January 15, 2013
[Note: Miller & Chevalier filed amicus briefs in this case on behalf of American Electric Power Co. in support of PPL in both the Third Circuit and the Supreme Court.]
The government has filed its response brief in the Supreme Court in PPL. The arguments in the brief do not closely track the analysis of the Third Circuit’s opinion. Indeed, the government pointedly distances itself from the Third Circuit’s heavy reliance on Treas. Reg. § 1.901-2(b)(3)(ii), Ex. 3. The Third Circuit had suggested that PPL’s position was foreclosed by Example 3, but the government’s Supreme Court brief suggests only that the example provides a “useful analogy,” while acknowledging that “the example is not directly applicable because it analyzes imputed gross receipts rather than actual gross receipts.” [See our prior observations on Example 3 here.]
Instead, the government’s brief asks the Supreme Court to accept the characterization of the U.K. Windfall Tax as “a tax on value,” rather than an income tax. According to the government, “[t]hat is so both because the U.K. government wrote it as a tax on value and because a company’s windfall tax liability is determined pursuant to a method of valuing property that is familiar to U.S. tax law,” where “it is common to calculate the value of property by taking into account the property’s ability to generate income.” The brief stops short of declaring that the label attached to the tax by Parliament is “determinative,” but asserts that “the ‘labels’ and ‘form’ that a foreign government uses to formulate a tax are relevant.”
PPL’s reply brief is due February 13, with oral argument scheduled for February 20.
January 7, 2013
Acting promptly after receiving the taxpayer’s response, the Sixth Circuit has denied the government’s petition for rehearing en banc in Quality Stores. Even though the government’s petition pointed to a direct circuit conflict and alleged tension with the Sixth Circuit’s own precedent (see our report here), the court’s order recites that no judge on the Sixth Circuit requested a vote on the petition.
The court’s order puts the ball back in the government’s court to decide whether to seek Supreme Court review. Given the conflict and the apparent importance of having a uniform nationwide rule, there is a significant possibility that the government will ask the Supreme Court to step in.
A petition for certiorari would be due on April 4.
January 4, 2013
[Note: Miller & Chevalier filed amicus briefs in this case on behalf of American Electric Power Co. in both the Third Circuit and the Supreme Court.]
The taxpayer has filed its opening brief in the Supreme Court in PPL Corp. v. Commissioner, No. 12-43, a foreign tax credit case that we have covered extensively on its journey to the Court. PPL’s brief heavily criticizes the formalism of the government’s position, stating that “the Commissioner would have the labels and form a foreign country employs, and not the substance of the tax it imposes, determine how the tax should be treated for purposes of U.S. tax law.” Once that formalistic approach is rejected, PPL argues, this becomes an “easy case” because “[t]here is no real dispute that the U.K. windfall tax is, in substance, an excess profits tax in the U.S. sense.”
Two other companies with current disputes regarding the creditability of the U.K windfall tax — Entergy Corp. and American Electric Power Co. — filed amicus briefs in support of PPL. The Entergy brief contains a detailed description of how the U.K. windfall tax came to be enacted in its particular form, and it states that the Third Circuit decision “disregards the real operation of the tax at issue.” The AEP brief contains a detailed description of the prior administrative treatment of excess profits taxes and argues that the operation and effect of the U.K. windfall tax is akin to that of a traditional U.S. excess profits tax that has always been regarded as creditable.
Another amicus brief was filed by the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce, the Cato Institute, and the Goldwater Institute. That brief criticizes the government’s position as “opportunistic and inconsistent with the government’s usual emphasis on substance over form.” Patrick Smith also filed an amicus brief focusing on the operation of the regulations.
The government’s brief in response is due January 14. Oral argument has been scheduled for February 20.
January 3, 2013
We previously reported on the Court of Federal Claims’ decision in Magma Power that allowed an interest netting claim when the taxpayer was a member of a consolidated group for one leg of the overlap period but not during the other leg. The government had argued that such a claim did not fall within the statutory language requiring that the overlapping interest payments involve the “same taxpayer.” The government filed a protective notice of appeal from the decision, but it has now voluntarily dismissed the appeal in the Federal Circuit. The Court of Federal Claims’ decision therefore will stand, and it is likely that the government will not contest future interest netting claims on this ground.