Alpha I, L.P. v. United States, No. 11-5024 (Fed. Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Normally, if a partner contributes property, his basis in the partnership increases, and, when the partnership assumes a partner’s liability, his basis decreases. A Son-of-BOSS transaction recognizes acquisition (here, short-sale proceeds) and disregards acquisition of offsetting liability (obligation to close out the short-sale), to generate tax loss or reduce gain from sale of an asset. In their first such transaction, plaintiffs used partnerships to convert $66 million in taxable gain anticipated from stock sales into capital losses. Their partnership interests were held by tax-exempt charitable remainder unitrusts at the time of sale so that gain would escape taxation. The CRUTs terminated thereafter and assets were distributed to plaintiffs, purportedly tax free. The IRS determined that transfers to the CRUTs were shams to be disregarded; imposed basis and capital gain/loss adjustments, and alternative penalties; and asserted that the transactions did not increase amounts at risk under I.R.C. 465. Plaintiffs conceded capital gain and loss adjustments, but otherwise challenged the determinations. The Claims Court dismissed the determination that trust transfers were shams, believing it lacked jurisdiction; entered summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs on the ground that their concession to adjustments rendered valuation misstatement penalties moot; granted the government summary judgment on penalties for negligence, substantial under-statement, and failure to act in good faith; and imposed a penalty. The Federal Circuit reversed the dismissal, vacated summary judgment for plaintiff, and held that plaintiffs’ appeal was premature.