trying to improve sightlines into a broader segment of the LB&I population beyond the largest taxpayers under continuous audit. Third, LB&I intends to address any compliance risks related to repatriation in a way that increases voluntary compliance.

Unlike other campaigns, LB&I is not focused on a specific structure or techniques. LB&I is instead trying to identify objective indicators of opportunities to implement questionable planning (in the IRS’s view). Per LB&I, returns with those indicators are more likely to present compliance risks and are more likely to be selected. LB&I stated that it does not believe publicly identifying those indicators will increase voluntary compliance. Historically, when LB&I selected a return for examination, it did not necessarily start with any particular issue; any issue could be examined. If a return is selected under this campaign, LB&I’s initial focus will be narrower, but other compliance issues, if discovered, can still be added to the audit. Repatriation issues can also be raised outside of the Repatriation Campaign—possibly in a continuous audit or in an audit relating to another LB&I campaign. Continue Reading The View from Here: LB&I’s Cross-Border Activities Campaigns Webinar

On March 28, 2017, EY and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) held a joint webcast presenting the Large Business & International’s (LB&I) new “Campaign” examination process. This was the IRS’s second in a planned eight-part series about Campaigns. The IRS speakers for the presentation were Tina Meaux (Assistant Deputy Commissioner Compliance Integration) and Kathy Robbins (Enterprise Activity Practice Area). We previously blogged about Campaigns on February 1, 2017 (link), and the first Campaigns webinar on March 8, 2017 (link).

Continue Reading Understanding LB&I “Campaigns” – The Second Webinar

The Acting Chief Counsel announced that effective April 1, 2017, Drita Tonuzi will serve as the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations), in Washington DC.  In this position, Ms. Tonuzi will provide legal guidance and litigation support to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Departments of Treasury and Justice in all matters pertaining to the administration and enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws.  This includes responsibility for all litigation in the United States Tax Court as well as the management of personnel in fifty field offices nationwide and in headquarters operations in Washington, DC. She will directly supervises nine Divisions including Large Business and International (LB&I), Small Business/Self Employed (SB/SE), Tax Exempt and Governmental Entities (TEGEDC), Wage and Investment (W&I), General Legal Services (GLS), Criminal Tax (CT), Procedure and Administration (P&A), Finance and Management (F&M) and Counsel to the National Taxpayer Advocate (CNTA).

Ms. Tonuzi began her career with the Office of Chief Counsel in 1987 in the Manhattan Office, where she litigated cases before the United States Tax Court. She served as the Securities & Financial Services Firms Industry Counsel and managed a group of attorneys, Deputy Division Counsel for the Large Business & International Division (formerly LMSB), where she was responsible for the operation and litigation of the organization and most recently she served as Associate Chief Counsel Practice and Administration.

With Ms. Tonuzi’s promotion, Kathryn Zuba has been appointed as the Acting Associate Chief Counsel, Procedure and Administration. Ms. Zuba will head an office of more than 150 professionals, who provide legal services to the IRS, other components of the Chief Counsel’s Office, other government agencies, and the public in the areas of federal tax procedure and administration. The responsibilities of this office include matters relating to the reporting and payment of taxes; assessment and collection of taxes; the abatement, credit or refund of over-assessments or overpayments of taxes; the filing of information returns; bankruptcy; disclosure; FOIA; privacy law; litigation sanctions; judicial doctrines; ethics; and liaison with the courts.

On March 3, 2017, KPMG and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) held a joint webcast presentation regarding the Large Business & International’s (LB&I) new “Campaign” examination process.  The IRS speakers for the presentation were Tina Meaux (Assistant Deputy Commissioner Compliance Integration) and Kathy Robbins, Director (Enterprise Activities Practice Area). On February 1, 2017, we blogged about this new IRS program.

The IRS explained that Campaigns are a fundamental change in the way the IRS will conduct examinations in the future, and are the result of the IRS’s ever-shrinking resources.  The Campaigns reflect the LB&I Division’s need to focus on risks, drive compliance objectives, and efficiently and effectively respond with a variety of work streams.

