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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2d Circuit Rejects GE's $62 Million Castle Harbour Tax Shelter

TIFD III-E Inc. v. United States, G.E. LogoNo. 10-70-CV (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 24, 2012):

The United States appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Underhill, J.) invalidating two notices of Final Partnership Administrative Adjustments issued by the Internal Revenue Service. The district court so ruled because it concluded that the taxpayer-plaintiff’s characterization of two tax-exempt Dutch banks as its partners in Castle Harbour LLC was proper under Internal Revenue Code § 704(e)(1). The district court also concluded that, even if the banks did not qualify as partners under § 704(e)(1), the government was not entitled to impose a penalty pursuant to § 6662. The Court of Appeals (Leval, J.) holds that the evidence compels the conclusion that the banks do not qualify as partners under § 704(e)(1), and that the government is entitled to impose a penalty on the taxpayer for substantial understatement of income. The judgment of the district court is REVERSED....

We appreciate and have benefitted from the District Court’s conscientious, thoughtful and comprehensive analysis on remand. Ultimately, however, the issue whether the term “capital interest” in § 704(e)(1) includes an interest that is overwhelmingly in the nature of debt is one of law, which of course we review de novo. We respectfully disagree with the district court’s analysis. As we now review the question arising under § 704(e)(1), we conclude that the same evidence which, on our last review, compelled the conclusion that the banks’ interest was so markedly in the nature of debt that it does not qualify as bona fide equity participation also compels the conclusion that the banks’ interest was not a capital interest under § 704(e)(1)....

The taxpayer has failed to point to substantial authority supporting its treatment of the banks as partners. We find that a penalty for substantial understatement of income was therefore properly assessed.

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