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First Circuit Holds Corporation's Possessions Tax Credit Was Not Reduced

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Recently, the First Circuit held that Code §936 does not require a credit cap decrease for the U.S. seller of business lines in Puerto Rico if the buyer is a foreign entity that does not pay U.S. corporate income tax. In OMJ Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. U.S., a U.S. corporation based in Puerto Rico transferred a significant portion of its assets to an Irish subsidiary; the corporation was not required to decrease its base period income for the purposes of computing the cap on its Section 936 possessions tax credit. As a result, the corporation’s credit was not capped at the lower amount that was asserted by the I.R.S., thus allowing the corporate taxpayer a refund of close to $53 million.

From 1976 to 1996, Code §936 provided to U.S. corporations a credit that fully offset the federal tax owed on income earned in the operation of any trade or business in Puerto Rico. Under the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-188), the credit was repealed and phased out over a ten-year period. During this transition period, the credit remained available only to those taxpayers who had claimed it in previous years. Furthermore, during the last eight years of the transition period the taxable income that an eligible taxpayer could take into account in computing its credit was capped at an amount roughly equal to the average of the amounts it had claimed in previous years. Although the cap was generally fixed, it could be adjusted up and down to account for the taxpayer’s purchases and sales of lines of business that had generated credit-eligible income.