The general principles that guide the Campaign program are:

  • Flexible and well-trained work force.  Because of funding cuts, the IRS has not been able to hire examiners in recent years.  In connection with the Campaigns, the IRS will implement additional training, including “just-in-time” training, to help the IRS react to a dynamic examination environment.
  • Better selection of work.  The IRS is using data analytics and internal and external feedback to assist in shaping Campaigns.
  • Tailored treatment.  The IRS is developing an integrated process to identify compliance risks, and identify the work streams needed to address those risks.
  • Integrate feedback loop.  This is the cornerstone of the Campaign program.  The IRS admitted that it cannot implement an effective and efficient process without feedback from both internal and external stakeholders.  To be successful the feedback needs to be “just-in-time,” not merely post-audit.

Continue Reading Understanding LB&I “Campaigns”

They’re here!  On January 31, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business & International (LB&I) division released its much-anticipated announcement related to the identification and selection of campaigns.  The initial list identifies 13 compliance issues that LB&I is focused on and lists the specific practice area involved and the lead executive for each campaign.  Prior coverage of audit campaigns can be found here.

The initial list, along with descriptions of each campaign, is as follows:

Domestic Campaigns

  • Section 48C Energy Credits

This campaign is designed to ensure that only taxpayers whose advanced energy projects were approved by the Department of Energy, and who have been allocated a credit by the IRS, are claiming the credit.  Apparently, there has been confusion regarding which taxpayers are entitled to claim the credits.

  • Micro-Captive Insurance

This campaign addresses certain transactions described in Notice 2016-66 in which a taxpayer reduces aggregate taxable income using contracts treated as insurance contracts and a related company that the parties treat as a captive insurance company.  We previously blogged about Notice 2016-66 here. Captive insurance, along with basketing and inbound distribution, were three subject-matter specific campaigns announced during LB&I’s initial rollout last summer, as we discussed in our prior post on the subject.

  • Deferred Variable Annuity Reserves & Life Insurance Reserves

This campaign seeks to address uncertainties on issues important to the life insurance industry, including amounts to be taken into account in determining tax reserves for both deferred variable annuities with guaranteed minimum benefits, and life insurance contracts.

  • Distributors (MVPD’s) and TV Broadcasts

This campaign is targeted at multichannel video programming distributors and television broadcasters that may claim that groups of channels or programs are a qualified film for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 199 deduction.  The description indicates that LB&I has developed a strategy to identify taxpayers impacted by the issue and that it intends to develop training, including the development of a publicly published practice unit, published guidance, and issue based exams, to aid revenue agents.  It appears that this campaign stems from various private guidance issued in 2010, 2014 and 2016 on these issues.

  • Related Party Transactions

This campaign is focused on transactions among commonly controlled entities that the IRS believes might provide a taxpayer a means to transfer fund from the corporation to related pass-through entities or shareholders.  The campaign is aimed at the mid-market segment.

  • Basket Transactions

This campaign focuses on certain financial transactions described in Notices 2015-73 and 74, which relate to so-called basket transactions.  Basketing was a topic named during LB&I’s initial campaign announcement last summer, along with captive insurance and inbound distribution.

  • Land Developers – Completed Contract Method

This campaign addresses the Service’s concern that large land developers that construct residential communities may improperly be using the completed contract method.  This campaign appears to be a response to the Tax Court’s opinion in the Shea Homes case (available here.

  • TEFRA Linkage Plan Strategy

This campaign is focused on developing new procedures and technology to work collaboratively with revenue agents conducting TEFRA partnership examinations to identify, link, and assess tax to terminal investors that pose the most significant compliance risk.

  • S Corporation Losses Claimed in Excess of Basis

This campaign is in response to LB&I’s views that shareholders in S corporations may be claiming losses and deductions in excess of stock or debt basis.

International Campaigns

  • Repatriation

This campaign focuses on tax transactions that LB&I believes are being used for purposes of tax-free repatriation of funds into the U.S. in the mid-market population.  The goal of the campaign is to improve issue selection filters while conducting examinations on identified, high risk repatriation issues to increase taxpayer compliance.

  • Form 1120-F Non-Filer

This campaign is designed to identify and contact foreign companies doing business in the United States that are not meeting their Form 1120-F filing obligations.  The goal is to increase voluntary compliance, starting with soft letter outreach and escalating to examinations.

