Justia Corporate Compliance Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tax Law
by
After Hawk died, his wife, Nancy, decided to sell the family business, Holiday Bowl and made a deal with MidCoast, which claimed an interest in acquiring companies with corporate tax liabilities that it could set off against its net-operating losses. Holiday first sold its bowling alleys to Bowl New England, receiving $4.2 million in cash and generating about $1 million in federal taxes. Nancy and Billy’s estate then sold Holiday Bowl to MidCoast for about $3.4 million,"in essence exchanging one pile of cash for another minus the tax debt MidCoast agreed to pay." MidCoast never paid the taxes. The United States filed a transferee-liability action against Nancy and Hawk’s estate. The Tax Court ruled for the government. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the Hawks were transferees of a delinquent taxpayer under 26 U.S.C. 6901, and that Tennessee has adopted the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, which provides remedies to creditors (like the United States) when insolvent debtors fraudulently transfer assets to third parties. Holiday Bowl owed taxes. “Congress, with assistance from the courts, has constructed a formidable defense against taxpayer efforts to traffic in net operating losses and other corporate tax benefits.” View "Billy F. Hawk, Jr., GST Non-Exempt Marital Trust v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

by
Micrins Surgical went out of business in 2009, without paying all of its taxes. Eriem Surgical was incorporated the same day, purchased Micrins’ inventory, took over its office space, hired its employees, used its website and phone number, and pursued the same line of business, selling surgical instruments. Teitz, the president and 40% owner of Micrins, continued to play a leading role in Eriem, though its sole stockholder is Teitz’s wife. Eriem uses “Micrins” as a trademark. The IRS treated Eriem as a continuation of Micrins and collected almost $400,000 of Micrins’ taxes from Eriem’s bank accounts and receivables. Eriem filed wrongful levy suit, 26 U.S.C. 7426(a)(1). The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of the IRS, concluding that Eriem is a continuation of Micrins. The Supreme Court has never decided whether state or federal law governs corporate successorship when the dispute concerns debts to the national government; the Internal Revenue Code says nothing about corporate successorship. Illinois law uses a multi‐factor balancing standard to determine successorship. Rejecting an argument that the change in ownership should be dispositive, the court upheld the district court’s conclusion that Mrs. Teitz serves is proxy for her husband, so that there has not been a complete change of ownership. View "Eriem Surgical, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Internal Revenue Service denied Wells Fargo’s claims for refunds based on interest-netting under 26 U.S.C. 6621(d) between interest on tax underpayments and interest on tax overpayments. Section 6621(d) reads: To the extent that, for any period, interest is payable under subchapter A and allowable under subchapter B on equivalent underpayments and overpayments by the same taxpayer of tax imposed by this title, the net rate of interest under this section on such amounts shall be zero for such period. Absent an interest-netting provision , a taxpayer might make equivalent underpayments and overpayments yet owe the IRS interest because corporate taxpayers pay underpayment interest at a higher rate than the IRS pays overpayment interest. The Claims Court granted Wells Fargo partial summary judgment, finding that it satisfied the “same taxpayer” requirement, although the current embodiment of the company is the result of seven mergers. The companies involved in these mergers made tax underpayments and overpayments. The Federal Circuit identified three merger “situations” and concluded that two qualified for interest netting and one did not. The situations involved consideration of the whether the entities had separate identities at the time of the payments at issue and the amount of change in the entity’s identity as a result of the merger. View "Wells Fargo & Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
When the dude ranch owned by a closely held Wisconsin corporation was sold, the shareholders planned to liquidate, but the asset sale had produced a sizable capital ($1.8 million) gain and the corporation faced significant federal and state tax liability. Midcoast proposed an intricate tax-avoidance transaction that involved Midcoast purchasing shares for offset against bad debts and losses purchased from credit card companies, purportedly financing the purchases with a loan. The shareholders implemented the plan. The taxes were never paid. The IRS sought to hold the former shareholders responsible for the tax debt as transferees of the defunct corporation under 28 U.S.C. 6901 and Wisconsin law of fraudulent transfer and corporate dissolution. The tax court ruled in favor of the IRS. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing with the tax court that the substance of the transaction was a liquidation. Midcoast did not actually pay the shareholders for their stock; instead, each shareholder received a pro rata distribution of cash on hand— the proceeds of the asset sale—making them “transferees” as that term is broadly defined in section 6901(h). View "Dugan v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

by
Between 2008 and 2011, Viacom Inc. paid three senior executives more than $100 million in bonus or incentive compensation. Compensation exceeding $1 million paid by a corporation to senior executives is not normally deductible under federal tax law, but a corporate taxpayer may deduct an executive’s otherwise nondeductible compensation over $1 million if an independent committee its board of directors approves the compensation on the basis of objective performance standards and the compensation is “approved by a majority of the vote in a separate shareholder vote” before being paid. In 2007, a majority of Viacom’s voting shareholders approved such a plan. Shareholder Freedman sued, claiming that Viacom’s Board failed to comply with the terms of the Plan and that, instead of using quantitative performance measures, the Board partially based its awards on qualitative, subjective factors, destroying the basis for their tax deductibility. Freedman claimed that this caused the Board to award executives more than $36 million of excess compensation. The plan was reauthorized in 2012. The district court dismissed. The Third Circuit affirmed. With respect to his derivative claim, Freedman did not make a pre-suit demand to the Board or present sufficient allegations explaining why a demand would have been futile. With respect to his direct claim regarding participation by stockholders without voting rights, federal law does not confer voting rights on shareholders not otherwise authorized to vote or affect Delaware law permit ting corporations to issue shares without voting rights. View "Freedman v. Redstone" on Justia Law

