US vs Amazon, August 2019, US Court of Appeal Ninth Circut, Case No. 17-72922

In the course of restructuring its European businesses in a way that would shift a substantial amount of income from U.S.-based entities to the European subsidiaries, appellee Amazon.com, Inc. entered into a cost sharing arrangement in which a holding company for the European subsidiaries made a “buy-in” payment for Amazon’s assets that met the regulatory definition of an “intangible.” See 26 U.S.C. § 482. Tax regulations required that the buy-in payment reflect the fair market value of Amazon’s pre-existing intangibles. After the Commissioner of Internal Revenue concluded that the buy-in payment had not been determined at arm’s length in accordance with the transfer pricing regulations, the Internal Revenue Service performed its own calculation, and Amazon filed a petition in the Tax Court challenging that valuation.

At issue is the correct method for valuing the preexisting intangibles under the then-applicable transfer pricing regulations. The Commissioner sought to include all intangible assets of value, including “residual-business assets” such as Amazon’s culture of innovcation, the value of workforce in place, going concern value, goodwill, and growth options. The panel concluded that the definition of “intangible” does not include residual-business assets, and that the definition is limited to independently transferrable assets.

The Court of Appeal concluded “We therefore agree with the tax court that the former regulatory definition of an “intangible” does not include residualbusiness assets.

The Court thus affirmed the prior decision of the tax court

US vs Amazon August 2019
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