Medtronic had used the comparable uncontrolled transactions (CUT) method to determine the arm’s length royalty rates received from its manufacturing subsidiary in Puerto Rico for use of IP under an inter-group license agreement.
The tax authorities found that Medtronic left too much profit in Puerto Rico. Using a “modified CPM” the IRS concluded that at arm’s length 90 percent of Medtronic’s “devices and leads” profit should have been allocated to the US parent and only 10 percent to the operations in Puerto Rico.
Medtronic brought the case to the Tax Court.
The Tax Court applied its own analysis and concluded that the Pacesetter agreement was the best CUT to calculate the arm’s length result for license payments.
This decision from the Tax Court was then appealed by the IRS to the Court of Appeals.
In 2018, the Court of Appeal found that the Tax Court’s factual findings had been insufficient.
The Court of Appeals stated taht: “The Tax Court determined that the Pacesetter agreement was an appropriate comparable uncontrolled transaction (CUT) because it involved similar intangible property and had similar circumstances regarding licensing. We conclude that the Tax Court’s factual findings are insufficient to enable us to conduct an evaluation of that determination.”
The Tax Court did not provide
(1) sufficient detail as to whether the circumstances between Siemens Pacesetter, Inc. (Pacesetter), and Medtronic US were comparable to the licensing agreement between Medtronic US and Medtronic Puerto Rico (MPROC) and whether the Pacesetter agreement was one created in the ordinary course of business;
(2) an analysis of the degree of comparability of the Pacesetter agreement’s contractual terms and those of the MPROC’s licensing agreement;
(3) an evaluation of how the different treatment of intangibles affected the comparability of the Pacesetter agreement and the MPROC licensing agreement; and
(4) the amount of risk and product liability expense that should be allocated between Medtronic US and MPROC.
According to the Court of Appeal these findings were “… essential to its review of the Tax Court’s determination that the Pacesetter agreement was a CUT, as well as necessary to its determination whether the Tax Court applied the best transfer pricing method for calculating an arm’s length result or whether it made proper adjustments under its chosen method“.
Hence, the case was remanded to the Tax Court for further considerations.
Opinion of the US Tax Court
Following the re-trial, the Tax Court concluded that the taxpayer did not meet its burden to show that its allocation under the CUT method and its proposed unspecified method satisfied the arm’s length standard.
“Increasing the wholesale royalty rate to 48.8% results in an overall profit split of 68.72% to Medtronic US/Med USA and 31.28% profit split to MPROC and a R&D profits split of 62.34% to Medtronic US and 37.66% to MPROC. The resulting profit split reflects the importance of the patents as well as the role played by MPROC. The profit split is more reasonable than the profit split of 56.8% to Medtronic US/Med USA and 43.2% to MPROC resulting from petitioner’s unspecified method with a 50–50 allocation. According to respondent’s expert Becker, MPROC had incurred costs of 14.8% of retail prices. The evidence does not support a profit split which allocates 43.2% of the profits to MPROC when it has only 14.8% of the operating cost.”
“We conclude that wholesale royalty rate is 48.8% for both leads and devices, and the royalty rate is the same for both years in issue.
According to the regulations an unspecified method will not be applied unless it provides the most reliable measure of an arm’s-length result under the principles of the best method rule. Treas. Reg. § 1.482-4(d). Under the best method rule, the arm’s-length result of a controlled transaction must be determined under the method that, under the facts and circumstances, provides the most reliable method of getting an arm’s-length result. Id. § 1.482-1(c)(1). We have concluded previously that petitioner’s CUT method, petitioner’s proposed unspecified method, the Court’s adjusted CUT method in Medtronic I, respondent’s CPM, and respondent’s modified CPM do not result in an arm’s-length royalty rate and are not the best method. Only petitioner suggested a new method, its proposed unspecified method; however, for reasons previously explained, that method needed adjustment for the result to be arm’s length.
“Our adjustments consider that the MPROC licenses are valuable and earn higher profits than the licenses covered by the Pacesetter agreement. We also looked at the ROA in the Heimert analysis and from the evidence cannot determine what the proper ROA should be. The criticisms each party had of the other’s methods were factored into our adjustment. Respondent’s expert Becker testified that you may not like the logic of a method but ultimately the answer is fine. Because neither petitioner’s proposed CUT method nor respondent’s modified CPM was the best method, our goal was to find the right answer. The facts in this case are unique because of the complexity of the devices and leads, and we believe that our adjustment is necessary for us to bridge the gap between the parties’ methods.
A wholesale royalty rate of 48.8% for both devices significantly bridges the gap between the parties. Petitioner’s expert witness Putnam proposed a CUT which resulted in a blended wholesale royalty rate of 21.8%; whereas respondent’s expert Heimert’s original CPM analysis resulted in a blended wholesale royalty rate of 67.7%. In Medtronic I we concluded that the blended wholesale royalty rate was 38%, and after further trial, we conclude that the wholesale royalty rate is 48.8%, which we believe is the right answer.”