On August 5, 2019, the Senate confirmed Courtney Dunbar Jones and Emin Toro as nominees to the US Tax Court in a voice vote before leaving for August recess. Jones and Toro will now each serve a 15-year term. President Trump had initially nominated each candidate in 2018, but the Senate was not able to confirm their appointments prior to the end of the last 2018 session—requiring the candidates to be renominated in February of 2019. We reported the initial nominations in “President Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Emin Toro to Tax Court” and “President Trump to Nominate Greaves to Tax Court; Senate Confirms Copeland and Urda.” Furthermore, we reported the renomination of these nominees in “Renominations to Fill Vacancies on the United States Tax Court.” (more…)
By a vote of 84-15 (with one senator not voting), the Senate has finally confirmed Michael Desmond to be the next Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service. Mr. Desmond is highly regarded in the tax community. We wish him well in his new post.
See links below for our prior coverage of Mr. Desmond’s nomination and the role of Chief Counsel.
On June 27, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, effective July 31, 2018. This announcement follows last week’s 5-4 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, authored by Justice Kennedy, which reversed the physical presence requirement originally established in National Bellas Hess and reaffirmed in Quill. Other important tax (and tax-related) cases have decided by the Supreme Court during Justice Kennedy’s tenure include: Commissioner v. Clark, 489 US 726 (1989); United States v. Goodyear, 493 US 132 (1989); Commissioner v. Soliman, 506 US 168 (1993); Commissioner v. Banks, 543 US 426 (2005); United States v. Home Concrete & Supply, LLC, 566 US 478 (2012); Obergefell v. Hodges, Sup. Ct. Dkt. No. 14-566 (2015); and Pereira v. Sessions, No. 17-459 (2018).
Justice Kennedy was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, and sworn in on February 18, 1988. He won unanimous confirmation. Although considered a conservative jurist, he was also the swing vote in favor of various social issues including same-sex marriage and the right to seek an abortion.
President Trump has already begun the search for Justice Kennedy’s replacement, but confirmation of the president’s nomination will not come without a serious fight. Indeed, whomever President Trump nominates, we can expect the same level of bipartisan animosity for the confirmation hearings as has marred his presidency thus far. Of course, any confirmation will require the Senate’s approval, and given the erosion of a conservative majority in the Senate, confirmation will be no small feat!
White House Intends to Nominate Michael J. Desmond to High-Level Roles in the IRS and the Department of Treasury
The White House announced on March 2 that the president intends to nominate Michael J. Desmond, a prominent tax lawyer, to be the Chief Counsel for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Assistant General Counsel in the Department of Treasury. Subject to approval by the Senate, Mr. Desmond’s new roles will entail providing legal guidance and interpretive advice to taxpayers, the IRS, and the Department of Treasury.
Mr. Desmond clerked for Judge Ronald S.W. Lew of the United States District Court from 1994 until 1995. Mr. Desmond went on to serve as a trial attorney for the Department of Justice Tax Division and as tax legislative counsel for the Department of Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy. After leaving the public sector, Mr. Desmond became a partner with Bingham McCutchen LLP in the Washington, DC office until he opened the Law Offices of Michael J. Desmond in 2012. While operating his own practice, Mr. Desmond has represented clients at every stage of the tax controversy process. He has been a frequent author and speaker on tax topics. More information about Mr. Desmond can be found at his firm’s website.
Mr. Desmond is a very well-known and respected tax practitioner. He is a fixture in the tax community. We congratulate him on his nomination.
On November 16, 2017, we participated in a panel discussion at Tax Executives Institute’s (TEI’s) Chicago International Tax Forum regarding base erosion measures under the (then proposed) House and Senate tax reform bills. The House proposed a new 20 percent excise tax on most related-party payments (other than interest) that are deductible or includible in cost of goods sold or depreciable/amortizable basis. The Senate proposed a base erosion minimum tax on certain outbound base erosion payments paid by a corporation to foreign related parties. The conference committee has since submitted a conference report to accompany the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that adopts the Senate’s proposed base erosion measure, with some changes. The base erosion minimum tax is equal to the excess of 10 percent of the modified taxable income of the corporation over an amount equal to the taxpayer’s regular tax liability reduced by certain Chapter 1 credits. The base erosion minimum tax could impact any multinational group in which foreign affiliates provide services, intellectual property, depreciable or amortizable property and other deductible items to related US corporations. It remains to be seen how the base erosion minimum tax will affect businesses in practice, and how countries with which the United States has a tax treaty will respond.
The Senate and House bills include provisions that place limitations on interest deductions for corporations. McDermott Tax partners Alexander Lee and John Lutz discuss several implications for US and US-based multinational corporations, including companies that will be adversely affected by the changes, debt limitations and tax efficiencies of offshore debt, and the changes in lending and collateral packages under the repeal of Section 956.