Third Quarter 2010 Tax Developments – Part 2

Guidance explains longer NOL carryback option for businesses. The IRS has issued guidance in a question and answer (Q&A) format to address a number of specialized issues that have arisen under the new optional longer net operating loss (NOL) carryback period that was provided by the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 (WHBAA). Under WHBAA, an irrevocable election of a 3, 4, or 5-year carryback period for an applicable NOL for a tax year ending after Dec. 31, 2007, and beginning before Jan. 1, 2010, is generally available for one tax year (except for an eligible small business (ESB) loss). The WHBAA election is an expansion of the increased carryback period election provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which was available only to ESBs, and only for 2008 NOLs. The guidance addresses many questions left unanswered by the statutory provisions. For example, it makes clear that if a taxpayer previously made an ARRA election, it doesn’t have to continue to qualify as an ESB in the year of the WHBAA NOL in order to make a WHBAA election. A taxpayer must qualify as an ESB only for the tax year of the ARRA election. Also, the IRS has revised the Instructions for Form 1139, Corporation Application for Tentative Refund (Rev. August 2010), to explain how businesses make the WHBAA election.

Regulations on election to defer COD income. For debt discharges in tax years ending after Dec. 31, 2008, a taxpayer may elect to have any cancellation of debt (COD) income from the reacquisition of an applicable debt instrument after Dec. 31, 2008, and before Jan. 1, 2011, included in gross income ratably over five tax years. The IRS has issued two sets of regulations on this rule: one applies to C corporations, the other applies to partnerships and S corporations. The regulations cover many complicated issues that arise with the election. For example, the C corporation regulations cover topics such as acceleration of deferred cancellation of debt (COD) income and deferred original issue discount deductions, and the calculation of earnings and profits as a result of making an election.

Legislation ends foreign loopholes and advance EITC. The Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act, which was signed into law on August 10, 2010, includes provisions closing a number of foreign-tax-credit related loopholes and repealing the advanced earned income tax credit (EITC). Specifically, this legislation tightens the rules on the use of foreign tax credits that multinationals use to lower their U.S. tax bill. In general, these provisions attempt to (1) make foreign tax credits (FTCs) available only when the income to which the FTCs relate is actually taxed by the U.S., (2) prevent artificial inflation of foreign source income, and (3) modify the resourcing rules to limit FTCs. Also, under the new law, starting in 2011, eligible low- and moderate-income workers who qualify for the EITC will no longer be able to elect to receive the credit in advance.

Financial reform package changes mark-to-market rule. The “Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010” was signed into law on July, 21, 2010. This landmark financial reform package contained a tax provision broadening the list of contracts that are excepted from mark-to-market treatment. Taxpayers must report gains and losses from regulated futures contracts and other “Section 1256 contracts” on an annual basis under the “mark-to-market” rule. The term Section 1256 contract means: regulated futures contracts, foreign currency contracts, nonequity options, dealer equity options, and dealer securities futures contracts. It does not include any securities futures contract or option on such a contract unless the contract or option is a dealer securities futures contract. Under the new law, for tax years beginning after July 21, 2010, all of the following also are excepted from the definition of a Section 1256 contract: any interest rate swap; currency swap, basis swap, interest rate cap, interest rate floor, commodity swap, equity swap, equity index swap, credit default swap, or similar agreement.