SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d)
OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of report (Date of earliest event reported): February 26, 2018
Black Stone Minerals, L.P.
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Charter)
(State or Other Jurisdiction
1001 Fannin Street, Suite 2020
Houston, Texas 77002
(Address of Principal Executive Offices) (Zip Code)
Registrants telephone number, including area code
(Former Name or Former Address, if Changed Since Last Report)
Check the appropriate box below if the Form 8-K filing is intended to simultaneously satisfy the filing obligation of the registrant under any of the following provisions:
|☐||Written communications pursuant to Rule 425 under the Securities Act (17 CFR 230.425)|
|☐||Soliciting material pursuant to Rule 14a-12 under the Exchange Act (17 CFR 240.14a-12)|
|☐||Pre-commencement communications pursuant to Rule 14d-2(b) under the Exchange Act (17 CFR 240.14d-2(b))|
|☐||Pre-commencement communications pursuant to Rule 13e-4(c) under the Exchange Act (17 CFR 240.13e-4(c))|
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is an emerging growth company as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act of 1933 (17 CFR §230.405) or Rule 12b-2 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (17 CFR §240.12b-2).
Emerging Growth Company ☐
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
|Item 8.01.||Other Events.|
Black Stone Minerals, L.P., a Delaware limited partnership (the Partnership), is filing this Current Report on Form 8-K in order to (a) file Exhibit 99.1 hereto to replace in its entirety (i) the section under the heading Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Consequences that appears in the Partnerships Registration Statement on Form S-3 (File No. 333-211426), filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) on May 18, 2016, and the Prospectus contained therein, (ii) the section under the heading Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Consequences that appears in the Partnerships Registration Statement on Form S-3 (File No. 333-215857), filed with the SEC on February 2, 2017, and the Prospectus contained therein, and (iii) the section under the heading Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations that appears in the Partnerships Prospectus Supplement (File No. 333-215857), dated May 26, 2017, in each case, to provide updated disclosure regarding the material tax considerations associated with the Partnerships operations and the purchase, ownership and disposition of the Partnerships units and (b) provide the legal opinion of Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. relating to certain tax matters, a copy of which is filed as Exhibit 8.1 hereto.
|Item 9.01.||Financial Statements and Exhibits.|
|8.1||Opinion of Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. relating to tax matters|
|99.1||Update to (i) Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Consequences Stated in the Partnerships Registration Statement on Form S-3 (File No. 333-211426), filed May 18, 2016, and the Prospectus contained therein, (ii) Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Consequences Stated in the Partnerships Registration Statement on Form S-3 (File No. 333-215857), filed February 2, 2017, and the Prospectus contained therein, and (iii) Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations Stated in the Partnerships Prospectus Supplement (File No. 333-215857), dated May 26, 2017.|
Pursuant to the requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the registrant has duly caused this report to be signed on its behalf by the undersigned, thereunto duly authorized.
|BLACK STONE MINERALS, L.P.|
|By:||Black Stone Minerals GP, L.L.C.,|
|its general partner|
|Date: February 26, 2018||By:|
|Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary|
February 26, 2018
Black Stone Minerals, L.P.
1001 Fannin Street, Suite 2020
Houston, TX 77002
|RE:||Black Stone Minerals, L.P. Form 8-K|
Ladies and Gentlemen:
We have acted as counsel for Black Stone Minerals, L.P. (the Partnership), a Delaware limited partnership, with respect to certain legal matters related to (i) the Registration Statement on Form S-3, No. 333-215857 and the prospectus included therein (the Registration Statement I), (ii) the Registration Statement on Form S-3, No. 333-211426 and the prospectus included therein (the Registration Statement II, and together with the Registration Statement I, the Registration Statements), (iii) the prospectus supplement dated May 26, 2017 related to Registration Statement I (the Prospectus Supplement), and (iv) the Form 8-K filed on or about the date hereof (the Form 8-K, and together with the Registration Statements and the Prospectus Supplement, the Applicable Filings). In connection with the Applicable Filings, we are issuing this opinion.
This opinion is based on various facts and assumptions, and is conditioned upon certain representations made by the Partnership as to factual matters through a certificate of an officer of the Partnership (the Officers Certificate). In addition, this opinion is based upon the factual representations of the Partnership concerning its business, properties and governing documents as set forth in the Applicable Filings.
In our capacity as counsel to the Partnership, we have made such legal and factual examinations and inquiries, including an examination of originals or copies certified or otherwise identified to our satisfaction of such documents, corporate records and other instruments, as we have deemed necessary or appropriate for purposes of this opinion. In our examination, we have assumed the authenticity of all documents submitted to us as originals, the genuineness of all signatures thereon, the legal capacity of natural persons executing such documents and the conformity to authentic original documents of all documents submitted to us as copies. For the purpose of our opinion, we have not made an independent investigation or audit of the facts set forth in the above-referenced documents or in the Officers Certificate. In addition, in rendering this opinion we have assumed the truth and accuracy of all representations and statements made to us which are qualified as to knowledge or belief, without regard to such qualification.
We hereby confirm that all statements of legal conclusions contained in the discussion in the Registration Statement I under the caption Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Consequences as updated in the Prospectus Supplement under the caption Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations, and the discussion in the Registration Statement II under the caption Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Consequences, in each case, as updated in Exhibit 99.1 to the Form 8-K under the caption Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Consequences (collectively, the Covered Discussions) constitute the opinion of Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. with respect to the matters set forth therein as of the date hereof, subject to the assumptions, qualifications, and limitations set forth therein. This opinion is based on various statutory provisions, regulations promulgated thereunder and interpretations thereof by the Internal Revenue
Vinson & Elkins LLP Attorneys at Law
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Houston, TX 77002-6760
Tel +1.713.758.2222 Fax +1.713.758.2346 www.velaw.com
Service and the courts having jurisdiction over such matters, all of which are subject to change either prospectively or retroactively. Also, any variation or difference in the facts from those set forth in the representations described above, including in the Applicable Filings and the Officers Certificate, may affect the conclusions stated herein.
No opinion is expressed as to any matter not discussed in the Covered Discussions. We are opining herein only as to the federal income tax matters described above, and we express no opinion with respect to the applicability to, or the effect on, any transaction or other federal laws, foreign laws, the laws of any state or any other jurisdiction or as to any matters of municipal law or the laws of any other local agencies within any state.
This opinion is rendered to you as of the date hereof, and we undertake no obligation to update this opinion subsequent to the date hereof. This opinion is furnished to you and may be relied on by you in connection with the transactions set forth in the Registration Statements and Prospectus Supplement. In addition, this opinion may be relied on by persons entitled to rely on it pursuant to applicable provisions of federal securities law, including persons purchasing common units pursuant to the Registration Statements and Prospectus Supplement. However, this opinion may not be relied upon for any other purpose or furnished to, assigned to, quoted to or relied upon by any other person, firm or other entity, for any purpose, without our prior written consent.
