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IRS Proposes to Withdraw Debt-Equity Documentation Regulations

Over the years, the determination of whether an item constitutes debt or equity has generated significant litigation. Courts have developed multifactor tests and engaged in intensive fact finding to make this determination. Arguably, part of the reason for the numerous disputes was the lack of regulations under Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 385, which explicitly authorizes the US Department of Treasury (Treasury) to issue regulations to determine whether an interest in a corporation is to be treated for purposes of the Code as stock or indebtedness.

Proposed regulations under Code Section 385 were issued on April 14, 2016, but did not receive a warm welcome from the tax bar. This was particularly so with respect to strict contemporaneous written documentation requirements in the proposed regulations. After receiving substantial comments, Treasury released final regulations effective as of October 21, 2016, which retained the strict documentation requirements. However, President Trump subsequently issued Executive Order 13771 and Executive Order 13789 calling for a reduction in regulatory burdens and costs. In late 2017, Treasury indicated that it might revoke the documentation requirements under the Code Section 385 regulations. That day has now come.

Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have now issued proposed regulations removing the strict documentation requirements. Written or electronic comments and requests for a public hearing must be received by the IRS by late December.

Prior coverage of the Code Section 385 regulations can be found in our previously posted articles.

Practice Point: Although the strict requirements for documenting may be just a memory at this point, the need to document your lending transactions, especially intercompany transactions, is still present. At the very least, the old rules may have instilled more discipline into lending transactions, which may help support positions (e.g., Code Section 165 deductions) on your return.




President Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Emin Toro to Tax Court

In a press release this morning, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Emin Toro to serve as a judge on the United States Tax Court (Tax Court). This is the latest in a wave of nominations to high-level tax positions within the government, as we have previously covered here and here.

Mr. Toro is currently a partner in the Washington, DC, office of Covington & Burling LLP. His practice focuses on the needs of multinational companies, including both tax controversies and counseling. Mr. Toro’s experience includes audits, administrative appeals, litigation and transfer pricing matters. He received his JD from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 2000 and clerked for the Honorable Karen LeCraft Henderson, US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (2000–2001) and the Honorable Clarence Thomas, US Supreme Court (2002–2003).




Nominations Announced for Tax Court and IRS Commissioner

On January 23, 2018, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Courtney Dunbar Jones to the US Tax Court. He previously nominated Elizabeth Copeland and Patrick Urda on August 3, 2017.

Courtney Dunbar Jones is a senior attorney in the Tax-Exempt and Government Entities division in the Office of Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If confirmed, she will assume the position left vacant by the 2016 retirement of Judge John O. Colvin. Judge Colvin still performs judicial duties as a Senior Judge on recall.

On January 24, 2018, numerous press outlets announced that President Trump will nominate Charles “Chuck” Rettig of Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, to serve as the next Commissioner of the IRS.

Rettig has been in private practice at Hochman, Salkin for more than 35 years and has a long record of leadership in our field. Among his many accomplishments, Rettig was instrumental in working with the IRS to establish key settlement initiatives over the last 15 years, including providing key practitioner guidance in designing the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

If confirmed, Rettig would helm an IRS that has been significantly reshaped by budget cuts and staff attrition in recent years. Rettig would also oversee the implementation of tax reform. Rettig has been a friend and mentor to many of us in the tax controversy bar over the years, and we are encouraged by the selection of someone from the private bar to the post.




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.




Is a Business Tax Reform Game Plan Beginning to Take Shape?

Substantial tax reform is underway and the business community is intently awaiting details of this activity with the aim of positioning themselves to maximize opportunities and minimize any costs or risks that reform may present. How will a cut in the corporate income tax rate, the potential adoption of a “territorial” dividend exemption system or the elimination or altering of recent regulations impact companies?

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What to Expect During a Change of Administration

With the inauguration of President Trump, and the accompanying change of administration, the American people have been promised great change in all areas of the federal government. One question we at McDermott have been frequently asked since the election is: what should a taxpayer expect from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Tax Division while the transitions in the executive branch are taking place? Major tax policy changes are being discussed, but what about the immediate practical effects of a turnover in high-level personnel within these agencies, particularly if a taxpayer is under audit or investigation?

During a change in administration, taxpayers may be affected by any of the following:

  • If under audit, the exam team may ask for longer statute extensions than would otherwise apply, to account for possible delays in internal managerial-level approvals.
  • If a taxpayer is negotiating a settlement, and that settlement requires approval by the IRS National Office or the Assistant Attorney General for Tax, settlement approvals may be delayed due to personnel changes.
  • This applies to civil settlements reached with IRS Appeals, in Tax Court litigation, or in federal district court litigation. Delays are also possible for criminal agreements, including plea agreements, deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements.
  • Ongoing litigation (particularly appellate litigation) may be stayed or delayed, to the extent a case involves a policy position that the administration may want to change.
  • The regulatory freeze enacted by the Trump administration also affects procedural regulations, including proposed regulations related to the new partnership audit rules.

Initial comments from prospective Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin indicate that he believes IRS staffing should be increased, which would be a welcome change.  Any significant changes like this are likely to be long-term, however, so we are unlikely to see their effect for some time.




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