  • Inbound Distributor

This campaign addresses transfer pricing in the context of United States distributors of goods sourced from foreign-related parties that may have reported gains or losses that are no commensurate with the functions performed and the risk assumed.  This campaign, along with the captive insurance and basketing campaigns, were among those announced last summer by LB&I.

  • OVDP Declines-Withdrawals

This campaign addresses situations where taxpayers that have sought to enter the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) have been either denied access to OVDP or have withdrawn from OVDP. After seven years of the program, with a number of very old offshore cases still unresolved, this campaign appears to be the first formal effort to deal with rejected OVDP cases in an expressly coordinated manner.  It will be interesting to see how this campaign develops in light of recent suggestions that the formal OVDP may be nearing an end.

Practice Point: Taxpayers with any of the above issues should be prepared for focused audits directed at the issue and would be well-served preparing in advance for audits. The above is the “initial” list of the IRS’s focused examination program.  Taxpayers should be prepared for the roll-out of additional IRS “campaigns” in the coming months.  It is clear that the IRS is mounting a coordinated attack, leveraging its ever-shrinking resources in overly complicated tax-environment.

On October 13, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released an LB&I International Practice Unit (IPU), available here, providing guidance to IRS agents relating to the identification of foreign goodwill or going concern value (FGWGC) for purposes of Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 367. The IPU indicates that it was last updated on September 22, 2016.

The IPU focuses on the threshold question of whether, as a factual matter, FGWGC can exist in the first place in light of all the facts. As an example, the IPU states that because a business operation conducted outside the United States is a prerequisite for the existence of FGWGC, it is necessary to understand whether immediately before a transfer, the transferor of the property was engaged in a trade or business conducted outside the United States.

The IPU discusses the process of identifying foreign goodwill or going concern value, citing to authorities such as Newark Morning Ledger, TAM 200907024, the Bluebook and legislative history. It then discusses the steps that IRS agents should follow to identify FGWGC, with citations to various authorities as resources.

FGWGC is a hot topic right now. On September 14, 2015, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the IRS issued proposed regulations that address the tax treatment under Code Sections 367(a) and (d) of certain transfers of property by United States persons to foreign corporations. As we have discussed here, the proposed regulations would change the law to tax all transfers to a foreign subsidiary of goodwill and going concern value for use in a trade or business outside the United States.  These proposed regulations raise serious questions regarding whether Treasury and the IRS exceeded their authority on this point.

On August 26, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that its Large Business & International (LB&I) division is in the process of assessing the Compliance Assurance Process (CAP) program. CAP is a real-time audit program that seeks to resolve the tax treatment of all or most return issues before the tax return is filed.  CAP began as a pilot program in 2005 with 17 taxpayers and has grown to currently include 181 taxpayers. In 2011, the CAP program was made permanent and expanded to include Pre-Cap and Compliance Maintenance. Pre-Cap provides interested taxpayers with a roadmap of the steps required for gaining entry into CAP, which as noted above is the standard real-time audit program whereby the IRS examines relevant transactions and proposed reporting positions before the tax return is filed. Cap Maintenance is intended for taxpayers who have been in CAP, have fewer complex issues, and have a track record of working cooperatively and transparently with the IRS. Under this phase, there is a reduced level of review with respect to the pre-filing review and the post-filing examination.

We previously wrote about the potential death of the CAP program. Based on the recent announcement, it appears that CAP is now on its deathbed. The recent announcement states that no new taxpayers will be accepted into the CAP program for the 2017 application season that begins in September 2016, which means that only taxpayers currently in the CAP and Compliance Maintenance phases may continue in the program. No new Pre-Cap application will be accepted and taxpayers currently in pre-Cap will not be accepted into the CAP phase. However, taxpayers currently in the CAP phase may be moved into the Compliance Maintenance phase, as appropriate. The announcement is not surprising in light of recent reorganization changes by the IRS and shifts to a “campaigns” approach, which we have written about here and here. The announcement explains that the CAP assessment is necessary given the IRS’s limited resources and constraints, combined with a business need to evaluate existing IRS programs to ensure that they are aligned with LB&I’s strategic vision. We will continue to monitor developments on this front, but for now any taxpayers that were planning on applying for the CAP program will no longer have that opportunity.