Proposed regulations would provide guidance on the inclusion of income and deduction items in the calculation of built-in gains and losses under Code Sec. 382(h). The proposed regulations would:
- simplify the application of Code Sec. 382;
- provide more certainty to taxpayers in determining built-in gains and losses for Code Sec. 382(h) purposes; and
- ensure that the application of certain law changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ( P.L. 115-97) (TCJA) does not further complicate the application of Code Sec. 382(h).
Taxpayers may rely on these proposed regulations until final regulations are issued. When these proposed regulations are adopted as final regulations, it is expected that Notice 87-79, 1987-2 CB 387, Notice 90-27, 1990-1 CB 336, Notice 2003-65, 2003-2 CB 747, and Notice 2018-30, 2018-21 I.R.B. 610, will be withdrawn and declared obsolete.
Built-in Gains and Losses
Generally, Code Sec. 382 imposes a value-based limitation (section 382 limitation) on the ability of a loss corporation to offset its taxable income in periods subsequent to an ownership change with losses attributable to periods prior to that ownership change.
Code Sec. 382(h) provides rules relating to the determination of a loss corporation’s built-in gains and losses as of the date of the ownership change (change date). In general, built-in gains recognized during the five-year period beginning on the change date (recognition period) allow a loss corporation to increase its section 382 limitation. Built-in losses recognized during the recognition period are subject to the loss corporation’s section 382 limitation.
Specifically, if a loss corporation has a net unrealized built-in gain (NUBIG), the section 382 limitation for any tax year ending during the recognition period is increased by the recognized built-in gain (RBIG) for the year, with cumulative increases limited to the amount of the NUBIG. If a loss corporation has a net unrealized built-in loss (NUBIL), the use of any recognized built-in loss (RBIL) during the recognition period is subject to the section 382 limitation.
IRS Guidance and TCJA
Notice 2003-65 provides interim guidance on the identification of built-in gains and losses under Code Sec. 382(h). This notice permits taxpayers to rely on safe harbor approaches for applying Code Sec. 382(h) to an ownership change prior to the effective date of temporary or final regulations issued under that provision.
Notice 2003-65 provides (i) a single safe harbor for computing the NUBIG or NUBIL of a loss corporation, based on principles underlying the calculation of net recognized built-in gain under Code Sec. 1374, and (ii) two safe harbors for the computation of a loss corporation’s RBIG or RBIL: the 1374 approach and the 338 approach.
The 1374 approach identifies RBIG and RBIL at the time of the disposition of a loss corporation’s assets during the recognition period. Generally, this approach relies on accrual method of accounting principles to identify built-in income and deduction items at the time of the ownership change, with certain exceptions.
In contrast, the 338 approach identifies items of RBIG and RBIL generally by comparing the loss corporation’s actual items of income, gain, deduction, and loss recognized during the recognition period with those that would have been recognized had an election under Code Sec. 338 (section 338 election) been made with respect to a hypothetical purchase of all of the outstanding stock of the loss corporation on the change date.
Taxpayers may rely on either the 338 approach or the 1374 approach until the IRS issues temporary or final regulations under Code Sec. 382(h). Compared to the 338 approach, the accrual-based 1374 approach is simpler to apply and administer and provides greater certainty for taxpayers.
Prior to the issuance of Notice 2003-65, the IRS had issued Notice 87-79 and Notice 90-27, which provided much more limited guidance regarding the determination of built-in gains and losses. After the TCJA, the IRS issued Notice 2018-30, which makes the 338 approach unavailable when computing items arising from bonus depreciation under Code Sec. 168(k).
The law changes made by the TCJA created additional uncertainty regarding the application of Code Sec. 382 in general, and Notice 2003-65 in particular. Specifically, certain important changes under the TCJA could potentially compromise the mechanics of the 338 approach and further complicate its application.
For purposes of computing NUBIG and NUBIL, the proposed regulations would adopt as mandatory the NUBIG/NUBIL safe harbor and the 1374 approach described in Notice 2003-65, with certain modifications. These modifications would include technical fixes to calculations involving cancellation of indebtedness (COD) income, deductions for contingent liabilities, and cost recovery deductions. Additionally, the proposed regulations would clarify that carryovers of Code Sec. 163(j) disallowed business interest are counted only once for purposes of Code Sec. 382.
