Economic Substance Doctrine Essay

606 Words3 Pages
Slide#2: ECONOMIC SUBSTANCE refers to the application of income tax laws, i.e., the substance of the transaction, rather than its form, determines the tax consequences, with few exceptions. The "form" of a transaction is only the label the interested parties attach to their arrangement. For instance, an arrangement might be called a compensation agreement, loan, lease or sale. Documents may support the form, but the courts are not concerned with these labels or papers that purport to govern the transaction -- they focus on its substance. The "substance over form" analysis is used to dissect self-serving transactions between parties, including loans and payments to family members; transactions between related corporations and their shareholders, partnerships and their partners; and between trusts and their beneficiaries. For instance, sale of a home by a parent to a child may be re-characterized by the court as a gift, if the child never pays for it. Related-party transactions provide fertile territory for self-dealing, with the tax benefit as the real motivating purpose, disguised by the form of the transaction. In contrast, arms-length transactions with independent third parties are far less vulnerable. Slide#3: The federal income tax is, and always has been, based on statute. Courts generally deny claimed tax benefits if the transaction that gives rise to those benefits lacks economic substance independent of tax considerations − notwithstanding that the purported activity actually occurred. The Tax Court has described the doctrine as follows: The tax law . . . requires that the intended transactions have economic substance separate and distinct from economic benefit achieved solely by tax reduction. The doctrine of economic substance becomes applicable, and a judicial remedy is warranted, where a taxpayer seeks to claim tax benefits, unintended by Congress,
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