This Train is Coming: IRS Notice Challenges Outbound Intangible Reorganizations

Often the best way to defend a tax position is to see the train before it gets to the station.

On Friday, the Internal Revenue Service issued Notice 2012–39, which addresses certain transactions that allow a U.S. taxpayer to repatriate foreign income in a tax efficient manner by using low basis domestic intangibles and the corporate reorganization rules. The Notice announced that the IRS will be issuing new regulations, with an effective date of July 13, 2012, to prevent these transactions. In the meantime, taxpayers are expected to follow the guidance in the Notice to report income from transactions that might be described in the Notice.

Notice 2012–39 describes the primary transaction of concern as follows:

USP, a domestic corporation, owns 100 percent of the stock of UST, a domestic corporation. USP’s basis in its UST stock equals its value of $100x. UST’s sole asset is a patent with a tax basis of zero. UST has no liabilities. USP also owns 100 percent of the stock of TFC, a foreign corporation. UST transfers the patent to TFC in exchange for $100x of cash and, in connection with the transfer, UST distributes the $100x of cash to USP and liquidates.

The taxpayer takes the position that neither USP nor UST recognizes gain or dividend income on the receipt of the $100x of cash. USP then applies the section 367(d) regulations to include amounts in gross income under §1.367(d)-1T(c)(1) in subsequent years. USP also applies the 367(d) regulations to establish a receivable from TFC in the amount of USP’s aggregate income inclusion. USP takes the position that TFC’s repayment of the receivable does not give rise to income (notwithstanding the prior receipt of $100x in connection with the reorganization). Accordingly, under these positions, the transactions have resulted in a repatriation in excess of $100x ($100x at the time of the reorganization and then through repayment of the receivable in the amount of USP’s income inclusions over time) while only recognizing income in the amount of the inclusions over time.

The Notice also notes that the transaction can be accomplished through the foreign subsidiary’s assumption of liabilities belonging to the domestic corporation. Another variation on the theme occurs when a controlled foreign corporation (CFC) uses deferred earnings to acquire the stock of a domestic corporation from an unrelated party for cash, followed by an outbound asset reorganization of the domestic corporation, avoiding income inclusion under section 956.

Given the IRS’s “significant policy concerns” about these transactions, this Notice should be taken as a warning for taxpayers who may have engaged in these transactions in recent years – expect the issue to be challenged under examination. Those companies may want to revisit their financial accounting reserve for these items and prepare for the controversy coming up around the bend.

Read the notice here:
IRS Notice 2012-39

Tax Court: Western Union/First Data Settles $2B Transfer Pricing Litigation

On December 15, 2011, Western Union announced that it entered into an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service to settle a long standing transfer pricing dispute with its former parent company, First Data Corporation. According to documents filed with the Securities Exchange Commission, Western Union and First Data agreed to a total of $1.18 billion in transfer pricing related adjustments. The total adjustment included the recognition of $885 million of additional income in 2003 related to First Data’s restructuring plan, which transferred certain intangible assets out of the United States, and additional adjustments between 2004 and 2011 to reach the $1.18 billion total. Penalties were dropped.

Western Union and First Data will make approximately $470 million in payments to satisfy the adjustments under the settlement agreement. Western Union also announced that it will eliminate its tax reserve related to the case and should record a one-time tax benefit of approximately $200 million in 2011.

In March 2009, First Data Corporation filed a petition in the United States Tax Court disputing a notice of deficiency alleging more than $2 billion of transfer pricing related adjustments and penalties. The matter was notable not only for the size of the proposed adjustment but also for several other procedural and tactical moves that took place over the course of the dispute.

While undergoing an examination of its 2003 reorganization and the transfer pricing planning that accompanied that transaction, First Data also was subject to a John Doe Summons in which the IRS sought the names of merchants who transferred money outside the United States using First Data’s services (more particularly Western Union’s services). First Data resisted the Summons but a U.S. District Court judge in Denver ruled that First Data had to turn over the requested information.

Shortly before First Data’s petition was filed in the Tax Court, the Chief Counsel of the IRS issued a Technical Advice Memorandum (TAM), TAM 200907024, which held that the transfer of a portion of a taxpayer’s global delivery business overseas was fully attributable to identifiable intangible assets under section 936(h)(3)(b) therefore gave rise to a deemed royalty under section 367(d). The facts of the TAM were distinctly similar to those of the First Data case and were widely believed be drawn from the First Data examination. Some speculated, appropriately so, that the TAM was part of the IRS’s larger litigation strategy.