NUMBER OF THE WEEK: $156 Billion. The total of inbound cross-border acquisitions of U.S. firms since the U.S. Treasury announced its anti-inversion measures last fall. The latest figure reflects a $50 billion jump from last year’s total according to a news report from the Financial Times. Some of the biggest foreign buyers are from lower-tax jurisdictions such as Canada and Ireland. The United States’ 35-percent corporate tax rate remains the highest among industrialized nations.
Enzi and Durbin Introduce Online Sales Tax Legislation. Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have introduced an updated version of the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow states to collect online sales tax from out-of-state businesses. Similar to the 2013 Senate-passed bill (S.743), the 2015 bill ( S.698) has garnered early bipartisan support. Though full text of the bill is not yet available, the revised legislation may include a one-year delay in implementation and exemption for sales made during the fall/winter holidays for the first year.
It’s Budget Week! The House and Senate budget chairmen are unveiling and marking up their budget blueprints for fiscal year 2016 this week. There had been speculation about whether the GOP would include instructions for using the controversial budget procedure known as reconciliation in their budget resolutions to move comprehensive tax reform, but Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) recently dismissed such a move in public statements. Instead, it appears likely that reconciliation instructions will be vague enough to allow Republican lawmakers flexibility to dismantle and perhaps replace Obamacare depending on the outcome of King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court case challenging the legality of using Obamacare insurance tax credits for purchasing health coverage from the federal exchange.
We also expect the House and Senate budget resolutions to lack both specifics and revenue raisers (read: tax increases), the latter of which would go against the Republican ethos, despite the deep spending cuts that would be needed with no additional revenue to help balance the budget within 10 years (another Republican promise).
Just one problem: in order to use reconciliation down the road, the House and Senate must first agree on and pass budget resolutions. This will not be easy given the increasing divisions among factions of Republican lawmakers. But a shot at dismantling Obamacare could be just the carrot needed to unify Republicans.
Click here to view table.
IRS Issues Guidance for Wind Project PTC and Compressed Natural Gas. The Internal Revenue Service issued a three-page guidance allowing wind projects that are placed in service before Jan. 1, 2017 to qualify for the Production Tax Credit. The guidance updates all related deadlines given Congress’s approval for a one-year extension in last year’s extenders legislation. The IRS also released a memo providing for the definition of “compressed natural gas” (CNG) under section 6426 of the Code, which addresses credit for alternative fuel mixtures.
IRS Invites Public Comments on 2015-16 Priority Guidance Plan. The Internal Revenue Service and Treasury have asked the public to submit recommendations on items that should be included in the 2015-2016 Priority Guidance Plan. Each year the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury releases its Priority Guidance Plan to set priorities of issues to be addressed either in regulations, notices, revenue rulings, revenue procedures, and other means. It is their intention to address these issues from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. In determining which issues to address, the IRS will review whether the guidance would, among other things, resolve significant issues relevant to many taxpayers, promote sound tax administration, and reduce controversy and lessen taxpayer burdens. Comments are to be submitted by May 1, 2015.
All Things Inversion. As Treasury continues to look at ways of curbing inversion, the cash box rule has garnered the attention of the insurance industry. A few weeks back, we reported that insurance company industry groups requested that any anti-inversion regulations should address how the passive asset rules apply to insurers. Indeed, the Reinsurance Association of America has also submitted a letter asking for further clarification on the cash box rule. Essentially, the RAA is asking to treat exceptions for insurers and banks equally. Ernst & Young LLP and the Organization for International Investment, in separate letters, seek to expand the exception for insurers as well. The anticipated anti-inversions also face attack as some practitioners are questioning the legal authority. Treasury officials have claimed that such regulations are well within their authority pursuant to the Subpart F rules.
COURTS & LEISURE
Three-Card Monte . Italian tax officials are looking to collect $325 million from Pokerstars Inc., an online gaming company, alleging that the company underreported its earnings over a five-year period. Italian officials claim that Pokerstars incorrectly declared income on the Isle of Man and Malta, two jurisdictions with corporate tax rates that are lower than Italy. The significance of this case is the implications it has with regards to the digital economy because all income is generated online, which is suspect to base erosion and profit shifting. Moreover, the case will certainly draw the attention of how other high-profile companies, like Google Inc., Apple Inc., and Amazon Inc. are handled by Italy’s tax authorities.
Senate Finance Committee
The full committee holds a hearing on “Building a Competitive U.S. International Tax System” in 215 Dirksen. For the list of witnesses, click here. In advance of the hearing, the Joint Committee on Taxation has released a publication available here.
House Ways and Means Committee
The Human Resources Subcommittee holds a hearing on “Expanding Opportunity by Funding What Works: Using Evidence to Help Low-Income Individuals and Families Get Ahead” in B-318 Rayburn.
House Ways and Means Committee
The Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee holds a hearing on the burden of the estate tax on family businesses and farms in B-318 Rayburn.
House Appropriations Committee
The Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee holds a budget hearing on the Internal Revenue Service.
Joint Economic Committee
The full committee holds a hearing on the 2015 Economic Report of the President in 562 Dirksen at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Bloomberg BNA Webinar
Bloomberg hosts a webinar on “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure: A Brief Guide to the Various IRS’ Programs and Other Ways of Becoming (and Remaining) Tax Compliant. This webinar is of particular importance to tax practitioners with clients who have offshore financial accounts and/or assets, regardless of whether they are U.S. Citizens, Green Card Residents or just U.S. tax residents.
Bipartisan Policy Center
The BPC holds a discussion on “Starting to Save: Innovations for Working America.” Topics include Prize-Linked Savings accounts and the American Savings Promotion Act. The event will bring together two of the cosponsors of the bill and a panel of experts to discuss the promise of PLS, next steps to be taken, and other ways to help low and middle-income Americans save more.