We hereby consent to the filing of this opinion of counsel as Exhibit 8.1 to the Form 8-K, to the incorporation by reference of this opinion of counsel into the Registration Statements and to the reference to our firm in the Applicable Filings. In giving such consent, we do not admit that we are within the category of persons whose consent is required under Section 7 of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended.
|Very truly yours,|
|/s/ VINSON & ELKINS L.L.P.|
|Vinson & Elkins L.L.P.|
MATERIAL U.S. FEDERAL INCOME TAX CONSEQUENCES
This section summarizes the material U.S. federal income tax consequences that may be relevant to prospective unitholders and is based upon current provisions of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the Code), existing and proposed U.S. Treasury regulations thereunder (the Treasury Regulations), and current administrative rulings and court decisions, all of which are subject to change. Changes in these authorities may cause the federal income tax consequences to a prospective unitholder to vary substantially from those described below, possibly on a retroactive basis. Unless the context otherwise requires, references in this section to we or us are references to Black Stone Minerals, L.P. and its subsidiaries. This section updates and replaces (i) the section under the heading Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Consequences that appears in our Registration Statement on Form S-3 (File No. 333-211426), filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) on May 18, 2016, and the Prospectus contained therein, (ii) the section under the heading Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Consequences that appears in our Registration Statement on Form S-3 (File No. 333-215857), filed with the SEC on February 2, 2017, and the Prospectus contained therein, and (iii) the section under the heading Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations that appears in our Prospectus Supplement (File No. 333-215857), dated May 26, 2017. This section should be read in conjunction with the risk factors included under the caption Tax Risks to Common Unitholders in our most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and any subsequently filed Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q.
Legal conclusions contained in this section, unless otherwise noted, are the opinion of Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. and are based on the accuracy of representations made by us to them for this purpose. However, this section does not address all federal income tax matters that may affect us or our unitholders such as the application of the alternative minimum tax that may be applicable to certain unitholders. This section also does not address local taxes, state taxes, non-U.S. taxes, or other taxes that may be applicable, except to the limited extent that such tax considerations are addressed below under State, Local, and Other Tax Considerations. Furthermore, this section focuses on unitholders who are individual citizens or residents of the United States (for federal income tax purposes), who have the U.S. dollar as their functional currency, who use the calendar year as their taxable year, who purchase units in this offering, who do not materially participate in the conduct of our business activities, and who hold such units as capital assets (typically, property that is held for investment). This section has limited applicability to corporations (including other entities treated as corporations for federal income tax purposes), partnerships (including other entities treated as partnerships for federal income tax purposes), estates, trusts, non-resident aliens or other unitholders subject to specialized tax treatment, such as tax-exempt entities, non-U.S. persons, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), employee benefit plans, real estate investment trusts or mutual funds. Accordingly, we encourage each prospective unitholder to consult the unitholders own tax advisor in analyzing the federal, state, local and non-U.S. tax consequences particular to that unitholder resulting from ownership or disposition of units and potential changes in applicable tax laws.
We are relying on the opinions and advice of Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. with respect to the matters described herein. An opinion of counsel represents only that counsels best legal judgment and does not bind the Internal Revenue Service (the IRS) or a court. Accordingly, the opinions and statements made herein may not be sustained by a court if contested by the IRS. Any such contest of the matters described herein may materially and adversely impact the market for our units and the prices at which our units trade. In addition, our costs of any contest with the IRS will be borne indirectly by our unitholders because the costs will reduce our cash available for distribution. Furthermore, the tax consequences of an investment in us may be significantly modified by future legislative or administrative changes or court decisions, which may be retroactively applied.
For the reasons described below, Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. has not rendered an opinion with respect to the following federal income tax issues: (1) the treatment of a unitholder whose units are the subject of a securities loan (e.g., a loan to a short seller to cover a short sale of units) (please read Tax Consequences of Unit OwnershipTreatment of Securities Loans); (2) whether our monthly convention for allocating taxable income and losses is permitted by existing Treasury Regulations (please read Disposition of UnitsAllocations Between Transferors and Transferees); and (3) whether our method for taking into account Section 743 adjustments is sustainable in certain cases (please read Tax Consequences of Unit OwnershipSection 754 Election and Uniformity of Units).
Taxation of the Partnership
We are treated as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes and, therefore, subject to the discussion below under Administrative MattersInformation Returns and Audit Procedures, generally will not be liable for entity-level federal income taxes. Instead, as described below, each of our unitholders will take into account its respective share of our items of income, gain, loss, and deduction in computing its federal income tax liability as if the unitholder had earned such income directly, even if we make no cash distributions to the unitholder. Distributions we make to a unitholder will not give rise to income or gain taxable to such unitholder, unless the amount of cash or marketable securities treated as cash distributed exceeds the unitholders adjusted tax basis in its units. Please read Tax Consequences of Unit OwnershipTreatment of Distributions and Disposition of Units).
Section 7704 of the Code generally provides that publicly traded partnerships will be treated as corporations for federal income tax purposes. However, if 90% or more of a partnerships gross income for every taxable year it is publicly traded consists of qualifying income, the partnership may continue to be treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes (the Qualifying Income Exception). Qualifying income includes, but is not limited to, income and gains derived from the exploration, production, and marketing of certain natural resources, including oil, natural gas, and products thereof, as well as other types of income such as interest (other than from a financial business) and dividends. Royalties and other passive income from mineral interests are also treated as qualifying income. We estimate that less than 4.0% of our current gross income is not qualifying income; however, this estimate could change from time to time.
No ruling has been or will be sought from the IRS with respect to our classification as a partnership for federal income tax purposes or as to the classification of our direct and indirect partnership and limited liability company subsidiaries. Instead we have relied on the opinion of counsel that based upon the Code, existing Treasury Regulations, published revenue rulings and court decisions and representations described below, we and our direct and indirect partnership and limited liability company subsidiaries, other than those that have been identified as corporations to Vinson & Elkins L.L.P., will each be classified as a partnership or disregarded as an entity separate from its owner for federal income tax purposes.
Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. is of the opinion that we will be treated as a partnership and our direct and indirect partnership and limited liability company subsidiaries, other than those that have been identified as corporations to Vinson & Elkins L.L.P., will each be classified as a partnership or disregarded as an entity separate from its owner for federal income tax purposes. In rendering its opinion, Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. has relied on the factual representations made by us and our general partner, including, without limitation:
|(a)||Neither we nor any of our partnership or limited liability company subsidiaries, other than those that have been identified as corporations to Vinson & Elkins L.L.P., has elected or will elect to be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes;|
|(b)||For each taxable year since and including the year of our initial public offering, more than 90% of our gross income has been and will be income of a character that Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. has opined is qualifying income within the meaning of Section 7704(d) of the Code; and|
|(c)||Each hedging transaction that we treat as resulting in qualifying income has been and will be appropriately identified as a hedging transaction pursuant to applicable Treasury Regulations, and has been and will be associated with oil, natural gas or products thereof that are held or to be held by us in activities that Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. has opined or will opine result in qualifying income.|
We believe that these representations are true and will be true in the future.
If we fail to meet the Qualifying Income Exception, other than a failure that is determined by the IRS to be inadvertent and that is cured within a reasonable time after discovery (in which case the IRS may also require us to make adjustments with respect to our unitholders or pay other amounts), we will be treated as transferring all of our
assets, subject to all of our liabilities, to a newly formed corporation, on the first day of the year in which we fail to meet the Qualifying Income Exception, in return for stock in that corporation and then as distributing that stock to our unitholders in liquidation of their interests in us. This deemed contribution and liquidation should not result in the recognition of taxable income by our unitholders or us so long as the aggregate amount of our liabilities does not exceed the adjusted tax basis of our assets. Thereafter, we would be treated as an association taxable as a corporation for federal income tax purposes.
The present U.S. federal income tax treatment of publicly traded partnerships, including us, or an investment in our units may be modified by administrative or legislative action or judicial interpretation at any time. From time to time, members of the U.S. Congress have proposed and considered substantive changes to the existing federal income tax laws that would affect publicly traded partnerships. One such legislative proposal would have eliminated the Qualifying Income Exception upon which we rely for our treatment as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
In addition, on January 24, 2017, final regulations regarding which activities give rise to qualifying income (the Final Regulations) within the meaning of Section 7704 of the Code were published in the Federal Register. The Final Regulations are effective as of January 19, 2017, and apply to taxable years beginning on or after January 19, 2017. The Final Regulations confirm our prior interpretation that royalties and other passive income from mineral interests are treated as qualifying income and therefore do not affect our ability to qualify as a publicly traded partnership.
