US vs Eaton Corp., August 2022, Sixth Circuit, Nos. 21-1569/2674

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Eaton is an Ohio corporation with a global presence. It manufactures a wide range of electrical and industrial products. During the relevant period—2005 and 2006—Eaton had its foreign subsidiaries in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic manufacture certain products which Eaton then sold to its other affiliates and third-party customers. In 2002, Eaton applied for an APA related to these transactions.

In 2004 the IRS and Eaton entered into the first APA which covered tax years 2001 through 2005. And in 2006 a second APA was entered which covered tax years 2006 through 2010.

A few years after entering in to the APAs, Eaton reviewed its records and caught some inadvertent calculation errors. After letting the IRS know, Eaton corrected the mistakes. But the IRS thought that Eaton’s mistakes were serious enough to warrant its unilateral cancellation of the APAs for tax years 2005 and 2006. And after cancelling the APAs, the IRS handed Eaton a notice claiming a deficiency of tens of millions of dollars.

Eaton filed a petition in the Tax Court, challenging the deficiency notice and the IRS’s cancellation of the APAs.

The Tax Court sided with Eaton on the major issues, concluding that the IRS had wrongfully cancelled the APAs. However, the Tax Court also concluded that Eaton’s self-corrections didn’t constitute § 482 adjustments, and denied relief from double taxation. It reasoned that relief under Revenue Procedure 99-32 applies to § 482 adjustments only.

An appeal was filed by the tax authorities – and a cross appeal by Eaton – with the Sixth Circuit (US Court of Appeal).

Judgement of the Court

The Court sided with Eaton on all issues presented, including Eaton’s claim for relief form double taxation.

The Court held that (1) the IRS had the burden of proving that there were grounds to cancel the APAs under generally applicable contract-law principles and failed to meet that burden, and (2) the IRS could not impose IRC Section 6662 penalties on Eaton Corporation’s self-reported adjustments, and (3) that Eaton was eligible to claim relief from double taxation.

US vs Eaton Aug 2022 Sixth Circuit

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