In the recent case of ES NPA Holding LLC v. Commissioner, the IRS argued that a profits interest can only be received tax-free by a service provider when the service is rendered directly to or for the benefit of the entity issuing the interest. The facts of the case are complicated, but in short, in the ES NPA case, the person that received the profits interest had rendered services to a corporation which was a member in the LLC (taxed as a partnership) that issued the profits interest. Moreover, the profits interest in the operating LLC was held indirectly through an upper tier partnership. 

Under the relevant guidance (Rev. Proc. 93-27), a profits interest is not treated as income upon its acquisition if a person receives it “for the provision of services to or for the benefit of a partnership in a partner capacity or in anticipation of being a partner.”  The Tax Court rejected the argument of the IRS as being too narrow a reading of Rev. Proc. 93-27. The Court found that the services provided to the corporation were part of the transaction that caused the formation the LLC. It further found that it is of no material consequence that the profits interest in the LLC was held indirectly through an upper tier LLC which it said was a mere conduit since the economic rights in the profits interest units in both the upper tier and lower tier LLCs were identical.

By this holding, the Tax Court has effectively approved what has in effect become relatively common practice, i.e., the practice of issuing profits interests to a service provider in circumstance in which the services are rendered to an entity other than the partnership issuing the profits interest as long as the services benefit the issuing partnership.

Bottom Line: This decision will not likely result in a significant change in practice with respect to issuing profits interests but provides additional comfort for continued use of structures already determined to be permissible by tax practitioners.

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Photo of James Duffy James Duffy

Jim is a partner in Taft’s Tax practice and practices principally in the areas of federal tax law; tax credit financing; individual, partnership and corporate tax planning; M&A; tax-exempt organizations and general commercial and corporate law.

Jim has been actively practicing in the

Jim is a partner in Taft’s Tax practice and practices principally in the areas of federal tax law; tax credit financing; individual, partnership and corporate tax planning; M&A; tax-exempt organizations and general commercial and corporate law.

Jim has been actively practicing in the area of the New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) program since its inception in 2001. He has organized community development entities (CDEs) and represented CDEs, borrowers and other parties in structuring and closing numerous NMTC transactions. Jim also advises clients regarding Qualified Opportunity Zone matters.

Jim advises LLCs, partnerships, corporations and individuals in connection with the formation of new companies, mergers and acquisitions, formation of joint ventures, like-kind exchanges, ownership succession planning, and general business operations. These clients are involved in a variety of industries, including banking, venture capital, real estate, construction, consulting and investing.

Jim also advises charitable and non-charitable tax-exempt organizations, including health care entities, schools, religious and civic organizations. In addition to advising management of these organizations with respect to matters pertaining to general operation and maintenance of tax-exempt status, Jim has assisted clients in forming, restructuring and dissolving tax-exempt organizations, as well as forming donor- advised funds.

Prior to joining the firm, Jim worked at the law firm of Lewis Rice and Fingersh in St. Louis, Missouri, where he concentrated his practice in federal and state taxation. He also clerked for the Hon. Robert P. Ruwe of the U.S. Tax Court in Washington, D.C.