The modifications to the existing NUBIG/NUBIL safe harbor and the 1374 approach would ensure greater consistency between:
- amounts that are included in the NUBIG/NUBIL computation; and
- items that could become RBIG or RBIL during the recognition period.
According to the IRS, the proposed regulations would modestly restrict net operating loss usage by reducing the amount that would qualify as RBIG, reducing the incentive to engage in inefficient, tax-motivated mergers and acquisitions.
NUBIG or NUBIL Computation
The proposed rules for the computation of NUBIG/NUBIL would capture a range of items that closely tracks the NUBIG/NUBIL safe harbor computation in Notice 2003-65. However, the component steps of the proposed NUBIG/NUBIL computation would be more explicit, as follows:
- The proposed NUBIG/NUBIL computation would first take into account the aggregate amount that would be realized in a hypothetical disposition of all of the loss corporation’s assets in two steps treated as taking place immediately before the ownership change:
- —Step 1: the loss corporation would be treated as satisfying any inadequately secured nonrecourse liability by surrendering to each creditor the assets securing such debt.
- —Step 2 : the loss corporation would be treated as selling all remaining assets pertinent to the NUBIG/NUBIL computation in a sale to an unrelated third party, with the hypothetical buyer assuming no amount of the seller’s liabilities.
- That total hypothetical amount realized by the loss corporation pursuant to Steps 1 and 2, above, would be then decreased by (i) the sum of the loss corporation’s deductible liabilities (both fixed and contingent), and (ii) the loss corporation’s basis in its assets.
- Finally, the decreased hypothetical total would be then increased or decreased, as applicable, by the following:
- —(i) the net amount of the total RBIG and RBIL income and deduction items that could be recognized during the recognition period (excluding COD income); and
- —(ii) the net amount of positive and negative section 481 adjustments that would be required to be included on the previously-described hypothetical disposal of all of the loss corporation’s assets.
The proposed regulations generally would not allow COD income to be included in the calculation of NUBIG/NUBIL, but would provide certain exceptions.
RBIG and RBIL Items
As mentioned above, the proposed regulations would apply a methodology for identifying RBIG or RBIL that closely tracks the accrual based 1374 approach described in Notice 2003-65. However, the proposed regulations would significantly modify the 1374 approach to include as RBIL the amount of any deductible contingent liabilities paid or accrued during the recognition period, to the extent of the estimated value of those liabilities on the change date.
The proposed regulations also would add a rule clarifying that certain items do not constitute RBIG (such as dividends paid during the recognition period). In addition, limitations would be provided on the extent to which excluded COD income is treated as RBIG. Further, the proposed regulations would provide two different RBIG ceilings with regard to COD on recourse debt, and would provide special rules for COD income on nonrecourse debt.
Finally, rules would be provided for the interaction between Code Sec. 163(j) and Code Sec. 382. To eliminate the possibility of duplication of RBIL items, the proposed regulations would provide that Code Sec. 382 disallowed business interest carryforwards would not be treated as RBIL if such amounts were allowable as a deduction during the recognition period. The proposed regulations also would clarify the treatment of certain items allocated from a partnership.
The regulations are proposed to be effective for ownership changes occurring after the date the proposed regulations are published as final regulations in the Federal Register. However, taxpayers and their related parties may apply these proposed regulations to any ownership change occurring during a tax year with respect to which the period described in Code Sec. 6511(a) has not expired, so long as the taxpayers and all of their related parties consistently apply the rules of these proposed regulations to such ownership change and all subsequent ownership changes that occur before the applicability date of the final regulations.
Comments and Requests for Hearing
Written or electronic comments must be received by November 9, 2019. Written or electronic requests for a public hearing and outlines of topics to be discussed at the public hearing must be received by November 9, 2019. Electronic submissions must be sent via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov (indicate IRS and REG-125710-18) by following the online instructions for submitting comments. Once submitted to the Federal eRulemaking Portal, comments cannot be edited or withdrawn. The Treasury and the IRS will publish for public availability any comment received to its public docket, whether submitted electronically or in hard copy.
Hard copy submissions must be sent to: Internal Revenue Service, CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-125710-18), Room 5203, Post Office Box 7604, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, DC 20044. Submissions may be hand-delivered Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to CC:PA:LPD:PR (indicate REG-125710-18), Courier’s Desk, Internal Revenue Service, 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20224.