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§338(g) Election in the Cross-Border Context: I.R.S. Targets Foreign Tax Credit Enhancer

Volume 4 No 2    /    Read Article

By Rusudan Shervashidze and Stanley C. Ruchelman

Code §338(g) allows a taxpayer to elect to treat certain share purchases as if the transactions were asset purchases. As a result, the premium paid for the shares can be pushed down to increase the basis in operating assets of the acquired company. The step-up in depreciable basis results in steeper depreciation and amortization deductions for U.S. tax purposes. Because a comparable tax benefit is not obtained in the jurisdiction where the target operates, the Code §338(g) treatment magnifies the effective tax rate in the foreign country when looked at from a U.S. tax viewpoint. This creates mountains of excess foreign tax credits that can be used to reduce U.S. tax on other items of foreign-source income, provided those items are subject to little or no foreign tax and fall within the same foreign tax credit limitation basket. A similar result can be achieved through a check-the-box election, which acts as a poor man’s Code §338(g) election. Code §901(m) attempts to disallow the enhanced level of the foreign tax credit, and the I.R.S. recently issued temporary and proposed regulations. Rusudan Shervashidze and Stanley C. Ruchelman explain the labyrinth of rules.   See more →