After Altera’s victory in Tax Court in 2015,[1] many companies with cost sharing arrangements (“CSA”) ceased sharing stock-based compensation (“SBC”) costs. To address the possibility of a reversal on appeal, many of these companies added reverse claw-back provisions to their CSAs. Under these provisions, in the year a reversal of Altera becomes final, the US participant typically “claws back” from the foreign participants the amount of SBC costs not shared in prior years (the “claw-back true-up”). The effect is a large inclusion of SBC costs into the US participant’s income in the year the reversal becomes final.

These reverse claw-back provisions were revisited by companies in 2019, when the Ninth Circuit reversed the Tax Court, and in 2020, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Altera’s appeal.[2] Companies were concerned about whether the IRS would respect the provisions or insist that adjustments be made year-by-year. Should taxpayers report the claw-back amount in 2020, or amend prior year returns to include the SBC costs in the cost pool for each open year, or modify the CSA to defer or cancel the payment pending IRS guidance? On July 13, 2021, the IRS provided guidance on these questions, in the form of a Chief Counsel Memorandum, AM-2021-004 (the “CCM”).


Continue Reading IRS Memo on 482 Adjustments for CSAs with Reverse Claw-Back Provisions

In the dawn years of transfer pricing, when the bulk of international trade focused on tangible goods, relatively little attention was devoted to the analysis of transactions involving services.  The 1968 U.S. Treasury Regulations governing intercompany services focused on the allocation and apportionment of costs with respect to services undertaken for the benefit of the related parties, roughly in line with the current Services Cost Method, and provided a high level discussion of the services that were an integral part of the business activity of a member of a controlled group without elaborating on the methods to be used to test compliance with the arm’s length standard (Section 1.482-2(b) (1968)).  In the 1995 Transfer Pricing Guidelines from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”), the analysis of pricing of intracompany services occupied a mere 15 pages.  In the mid-2000s, there was a renewed focus on the pricing of intercompany services.  First to the stage were the U.S. Treasury Regulations in Section 1.482-9 promulgated in August of 2009, followed by several International Practice Units in 2014 through 2017, and then by the OECD with a revised Chapter VII in the 2017 OECD Guidelines.  The increased attention is not surprising:  over the last 20 years, from 1999 to 2019, the growth of trade in services far outpaced that of tangible goods (215% vs 137% for exports and 199% vs 143% for imports), with particularly robust performance in maintenance and repair, financial, and business services.
Continue Reading Intercompany Services: The Next Frontier of Transfer Pricing Disputes

In February 2021, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) issued a handbook linked with the official roll-out of its International Compliance Assurance Programme (“ICAP”). ICAP was first  introduced as a pilot in January 2018 (“ICAP 1.0”) as a voluntary program where MNE groups may receive “comfort and assurance” from multiple tax administrations as to the veracity of the MNE group’s transfer pricing allocations and numerous types of international transactions. While some notable countries did not participate in ICAP 1.0 (for example, Germany), the pilot program received positive reviews by a number of MNE groups. In March 2020, the OECD enhanced the pilot program (“ICAP 2.0”) to encourage more countries to join. On March 22, 2021, the OECD announced an initial list of twenty countries that are participating in the official program.[1]

Continue Reading ICAP, a New Tool in the Multiverse of Multinational Tax Dispute Management

In the U.S., transfer pricing benchmarking under the Comparable Profits Method (“CPM”) or Transactional Net Margin Method (“TNMM”) depends on the availability of public company financial data. In recent years, the decreasing number of U.S. listed and non-exchange traded companies has made this benchmarking more challenging, not only due to the smaller population from which the comparable can be selected: Many of the remaining listed and non-exchange traded companies are either large companies that own intangibles or small companies that often operate at a loss. This trend should prompt transfer pricing practitioners to consider new, creative approaches in selecting comparable companies for purposes of CPM/TNMM, and in appropriate cases, to re-consider transactional or other methods that do not rely on publicly available profitability data. Further, an APA might now be a prudent choice to obtain certainty, even if APAs had not been considered necessary or worthwhile from a cost-benefit perspective in the past to mitigate tax risk.

Continue Reading The Vanishing U.S. Comparable

Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (“TCJA”), the appeal of cost sharing was driven largely by the deferral of U.S. taxation on foreign earnings. Now that excess foreign returns are currently taxable as “global intangible low-taxed income” (“GILTI”), cost sharing is attractive mostly to corporate taxpayers that have decided to continue

The parties recently completed briefing on an IRS motion for partial summary judgment in Western Digital Corporation v. Commissioner. The motion asks the US Tax Court to hold that a safe harbor in the Section 482 regulations is not relevant to whether intercompany receivable terms are “ordinary and necessary” under a provision in Subpart F. In our view, the motion is an unusual attempt to bar the taxpayer from making a well-founded legal argument in a case that is over a year away from trial.

Continue Reading IRS Seeks to Bar Transfer Pricing Argument in Western Digital

Last week, the IRS issued new guidance that addresses “telescoping” in mutual agreement procedure (“MAP”) and advance pricing agreement (“APA”) cases. Very generally, the guidance disallows (subject to a $10 million materiality exception) telescoping for tax years starting in 2018, when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) came into effect, while continuing to allow telescoping for pre-2018 years in appropriate cases. According to the IRS’s Advance Pricing and Mutual Agreement (“APMA”) program, the new guidance was needed to address the impact of the TCJA “and its many interlocking provisions that require careful determination (and redetermination, as needed) of a U.S. taxpayer’s taxable income and tax attributes.” The new guidance has the potential to drive up compliance costs by increasing the number of tax returns that taxpayers must file to resolve MAP and APA resolutions for post-TCJA years (and resolutions spanning both pre- and post-TCJA years).

Continue Reading Telescoping into the Void

Hold on a second. Cost sharing is a tax shelter? For over five decades, cost sharing has been a transfer pricing structure endorsed by Congress, regulated by Treasury and the OECD, agreed to by the IRS and foreign tax authorities alike, and widely embraced by taxpayers. How can it be a “tax shelter”? And yet that is precisely the headline from a recent district court decision in the Western District of Washington.

How did this happen? Is it right? And should we, as taxpayers, be worried about the reach of this holding somehow expanding to other tried-and-true vehicles similarly embraced by the tax law?
Continue Reading Cost Sharing Is a Tax Shelter Now. Wait, What?

On September 1, 2020, the IRS issued final regulations regarding the base erosion and anti-abuse tax (“BEAT”) codified in IRC §59A. These regulations finalize the proposed BEAT regulations published on December 6, 2019 with certain refinements. Among other guidance, the final BEAT regulations provide detailed rules that allow corporate taxpayers to waive deductions for purposes of BEAT. Although waiving deductions will likely result in additional tax costs, the waiver election may be an easier and less costly solution than the alternative of making substantive business model or supply chain changes to mitigate BEAT.

Continue Reading Waiving BEAT Deductions – The Smart Election for Multinational Taxpayers?

In May, the IRS asserted $340 million in transfer pricing penalties in Western Digital Corporation v. Commissioner. If the IRS prevails, these would appear to be the largest transfer pricing penalties sustained in US Tax Court history.

The penalties are notable not only for their amount, but also for the way the IRS raised them. The IRS did not apply penalties in its notices of deficiency or in its initial Tax Court pleadings. Instead, the IRS asserted the penalties in amended pleadings over a year after the case began.
Continue Reading IRS Asserts Big-Ticket Transfer Pricing Penalties in Western Digital