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Insights Vol. 1 No. 8: Updates & Other Tidbits

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After an arduous path through the courts regarding the creditability of the U.K. windfall tax, the Third Circuit followed the holding of the U.S. Supreme Court and found the tax to be creditable in a case involve PPL Corp.

The U.S. and foreign countries can tax foreign-sourced income of U.S. taxpayers. To lessen the economic cost of double taxation, U.S. taxpayers are allowed to deduct or credit foreign taxes in computing income or net tax due. The amount of the U.S. income tax that can be offset by a credit cannot exceed the proportion attributable to net foreign source income. Code §901(b) specifies that a foreign credit is allowed only if the nature of the foreign tax is similar to the U.S. income tax and is imposed on net gain.

The U.S. entity PPL is a global energy company producing, selling, and delivering electricity through its subsidiaries. South Western Electricity PLC (“SWEB”), a U.K. private limited company, was an indirect subsidiary that was liable for windfall tax in the U.K. Windfall tax is a 23% tax on the gain from a company’s public offering value when the company was previously owned by the U.K. government. When SWEB paid its windfall liability, PPL claimed a Code §901 foreign tax credit. This was denied by the I.R.S. and the long and winding litigation commenced.

Initially, the Tax Court found the windfall tax to be of the same character as the U.S. income tax. The decision was reversed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the tax was neither an income tax, nor a war profits tax, nor an excess profits tax. It took into consideration in determining the tax base an amount greater than gross receipts. Then, the Supreme Court reversed, finding that the predominant character of the windfall tax is an excess profits tax based on net income. Therefore, it was creditable. In August, the Third Circuit followed the Supreme Court’s decision and ordered that the original decision in the Tax Court should be affirmed.