On March 5, 2019, the US Department of Treasury (Treasury) issued a policy statement on the tax regulatory process. We previously wrote an article for Law360 on the policy statement, which can be accessed here. In our article, we noted the disclaimer language in the policy statement that “is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or inequity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, it officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.” We further noted that this same limiting language can be found in Executive Orders issued by the President of the United States, and that courts have generally rejected attempts to rely on such orders containing this language, although it might be possible to analogize the positions in the policy statement to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) statements in CC-2003-014, which instructs IRS employees not to take positions contrary to IRS published guidance.
On December 13, 2018, US Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released proposed regulations for the Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax (the BEAT), which was added to the Code as part of the 2017 Tax Act. The proposed regulations provide helpful guidance on a range of important topics and generally go a long way toward a reasonable implementation of a very challenging statute. There is one aspect of the proposed regulations, however, that may be an unwelcome surprise for many taxpayers; the proposed regulations treat stock consideration in non-cash transactions as BEAT “payments,” thereby creating the potential for BEAT liability in situations involving certain liquidations, tax-free reorganizations and other non-cash transactions.
Located in section 59A, the BEAT imposes a minimum tax on US corporations (and certain foreign corporations, which are not the focus of this Insight) that consistently have annual gross receipts of $500 million or more and claim more than a de minimis amount of “base erosion tax benefits” for a taxable year. In general, as base erosion tax benefits increase, a corporate taxpayer’s BEAT liability increases.
The proposed regulations, which are generally proposed to be effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, include guidance for determining the base erosion payments that will give rise to annual base erosion tax benefits. Prop. Reg. § 1.59A-3(b) applies the same four categories of base erosion payments found in section 59A(d) for amounts paid or accrued to a related foreign party. The two categories that should affect the most taxpayers are the general category for currently deductible items and the special category for the acquisition of depreciable or amortizable property. With respect to this latter category, the acquisition price of the property will constitute the base erosion payment, but only the amount of any depreciation or amortization deductions claimed in a tax year will produce a base erosion tax benefit for purposes of computing the BEAT.
The Treasury and IRS recently issued proposed regulations under §951A.1 The regulations provide rules for determining the amount of the inclusion in a U.S. shareholder’s gross income of global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI).
The GILTI inclusion amount is the aggregate of a U.S. shareholder’s pro rata shares of tested income less tested losses from each directly and indirectly owned controlled foreign corporation (CFC), less 10% of its aggregate pro rata shares of qualified business asset investments (reduced by certain interest expense). 2 This article discusses the rules in the proposed regulations for determining a CFC’s tested income.
Originally published in Bloomberg Tax: Tax Management International Journal, November 2018.
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.
- The Slow Death of the Section 385 Regulations
- Final §385 Regulations Apply to CFC Loans to Domestic Corporations
- Final Section 385 Regulations May Pose Compliance Burdens and Raise Potential Challenges
- SALT Implications of Final Section 385 Debt-Equity Regulations
- Tax Bar Has Serious and Substantial Comments to the Proposed IRC Section 385 Regulations
- Treasury Releases Report on Reducing Tax Regulatory Burdens
- Debt-Equity Regulations – A Year in Review
- Inversions and Debt/Equity Regulations Top Treasury’s 2016–2017 Priority Guidance Plan
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.
The US Department of Treasury (Treasury) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issue Priority Guidance Plans each year to identify the tax issues they believe should be addressed through regulations, revenue rulings, revenue procedures, notice and other published administrative guidance. On October 20, 2017, the IRS and Treasury released the 2017-2018 Priority Guidance Plan.
- Part 1 focuses on the eight regulations from 2016 that were identified pursuant to Executive Order 13789 (see here for prior coverage on Treasury’s report in response to this Order) and the intended actions related to those regulations.
- Part 2 describes certain projects that Treasury and the IRS have identified as burden reducing and that they believe can be completed in the eight and a half months remaining in the plan year.
- Part 3 describes the various projects related to the implementation of the new statutory partnership audit regime. See here for prior coverage.
- Part 4 describe specific projects by subject area that will the focus of the balance of Treasury’s and the IRS’s efforts for the plan year.
Practice Point: The Priority Guidance Plan is a useful tool for taxpayers in that it highlights areas in which Treasury and the IRS are focused, both in the short-term and the long-term. Although items in the Priority Guidance Plan are subject to modification, they provide a blueprint for issues that the government views as important. For example, the plan reports guidance projects relating to Internal Revenue Code Section 199, focused on the treatment of computer software and films. These issues have created substantial controversy for the IRS and taxpayers, as we have previously reported. See https://www.taxcontroversy360.com/2017/04/the-irss-assault-on-section-199-computer-software-doesnt-compute/ and https://www.taxcontroversy360.com/2017/03/irs-campaign-focuses-on-definition-of-qualified-film-under-section-199/. Additional guidance would be welcomed.
Yesterday, the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) released the 2016–2017 Priority Guidance Plan (Plan) containing 281 projects that are priorities for Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) during the period July 2016 through June 2017. The Plan contains several categories of topics, starting with consolidated returns and ending with tax-exempt bonds. The Plan also contains an appendix that lists more routine guidance that is generally published each year. Treasury and the IRS will update and republish the plan during the next 12 months to reflect additional items that have become priorities and guidance that has been published during the year. The public is invited to continue to provide comments and suggestions as guidance is written throughout the year. Continue Reading Inversions and Debt/Equity Regulations Top Treasury’s 2016–2017 Priority Guidance Plan
On August 2, 2016, the US Department of the Treasury issued long-awaited, proposed regulations on the valuation of interests in family-controlled entities for estate, gift and generation-skipping tax purposes. If finalized, these new rules are likely to substantially increase estate taxes payable by the estates of owners of family-controlled businesses, farms, real estate companies and investment companies. They would overturn well-settled law that for decades has allowed valuation discounts to be applied to these interests. Estate planners have long relied on the current rules in minimizing the transfer tax cost of passing family-controlled entities from one generation to the next.
The new rules are in proposed form and are not effective until issued in final form. This will probably not occur until sometime next year at the earliest. Proposed regulations often are changed, sometimes materially, before they are finalized. And sometimes they are not finalized quickly or at all. As a result, no one can be certain of the final form that these rules will take or when they will become effective, if at all.
That said, for some of you this may be an opportunity to plan your estate under current law for at least a few more months. We recommend that you discuss with your estate planner whether you should consider further steps now in light of these possible rule changes. If you have transactions in process, you may want to consider accelerating their completion. At a minimum, this possible law change may act as a prompt for families to have needed—perhaps long overdue—tax, succession and estate planning discussions with their professional advisers.
View recent press coverage of the proposed regulations.