The IRS has issued proposed regulations that implement the “carried interest” rules under Code Sec. 1061 adopted by Congress as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 ( P.L. 115-97). Some key aspects of the lengthy proposed regulations include the definition of important terms, how the rules work in the context of tiered passthrough structures, the definition of “substantial” services provided by the carried interest holder, and the level of activity required for a business to meet the definition of an “applicable trade or business.”

In general, a “carried interest” is an interest in a partnership in the investment management business that consists of the right to receive future partnership profits. Carried interests are given to a partner in exchange for performing asset management services for businesses such as private equity funds, venture capital funds, and hedge funds.

Prior to Code Sec. 1061, taxpayers tended to treat carried interests as interests in partnership profits subject to long-term capital gain rates. Code Sec. 1061, however, reflects that a carried interest may in fact be compensation for services and therefore properly subject to ordinary income rates. As a result, Code Sec. 1061 applies a longer, three-year holding period to certain net long-term capital gain with respect to any “applicable partnership interest” (API)—essentially, any carried interest. The effect of this is to recharacterize as short-term capital gain certain net long-term capital gain of a partner who holds one or more APIs.

The proposed regulations define the amount of otherwise long-term capital gain that fails to meet the three-year holding period as the “recharacterization amount,” and refers to the person who is subject to income tax on the recharacterization amount as the “owner taxpayer.” In addition, the proposed regulations provide a framework for determining the recharacterization amount when an API is held though one or more tiers of passthrough entities.

A partnership interest is an API if it is transferred in connection with the performance of “substantial” services. Under the proposed regulations, services are presumed to be substantial with respect to a partnership interest transferred in connection with those services. Basically, this means that the partnership is presumed to get good value for the partnership interest it transfers in exchange for services.

Generally, an API is any interest in a partnership that is transferred to or held by the taxpayer in connection with the performance of services by the taxpayer in any “applicable trade or business” (ATB). Under Code Sec. 1061(c)(2), to qualify as an ATB, an activity must be “conducted on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis.” Under the proposed regulations, an activity is conducted on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis if it meets the “ATB activity test.” Under this test, the total level of activity conducted in one or more entities must meet the level of activity to establish a trade or business for purposes of trade or business expenses under Code Sec. 162.