It is possible that a change in law could affect us and may be applied retroactively. Any such changes could negatively impact the value of an investment in our units. If for any reason we are taxable as a corporation in any taxable year, our items of income, gain, loss, and deduction would be taken into account by us in determining the amount of our liability for federal income tax, rather than being passed through to our unitholders.
At the state level, several states have been evaluating ways to subject partnerships to entity level taxation through the imposition of state income, franchise, or other forms of taxation. Imposition of a similar tax on us in the jurisdictions in which we operate or in other jurisdictions to which we may expand could substantially reduce our cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Our taxation as a corporation would materially reduce our cash available for distribution to unitholders and thus would likely substantially reduce the value of our units. Any distribution made to a unitholder at a time we are treated as a corporation would be (i) a taxable dividend to the extent of our current or accumulated earnings and profits, then (ii) a nontaxable return of capital to the extent of the unitholders adjusted tax basis in its units, and thereafter (iii) taxable capital gain.
The remainder of this discussion is based on the opinion of Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. that we will be treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes.
Tax Consequences of Unit Ownership
Limited Partner Status
Unitholders who are admitted as limited partners of the partnership, as well as unitholders whose units are held in street name or by a nominee and who have the right to direct the nominee in the exercise of all substantive rights attendant to the ownership of units, will be treated as partners of the partnership for federal income tax purposes. For a discussion related to the risks of losing partner status as a result of securities loans, please read Tax Consequences of Unit OwnershipTreatment of Securities Loans. Unitholders who are not treated as partners in us as described above are urged to consult their own tax advisors with respect to the tax consequences applicable to them under their particular circumstances.
Flow-Through of Taxable Income
Subject to the discussion below under Entity-Level Collections of Unitholder Taxes and Administrative MattersInformation Returns and Audit Procedures, with respect to payments we may be required to make on behalf of our unitholders, we will not pay any federal income tax. Rather, each unitholder will be
required to report on its federal income tax return each year its share of our income, gains, losses, and deductions for our taxable year or years ending with or within its taxable year. Consequently, we may allocate income to a unitholder even if that unitholder has not received a cash distribution.
Basis of Units
A unitholders tax basis in its units initially will be the amount paid for those units increased by the unitholders initial allocable share of our liabilities. That basis generally will be (i) increased by the unitholders share of our income and by any increases in such unitholders share of our liabilities, and (ii) decreased, but not below zero, by the amount of all distributions to the unitholder, the unitholders share of our losses, any decreases in the unitholders share of our liabilities, and the amount of any excess business interest allocated to the unitholder. The IRS has ruled that a partner who acquires interests in a partnership in separate transactions must combine those interests and maintain a single adjusted tax basis for all of those interests.
Treatment of Distributions
Distributions made by us to a unitholder generally will not be taxable to the unitholder unless such distributions are of cash or marketable securities that are treated as cash and exceed the unitholders tax basis in its units, in which case the unitholder generally will recognize gain taxable in the manner described below under Disposition of Units.
Any reduction in a unitholders share of our nonrecourse liabilities (liabilities for which no partner bears the economic risk of loss) will be treated as a distribution by us of cash to that unitholder. A decrease in a unitholders percentage interest in us because of our issuance of additional units may decrease such unitholders share of our nonrecourse liabilities. For purposes of the foregoing, a unitholders share of our nonrecourse liabilities generally will be based upon such unitholders share of the unrealized appreciation (or depreciation) in our assets, to the extent thereof, with any excess nonrecourse liabilities allocated based on the unitholders share of our profits. Please read Disposition of Units.
A non-pro rata distribution of money or property (including a deemed distribution as a result of the reallocation of our nonrecourse liabilities described above) may cause a unitholder to recognize ordinary income, if the distribution reduces the unitholders share of our unrealized receivables, including depreciation and depletion recapture and substantially appreciated inventory items, both as defined in Section 751 of the Code (Section 751 Assets). To the extent of such reduction, the unitholder would be deemed to receive its proportionate share of the Section 751 Assets and exchange such assets with us in return for a portion of the non-pro rata distribution. This deemed exchange generally will result in the unitholders recognition of ordinary income in an amount equal to the excess of (1) the non-pro rata portion of that distribution over (2) the unitholders tax basis (generally zero) in the Section 751 Assets deemed to be relinquished in the exchange.
Limitations on Deductibility of Losses
A unitholder may not be entitled to deduct the full amount of loss we allocate to it because its share of our losses will be limited to the lesser of (i) the unitholders adjusted tax basis in its units, and (ii) in the case of a unitholder that is an individual, estate, trust, or certain types of closely held corporations, the amount for which the unitholder is considered to be at risk with respect to our activities. In general, a unitholder will be at risk to the extent of its adjusted tax basis in its units, reduced by (1) any portion of that basis attributable to the unitholders share of our nonrecourse liabilities, (2) any portion of that basis representing amounts otherwise protected against loss because of a guarantee, stop loss agreement or similar arrangement, and (3) any amount of money the unitholder borrows to acquire or hold its units, if the lender of those borrowed funds owns an interest in us, is related to another unitholder or can look only to the units for repayment. A unitholder subject to the at risk limitation must recapture losses deducted in previous years to the extent that distributions (including distributions deemed to result from a reduction in a unitholders share of nonrecourse liabilities) cause the unitholders at risk amount to be less than zero at the end of any taxable year.
Losses disallowed to a unitholder or recaptured as a result of the basis or at risk limitations will carry forward and will be allowable as a deduction in a later year to the extent that the unitholders adjusted tax basis or at risk amount, whichever is the limiting factor, is subsequently increased. Upon a taxable disposition of units, any
gain recognized by a unitholder can be offset by losses that were previously suspended by the at risk limitation but not losses suspended by the basis limitation. Any loss previously suspended by the at risk limitation in excess of that gain can no longer be used, and will not be available to offset a unitholders salary or active business income.
In addition to the basis and at risk limitations, a passive activity loss limitation generally limits the deductibility of losses incurred by individuals, estates, trusts, some closely held corporations and personal service corporations from passive activities (generally, trade or business activities in which the taxpayer does not materially participate). The passive loss limitations are applied separately with respect to each publicly traded partnership. Consequently, any passive losses we generate will be available to offset only passive income generated by us. For this purpose, a unitholders share of our royalty income will not be treated as passive income. As a result, our unitholders may receive allocations of taxable income from our royalties that cannot be offset by deductions from our working interests. Passive losses that exceed a unitholders share of passive income we generate may be deducted in full when the unitholder disposes of all of its units in a fully taxable transaction with an unrelated party. The passive activity loss rules generally are applied after other applicable limitations on deductions, including the at risk and basis limitations.
For taxpayers other than corporations in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026, an excess business loss limitation further limits the deductibility of losses by such taxpayers. An excess business loss is the excess (if any) of a taxpayers aggregate deductions for the taxable year that are attributable to the trades or businesses of such taxpayer (determined without regard to the excess business loss limitation) over the aggregate gross income or gain of such taxpayer for the taxable year that is attributable to such trades or businesses plus a threshold amount. The threshold amount is equal to $250,000 or $500,000 for taxpayers filing a joint return. Disallowed excess business losses are treated as a net operating loss carryover to the following tax year. Any losses we generate that are allocated to a unitholder and not otherwise limited by the basis, at risk, or passive loss limitations will be included in the determination of such unitholders aggregate trade or business deductions. Consequently, any losses we generate that are not otherwise limited will only be available to offset a unitholders other trade or business income plus an amount of non-trade or business income equal to the applicable threshold amount. Thus, except to the extent of the threshold amount, our losses that are not otherwise limited may not offset a unitholders non-trade or business income (such as salaries, fees, interest, dividends and capital gains). This excess business loss limitation will be applied after the passive activity loss limitation.
