There are few areas of the tax code as complex and potentially confusing as the rules for TEFRA partnership proceedings. Even the most steely-eyed tax pros wince at the details. Nonetheless, TEFRA is at the heart of many of the transactions that the IRS has challenged over the course last decade and the courts are still sifting through the details.
In Rawls Trading, LP v. Commissioner the government sought a stay of proceedings on a Final Partnership Administrative Adjustment (FPAA) issued to one of three partnerships involved in a single tax-advantaged transaction. Respondent argued that the FPAA was issued prematurely and that the court should stay its proceedings until determinations were made on FPAAs issued to the two related partnerships which were party to the transaction. Petitioners argued for a consolidated hearing on all three FPAAs. The Tax Court chose a third path and raised the question of jurisdiction.
The FPAA for the upper tier partnership, which the government wanted stayed, contained only computational adjustments. All of the adjusted items were held in the lower tier partnerships and the upper tier partnership FPAA only noted the consequences those adjustments on a pass-through basis. The Court reasoned that if the adjustments on the upper tier partnership were only computational and the FPAA did not contain items that were subject to the Court’s determination in a deficiency proceeding then there was nothing for the court to determine in a deficiency proceeding. The Court made exactly such a finding and determined that the FPAA was invalid as filed. The Court dismissed the FPAA for lack of jurisdiction noting that it could not stay proceedings on an FPAA that did not confer jurisdiction on its own merits.
Yes, there is a little more to it than that, but Judge Vasquez does a better job of navigating the labyrinth of TEFRA to reach that conclusion in his opinion than I can in this short column. Nonetheless, this is an important decision in the field of TEFRA procedure and adds yet another layer of complexity to this already challenging area of the law.
Read the full opinion here:
Rawls, LP v. Commissioner, 138 T.C. No. 12 (2012)