On September 10, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (the “Treasury”) issued proposed regulations (the “Proposed Regulations”) on calculation of built-in gains and losses under Section 382(h) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. In general, the Proposed Regulations replace the existing guidance on the calculation of net unrealized built-in gains (“NUBIG”), net unrealized built-in losses (“NUBIL”), realized built-in gains (“RBIG”) and realized built-in losses (“RBIL”) under Section 382(h). This guidance had largely taken the form of Notice 2003-65 (the “Notice”), which had been the key authority relied upon by taxpayers for purposes of the various calculations required under Section 382(h).
By eliminating the Notice’s 338 Approach and by making certain other changes, the Proposed Regulations, if finalized in their current form, could significantly cut back on a loss corporation’s ability to use pre-change losses and therefore could substantially diminish the valuation of this tax asset in M&A transactions and could hamper reorganizations of distressed companies. In fact, these proposed changes could put more pressure on companies in bankruptcy to attempt to qualify for the benefits of Section 382(l)(5) or to engage in a “Brunos-like” taxable restructuring transaction, and, when those options are not available, could lead to more liquidations rather than restructurings.
The Proposed Regulations are another factor in a series of changes and circumstances that affect the value of tax assets such as net operating losses for corporations. Both the current low applicable federal long-term tax-exempt rate (1.77% for October 2019)—which creates relatively small Section 382 limitations—and the new rule from the 2017 tax reform that limits the usability of net operating losses arising in tax years beginning after December 31, 2017 to 80% of taxable income are developments that, in conjunction with the Proposed Regulations, put downward pressure on the expected value of this tax asset.
The Proposed Regulations are not effective until they are adopted as final regulations and published in the Federal Register, and will apply only with respect to ownership changes occurring after their finalization. Until that happens, taxpayers may continue to rely on the Notice for calculations of NUBIG, NUBIL, RBIG and RBIL.