Limitations on Interest Deductions
In general, we are entitled to a deduction for interest paid or accrued on indebtedness properly allocable to our trade or business during our taxable year. However, our deduction for this business interest is limited to the sum of our business interest income and 30% of our adjusted taxable income. For the purposes of this limitation, our adjusted taxable income is computed without regard to any business interest or business interest income, and in the case of taxable years beginning before January 1, 2022, any deduction allowable for depreciation, amortization, or depletion. This limitation is first applied at the partnership level and any deduction for business interest is taken into account in determining our non-separately stated taxable income or loss. Then, in applying this business interest limitation at the partner level, the adjusted taxable income of each of our unitholders is determined without regard to such unitholders distributive share of any of our items of income, gain, deduction, or loss and is increased by such unitholders distributive share of our excess taxable income, which is generally equal to the excess of 30% of our adjusted taxable income over the amount of our deduction for business interest for a taxable year.
To the extent our deduction for business interest is not limited, we will allocate the full amount of our deduction for business interest among our unitholders in accordance with their percentage interests in us. To the extent our deduction for business interest is limited, the amount of any disallowed deduction for business interest will also be allocated to each unitholder in accordance with their percentage interest in us, but such amount of excess business interest will not be currently deductible. Subject to certain limitations and adjustments to a unitholders basis in its units, this excess business interest may be carried forward and deducted by a unitholder in a future taxable year.
In addition to this limitation on the deductibility of a partnerships business interest, the deductibility of a non-corporate taxpayers investment interest expense generally is limited to the amount of that taxpayers net investment income. Investment interest expense includes:
|||interest on indebtedness allocable to property held for investment;|
|||interest expense allocated against portfolio income; and|
|||the portion of interest expense incurred to purchase or carry an interest in a passive activity to the extent allocable against portfolio income.|
The computation of a unitholders investment interest expense will take into account interest on any margin account borrowing or other loan incurred to purchase or carry a unit. Net investment income generally includes gross income from property held for investment and amounts treated as portfolio income under the passive loss rules, less deductible expenses, other than interest, directly connected with the production of investment income. Net investment income does not include qualified dividend income (if applicable) or gains attributable to the disposition of property held for investment. A unitholders share of a publicly traded partnerships portfolio income and, according to the IRS, net passive income will be treated as investment income for purposes of the investment interest expense limitation.
Entity-Level Collections of Unitholder Taxes
If we are required or elect under applicable law to pay any federal, state, local, or non-U.S. tax on behalf of any current or former unitholder or our general partner, we are authorized to treat the payment as a distribution of cash to the relevant unitholder or general partner. Where the tax is payable on behalf of all unitholders or we cannot determine the specific unitholder on whose behalf the tax is payable, we are authorized to treat the payment as a distribution to all current unitholders. Payments by us as described above could give rise to an overpayment of tax on behalf of a unitholder, in which event the unitholder may be entitled to claim a refund of the overpayment amount. Please read Administrative MattersInformation Returns and Audit Procedures. Unitholders are urged to consult their tax advisors to determine the consequences to them of any tax payment we make on their behalf.
Allocation of Income, Gain, Loss, and Deduction
Our items of income, gain, loss, and deduction generally will be allocated amongst our unitholders in accordance with their percentage interests in us. At any time that distributions are made to the units in excess of distributions to the subordinated units, gross income will be allocated to the recipients to the extent of these distributions.
Specified items of our income, gain, loss, and deduction will be allocated under Section 704(c) of the Code (or the principles of Section 704(c) of the Code) to account for any difference between the adjusted tax basis and fair market value of our assets at the time such assets are contributed to us and at the time of any subsequent offering of our units (a Book-Tax Disparity). As a result, the federal income tax burden associated with any Book-Tax Disparity immediately prior to an offering generally will be borne by our partners holding interests in us prior to the offering. In addition, items of recapture income will be specially allocated to the extent possible (subject to the limitations described above) to the unitholder who was allocated the deduction giving rise to that recapture income in order to minimize the recognition of ordinary income by other unitholders.
An allocation of items of our income, gain, loss, or deduction, other than an allocation required by the Code to eliminate a Book-Tax Disparity, will generally be given effect for federal income tax purposes in determining a unitholders share of an item of income, gain, loss, or deduction only if the allocation has substantial economic effect. In any other case, a unitholders share of an item will be determined on the basis of the unitholders interest in us, which will be determined by taking into account all of the facts and circumstances, including (i) the unitholders relative contributions to us, (ii) the interests of all of the partners in profits and losses, (iii) the interest of all of the partners in cash flow, and (iv) the rights of all of the partners to distributions of capital upon liquidation. Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. is of the opinion that, with the exception of the issues described in Section 754 Election and Disposition of UnitsAllocations Between Transferors and Transferees, allocations of income, gain, loss, or deduction under our partnership agreement will be given effect for federal income tax purposes.
Treatment of Securities Loans
A unitholder whose units are the subject of a securities loan (for example, a loan to a short seller to cover a short sale of units) may be treated as having disposed of those units. If so, the unitholder would no longer be treated for tax purposes as a partner with respect to those units during the period of the loan and may recognize gain or loss from the disposition. As a result, during this period (i) any of our income, gain, loss, or deduction allocated to those units would not be reportable by the lending unitholder, and (ii) any cash distributions received by the unitholder as to those units may be treated as ordinary taxable income.
Due to a lack of controlling authority, Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. has not rendered an opinion regarding the tax treatment of a unitholder that enters into a securities loan with respect to its units. Unitholders desiring to assure their status as partners and avoid the risk of income recognition from a loan of their units are urged to consult their own tax advisors and to modify any applicable brokerage account agreements to prohibit their brokers from borrowing and lending their units. The IRS has announced that it is studying issues relating to the tax treatment of short sales of partnership interests. Please read Disposition of UnitsRecognition of Gain or Loss.
Under current law, the highest marginal federal income tax rates for individuals applicable to ordinary income and long-term capital gains (generally, gains from the sale or exchange of certain investment assets held for more than one year) are 37% and 20%, respectively. These rates are subject to change by new legislation at any time.
In addition, a 3.8% net investment income tax applies to certain net investment income earned by individuals, estates, and trusts. For these purposes, net investment income generally includes a unitholders allocable share of our income and gain realized by a unitholder from a sale of units. In the case of an individual, the tax will be imposed on the lesser of (i) the unitholders net investment income from all investments, or (ii) the amount by which the unitholders modified adjusted gross income exceeds $250,000 (if the unitholder is married and filing jointly or a surviving spouse), $125,000 (if married filing separately) or $200,000 (if the unitholder is unmarried or in any other case). In the case of an estate or trust, the tax will be imposed on the lesser of (i) undistributed net investment income, or (ii) the excess adjusted gross income over the dollar amount at which the highest income tax bracket applicable to an estate or trust begins.
For taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017 and ending on or before December 31, 2025, an individual unitholder is entitled to a deduction equal to 20% of his or her allocable share of our qualified business income (the Section 199A Deduction). For purposes of the new Section 199A Deduction, our qualified business income is equal to the sum of:
|||the net amount of our U.S. items of income, gain, deduction, and loss to the extent such items are included or allowed in the determination of taxable income for the year, excluding, however, certain specified types of passive investment income (such as capital gains and dividends) and certain payments made to the unitholder for services rendered to us; and|
|||any gain recognized upon a disposition of our units to the extent such gain is attributable to Section 751 Assets, such as depreciation recapture and our inventory items, and is thus treated as ordinary income under Section 751 of the Code.|
There is some uncertainty regarding the application of the new Section 199A Deduction to various items of income. However, Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. is of the opinion that the new Section 199A Deduction should apply to our income derived from mineral and royalty interests.
