Tech Firms Could Get Tax Windfall From Intel Case

Google's parent Alphabet has disclosed it could post a $3.5 billion tax gain if a U.S. Tax Court ruling in favor of Intel is upheld.
Katie Kuehner-HebertFebruary 29, 2016

Google’s parent company Alphabet and other multinational firms stand to reap a tax benefit in the billions if Intel wins a high-stakes international tax battle with the Internal Revenue Service.

The U.S. Tax Court sided with Intel in July in the dispute over cost-sharing arrangements between U.S. corporations and their low-taxed foreign subsidiaries. The court’s ruling is now under review by a federal appeals court.

In a regulatory filing, Alphabet disclosed earlier this month that it could post a $3.5 billion tax gain if the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the tax court. At least 20 other companies, including Microsoft and eBay, are monitoring the case.

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“They’re paying a huge amount of attention to this case, because this is probably the largest unresolved tax issue that high-technology companies now have,” Eric Ryan, a partner at the law firm DLA Piper, told the Wall Street Journal.

Intel inherited the case when it acquired Altera last year. At issue is an IRS rule that requires foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to bear some of the costs associated with the stock-based compensation of U.S. employees.

“Intel has argued that stock-based compensation should not be included in the costs that its foreign subsidiaries share,” CNNMoney said. “Multinational corporations dislike the rule because they want to maximize costs in the U.S., where they can be deducted from high tax bills, and minimize them abroad, where tax bills are lower.”

Alphabet said it had recorded a potential $3.5 billion benefit, citing the tax court’s ruling in favor of Intel. But the company also took a $3.5 billion deferred tax liability to account for the  the U.S. tax cost of potential repatriation of the associated contingent foreign earnings.

“[A]t this time we cannot reasonably conclude that the company has the ability and the intent to indefinitely reinvest these contingent earnings,” the regulatory filing said.

“If Google is $3.5 billion, there must be many other companies that have billions of dollars at stake on this issue,” said Reuven Avi-Yonah, a tax law professor at the University of Michigan.