Alta Wind v. United States, No. 17-1410 (Fed. Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides a cash grant to entities that “place in service” certain renewable energy facilities. The amount is determined using the basis of the tangible personal property of the facility. Alta placed windfarm facilities into service and sought $703 million in grants. The government awarded $495 million. Alta filed suit, seeking an additional $206 million. The government counterclaimed, asserting that it had overpaid $59 million. The difference was attributable to the calculation of basis. The portion of the purchase prices attributable to grant-ineligible tangible property (real estate, transmission equipment, and buildings) must be deducted: Alta argued that the entire remainder can be allocated to grant-eligible tangible personal property, with none allocated to intangibles. The Claims Court found in favor of Alta, rejecting the government’s argument that basis must be calculated using the residual method of 26 U.S.C. 1060, which applies to the acquisition of a business. The court reasoned that no intangible goodwill or going concern value could have attached to the windfarms at the time of the transaction.
The Federal Circuit vacated. The Alta purchase prices were well in excess of their development and construction costs (book value), and the transactions involved numerous related agreements, such as the leasebacks and grant-related indemnities. Goodwill and going concern value could have attached, so those assets constitute a “trade or business” within the meaning of section 1060; the transactions count as “applicable asset acquisitions.”