Section 754 Election
We have made the election permitted by Section 754 of the Code that permits us to adjust the tax basis in each of our assets as to specific purchasers of our units under Section 743(b) of the Code to reflect the unit purchase price upon subsequent purchases of our units. That election is irrevocable without the consent of the IRS. The Section 743(b) adjustment separately applies to a unitholder who purchases units from another unitholder based
upon the values and adjusted tax basis of each of our assets at the time of the relevant purchase, and the adjustment will reflect the purchase price paid. The Section 743(b) adjustment does not apply to a person who purchases units directly from us. For purposes of this discussion, a unitholders basis in our assets will be considered to have two components: (1) its share of the tax basis in our assets as to all unitholders and (2) its Section 743(b) adjustment to that tax basis (which may be positive or negative).
Under our partnership agreement, we are authorized to take a position to preserve the uniformity of units even if that position is not consistent with applicable Treasury Regulations. A literal application of Treasury Regulations governing a 743(b) adjustment attributable to properties depreciable under Section 167 of the Code may give rise to differences in the taxation of unitholders purchasing units from us and unitholders purchasing from other unitholders. If we have any such properties, we intend to adopt methods employed by other publicly traded partnerships to preserve the uniformity of units, even if inconsistent with existing Treasury Regulations, and Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. has not opined on the validity of this approach. Please read Uniformity of Units.
The IRS may challenge the positions we adopt with respect to depreciating or amortizing the Section 743(b) adjustment we take to preserve the uniformity of units due to lack of controlling authority. Because a unitholders adjusted tax basis for its units is reduced by its share of our items of deduction or loss, any position we take that understates deductions will overstate a unitholders basis in its units, and may cause the unitholder to understate gain or overstate loss on any sale of such units. Please read Disposition of UnitsRecognition of Gain or Loss. If a challenge to such treatment were sustained, the gain from the sale of units may be increased without the benefit of additional deductions.
The calculations involved in the Section 754 election are complex and are made on the basis of assumptions as to the value of our assets and other matters. The IRS could seek to reallocate some or all of any Section 743(b) adjustment we allocated to our assets subject to depreciation or depletion to goodwill or nondepreciable assets. Goodwill, as an intangible asset, is generally amortizable over a longer period of time or under a less accelerated method than our tangible assets. We cannot assure any unitholder that the determinations we make will not be successfully challenged by the IRS or that the resulting deductions will not be reduced or disallowed altogether. Should the IRS require a different tax basis adjustment to be made, and should, in our opinion, the expense of compliance exceed the benefit of the election, we may seek permission from the IRS to revoke our Section 754 election. If permission is granted, a subsequent purchaser of units may be allocated more income than it would have been allocated had the election not been revoked.
Tax Treatment of Operations
Accounting Method and Taxable Year
We will use the year ending December 31 as our taxable year and the accrual method of accounting for federal income tax purposes. Each unitholder will be required to include in its tax return its share of our income, gain, loss, and deduction for each taxable year ending within or with its taxable year. In addition, a unitholder who has a taxable year ending on a date other than December 31 and who disposes of all of its units following the close of our taxable year but before the close of its taxable year must include its share of our income, gain, loss, and deduction in income for its taxable year, with the result that it will be required to include in income for its taxable year its share of more than one year of our income, gain, loss, and deduction. Please read Disposition of UnitsAllocations Between Transferors and Transferees.
Subject to the limitations on deductibility of losses discussed above (please read Tax Consequences of Unit OwnershipLimitations on Deductibility of Losses), unitholders will be entitled to deductions for the greater of either cost depletion or (if otherwise allowable) percentage depletion with respect to our oil and natural gas interests. Although the Code requires each unitholder to compute its own depletion allowance and maintain records of its share of the adjusted tax basis of the underlying property for depletion and other purposes, we intend to furnish each of our unitholders with information relating to this computation for federal income tax purposes. Each unitholder, however, remains responsible for calculating its own depletion allowance and maintaining records of its share of the adjusted tax basis of the underlying property for depletion and other purposes.
Percentage depletion is generally available with respect to unitholders who qualify under the independent producer exemption contained in Section 613A(c) of the Code. For this purpose, an independent producer is a person not directly or indirectly involved in the retail sale of oil, natural gas, or derivative products or the operation of a major refinery. Percentage depletion is calculated as an amount generally equal to 15% (and, in the case of marginal production, potentially a higher percentage) of the unitholders gross income from the depletable property for the taxable year. The percentage depletion deduction with respect to any property is limited to 100% of the taxable income of the unitholder from the property for each taxable year, computed without the depletion allowance. A unitholder that qualifies as an independent producer may deduct percentage depletion only to the extent the unitholders average daily production of domestic oil, or the natural gas equivalent, does not exceed 1,000 barrels. This depletable amount may be allocated between oil and natural gas production, with 6,000 cubic feet of domestic natural gas production regarded as equivalent to one barrel of oil. The 1,000-barrel limitation must be allocated among the independent producer and controlled or related persons and family members in proportion to the respective production by these persons during the period in question.
In addition to the foregoing limitations, the percentage depletion deduction otherwise available is limited to 65% of a unitholders total taxable income from all sources for the year, computed without the depletion allowance, net operating loss carrybacks, or capital loss carrybacks. Any percentage depletion deduction disallowed because of the 65% limitation may be deducted in the following taxable year if the percentage depletion deduction for the year plus the deduction carryover does not exceed 65% of the unitholders total taxable income for that year. The carryover period resulting from the 65% net income limitation is unlimited.
Unitholders that do not qualify under the independent producer exemption are generally restricted to depletion deductions based on cost depletion. Cost depletion deductions are calculated by (i) dividing the unitholders share of the adjusted tax basis in the underlying mineral-property by the number of mineral units (barrels of oil and Mcf of natural gas) remaining as of the beginning of the taxable year and (ii) multiplying the result by the number of mineral units sold within the taxable year. The total amount of deductions based on cost depletion cannot exceed the unitholders share of the total adjusted tax basis in the property.
All or a portion of any gain recognized by a unitholder as a result of either the disposition by us of some or all of our oil and natural gas interests or the disposition by the unitholder of some or all of its units may be taxed as ordinary income to the extent of recapture of depletion deductions, except for percentage depletion deductions in excess of the tax basis of the property. The amount of the recapture is generally limited to the amount of gain recognized on the disposition.
The foregoing discussion of depletion deductions does not purport to be a complete analysis of the complex legislation and Treasury Regulations relating to the availability and calculation of depletion deductions by the unitholders. Further, because depletion is required to be computed separately by each unitholder and not by us, no assurance can be given, and counsel is unable to express any opinion, with respect to the availability or extent of percentage depletion deductions to the unitholders for any taxable year. We encourage each prospective unitholder to consult its tax advisor to determine whether percentage depletion would be available to the unitholder.
Recent Legislative Developments
In past years, legislation has been proposed that would, if enacted into law, make significant changes to U.S. tax laws, including to certain key U.S. federal income tax provisions currently available to oil and gas companies. Such legislative changes have included, but not been limited to, (i) the repeal of the percentage depletion allowance for oil and gas properties, (ii) the elimination of current deductions for intangible drilling and development costs, and (iii) an extension of the amortization period for certain geological and geophysical expenditures. It is unclear whether these or similar changes will be proposed again and, if enacted, how soon any such changes could take effect. Congress could consider, and could include, some or all of these proposals as part of future tax reform legislation. The recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act generally, among other things, reduces corporate and individual tax rates, changes the taxation of certain partners with respect to business income they earn from a partnership or other pass-through entity, eliminates the deduction for certain domestic production activities, changes the limitations on interest deductibility and cost recovery, changes the taxation of certain U.S. tax-exempt organizations with respect to unrelated business income taxes, and significantly revises the international taxation rules. Such changes may affect us and our unitholders.
