Tag: Taxation

Securing Our Nation’s Economic Future

Leo E. Strine, Jr. is Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, the Austin Wakeman Scott Lecturer on Law and a Senior Fellow of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance. This post is based on Chief Justice Strine’s recent keynote address to the Fellows Colloquium of the American College of Governance Counsel, available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang (discussed on the Forum here), The Myth that Insulating Boards Serves Long-Term Value by Lucian Bebchuk (discussed on the Forum here), and Can We Do Better by Ordinary Investors? A Pragmatic Reaction to the Dueling Ideological Mythologists of Corporate Law, by Leo E. Strine (discussed on the Forum here).

These days it has become fashionable to talk about a subject some of us have been addressing for some time: [1] whether the incentive system for the governance of American corporations optimally encourages long-term investment, sustainable policies, and therefore creates the most long-term economic and social benefit for American workers and investors. Many commentators have come to the conclusion that the answer to that question is no. They bemoan the pressures that can lead corporate managers to quick fixes like offshoring, which might give a balance sheet a short-term benefit, but cut our nation’s long-term prospects. They lament the relative tilt in corporate spending toward stock buybacks and away from spending on capital expenditures. They look at situations where corporations took environmental or other regulatory short-cuts, which ended up in disaster, and ask whether anyone is thinking about sustainable approaches. They rightly point to the accounting gimmickry involved in several high-profile debacles and ask what it has to do with the creation of long-term wealth for human investors.


Treasury Seeks to Curb “Cash-Rich” and
REIT Spin-Offs

Jodi J. Schwartz and Joshua M. Holmes are partners at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum by Ms. Schwartz, Mr. Holmes, and David B. Sturgeon.

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have announced (in Notice 2015-59) that they are studying issues related to the qualification of certain corporate distributions as tax-free under Section 355 of the Internal Revenue Code in situations involving substantial investment assets, reliance on relatively small active businesses, and REIT conversions. The IRS concurrently issued related guidance (Rev. Proc. 2015-43), adding such transactions to its ever-expanding list of areas on which it will not issue private letter rulings. While this expansion of the IRS’s “no-rule” areas is not a statement of substantive law, these announcements may have a chilling effect on certain pending and proposed transactions.


Proposed Regulations May Affect Fee Waivers

David I. Shapiro is a is a tax partner resident at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. This post is based on a Fried Frank publication authored by Mr. Shapiro, Michelle GoldBrian Kniesly, and Christopher Roman.

The Department of the Treasury and the IRS have issued proposed regulations regarding “disguised payments for services” under Section 707(a)(2)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code. The proposed regulations appear to be primarily focused on management fee waivers (and similar arrangements), but could also affect certain aspects of the tax treatment of carried interest.

Management fee waivers are a planning technique seen mostly in the private equity fund industry, where a fund manager waives a share of its management fee in exchange for a share of future profits (that is separate from any carried interest otherwise payable), often in amounts that are intended to replicate the foregone management fees. Management fee waivers are generally intended to achieve certain benefits, including deferring the receipt of taxable income by the fund sponsor, allowing the fund sponsor to meet its capital commitment to a fund on a non-cash basis, and providing for potentially more favorable tax rates applicable to individuals (i.e., if the underlying share of profits is comprised of long-term capital gain). Management fee waivers have been utilized in different forms, over many years, including arrangements which effectively amount to a package of a higher carried interest and a lower management fee, as well as arrangements which are structured as annual elective waivers. Different arrangements vary in the manner and priority in which waived amounts are paid out of future partnership profit.


IRS Releases Final Regulations Under Section 162(m)

The following post comes to us from Edmond T. FitzGerald, partner and head of the Executive Compensation Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum by Kyoko Takahashi Lin.

On March 31, 2015, the Internal Revenue Service published final regulations under Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code. As it did when it proposed these regulations in 2011, the IRS has indicated that these regulations are not intended to reflect substantive changes to existing requirements of Section 162(m), but rather to clarify them.

The final regulations clarify two requirements for exceptions from the Section 162(m) tax deductibility limit:

  • the need for per-employee limits on equity awards in order to qualify stock options and stock appreciation rights (SARs) for the “qualified performance-based compensation” exception; and
  • the treatment of restricted stock units (RSUs) or phantom stock arrangements under the transition period exception for certain compensation “paid” by newly public companies.


A Smarter Way to Tax Big Banks

Mark Roe is the David Berg Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches bankruptcy and corporate law. This post is based on an op-ed by Professor Roe and Michael Tröge that was published today in The Wall Street Journal, which can be found here.

