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IRS Updates List of Items Requiring National Office Review

On June 30, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Chief Counsel Notice 2016-009, which can be found here. In the notice, the IRS updated the list of issues that require IRS National Office review (the List). The List indicates those issues or matters raised by IRS field examiners that must be coordinated with the appropriate IRS Associate office.

There are several new items on the List. Notably, corporate formations with repatriation transactions, certain spin-off transactions and transactions that may implicate Treasury Regulation § 1.701-2 partnership anti-abuse rules are now also included. Debt-equity issues pursuant to Section 385 continue to be on the List.

In addition, now included are issues designated for litigation and issues that for technical tax reasons will not be referred to the IRS Office of Appeals under Revenue Procedure 2016-22, Section 3.03 (also relating to issues designated for litigation). We discussed Revenue Procedure 2016-22 in a recent posting. (more…)




Commissioner Files Opening Brief in Ninth Circuit Appeal of Altera

In Altera Corp. v. Commissioner, 145 T.C. No. 3 (July 27, 2015), the Tax Court, in a unanimous reviewed opinion, held that regulations under Section 482 requiring parties to a qualified cost-sharing agreement (QCSA) to include stock-based compensation costs in the cost pool to comply with the arm’s-length standard were procedurally invalid because the US Deparment of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) did not engage in the “reasoned decisionmaking” required by the Administrative Procedures Act and the cases interpreting it. For a discussion of the Tax Court’s Altera opinion, see our prior On the Subject. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue (Commissioner) appealed this holding to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; he filed his opening brief on June 27, 2016.

According to the Commissioner, the Tax Court’s holding was based on several related errors: (1) the Tax Court mistakenly concluded that promulgation of the QCSA regs required the IRS to engage in an “essentially empirical” analysis; (2) this led the court to apply the wrong standard; (3) in its analysis, the court relied heavily on its holding in Xilinx, Inc. v. Commissioner, 125 T.C. 37 (2005), that analysis of QCSAs must comport with the arm’s-length standard, meaning that a taxpayer can defend a QCSA by reference to comparable behavior between unrelated parties; and (4) the Tax Court failed to take into account that the finalization of the new QCSA regulations worked a “change in the legal landscape,” which should have altered the court’s analysis of the new regulations’ validity. Moreover, “the coordinating amendments [to the existing QCSA regulations] supersede [the Ninth Circuit’s] understanding of the arm’s-length standard as reflected in its own Xilinx opinion.” (more…)




IRS Releases Practice Unit on Residual Profit Split Method

On March 7, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a new International Practice Unit (IPU) on a specific transfer pricing method—the residual profit split method (RPSM).  The IPU explains to IRS examiners how to determine if the RPSM is the “best method” under Section 482, and if so, how to apply such method between a US parent and its controlled foreign corporation in a transaction where intangible property is employed.  As stated in a previous post, IPUs generally identify strategic areas of importance to the IRS but they are not official pronouncements of law or directives and cannot be used, cited or relied upon as such.  However, taxpayers should benefit from reviewing IPUs, as they reflect the current thinking of the IRS on pertinent issues, and therefore allow taxpayers to structure and document their transfer pricing arrangements in a manner that is consistent with such thinking, as noted in a prior post available here.

Section 482 was designed to prevent the improper shifting or distorting of the true taxable income of related enterprises.  Section 482 accomplishes this by requiring that all transactions between related enterprises must satisfy the arm’s length standard.  That is, the terms of intercompany transactions generally must reflect the same pricing that would have occurred if the parties had been uncontrolled taxpayers engaged in the same transaction under the same circumstances.  One of several possible transfer pricing methods for determining whether a transaction meets the arm’s length standard is the profit split method.  One specific application of the profit split method is the RPSM.  This IPU focuses on the application of the RPSM as it applies to outbound transactions involving intangible property.

The IPU outlines four steps for IRS examiners to follow in determining whether the RPSM is the best method to evaluate a controlled transaction and if so, how to apply the RPSM to that particular transaction.

