IRS Wins Debt vs. Equity Case

A frequent area of dispute between taxpayers and the IRS is whether an indebtedness obligation should be treated as debt, or an equity investment, for income tax purposes. Taxpayers often seek debt treatment to obtain interest deductions, defer gain to a seller, or avoid gift treatment. Sometimes the underlying transaction is a straight loan – other times it involves a financed purchased of property.

The latter is what occurred in the subject case – a U.S. corporation purchased partnership units from a foreign corporation for a debt obligation. The debt was helpful since it provided an interest deduction to the U.S. obligor, deferred gain on the sale to the selling foreign corporation, and no taxable interest income to the foreign corporation obligee per qualification of the debt as tax-exempt portfolio interest debt.

There were factual aspects of the transaction…

American Metallurgical Coal Co., TC Memo 2016-139

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