Consol. Edison Co. of NY v. United States, No. 12-5040 (Fed. Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
In its tax return for the year 1997, ConEd claimed multiple deductions pertaining to a lease-in/lease-out (LILO) tax shelter transaction under which a Dutch utility, EZH, a tax-indifferent entity because it is not subject to U.S. taxation, conveyed to ConEd a gas-fired cogeneration plant that delivers power to customers in the Netherlands, then leased it back, followed by a reconveyance to EZH and a sublease. The stated purpose of the arrangement was tax avoidance. LILO transactions accelerate losses to the taxpayer and defer gains. The transaction provided several upfront deductions that allowed ConEd to pay lower taxes in 1997 (and in later years) than it otherwise would have. The IRS disallowed these claimed deductions and assessed a deficiency of $328,066. ConEd paid the deficiency and filed a refund claim; when this claim was denied, ConEd filed suit. The Claims Court awarded ConEd a full refund. The Federal Circuit reversed, applying the substance-over-form doctrine to conclude that ConEd’s claimed deductions must be disallowed. There was a reasonable likelihood that EZH would exercise its purchase option at the conclusion of the ConEd sublease, thus rendering the master lease illusory.