Tax Controversy Posts covered a number of interesting developments in 2017. The five most popular included a tax shelter case, a look at a particularly disastrous exempt organization audit, an Affordable Care Act case, and two transferee cases. They are linked below.
My personal favorite is #4, where the Ninth Circuit held that a bankruptcy trustee could use one of the favorite tools of the IRS, transferee liability, to recoup tax payments made by the debtor.
#1. Tax Shelters: The Government Prevails Against Santander
The IRS and the Tax Division of the Department of Justice have expended significant effort fighting tax shelters, and they have enjoyed many successes in that endeavor. … Read More
Aggressive tax planning can be bad, as it can come back to haunt you. Aggressive tax planning that is obvious is worse, as the taxpayer can be left to defend an indefensible position.
Robert Smith learned the hard way: In June 2009, Smith sold his company, National Coupling, and retired; he received a $600,000 bonus, $248,246 from the sale of his stock, and $181,170 from two life insurance policies that his company had owned. Smith v. Comm’r, No. 21707-15, T.C. Memo 2017-218, 2017 Tax Ct. Memo LEXIS 217, **3 (Nov. 6, 2017). Mr. Smith expected to receive patent rights to a sprinkler design as well, but that was not addressed in the sale documents.… Read More
On September 15, 2017, the latest chapter in the Wells Fargo/STARS saga came to an end: Having earlier lost its claim for foreign tax credits associated with the STARS transaction, Wells Fargo’s alternative argument that it could deduct the foreign taxes it paid was also rejected. Wells Fargo & Co. v. United States, No. 09-CV-2764 (PJS/TNL), 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150064 (D. Minn. Sept. 15, 2017).
To summarize, STARS was a complex arrangement between Wells Fargo and a foreign bank comprised of two components: A trust structure in which income-producing assets were exposed to tax in the United Kingdom to generate foreign tax credits, and a loan to Wells Fargo.… Read More
The litigation over Wells Fargo’s STARS transaction took another interesting turn last week, as the district court had to rule on the legal implications of the jury’s verdict. Wells Fargo & Co. v. United States, No. 09-CV-2764 (PJS/TNL), 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80401 (D. Minn. May 24, 2017). The litigation focused on whether STARS was a sham transaction that should not be respected for tax purposes because it lacked economic substance.
STARS, an acronym for Structured Trust Advantaged Repackaged Securities, was a transaction promoted to U.S. banks by a British financial-services company. Under this arrangement, Wells Fargo placed assets in a trust managed by a trustee based in the United Kingdom, making the assets subject to U.K.… Read More
The Internal Revenue Code provides a deduction for a qualified conservation contribution, such as an easement or an outright donation of property for conservation purposes. See I.R.C. § 170(f)(3)(B)(iii) (providing deduction for a qualified conservation contribution). There are a variety of technical requirements in place that determine whether a particular contribution of property falls within section 170(f)(3)(B)(iii). See I.R.C. § 170(h) (describing requirements for deductible donation). The government has been fairly aggressive in pursuing litigation over the requirements for a deduction. See, e.g., Mitchell v. Comm’r, 775 F.3d 1243 (10th Cir. 2015); Carroll v. Comm’r, 146 T.C. 196 (2016).… Read More
Not all federal tax assessments are subject to the Tax Court’s jurisdiction, which means that in some cases the taxpayer is left with a refund claim as the sole source of judicial review. Full payment of the disputed tax assessment is a jurisdictional prerequisite for a refund claim. Flora v. United States, 362 U.S. 145, 150-51 (1960). There is a limited exception to this requirement: If a tax is divisible, then a payment of the tax for one or more individual transactions will suffice to establish jurisdiction. See, e.g., Psaty v. United States, 442 F.2d 1154, 1159 (3d Cir.… Read More
The IRS and the Tax Division of the Department of Justice have expended significant effort fighting tax shelters, and they have enjoyed many successes in that endeavor. One transaction that the government challenged was known as “STARS,” an acronym for Structured Trust Advantaged Repackaged Securities. STARS was a transaction that Barclays promoted to a number of U.S. banks; it gave Barclays tax benefits in the United Kingdom, while the U.S. counterparties claimed significant foreign tax credits with minimal risk.
The IRS and the Tax Division pursued a series of cases attacking the STARS transaction as a tax shelter. Deploying the economic substance doctrine, the government obtained favorable rulings in two cases:
- In Bank of New York Mellon Corp.
… Read More
An idea may be more powerful than the IRS, which recently lost a forty million dollar penalty case because a bankruptcy judge concluded that it takes more than an idea to have a tax shelter. In re Canada, No. 15-33757-BJH, 2016 Bankr. LEXIS 2234 (Bankr. N.D. Tex. June 7, 2016).
Canada involved penalties under the old version of Section 6707 of the Internal Revenue Code, I.R.C. § 6707 (1998). The penalties were assessed against William Canada, the taxpayer, on the theory that he had participated in the sale or management of an unregistered tax shelter in violation of the historical version of Section 6111, I.R.C.… Read More
The federal government has committed significant resources to battling tax shelters and has enjoyed some significant successes. Last week, however, the government stumbled in a foreign currency shelter case, Wright v. Comm’r, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 126 (6th Cir. Jan. 7, 2016). Wright involved a “major-minor” arrangement, which uses offsetting foreign currency options in conjunction with the mark-to-market rules of Section 1256 of the Internal Revenue Code to create tax losses. These transactions are labeled “major-minor” because one of the options involves a “major” currency, meaning there is regulated futures trading for that currency, while the other involves a “minor” currency that is not the subject of regulated futures trading.… Read More
This post continues our coverage of basket option contracts, which were recently designated as listed transactions. See Notice 2015-73, 2015-46 I.R.B. 660 (Nov. 16, 2015). As discussed, the IRS designated these contracts as listed transactions because it is concerned that the basket option contract has been used by taxpayers to defer the recognition of income and to convert ordinary income and short-term capital gain or loss into long-term capital gain or loss. 2015-46 I.R.B. at 661.
A recent Chief Counsel Advice Memorandum offers further insight into the arguments that the IRS will likely offer in challenging the tax treatment of these transactions.… Read More