by
This case involved shareholders who owned stock in a C Corporation, which in turn held appreciated property. Commissioner appealed the district court's holding that Diebold could not be held liable as a transferee of a transferee under 26 U.S.C. 6901. The court concluded that the standard of review for mixed questions of law and fact in a case on review from the Tax Court was the same as that for a case on review after a bench trial from the district court: de novo to the extent that the alleged error was in the misunderstanding of a legal standard and clear error to the extent the alleged error was in a factual determination. On the merits, the court held that the two requirements of 26 U.S.C. 6901 were separate and independent inquiries, one procedural and governed by federal law, and the other substantive and governed by state law; under the applicable state statute, the series of transactions at issue collapsed based upon the constructive knowledge of the parties involved; and the court vacated the Tax Court's decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "Diebold Foundation, Inc. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner challenged the IRS's determination that the gross income petitioners reported in 2003 and 2004 based on their ownership of a controlled foreign corporation should have been taxed at the rate of petitioners' ordinary income rather than the lower tax rate they had claimed. At issue was whether amounts included in petitioners' gross income for 2003 and 2004 pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 951(a)(1)(B) and 956 (collectively, "section 951 inclusions") constituted qualified dividend income under 26 U.S.C. 1(h)(11). The court concluded that section 951 inclusions did not constitute actual dividends because actual dividends required a distribution by a corporation and receipt by a shareholder and these section 951 inclusions involved no distribution or change in ownership; Congress clearly did not intend to deem as dividends the section 951 inclusions at issue here; and petitioners' reliance on other non-binding sources were unavailing. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the tax court. View "Rodriguez, et al. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, president and owner of WestCorp, sued the government for a refund of an IRS tax penalty that he paid. At issue was the treatment of admittedly incomplete payments WestCorp made from 2000-2001. To maximize its recovery, the IRS applied those payments first toward WestCorp's non-trust fund taxes rather than dividing the payments proportionally between WestCorp's trust fund and non-trust fund taxes. The court agreed with the district court that the undisputed facts show, as a matter of law, that plaintiff willfully failed to pay the trust fund taxes at issue; the court also agreed with the district court that the IRS properly allocated the undesignated payments at issue; and the court rejected plaintiff's contention that the IRS should nonetheless have applied at least part of the undesignated payments toward WestCorp's trust fund obligations. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Westerman v. United States" on Justia Law

by
This appeal arose from eleven notices of final partnership administrative adjustment (FPAAs) issued by the IRS with respect to three Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) treated as partnerships for tax purposes. The IRS claimed that the partnerships' transactions provided one partner with an illegal tax shelter to avoid taxes on his unrelated personal capital gain of the same approximate amount. The court affirmed the district court's determinations that (1) the FOCus transactions lacked economic substance and must be disregarded for tax purposes; (2) the negligence penalty was applicable and the partnerships were not entitled to the reasonable cause defense; and (3) the valuation misstatement penalty was inapplicable. The court vacated and rendered judgment for plaintiffs as to the remaining claims addressing the FPAAs premised on the government's alternative theory under Treasury Regulation 1.701-2 and the district court's approval of the alternative substantial understatement penalty. View "Nevada Partners Fund, et al. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
BDI elected under I.R.C. 1362(a) to be treated as an S-corporation, not subject to federal taxation because its profits and losses passed through to Barden, its sole shareholder. MSC owns the Majestic Star Casino and Hotel. BDI acquired MSC in 2005. BDI elected to treat MSC as a QSub (I.R.C. 1361(b)(3)(B), not as a separate tax entity. MSC, therefore, paid no federal taxes. In 2009, MSC and its affiliates filed voluntary bankruptcy petitions. Barden and BDI were not debtors. After the petition, Barden caused revocation of BDI’s status as an S-corporation; MSC’s QSub status automatically terminated because it was no longer wholly owned by an S-corp. Neither BDI nor Barden sought authorization from the debtors or from the Bankruptcy Court. MSC allegedly was unaware that it had a new obligation to pay income taxes. As of first date federal taxes would have been due, the debtors had paid no federal income taxes. The Bankruptcy Court permitted conversion of MSC to a limited liability company, so that MSC would no longer qualify for QSub status, even if the Revocation had not occurred. The debtors sought to avoid the Revocation, which, they alleged, caused an unlawful post-petition transfer of property. The Bankruptcy Court granted summary judgment to the debtors. The Third Circuit vacated and directed that the petition be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. View "In Re:Majestic Star Casino LLC" on Justia Law