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Tax Blawg

Tax Talk for Tax Pros

Introduction

Welcome to TaxBlawg, a resource 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 in Financial Products.

With the looming increase in tax rates on investment income and capital gains in particular, a large number of stock market investors have been selling long-term positions to lock in the 2012 rate, which currently tops out at 15%.  Come January 1,2013, gain on the same sale could be taxed at a rate as high as 23.8%, consisting of a long-term capital gains tax rate of 20% plus a Medicare surtax of 3.8% imposed on joint filers with AGI greater than $250,000 and single filers with AGI greater than $200,000.  (See Internal Revenue Code § 1411).

A question attracting attention as the year draws to a ...

Earlier this year, my former colleague Jonathan Prokup and I published an article in the Journal of Taxation and Regulation of Financial Institutions.  In the article, we considered the federal tax consequences of Treasury's capital purchase program – the centerpiece of TARP.  Under the program, Treasury invested several hundred billion dollars into hundreds of our country's banks to alleviate their perceived liquidity problems, which many believed to be the cause of the unfolding financial crisis.

Our article concluded that, even though most TARP instruments were nominally ...

Four years have passed since Congress enacted the Troubled Assets Relief Program, better known as TARP.  After Treasury determined that frozen credit markets were threatening the U.S. financial industry and even the entire economy, it asked Congress to authorize the purchase of illiquid mortgages from banks.  Congress obliged, authorizing Treasury to purchase up to $700 billion of these so-called “toxic assets.”

Soon after the enactment of TARP, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson changed course and decided that investing directly in the banks would better serve TARP’s ...

On December 9th, the IRS issued final regulations under Code section 881 that treat a disregarded entity as a person to determine whether a “financing arrangement” exists for purposes of applying the conduit financing regulations.  The finalized regulations may deny tax benefits otherwise available from U.S. tax treaties when a multi-party financing transaction is executed with a disregarded entity serving as an intermediary.

Code section 7701(l) permits the IRS to issue regulations that recharacterize a multi-party financing transaction (often referred to as a conduit ...

According to the Financial Times, companies around the world are preparing for the possibility of a breakup of the euro.  Given the currency devaluation that would likely occur in countries coming out of the euro, these companies are preparing for the impact that such an event would have on balance sheets (e.g., asset prices) and income statements (e.g., import costs).   (For additional FT coverage of the issue, see here.)

As we noted in the TaxBlawg a while back when the euro crisis was still focused primarily on Greece, a partial or complete breakup of the eurozone would give rise to a host ...

On Friday, the Treasury Department issued final regulations under Code section 1001 relating to the modification of debt instruments.  In relevant part, the regulation provides that, following the modification of a debt instrument, the classification of the modified instrument as debt or equity for federal income tax purposes does not take into account any deterioration in the financial condition of the obligor.  Treas. Reg. § 1.1001-3(f)(7)(ii)(A).

The only public comment on the proposed regulations noted that the existing regulation does not contain rules for determining ...

Times are tough, and many troubled companies are facing the need to modify debts that were issued when times were better (and the companies were financially much stronger).  For companies that wish to modify their debts, and for investors that hold those debts, federal tax law imposes an unfortunate limitation.  An outstanding debt that undergoes a “significant modification” is treated as having been exchanged for a new instrument with the modified terms.  See Treas. Reg. § 1.1001-3.  As a result, holders of the debt will generally be required to recognize gain or loss on the deemed exchange of the debt and, in some instances, the issuer may be forced to recognize income as well.  Thus, the question of whether a modification will result in a deemed exchange of the debt for federal income tax purposes has the potential to complicate, or even derail, potentially beneficial debt modifications.

Categories: Financial Products

You might recall our prior post on the Wyden-Gregg tax reform proposal in which we discussed the proposed limitation on corporate interest deductions.  To summarize, the legislation would limit the deductibility of payments on corporate debt to the amount of the interest in excess of the annual rate of inflation, thereby discouraging the use debt to finance corporate operations.

We previously asked: “Why use inflation as the index for disallowing interest deductions, rather than simply disallowing, say, a fixed portion of the interest deduction?”  Thanks to the efforts of Greg ...

In her column last Monday, Lee Sheppard criticized Judge Holmes of the Tax Court for, as she put it, “strain[ing] to find a reason to hold for the taxpayer” in the recent case of Container Corp. v. Comm’r, 134. T.C. No. 5.  (For our prior discussion of this case, see here.  For the text of the opinion, see here.)  According to Ms. Sheppard, Judge Holmes "appears to have assumed equitable powers in deciding" the case, and "the tax law is the worse for it."

The basic issue in Container Corp. was whether guarantee fees paid by a U.S. corporation to its Mexican parent in respect of a debt guarantee provided by the parent should be treated as U.S.-source income (and therefore subject to withholding tax on payment to the Mexican parent).  Because the rules for sourcing income don't address how guarantees are to be treated, the court framed its analysis as whether the guarantee fees were more like interest (which is sourced to the location of the borrower) or more like services (which are sourced to the location of the provider).

Ms. Sheppard excoriated Judge Holmes for even contemplating that a debt guarantee could be treated as a service.  To her, it "[s]ounds pretty obvious" that the parent corporation was simply protecting its investment in the subsidiary, not providing a service to the subsidiary.

We previously discussed how the Wyden-Gregg bill proposes reducing interest deductions to the extent the interest simply compensates for inflation.  Inflation affects tax calculations in two ways.  First, it affects the dollar figures in the Code so that, for example, when your wages keep up with inflation, but you are pushed into a higher tax bracket, the resulting “bracket creep” is caused by inflation.  Second, when the value of your investment simply keeps pace with inflation and does no better, you still recognize a “gain” when you sell it.  Here, the measurement of real income has been distorted by inflation.

Many “bracket creep” issues are taken care of through section 1(f) of the Code, which adjusts dollar amounts in the Code to account for inflation.  But the Code has not generally corrected for the effects of inflation on the measurement of income.  A proposal made by the Treasury after the 1984 election would have broadly attacked the effects of inflation on income measurement.

To see an example illustrating the two ways inflation affects tax calculations as well as further discussion of the 1984 Treasury proposals, keep reading.