IRS Notice 2014-52 Regarding Inversions and “Hopscotch Loans”

On September 22, 2014, the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued Notice 2014-52, “Rules Regarding Inversions and Related Transactions” (“Notice”) in the wake of recent inversions conducted by many US companies such as by Medtronic, Chiquita Brands, Pfizer and others.  Treasury and the IRS highlighted in the Notice that they were “concerned that certain recent inversion transactions are inconsistent with the purposes of sections 7874 and 367 of the Internal Revenue Code… certain inversion transactions are motivated in substantial part by the ability to engage in certain tax avoidance transactions after the inversion that would not be possible in the absence of the inversion.”

To address these concerns regarding inversions, Treasury and the IRS announced in the Notice that they intend to issue new regulations under Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) Sections 304(b)(5)(B), 367, 956(e), 7701(l), and 7874. In this article we will briefly explain the new regulations intended to be issued under IRC Section 956 that seek to prevent the avoidance of tax in this section “[T]hrough post-inversion acquisitions by controlled foreign corporations (“CFC’s”) of obligations of (or equity investments in) the new foreign parent corporation or certain foreign affiliates”. Such obligations are also commonly referred to as “Hopscotch loans”. Notice Section 3.01, “Regulations to Address Acquisitions of Obligations and Stock that Avoid Section 956” specifically addresses such issues.

This article is intended to provide explanatory material regarding the new inversion regulations as they relate to IRC Section 956 aspects; the article does not convey legal or tax advice. Please contact experienced international tax attorney Eugene Sherayzen for questions about your tax and legal needs.

Inversions and the Use of “Hopscotch Loans” to Avoid U.S. Taxation under Pre-Notice Rules

In general, under IRC Section 956, if a CFC subsidiary of a U.S. parent makes a loan to (or equity investment in) the U.S. parent, it will be treated as a deemed repatriation of the CFC’s earnings and profits, even though no actual dividend may be distributed. IRC Section 956(c)(1) specifically provides that U.S. property is “[A] any property acquired after December 31, 1962, which is… (B) stock of a domestic corporation; (C) an obligation of a United States person…” (See Section 956 for additional definitions of “U.S. property” for the purposes of this provision).

This deemed repatriation will be taxable to the CFC’s U.S. shareholders. As stated in the Notice, the taxable amount for any taxable year is the lesser of, “(1) the excess (if any) of—(A) such shareholder’s pro rata share of the average of the amounts of United States property held (directly or indirectly) by the controlled foreign corporation as of the close of each quarter of such taxable year, over (B) the amount of earnings and profits described in section 959(c)(1)(A) with respect to such shareholder, or (2) such shareholder’s pro rata share of the applicable earnings of such controlled foreign corporation.”

This is why many U.S. parents and CFC subsidiaries sought to avoid taxation by doing inversions in which new foreign parent companies would be formed that were not CFCs; the existing CFC would then make a loan to the new foreign parent (the “Hopscotch loan”), and the amount could at some future point then be lent to the former U.S. parent. As Treasury and the IRS stated in the Notice, “The ability of the new foreign parent to access deferred CFC earnings and profits would in many cases eliminate the need for the CFCs to pay dividends to the U.S. shareholders, thereby circumventing the purposes of section 956.”

Changes to Inversions under Notice 2014-52, Section 3.10(b)

Under IRC Section 956(e) the Treasury Secretary is directed to prescribe regulations to prevent tax avoidance of the provisions of section 956 through reorganizations or otherwise, and the Notice specified that inversions constitute such transactions. To address the inversions strategy, Treasury and the IRS noted that they intend to issue regulations, “[P]roviding that, solely for purposes of section 956, any obligation or stock of a foreign related person (within the meaning of section 7874(d)(3) other than an “expatriated foreign subsidiary”) (such person, a “non-CFC foreign related person”) will be treated as United States property within the meaning of section 956(c)(1) to the extent such obligation or stock is acquired by an expatriated foreign subsidiary during the applicable period (within the meaning of section 7874(d)(1)).”

An “expatriated foreign subsidiary” is defined in the Notice (except as provided in the succeeding paragraph) as a “CFC with respect to which an expatriated entity… is a U.S. shareholder”, but it does not include a “CFC that is a member of the EAG immediately after the acquisition and all transactions related to the acquisition are completed (completion date) if the domestic entity is not a U.S. shareholder with respect to the CFC on or before the completion date” (“EAG” is defined in the Notice to mean an “expanded affiliated group”). Additionally, under the Notice, “[A]n expatriated foreign subsidiary that is a pledgor or guarantor of an obligation of a non-CFC foreign related person under the principles of section 956(d) and §1.956-2(c) will be considered as holding such obligation.”

Effective Dates of the New Regulation Concerning Inversions

Subject to certain exceptions, the regulations under Notice section 3.01(b), “[W]ill apply to acquisitions of obligations or stock of a non-CFC foreign related person by an expatriated foreign subsidiary completed on or after September 22, 2014, but only if the inversion transaction is completed on or after September 22, 2014.”

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With International Tax Matters

International tax matters often involve very complex issues, and it is advisable to seek the assistance of a tax attorney in this area. If you have questions regarding taxation of CFC’s, are in need of international tax planning, or have any other tax and legal questions, please contact Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd.