Inversions: Recent Developments
The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation 2016-01-28
Peter J. Connors is a tax partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. Jason M. Halper is a partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group. This post is based on an article authored by Mr. Connors and Mr. Halper, that was previously published in Law360.
In October 2015, press reports began appearing suggesting that Pfizer Inc., one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and Allergan, an Irish publicly traded pharmaceutical company, were considering entering into the largest inversion in history. Within weeks, the IRS launched its latest missive against inversion transactions. It also put the tax community on notice that more regulatory activity was yet to come.
Companies invert primarily because of perceived disadvantages associated with the U.S. corporate tax system, which has one of the world’s highest tax rates and levies taxes on worldwide income, including income earned by foreign subsidiaries (generally referred to as “controlled foreign corporations”) when repatriated and, at times, prior to repatriation. In its broadest terms, an inversion is the acquisition of substantially all the assets of a U.S. corporation or partnership by a foreign corporation. If a transaction triggers Internal Revenue Code Section 7874, the post-transaction foreign corporation will be treated as a U.S. corporation, and gain that is otherwise recognized on the transaction will not be offset by tax attributes of the U.S. entity, such as net operating losses (NOLs).