Amergen Energy Co, LLC v. United States, No. 14-5067 (Fed. Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
In 1999-2000, AmerGen purchased three nuclear power plants. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission transferred the operating licenses, making AmerGen obligated to decommission the plants, and extended the licensing to 2029, 2034, and 2026. Decommissioning may take 60 years. Prior owners had established qualified and nonqualified trust funds to pay for decommissioning. Contributions to a qualified fund (I.R.C. 468A), subject to limitations, are currently deductible. Investment incomes are taxed at a fixed rate. A nonqualified fund does not have those tax advantages. AmerGen's accountants advised that it was unlikely that the IRS would allow AmerGen to include the assumed decommissioning liability in the basis of the assets acquired on the date of the purchase and that the entire cash consideration would be allocated to the basis of transferred nonqualified funds, rather than to the basis of the plants. AmerGen sought IRS private letter rulings and required the sellers to make additional contributions to the trusts. They transferred $393 million in qualified funds and $581 million in nonqualified funds. On its 2001-2003 tax returns, AmerGen claimed that, in addition to the $93 million purchase price, it assumed decommissioning liabilities of $2.15 billion that should be included in the basis of the plants at the time of purchase. With that adjustment and corresponding depreciation and amortization deductions and reduced capital gains, AmerGen attempted to reduce its taxable income by $110 million per year. The IRS rejected the request. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment that the economic performance requirement of 26 U.S.C. 461(h) applies to AmerGen as an accrual basis taxpayer so that it may not include the liabilities in basis. AmerGen did not economically perform decommissioning in the relevant tax years.