November 18, 2017

Colorado Court of Appeals: Corporation with No Property or Payroll of Its Own Need Not Be Included on Tax Return

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Agilent Technologies, Inc. v. Colorado Department of Revenue on Thursday, November 2, 2017.

Holding CompanyPropertyCorporate Income Tax ReturnsCombined Returns.

Agilent Technologies, Inc. (Agilent) is incorporated in Delaware, but during the years at issue (tax years 2000 to 2007), it maintained research and development and manufacturing sites in Colorado. Agilent timely filed corporate income tax returns for these years. Agilent Technologies World Trade, Inc. (WT) is a subsidiary of Agilent and is incorporated in Delaware. It was formed as a holding company to own foreign entities operating solely outside the United States. As a holding company, WT does not own or rent property, has no payroll, and does not advertise or sell products or services of its own.

For federal tax purposes, WT and the foreign entities elected to be taxed as a single corporation. Agilent did not include WT in its corporate tax returns for the years at issue. The Department of Revenue (Department) issued notices of corporate income tax deficiency requiring that Agilent include WT in its Colorado combined returns for the years at issue and assessed tax, interest, and penalties. Agilent contested the Department’s adjustments, and the director upheld the notices. Agilent sought review in the district court. The district court concluded that the Department was prohibited from requiring Agilent to include WT in its Colorado combined corporate income tax returns and entered summary judgment for Agilent.

On appeal, the Department contended that the district court erred when it held that WT was not an includible C corporation under C.R.S. § 39-22- 303(12)(c). Conversely, Agilent argued that C.R.S. § 39-22-303(8) required exclusion of WT from its combined return. C.R.S. § 39-22-303(12)(c) requires inclusion of a corporation in a combined report if “more than twenty percent of the C corporation’s property and payroll” is assigned to locations inside the United States. Because WT had no property factors, although it wasn’t prohibited from including WT, Agilent was not required to include WT in its Colorado combined tax return.

The Department also contended that the district court erred when it ruled that, as a matter of law, C.R.S. § 39-22-303(6) could not be applied as an alternative basis for including WT in Agilent’s tax return. It also contended that the economic substance doctrine should be applied to permit taxation of WT even in the absence of specific statutory authorization. C.R.S. § 39-22-303(6) authorizes the Department to allocate income and deductions among corporations that are owned or controlled by the same interests on a fair and impartial basis to clearly reflect income and avoid abuse. However, C.R.S. § 39-22-303(6) cannot be applied to allocate income among affiliated corporations that were not otherwise includible under C.R.S. § 39-22-303(8) to (12). Accordingly, the district court did not err in concluding that C.R.S. § 39-22-303(6) did not provide a basis for including WT in Agilent’s tax return. Further, it was not alleged that WT lacks a business purpose apart from reducing tax liability. Therefore, the economic substance doctrine does not provide an independent basis in this case for including WT in Agilent’s combined return.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.