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.

Continue Reading Tax Planning in a World of Increased Transparency

As we have recently discussed, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Appeals has been making a number of changes to their administrative review process in the last few years. While many of these changes have been driven by lack of resources, others—like the standing invitation of Exam into the Appeals process—have the potential to undermine the independence of Appeals, which has historically been a vital component of the taxpayer’s right of redress with the Service.

In this week’s American Bar Association conference in Austin, Texas, IRS Appeals clarified that, for field cases worked by revenue agents, taxpayers may still receive in-person conferences, despite recent pronouncements that phone conferences are the preferred or default method. Conferences in campus cases (or correspondence audit cases) will still be generally handled by telephone, but there will eventually be a move to in-person conferences by request. Campus cases are being treated differently because they are often managed in locations remote from the taxpayer without adequate facilities for in-person meetings. Guidance will be issued to IRS employees regarding these changes.

As Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson noted, these changes are helpful but not enough. In particular, Olson expressed dismay that campus cases were not being included in the change. Roughly 75 to 80 percent of IRS examinations are conducted by correspondence. In these cases, there is a great need for personal contact with the taxpayer, but no single person within the Service is assigned to a case.

Practice Point: The new announcement provides practitioners with additional support for their requests for in-person Appeals conferences. In our experience, an in-person conference is frequently much more productive than one by phone, and practitioners should request these whenever possible.

In a surprising decision, the US Tax Court (Tax Court) concluded that the pregame away-city meals provided to the Boston Bruins hockey team was not subject to the 50 percent deduction disallowance on the basis that the meals were both for the “convenience of the employer” and were provided at an “employer operated eating facility.” In Jacobs v. Commissioner, 148 TC No 24 (June 26, 2017), the court found that meals—consisting of dinner, breakfast, lunch and snacks—were served in a room provided without charge by the hotel and to all employees of the Bruins traveling to the games.

Most businesses are well aware of the 50 percent deduction disallowance provided in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 274(n)(1), which applies to meals provided to executives or other employees traveling for the business purpose of the employer. “De-minimis” meals (those which are provided infrequently and low in value), however, are excepted from the 50 percent disallowance. Also exempt are those meals provided at employer-operated eating facilities, (e.g., the company cafeteria) and meeting the following requirements:

  • the facility is located on or near the business premises of the employer;
  • the revenue derived from the facility normally equals or exceeds the direct operating costs of the facility; and
  • the facility is available on substantially the same terms to each member of a group of employees that is defined under a reasonable classification which does not discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees.

IRC Section 119(a) allows an employee to exclude the value of any meals furnished by or on behalf of his employer if the meals are furnished on the employer’s business premise for the convenience of the employer. Generally, the expenses of IRC Section 119 meals can be used to satisfy the requirement that the revenue from the eating facility equal direct operating costs.

In Jacobs, the Tax Court concluded that the group meals served in the away-city hotel rooms provided at the hotels where the Bruins hockey team stayed for the games was an “employer operated eating facility,” which deems the rooms as the “eating facility” and “on the business premises of the employer” for purposes of the requirements. The rooms were also considered the business premises of the employer for purposes of the IRC Section 119 requirement. In light of its holding, the Tax Court did not need to address the taxpayer’s alternative argument that the meals were expenses for entertainment sold to customers under IRC Section 274(n)(2)(A).

Practice Point: The decision in Jacobs is seemingly expansive in permitting employers to deduct meals provided away from what has traditionally been considered an employer facility. The decision may provide an opportunity to employers to seek additional expense deductions.