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Weekly IRS Roundup October 11 – October 15, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of October 11, 2021 – October 15, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

October 12, 2021: The IRS released a notice, announcing that the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the IRS intend to amend the regulations under Section 987 to defer the applicability date of certain final regulations by one additional year. The deferred regulations will apply to tax years beginning after December 7, 2022. For calendar year taxpayers, the 2016 final regulations and the related 2019 final regulations will apply to the tax year beginning on January 1, 2023. The IRS and Treasury do not intend to amend the applicability date of Treasury Regulation § 1.987-12.

October 13, 2021: The IRS published an updated Form W-8BEN-E (Certificate of Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting (Entities)) and related instructions.

October 14, 2021: The IRS and Treasury published a notice and request for comments concerning assumption of partner liabilities. The rules relate to a partnership’s assumption of certain fixed and contingent obligations in connection with the issuance of a partnership interest, as well as to Section 358(h) for assumptions of liabilities by corporations from partners and partnerships and temporary regulations concerning the assumption of certain liabilities under Section 358(h). Written comments are due on or before December 13, 2021.

October 14, 2021: The IRS and Treasury published a notice and request for comments concerning Form 1127 (Application for Extension of Time for Payment of Tax Due to Undue Hardship). Written comments are due on or before December 13, 2021.

October 14, 2021: The IRS and Treasury published a notice and request for comments concerning Revenue Procedure 99-50, which permits combined information reporting by a successor business entity (i.e., a corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship) in certain situations following a merger or an acquisition. Written comments are due on or before December 13, 2021.

October 15, 2021: The IRS published draft instructions for Form 8949 (Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets). The updated form reflects reporting for Section 1061, which concerns recharacterizing certain long-term capital gains of a partner who holds one or more applicable partnership interests as short-term capital gains.

October 15, 2021: The IRS published a news release, updating its process for certain frequently asked questions (FAQs) on newly-enacted tax legislation. The IRS is updating this process to address concerns regarding transparency and the potential impact on taxpayers when the FAQs are updated or revised. The IRS is also addressing concerns regarding the potential application of penalties to taxpayers who rely on FAQs by providing clarity as to their ability to rely on FAQs for penalty protection. The IRS stated that significant FAQs on newly-enacted [...]

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IRS Provides Guidance on Reliance of FAQs for Penalty Protection Purposes

On October 15, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a news release and fact sheet for IRS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), which are typically posted on the IRS’s website. The purpose of the fact sheet is to confirm and explain the extent to which FAQs can be relied upon for purposes of avoiding civil tax penalties. (For a primer on penalties and defenses, see our prior article in the Tax Executive.)

The Internal Revenue Code and Treasury Regulations, along with relevant case law, provide rules on what can (and cannot) be relied upon for penalty protection purposes. The most common penalty defenses are reasonable basis (sometimes coupled with a disclosure requirement), substantial authority and reasonable cause. Substantial authority is an objective standard, and Treasury Regulation § 1.6662-4(d)(3)(i) contains a laundry list of such authorities. Absent from this list are IRS FAQs. Reasonable basis has generally been viewed as an objective standard as well (at least outside the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit), and satisfaction of the substantial authority standard suffices for reasonable basis purposes. Reasonable cause is a subjective standard based on consideration of all the facts and circumstances, with the most important factor being the extent to which the taxpayer took steps to determine their proper tax liability.

For many years, taxpayers and practitioners have debated the value of IRS FAQs. On the one hand, they provide much needed guidance that can be helpful to taxpayers. On the other hand, FAQs are not published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin, are not treated as precedential or binding on the IRS and may be removed or changed by the IRS at any time (without any repository available to find prior versions of FAQs). The IRS relies heavily on FAQs to provide immediate guidance to taxpayers—sometimes in the form of substantive guidance—but has historically disclaimed any ability for taxpayers to rely on its FAQs or for IRS personnel to follow its FAQs. This has led to uncertainty in the tax community as to whether (and to what extent) taxpayers can and should follow IRS FAQs for both substantive positions and penalty protection purposes.

Prior to his return to private practice earlier this year, former IRS Chief Counsel Michael Desmond noted the need for better transparency and permanency around certain IRS FAQs. That transparency and permanency has finally arrived, although the weight of its value still remains uncertain. In the new release and fact sheet, the IRS announced as follows:

FAQs are a valuable alternative to guidance published in the Bulletin because they allow the IRS to more quickly communicate information to the public on topics of frequent inquiry and general applicability. FAQs typically provide responses to general inquiries rather than applying the law to taxpayer-specific facts and may not reflect various special rules or exceptions that could apply in any particular case. FAQs that have not been published in the Bulletin will not [...]

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Tax Court: Prior Closing Agreement May Have Relevance in Coca-Cola’s Transfer Pricing Case

Coca-Cola is seeking a re-determination in Tax Court of certain Internal Revenue Service (IRS) transfer-pricing adjustments relating to its 2007–2009 tax years. In the case, the IRS moved for partial summary judgment seeking a ruling that a 1996 Internal Revenue Code Section 7121 “closing agreement” executed by the parties is not relevant to the case before the court.

Closing Agreement Background

Following an audit of the taxpayer’s transfer pricing of its tax years 1987–1989, the parties executed a closing agreement for Coca-Cola’s 1987–1995 tax years. In the closing agreement, the parties agreed to a transfer pricing methodology, in which the IRS agreed that it would not impose penalties on Coca-Cola for post-1995 tax years if Coca-Cola followed the methodology agreed upon. Despite following the agreed-to methodology for its post-1995 tax years, the IRS determined income tax deficiencies for Coca-Cola’s 2007–2009 tax years, arguing that pricing was not arm’s-length. (more…)




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