The court also granted partial summary judgment for the taxpayer, to which the IRS had no objection, holding that the taxpayer could exclude intercompany gross receipts received from controlled foreign corporations (CFCs) from this calculation.
Text of the opinion: Hewlett-Packard [PDF 44 KB]
An important part of the section 41 research credit depends upon the taxpayer computing a base amount to which it compares its current year research spending to determine the incremental amount that is eligible for the credit. In some situations, the base amount is determined, partly, by reference to the taxpayer’s “gross receipts” for certain tax years.
For the tax years at issue, then-applicable section 41(c)(6) provided in part that “gross receipts”, for this purpose, “shall be reduced by returns and allowances made during the taxable year,” but did not specify what amounts are included in gross receipts. The Tax Court found that this provision specified exclusions from “gross receipts” but offered little clarification concerning the category or categories of receipts that were to be included.
The IRS took the position on examination that the term included dividends, interest, rent, and other income. In 2001, the IRS and Treasury issued final regulations that established this position, which were effective for tax years in 2001 and later.
The taxpayer asserted that by specifically excluding “returns and allowances,” Congress evinced a clear intention to limit gross receipts to solely sales receipts and that the generally accepted definition of “gross receipts” focused on sales or services income.
The Tax Court did not agree with these contentions. It found that Congress did not evince an intention to construe the term “gross receipts” as narrowly as suggested by the taxpayer, and that the IRS’s interpretation for those years was generally consistent with the use of the term in other tax contexts. Even though the regulations did not apply, the IRS was upheld in its examination position.
The IRS had initially argued that a taxpayer must include gross receipts from other members of its controlled group, even though the law requires a taxpayer to compute the research credit with those members as if they are a single taxpayer. In 2010, a federal district court held for taxpayers on this issue, and the IRS had informally indicated that it would not pursue its position in litigation. Thus, the IRS did not contest the taxpayer’s motion to be allowed to exclude such gross receipts from its CFCs.
In concluding, the Tax Court today thus:
- Granted, in part, the IRS motion for partial summary judgment affirming that the taxpayer was required to include nonsales income, including dividends, interest, rent, and other income, in its gross receipts when calculating its section 41 credits for tax years 1999 through 2001
- Granted, in part, the taxpayer’s motion for partial summary judgment allowing it to exclude intercompany gross receipts received from CFCs