  1. Identify the routine and nonroutine contributions made by the parties. The IPU cautions that if there are no nonroutine contributions, or if only one controlled taxpayer is making nonroutine contributions (most commonly of intangibles), then the RPSM should not be used.  The IPU provides three examples of when the RPSM may be used:  (a) a tangible goods sale if the seller uses nonroutine manufacturing intangibles to make the goods, and another controlled party purchases and resells the goods using its nonroutine marketing intangibles; (b) a licensing transaction where one controlled party licenses nonroutine manufacturing intangibles to a second controlled party, who then manufactures goods using those manufacturing intangibles and sells the goods using its own nonroutine marketing intangibles; and (c) a commercial sale of software product, if two controlled parties each contribute nonroutine software intangibles to manufacture the product, and the controlled parties share the revenue from the sales.
  1. Determine if the RPSM is the best method. The RPSM is the best method only if it provides the most reliable measure of an arm’s length result.  The IPU cautions that the RPSM should [...]

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Tax Court Rules Whether IRS’s Transfer Pricing Adjustments Are Arbitrary, Capricious Depends on Facts and Circumstances

In Guidant LLC f.k.a. Guidant Corporation, and Subsidiaries, et al. v. Commissioner, 146 T.C. No. 5 (Feb. 29, 2016), the taxpayer filed a motion seeking partial summary judgment on the ground that the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS’s) transfer pricing adjustments were “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” as a matter of law. Judge David Laro denied the motion, ruling that “whether the Commissioner abused his discretion … depends on the facts and circumstances of a given case.” The taxpayer’s motion thus presented “a question of fact that should be resolved on the basis of the trial record.”

The case involves transfer pricing adjustments under Section 482 that increased the income of Guidant Corporation and its U.S. subsidiaries by nearly $3.5 billion. Section 482 grants the IRS broad discretion to “distribute, apportion, or allocate gross income, deductions, credits, or allowances” between or among controlled enterprises if it determines that such a re-allocation is “necessary in order to prevent evasion of taxes or clearly to reflect the income” of any of the enterprises. A taxpayer that challenges a Section 482 adjustment has a “dual burden.” First, it must show that the IRS’s adjustments are “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.” The taxpayer must then show that its intercompany transactions reflect arm’s-length dealing. (more…)




IRS Release IPU Materials on Transfer Pricing

As we noted in our initial post, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began publishing job aids and training materials developed by its International Practice Units (IPUs).  On April 6, 2016, the IRS released another IPU on section 482, available here.  The most recent IPU covers the three requirements under section 482: (1) two or more organizations, trades or business; (2) common ownership or control (direct or indirect) of the entities; and (3) the determination that an allocation is necessary either to prevent evasion of taxes, or to clearly reflect the income of any of the entities.

The most recent IPU takes a broad view of the application of section 482 and looks at the substance of transactions.  Regarding the first requirement, the IPU instructs examiners that organizations can include almost any type of entity and that a trade or business means a trade or business activity of any kind, regardless of place of organization, formal organization, type of ownership (individual or otherwise) and place of operation.  On the common control requirement, the IPU emphasizes that the form of control is not decisive and that the reality of control governs.  It also notes the presumption of control if income or deductions are arbitrarily shifted.  Finally, the reallocation to clearly reflect income requirement notes that an IRS allocation will be upheld unless the taxpayer can provide that the IRS determination was arbitrary and capricious.  Moreover, the IPU provides examples of circumstances that indicate the presence of arbitrary shifting of income, including when the net income of the foreign affiliate is high compared to the net income reported by the US company.  Of course, it may be appropriate for the foreign affiliate to have higher net income.

The IPU contains instructions on initial factual development of the requirements and provides references to resources that an agent should consult, including internal IRS resources, IRS guidance and case law.  It also identifies the types of documents that should be requested and reviewed during the examination.

As demonstrated by the large number of high-profile transfer pricing disputes currently pending in the courts, the IRS is taking a strong stance on the application of section 482.  Moreover, as demonstrated by this IPU, the IRS wants examining agents to be aggressive in identifying circumstances where there may be noncompliance with section 482.  Taxpayers with transfer pricing issues may benefit from reviewing all IPUs on section 482, both in documenting their transfer pricing activities and upon commencement of an examination to ensure that they have the documentation that the IRS will request.




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