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

In the context of a Cost Sharing Arrangement (“CSA”), Treas. Reg. §1.482-7(c)(1) defines a platform contribution (“PCT”) to be “any resource, capability, or right that a controlled participant has developed, maintained, or acquired externally to the intangible development activity (whether prior to or during the course of the CSA) that is reasonably anticipated to contribute to developing cost shared intangibles.” Treas. Reg. §1.482-7(g)(2)(viii) defines subsequent PCTs as those whose date occurs subsequent to the inception of the CSA. Treas. Reg. §1.482-7(g)(1) explains that “a value for the compensation obligation of each PCT Payor” has to be “consistent with the product of the combined pre-tax value to all controlled participants of the platform contribution that is the subject of the PCT and the PCT Payor’s RAB share.” Treas. Reg. §1.482-7(e)(1)(i) notes further that “RAB shares must be updated to account for changes in economic conditions, the business operations and practices of the participants, and the ongoing development of intangibles under the CSA.”

While requiring that the RAB shares be updated, the regulations provide little guidance as to how this is to be accomplished. In particular, the regulations do not specify whether the Payors’ obligations with regard to the prior PCT and the subsequent PCT should be calculated on a combined basis, or whether separate RAB shares, and separate PCT obligations, are appropriate. Whether a combined or separate RAB share will be more appropriate after any subsequent PCT will therefore depend on facts and circumstances of the specific PCTs contributed to the CSA over the life of the CSA.


Continue Reading Calculating RAB Shares Following Additional Platform Contributions

The IRS recently released informal guidance in the form of “Frequently Asked Questions” discussing its “observations of best practices and common mistakes in preparing transfer pricing documentation” under section 6662. Particularly right now, as many taxpayers find themselves in the throes of drafting and updating annual transfer pricing documentation reports, a review of these FAQs can provide critical insights into the IRS’s thinking that may improve the efficiency of future audits.

Continue Reading New IRS FAQs on Section 6662 Transfer Pricing Documentation Discuss Best Practices

COVID-19 has made force majeure a hot topic in transfer pricing. The idea is that the pandemic was an unexpected development of such power, like a natural disaster, that transfer pricing agreements can be changed to reflect the changed economics of a changed world.

But is there any case authority to support this approach? In fact there is, from one of the largest US transfer pricing cases of the 1990s.


Continue Reading “Mutual Dependence”: Authority for Force Majeure in Transfer Pricing