In conjunction with his State of the Union address, President Obama reanimated the idea of taxing big banks’ debts to help stabilize the banking industry and prevent future financial crises. The administration argues that the new tax would discourage banks from taking on too much risk by making it “more costly for the biggest financial firms to finance their activities with excessive borrowing.”

The president’s bank-tax proposal is unlikely to gain traction in the new Congress, just as similar proposals from the administration in 2010 and, last year from the now retired Rep. David Camp (R., Mich.), did not move forward. But even if it became law, it wouldn’t put a sizable dent in bank debt. The reason is simple: The existing tax system strongly encourages debt finance and the proposed new tax will not fundamentally change this.


M&A Communications Challenges Posed by Tax Inversion Deals

Charles Nathan is partner and head of the Corporate Governance Practice at RLM Finsbury. This post is based on an RLM Finsbury commentary by Mr. Nathan and Kal Goldberg.

Tax inversion deals are clearly the most talked about M&A deal structure we have seen for many years. Unlike other hot-topic M&A deal structures (think LBOs or activist investor campaigns), inversions involve a highly charged political controversy in the context of the global competitiveness of corporations and their home economies. Although the recent Treasury Department rules have significantly or, in some cases, fatally crimped the economics of some previously announced inversions, many tax advantages of inversions remain. As a result, the structure retains its appeal for a number of cross-border acquisitions by U.S. companies and will likely continue to create business and political headlines in the U.S. and abroad.

Depending on the friendly or hostile nature of the deal, the parties’ home countries and the constituencies being addressed, tax inversion can be a plus to be celebrated, a minus to be exploited or, all too often, a combination of both. The many facets of inversion deals and their shifting nature create far more complicated communications challenges than any other type of M&A deal structure.


Public Pressure and Corporate Tax Behavior

The following post comes to us from Scott Dyreng of the Accounting Area at Duke University, Jeffrey Hoopes of the Department of Accounting & Management Information Systems at Ohio State University, and Jaron Wilde of the Department of Accounting at the University of Iowa.

In our paper, Public Pressure and Corporate Tax Behavior, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether public scrutiny related to firms’ tax avoidance activities has a significant effect on their tax avoidance behavior. In contrast to U.S. regulations that only require disclosure of significant subsidiaries, the U.K.’s Companies Act of 2006 (“Companies Act”) requires firms to disclose the name and location of all subsidiaries, regardless of size or materiality. Although the U.K. law went into effect in 2006, in 2010, ActionAid International, a global non-profit dedicated to ending poverty worldwide, discovered that approximately half of the firms in the FTSE 100 were not disclosing the name and location of all subsidiaries. ActionAid’s finding was prima facie evidence that the Companies House was not enforcing the subsidiaries disclosure requirement. More importantly, the fact that some firms chose not to comply with the law suggests that the cost of disclosing detailed information on subsidiaries was greater than the benefit of a more complete information environment for the non-compliant firms.


Treasury Department Seeks to Curb Inversion Transactions

The following post comes to us from Jodi J. Schwartz, partner in the Tax Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Ms. Schwartz and Michael Sabbah.

Yesterday [September 22, 2014], the Treasury Department and the IRS announced their intention to issue regulations (the “Regulations”) to limit the economic benefits of so-called “inversion” transactions in the absence of Congressional action. The Regulations, once issued, will generally apply to transactions completed on or after September 22, 2014. (Notice 2014-52, Rules Regarding Inversions and Related Transactions.)


The Legal and Practical Implications of Retroactive Legislation Targeting Inversions

The following post comes to us from Jason M. Halper, partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and is based on an Orrick publication authored by Mr. Halper, Peter J. Connors, David Keenan, and Carrie H. Lebigre. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

The increasing use of corporate inversions, whereby a company via merger achieves 20 percent or more new ownership, claims non-US residence, and is then permitted to adopt that country’s lower corporate tax structure and take advantage of tax base reduction techniques, has been the subject of intense media commentary and political attention. That is perhaps not surprising given the numbers: there was approximately one inversion in 2010, four in each of 2011 and 2012, six in 2013 and sixteen signed or consummated this year to date—or more than in all other years combined. And, the threat of anti-inversion legislation appears only to be hastening the pace at which companies are contemplating such transactions.


Senator Schumer’s Anti-Inversion Bill

The following post comes to us from Neil Barr, partner and co-head of the Tax Department at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum by Mr. Barr, Rachel D. Kleinberg, and Michael Mollerus.

A draft of the bill that is being considered by Senator Schumer (D-NY) to reduce some of the economic incentives for corporate inversions was made publicly available yesterday. Senator Schumer has indicated that, while the proposed bill is still the subject of discussion and is subject to change, he intends to introduce the bill into the Senate this week. The following is a summary of the provisions in the proposed bill as it currently stands.


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