Tax Basis, Depreciation and Amortization
The tax bases of our assets will be used for purposes of computing depreciation and cost recovery deductions, if any, and, ultimately, gain or loss on the disposition of those assets. If we dispose of depreciable or depletable property by sale, foreclosure, or otherwise, all or a portion of any gain, determined by reference to the amount of depreciation and depletion deductions previously taken, may be subject to the recapture rules and taxed as ordinary income rather than capital gain. Similarly, a unitholder who has taken cost recovery or depreciation deductions with respect to property we own will likely be required to recapture some or all of those deductions as ordinary income upon a sale of its interest in us. Please read Tax Consequences of Unit OwnershipAllocation of Income, Gain, Loss, and Deduction.
The costs we incur in offering and selling our units (called syndication expenses) must be capitalized and cannot be deducted currently, ratably or upon our termination. While there are uncertainties regarding the classification of costs as organization expenses, which may be amortized by us, and as syndication expenses, which may not be amortized by us, any underwriting discounts we incur will be treated as syndication expenses. Please read Disposition of UnitsRecognition of Gain or Loss.
We are allowed a first-year bonus depreciation deduction equal to 100% of the adjusted basis of certain depreciable property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017 and before January 1, 2023. For property placed in service during subsequent years, the deduction is phased down by 20% per year until December 31, 2026. This depreciation deduction applies to both new and used property. However, use of the deduction with respect to used property is subject to certain anti-abuse restrictions, including the requirement that the property be acquired from an unrelated party. We can elect to forgo the depreciation bonus and use the alternative depreciation system for any class of property for a taxable year. Under a transition rule, we can also elect to apply a 50% bonus depreciation deduction instead of the 100% deduction for our first taxable year ending after September 27, 2017.
Valuation and Tax Basis of Our Properties
The federal income tax consequences of the ownership and disposition of units will depend in part on our estimates of the relative fair market values and the tax bases of our assets. Although we may from time to time consult with professional appraisers regarding valuation matters, we will make many of the relative fair market value estimates ourselves. These estimates and determinations of tax basis are subject to challenge and will not be binding on the IRS or the courts. If the estimates of fair market value or basis are later found to be incorrect, the character and amount of items of income, gain, loss, or deduction previously reported by unitholders could change, and unitholders could be required to adjust their tax liability for prior years and incur interest and penalties with respect to those adjustments.
Disposition of Units
Recognition of Gain or Loss
A unitholder will be required to recognize gain or loss on a sale or exchange of units equal to the difference between the unitholders amount realized and tax basis in the units sold. A unitholders amount realized generally will equal the sum of the cash and the fair market value of other property it receives plus its share of our nonrecourse liabilities with respect to the units sold or exchanged. Because the amount realized includes a unitholders share of our nonrecourse liabilities, the gain recognized on the sale or exchange of units could result in a tax liability in excess of any cash received from the sale or exchange.
Except as noted below, gain or loss recognized by a unitholder on the sale or exchange of a unit held for more than one year generally will be taxable as long-term capital gain or loss. However, gain or loss recognized on the disposition of units will be separately computed and taxed as ordinary income or loss under Section 751 of the Code to the extent attributable to Section 751 Assets, such as depreciation or depletion recapture and our inventory items, regardless of whether an inventory item is substantially appreciated in value. Ordinary income attributable to Section 751 Assets may exceed net taxable gain realized on the sale or exchange of a unit and may be recognized even if there is a net taxable loss realized on the sale or exchange of a unit. Thus, a unitholder may recognize both ordinary income and capital gain or loss upon a sale or exchange of units. Net capital loss may offset capital gains and, in the case of individuals, up to $3,000 of ordinary income per year.
For purposes of calculating gain or loss on the sale or exchange of units, the unitholders adjusted tax basis will be adjusted by its allocable share of our income or loss in respect of its units for the year of the sale. Furthermore, as described above, the IRS has ruled that a partner who acquires interests in a partnership in separate transactions must combine those interests and maintain a single adjusted tax basis for all of those interests. Upon a sale or other disposition of less than all of those interests, a portion of that tax basis must be allocated to the interests sold using an equitable apportionment method, which generally means that the tax basis allocated to the interest sold equals an amount that bears the same relation to the partners tax basis in its entire interest in the partnership as the value of the interest sold bears to the value of the partners entire interest in the partnership.
Treasury Regulations under Section 1223 of the Code allow a selling unitholder who can identify units transferred with an ascertainable holding period to elect to use the actual holding period of the units transferred. Thus, according to the ruling discussed in the paragraph above, a unitholder will be unable to select high or low basis units to sell or exchange as would be the case with corporate stock, but, according to the Treasury Regulations, it may designate specific units sold for purposes of determining the holding period of the units transferred. A unitholder electing to use the actual holding period of units transferred must consistently use that identification method for all subsequent sales or exchanges of our units. A unitholder considering the purchase of additional units or a sale or exchange of units purchased in separate transactions is urged to consult its tax advisor as to the possible consequences of this ruling and application of the Treasury Regulations.
Specific provisions of the Code affect the taxation of some financial products and securities, including partnership interests, by treating a taxpayer as having sold an appreciated financial position, including a partnership interest with respect to which gain would be recognized if it were sold, assigned, or terminated at its fair market value, in the event the taxpayer or a related person enters into:
|||a short sale;|
|||an offsetting notional principal contract; or|
|||a futures or forward contract with respect to the partnership interest or substantially identical property.|
Moreover, if a taxpayer has previously entered into a short sale, an offsetting notional principal contract or a futures or forward contract with respect to the partnership interest, the taxpayer will be treated as having sold that position if the taxpayer or a related person then acquires the partnership interest or substantially identical property. The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to issue Treasury Regulations that treat a taxpayer that enters into transactions or positions that have substantially the same effect as the preceding transactions as having constructively sold the financial position. Please read Tax Consequences of Unit OwnershipTreatment of Securities Loans.
Allocations Between Transferors and Transferees
In general, our taxable income or loss will be determined annually, will be prorated on a monthly basis and will be subsequently apportioned among the unitholders in proportion to the number of units owned by each of them as of the opening of the applicable exchange on the first business day of the month (the Allocation Date). Nevertheless, we allocate deductions for depreciation of capital additions based upon the date the underlying property is placed in service, and gain or loss realized on a sale or other disposition of our assets or, in the discretion of the general partner, any other extraordinary item of income, gain, loss, or deduction will be allocated among the unitholders on the Allocation Date in the month in which such income, gain, loss, or deduction is recognized. As a result, a unitholder transferring units may be allocated income, gain, loss, and deduction realized after the date of transfer.
Although simplifying conventions are contemplated by the Code and most publicly traded partnerships use similar simplifying conventions, existing Treasury Regulations do not specifically authorize the use of the proration method we have adopted. Accordingly, Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. is unable to opine on the validity of this method of allocating income and deductions between transferee and transferor unitholders. If the IRS determines that this method is not allowed under the final Treasury Regulations, our taxable income or losses could be reallocated among our unitholders. We are authorized to revise our method of allocation between transferee and transferor unitholders, as well as among unitholders whose interests vary during a taxable year, to conform to a method permitted under the Treasury Regulations.
A unitholder who disposes of units prior to the record date set for a cash distribution for that quarter will be allocated items of our income, gain, loss, and deduction attributable to the month of disposition but will not be entitled to receive a cash distribution for that period.
