Briefing Underway in Barnes as Second Circuit Considers Application of Step-Transaction Doctrine to Impose Dividend Treatment on Movement of Foreign Cash

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February 21, 2014

In Barnes Group v. Commissioner, the Tax Court (Goeke, J.) looked askance at the taxpayer’s strategy for minimizing the tax consequences of a movement of foreign cash to U.S. affiliates.  As the taxpayer explained it, its foreign subsidiary in Singapore had excess cash and borrowing capacity that Barnes wanted to use to finance international acquisitions.  For the time being, however, there was no suitable acquisition target, and the cash was earning only 3% in short-term deposit accounts while it could have been used more profitably in the U.S. to reduce Barnes’s expensive long-term debt.  Barnes hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to help … Read More

Fifth Circuit Upholds Penalties in NPR

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January 31, 2014

The Fifth Circuit has finally issued its opinion in NPR (as reflected in our prior coverage, this case was argued almost two years ago), a case involving a Son-of-BOSS tax shelter in which the district court absolved the taxpayers of penalties.  The taxpayers were not as fortunate on appeal, as the Fifth Circuit handed the government a complete victory.

The court’s consideration of the two issues before the court of broadest applicability were overtaken by events — specifically, the Supreme Court’s December 2013 decision in United States v. WoodsSee our report here.  In line with that … Read More

Ninth Circuit Sides with Government’s Interpretation of QAR Regulations in Bergmann

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January 16, 2014

That didn’t take long.  Less than two weeks after learning that the parties would not be mediating their dispute (see our previous report here), the Ninth Circuit issued a brief five-page unpublished opinion affirming the Bergmann case in favor of the government.  The court held that the time for filing a qualified amended return for an undisclosed listed transaction terminates when the promoter (here, KPMG) is first contacted by the IRS about examining the transaction, not when the IRS later determines the transaction is a tax shelter.

To recap the issue (see our original report here), … Read More

Ninth Circuit Refers Bergmann Case to Mediation After Oral Argument

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December 9, 2013

In a somewhat unusual move, the Ninth Circuit issued an order last week suggesting that the parties pursue mediation in the Bergmann case.  The order came two days after the court heard oral argument.  The order states that “the court believes this case may be appropriate for mediation” and therefore it is being referred to the Ninth Circuit’s Mediation Office.  A mediator will then contact the parties to determine their interest, but the parties are not required to elect mediation.  The Circuit Mediator is directed to report back to the panel by January 4.  In the meantime, the court will … Read More

Supreme Court Rules for Government on Both Issues in Woods

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December 3, 2013

The Supreme Court this morning ruled 9-0 in favor of the government on both issues in Woods, holding that:  (1) there is partnership-level TEFRA jurisdiction to consider the appropriateness of a penalty when the partnership is invalidated for lack of economic substance; and (2) the 40% valuation overstatement penalty can apply in that setting on the theory that the basis of a sham partnership is zero and therefore the taxpayers overstated their basis.  See our prior coverage here.  The opinion, authored by Justice Scalia, is concise and appears to resolve definitively both issues that had previously divided the … Read More

Supreme Court Struggles to Unravel TEFRA Jurisdiction in Woods Oral Argument

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October 11, 2013

The Supreme Court held oral argument in United States v. Woods on October 9.  As we have previously reported, the case presents two distinct questions:  (1) a TEFRA jurisdictional question concerning whether the court could determine the applicability of the valuation overstatement penalty in a partnership-level proceeding; and (2) the merits question whether the 40% penalty applied when the partnership was found not to have economic substance and therefore the basis claimed by the taxpayers in the partnership was not recognized.

Most of the argument time for both advocates was spent on the jurisdictional issue, as the Justices often … Read More

NPR Court Asks Parties for Additional Information on Jurisdictional Questions

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October 2, 2013

It has been almost two years since the Fifth Circuit heard oral argument in the NPR Investments case, which involves a “son-of-BOSS” tax shelter and associated questions regarding penalties and jurisdiction under TEFRA.  See our previous reports on the oral argument and describing the issues.  Last week, the court issued an order directing the parties to file short “letter briefs,” answering some specific questions involving TEFRA jurisdiction over penalties.  In particular, the court asked the parties to address how NPR compares to the Petaluma (D.C. Cir.) and Jade Trading (Fed. Cir.) cases in which the courts found a lack … Read More

Briefing Complete in Woods

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August 28, 2013

The government has filed its reply brief in the Supreme Court in Woods.  See our reports on the opening briefs here and here.  The discussion of the jurisdictional issue focuses less on the textual analysis set forth in the government’s opening brief and more on the policy implications of adopting the taxpayers’ position.  The government asserts that the taxpayers’ reading of the statute would effectively “negate Congress’s grant of authority to courts in partnership-level proceedings to determine the applicability of penalties.”

On the merits, the reply brief devotes most of its attention to responding to the taxpayers’ threshold … Read More

Taxpayers’ Brief Filed in Woods

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July 31, 2013

The taxpayers have filed their response brief in the Supreme Court in the Woods case, contending first that the courts lacked jurisdiction to impose the penalties requested by the IRS and, second, that, if jurisdiction exists, the Fifth Circuit correctly held that the valuation misstatement penalty could not be imposed.

On the jurisdictional point, the brief emphasizes the same basic point made by the courts that have questioned jurisdiction in similar partnership cases (see our previous report here) – namely, that the statute allows for partnership-level jurisdiction in a TEFRA proceeding only over a penalty that relates to adjustment … Read More

Supreme Court Briefing Underway in Woods on Penalty and TEFRA Issues

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June 5, 2013

The government has filed its opening brief in the Supreme Court in the Woods case, which involves whether the 40% gross valuation overstatement penalty applies in the context of a basis-inflating transaction held not to have economic substance.  See our earlier report here.

The government’s arguments on the question whether the penalty can be applied in these circumstances are similar to those discussed here previously and addressed in several court of appeals decisions.  It relies on the “plain text” of the statute, arguing that “[t]he word ‘attributable’ means ‘capable of being attributed’” and therefore a finding of lack of … Read More

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