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Tax Blawg

Tax Talk Blog for Tax Pros

Introduction

Welcome to TaxBlawg, a blog resource from Chamberlain Hrdlicka for news and analysis of current legal issues facing tax practitioners. Although blawg.com identifies nearly 1,400 active “blawgs,” including 20+ blawgs related to taxation and estate planning, the needs of tax professionals have received surprisingly little attention.

The Wall Street Journal's Tax Blog gives “tips and advice for filers,” and Paul Caron’s legendary TaxProf Blog is an excellent clearinghouse for academic and policy-oriented news. Yet, tax practitioners still lack a dedicated resource to call their own. For those intrepid souls, we offer TaxBlawg, a forum of tax talk for tax pros.

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Posts from June 2011.

As Tax Blawg readers know, after the Supreme Court’s Mayo decision adopted the deferential Chevron standard for determining the validity of Treasury regulations (instead of the less deferential National Muffler standard that taxpayers preferred), taxpayers and practitioners have speculated that seeking to invalidate a regulation may be a fool’s errand.   Since Mayo, many of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (but not all) have shown a proclivity towards deference.  Extrapolating from these precedents, on the heels of the Mayo decision, it appears that the pendulum has swung ...

The Third Circuit yesterday issued a harshly worded rebuke to the taxpayer in Merck v. United States, No. 10-2775 (Jun. 20, 2011), affirming the District Court’s decision that the taxpayer’s swap-and-assign transaction was really a disguised loan that gave rise to Subpart F income.  (See TaxProfBlog for a link to the opinion.)

Described briefly, the transactions at issue involved a U.S. company that entered into interest rate swap contracts with a foreign bank.  The company then assigned its right to receive payments under the swaps to foreign subsidiaries in exchange for ...

TaxBlawg’s Guest Commentator, David L. Bernard, is the former Vice President of Taxes for Kimberly-Clark Corporation, a past president of the Tax Executives Institute, and a periodic contributor to TaxBlawg.

My last blog post suggested that the best defense against transfer pricing assessments is the adoption of a globally consistent transfer pricing policy supported by appropriate documentation. Near the conclusion of that post, I noted that the Competent Authority (CA) process and Advance Pricing Agreements (“APAs”) were tools that could be employed if your company faced transfer pricing adjustments.

Although the goal of your transfer pricing policy and related documentation is to manage risk and avoid tax assessments, the nature of the beast is such that there is no precise price one can pinpoint in transfer pricing matters that can completely eliminate the risk of a tax authority’s challenge. Rather, there is usually a range of potential prices that may be appropriate. A tax authority may be inclined to pick a price at the end of the range most favorable to its country from a revenue perspective, leaving the Chief Tax Officer (CTO) to consider a menu of potential remedies, including administrative appeals, litigation, APAs, or perhaps a request for CA assistance.

In the last two weeks, various news sources have reported on a previously low-profile IRS initiative to use state land-transfer records to identify potential omissions in reporting gifts of real estate.  (Via TaxProf here and the WSJ here.)  According to the reports, the IRS is using information received from at least 16 states to identify transfers of real estate the value of which exceeded the $13,000 threshold for filing a gift tax return.  As a result, the IRS is pursuing taxpayers who made such transfers but failed to file returns.

Although this particular example of the IRS building an enforcement case through the use of non-tax sources targets individuals, corporate tax professionals should not rest too easily.  Most corporate taxpayers might not be engaged in such outright noncompliance as failing to file returns.  Nevertheless, the volume of non-tax information that is available in the public domain - especially for large, public companies - poses  potentially analogous risks to corporate taxpayers  for the positions taken on their tax returns. Beyond the traditional sources of non-tax information, such as SEC filings and court documents, news articles and press releases proliferate over the Internet.  Likewise, companies may face a new potential source of trouble in the proliferation of social networking sites.  From LinkedIn resumes to Facebook profiles, information that reflects upon a company grows by the day.

Categories: Audit, Corporate