A unitholder who sells or exchanges any of its units is generally required to notify us in writing of that transaction within 30 days after the transaction (or, if earlier, January 15 of the year following the transaction in the case of a seller). Upon receiving such notifications, we are required to notify the IRS of that transaction and to furnish specified information to the transferor and transferee. Failure to notify us of a transfer of units may, in some cases, lead to the imposition of penalties. However, these reporting requirements do not apply to a sale by an individual who is a citizen of the United States and who effects the sale or exchange through a broker who will satisfy these requirements.
Uniformity of Units
Because we cannot match transferors and transferees of units and other reasons, we must maintain uniformity of the economic and tax characteristics of the units to a purchaser of these units. In the absence of uniformity, we may be unable to completely comply with a number of federal income tax requirements. Any non-uniformity could have a negative impact on the value of the units. Please read Tax Consequences of Unit OwnershipSection 754 Election.
Our partnership agreement permits our general partner to take positions in filing our tax returns that preserve the uniformity of our units. These positions may include reducing the depreciation, amortization, or loss deductions to which a unitholder would otherwise be entitled or reporting a slower amortization of Section 743(b) adjustments for some unitholders than that to which they would otherwise be entitled. Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. is unable to opine as to the validity of such filing positions.
A unitholders adjusted tax basis in units is reduced by its share of our deductions (whether or not these deductions were claimed on an individual income tax return) so that any position that we take that understates deductions will overstate the unitholders basis in its units, and may cause the unitholder to understate gain or overstate loss on any sale of such units. Please read Disposition of UnitsRecognition of Gain or Loss above and Tax Consequences of Unit OwnershipSection 754 Election above. The IRS may challenge one or more of any positions we take to preserve the uniformity of units. If such a challenge were sustained, the uniformity of units might be affected, and, under some circumstances, the gain from the sale of units might be increased without the benefit of additional deductions.
Tax-Exempt Organizations and Other Investors
Ownership of units by employee benefit plans and other tax-exempt organizations as well as by non-resident alien individuals, non-U.S. corporations and other non-U.S. persons (collectively, non-U.S. unitholders) raises issues unique to those investors and, as described below, may have substantially adverse tax consequences to them. Prospective unitholders that are tax-exempt entities or non-U.S. unitholders should consult their tax advisors before investing in our units.
Employee benefit plans and most other tax-exempt organizations, including IRAs and other retirement plans, are subject to federal income tax on unrelated business taxable income. Because our properties may be financed with debt and because we may own working interests in the future, portions of our income may be unrelated business taxable income and may be taxable to a tax-exempt unitholder. Tax-exempt unitholders with more than one unrelated trade or business (including by attribution from us to the extent we are engaged in more than one unrelated trade or business) are required to separately compute their unrelated business taxable income with respect to each unrelated trade or business (including for purposes of determining any net operating loss deduction). As a result, it may not be possible for tax-exempt unitholders to utilize losses from an investment in us to offset unrelated business taxable income from another unrelated trade or business and vice versa.
Non-U.S. unitholders are taxed by the United States on income effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business (effectively connected income) and on certain types of U.S.-source non-effectively connected income (such as dividends), unless exempted or further limited by an income tax treaty. Each non-U.S. unitholder will be considered to be engaged in business in the United States because of its ownership of our units. Furthermore, non-U.S. unitholders will be deemed to conduct such activities through a permanent establishment in the United States within the meaning of an applicable tax treaty. Consequently, each non-U.S. unitholder will be required to file federal tax returns to report its share of our income, gain, loss or deduction and pay federal income tax on its share of our net income or gain. Moreover, under rules applicable to publicly-traded partnerships, distributions to non-U.S. unitholders are subject to withholding at the highest applicable effective tax rate. Each non-U.S. unitholder must obtain a taxpayer identification number from the IRS and submit that number to our transfer agent on a Form W-8BEN or W-8BEN-E (or other applicable or successor form) in order to obtain credit for these withholding taxes.
In addition, if a non-U.S. unitholder is classified as a non-U.S. corporation, it will be treated as engaged in a United States trade or business and may be subject to the U.S. branch profits tax at a rate of 30%, in addition to regular U.S. federal income tax, on its share of our income and gain as adjusted for changes in the foreign corporations U.S. net equity to the extent reflected in the corporations earnings and profits. That tax may be reduced or eliminated by an income tax treaty between the United States and the country in which the foreign corporate unitholder is a qualified resident. In addition, this type of unitholder is subject to special information reporting requirements under Section 6038C of the Code.
A non-U.S. unitholder who sells or otherwise disposes of a unit will be subject to U.S. federal income tax on gain realized from the sale or disposition of that unit to the extent the gain is effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business of the non-U.S. unitholder. Gain realized by a non-U.S. unitholder from the sale of its interest in a partnership that is engaged in a trade or business in the United States will be considered to be effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business to the extent that gain that would be recognized upon a sale by the partnership of all of its assets would be effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business. Thus, all of a non-U.S. unitholders gain from the sale or other disposition of our units would be treated as effectively connected with a unitholders indirect U.S. trade or business constituted by its investment in us and would be subject to U.S. federal income tax. As a result of the effectively connected income rules described above, the exclusion from U.S. taxation under the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act for gain from the sale of partnership units regularly traded on an established securities market will not prevent a non-U.S. unitholder from being subject to U.S. federal income tax on gain from the sale or disposition of its units.
Moreover, the transferee of an interest in a partnership that is engaged in a U.S. trade or business is generally required to withhold 10% of the amount realized by the transferor unless the transferor certifies that it is not a foreign person, and we are required to deduct and withhold from the transferee amounts that should have been withheld by the transferees but were not withheld. Because the amount realized includes a partners share of the partnerships liabilities, 10% of the amount realized could exceed the total cash purchase price for the units. For this and other reasons, the IRS has suspended the application of this withholding rule to open market transfers of interest in publicly traded partnerships, pending promulgation of regulations that address the amount to be withheld, the reporting necessary to determine such amount and the appropriate party to withhold such amounts, but it is not clear if or when such regulations will be issued.
Information Returns and Audit Procedures
We intend to furnish to each unitholder, within 90 days after the close of each taxable year, specific tax information, including a Schedule K-1, which describes its share of our income, gain, loss, and deduction for our preceding taxable year. In preparing this information, which will not be reviewed by counsel, we will take various accounting and reporting positions, some of which have been mentioned earlier, to determine each unitholders share of income, gain, loss, and deduction. We cannot assure our unitholders that those positions will yield a result that conforms to all of the requirements of the Code, Treasury Regulations or administrative interpretations of the IRS.
The IRS may audit our federal income tax information returns. Neither we nor Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. can assure prospective unitholders that the IRS will not successfully challenge the positions we adopt, and such a challenge could adversely affect the value of the units. Adjustments resulting from an IRS audit may require each unitholder to adjust a prior years tax liability and may result in an audit of the unitholders own return. Any audit of a unitholders return could result in adjustments unrelated to our returns.
Publicly traded partnerships generally are treated as entities separate from their owners for purposes of federal income tax audits, judicial review of administrative adjustments by the IRS and tax settlement proceedings. The tax treatment of partnership items of income, gain, loss, and deduction are determined in a partnership proceeding rather than in separate proceedings of the partners. The Code requires that one partner be designated as the Tax Matters Partner for these purposes, and our partnership agreement designates our general partner.
The Tax Matters Partner can extend the statute of limitations for assessment of tax deficiencies against unitholders for items in our returns. The Tax Matters Partner may bind a unitholder with less than a 1% profits interest in us to a settlement with the IRS unless that unitholder elects, by filing a statement with the IRS, not to give that authority to the Tax Matters Partner. The Tax Matters Partner may seek judicial review, by which all of the unitholders are bound, of a final partnership administrative adjustment and, if the Tax Matters Partner fails to seek judicial review, judicial review may be sought by any unitholder having at least a 1% interest in profits or by any group of unitholders having in the aggregate at least a 5% interest in profits. However, only one action for judicial review may go forward, and each unitholder with an interest in the outcome may participate in that action.
A unitholder must file a statement with the IRS identifying the treatment of any item on its federal income tax return that is not consistent with the treatment of the item on our return. Intentional or negligent disregard of this consistency requirement may subject a unitholder to substantial penalties.
Pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, if the IRS makes audit adjustments to our income tax returns, it may assess and collect any taxes (including any applicable penalties and interest) resulting from such audit adjustment directly from us, unless we elect to have our general partner and unitholders take any audit adjustment into account in accordance with its interests in us during the taxable year under audit. Similarly, for such taxable years, if the IRS makes audit adjustments to income tax returns filed by an entity in which we are a member or partner, it may assess and collect any taxes (including penalties and interest) resulting from such audit adjustment directly from such entity. Generally, we expect to elect to have our general partner and unitholders take any such audit adjustment into account in accordance with its interests in us during the taxable year under audit, but there can be no assurance that such election will be effective in all circumstances. If we are unable or if it is not economical to have our general partner, unitholders and former unitholders take such audit adjustment into account in accordance with their interests in us during the taxable year under audit, our then current unitholders may bear some or all of the tax liability resulting from such audit adjustment, even if such unitholders did not own our units during the taxable year under audit. If, as a result of any such audit adjustment, we are required to make payments of taxes, penalties, and interest, our cash available for distribution to our unitholders might be substantially reduced. These rules are not applicable for taxable years beginning on or prior to December 31, 2017. Congress has proposed changes to the Bipartisan Budget Act, and we anticipate that amendments may be made. Accordingly, the manner in which these rules may apply to us in the future is uncertain.
Additionally, pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, the Code will no longer require that we designate a Tax Matters Partner. Instead, for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, we will be required to designate a partner, or other person, with a substantial presence in the United States as the partnership representative (Partnership Representative). The Partnership Representative will have the sole authority to act on our behalf for purposes of, among other things, federal income tax audits and judicial review of administrative adjustments by the IRS. If we do not make such a designation, the IRS can select any person as the Partnership Representative. We currently anticipate that we will designate our general partner as the Partnership Representative. Further, any actions taken by us or by the Partnership Representative on our behalf with respect to, among other things, federal income tax audits and judicial review of administrative adjustments by the IRS, will be binding on us and all of the unitholders.
Persons who hold an interest in us as a nominee for another person are required to furnish to us:
|(1)||the name, address, and taxpayer identification number of the beneficial owner and the nominee;|
|(2)||a statement regarding whether the beneficial owner is:|
|(a)||a non-U.S. person;|
|(b)||a non-U.S. government, an international organization or any wholly owned agency or instrumentality of either of the foregoing; or|
|(c)||a tax-exempt entity;|
|(3)||the amount and description of units held, acquired or transferred for the beneficial owner; and|
|(4)||specific information including the dates of acquisitions and transfers, means of acquisitions and transfers, and acquisition cost for purchases, as well as the amount of net proceeds from sales.|
Brokers and financial institutions are required to furnish additional information, including whether they are U.S. persons and specific information on units they acquire, hold, or transfer for their own account. A penalty of $270 per failure, up to a maximum of $3,282,500 per calendar year, is imposed by the Code for failure to report that information to us. The nominee is required to supply the beneficial owner of the units with the information furnished to us.
Certain penalties may be imposed as a result of an underpayment of tax that is attributable to one or more specified causes, including negligence or disregard of rules or regulations, substantial understatements of income tax and substantial valuation misstatements. No penalty will be imposed, however, for any portion of an underpayment if it is shown that there was a reasonable cause for the underpayment of that portion and that the taxpayer acted in good faith regarding the underpayment of that portion. We do not anticipate that any accuracy related penalties will be assessed against us.
Additional Withholding Requirements
Withholding taxes may apply to certain types of payments made to foreign financial institutions (as specially defined in the Code) and certain other non-U.S. entities. Specifically, a 30% withholding tax may be imposed on interest, dividends and other fixed or determinable annual or periodic gains, profits and income from sources within the United States (FDAP Income), or gross proceeds from the sale or other disposition of any property of a type which can produce interest or dividends from sources within the United States (Gross Proceeds) paid to a foreign financial institution or to a non-financial foreign entity (as specially defined in the Code), unless (i) the foreign financial institution undertakes certain diligence and reporting, (ii) the non-financial foreign entity either certifies it does not have any substantial U.S. owners or furnishes identifying information regarding each substantial U.S. owner or (iii) the foreign financial institution or non-financial foreign entity otherwise qualifies for an exemption from these rules. If the payee is a foreign financial institution and is subject to the diligence and reporting requirements in clause (i) above, it must enter into an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Treasury requiring, among other things, that it undertake to identify accounts held by certain U.S. persons or U.S.-owned foreign entities, annually report certain information about such accounts, and withhold 30% on payments to noncompliant foreign financial institutions and certain other account holders. Foreign financial institutions located in jurisdictions that have an intergovernmental agreement with the United States governing these requirements may be subject to different rules.
Generally these rules apply to current payments of FDAP Income and will apply to payments of relevant Gross Proceeds made on or after January 1, 2019. Thus, to the extent we have FDAP Income or we have Gross Proceeds on or after January 1, 2019 that are not treated as effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business (please read
Tax-Exempt Organizations and Other InvestorsIncome Allocations, Distributions and Dispositions), a unitholder who is foreign financial institution or certain other non-U.S. entity, or a person that holds its units through such foreign entities, may be subject to withholding on distributions they receive from us, or its distributive share of our income, pursuant to the rules described above.
Each prospective unitholder should consult its own tax advisors regarding the potential application of these withholding provisions to its investment in our units.
State, Local, and Other Tax Considerations
In addition to federal income taxes, unitholders may be subject to other taxes, including state, local and foreign income taxes, unincorporated business taxes, and estate, inheritance or intangibles taxes that may be imposed by the various jurisdictions in which we conduct business or own property now or in the future or in which the unitholder is a resident. We conduct business or own property in many states in the United States. Some of these states may impose an income tax on individuals, corporations and other entities. As we make acquisitions or expand our business, we may own property or conduct business in additional states that impose a personal income tax. Although an analysis of those various taxes is not presented here, each prospective unitholder should consider the potential impact of such taxes on its investment in us.
A unitholder may be required to file income tax returns and pay income taxes in some or all of the jurisdictions in which we do business or own property, though such unitholder may not be required to file a return and pay taxes in certain jurisdictions because its income from such jurisdictions falls below the jurisdictions filing and payment requirement. Further, a unitholder may be subject to penalties for a failure to comply with any filing or payment requirement applicable to such unitholder. Some of the jurisdictions may require us, or we may elect, to withhold a percentage of income from amounts to be distributed to a unitholder who is not a resident of the jurisdiction. Withholding, the amount of which may be greater or less than a particular unitholders income tax liability to the jurisdiction, generally does not relieve a nonresident unitholder from the obligation to file an income tax return.
It is the responsibility of each unitholder to investigate the legal and tax consequences, under the laws of pertinent jurisdictions, of his investment in us. We strongly recommend that each prospective unitholder consult, and depend upon, its own tax counsel or other advisor with regard to those matters. Further, it is the responsibility of each unitholder to file all state, local, and non-U.S., as well as U.S. federal tax returns that may be required of it. Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. has not rendered an opinion on the state, local, alternative minimum tax, or non-U.S. tax consequences of an investment in us.