The Perfect Is the Enemy of Timely APA Completions

Almost exactly a year ago, the IRS announced that its Advance Pricing Agreement program would leave the Office of Associate Chief Counsel (International) and merge with the competent authority function in the Large Business and International division. The move was hailed by taxpayers who were hopeful that LB&I’s ability to hire, and a process that considers bilateral negotiations from the outset, would mean faster turnaround times.

Richard McAlonan, the IRS’s first director of the Advance Pricing and Mutual Agreement program, shares his goals for the new combined program in an interview in today’s issue of Transfer Pricing Report. His vision includes:

  1. Completing 150-200 cases annually. With the new staff levels, McAlonan points out, this is two or three cases a year per team leader. More submissions should start coming in “as people see that we can actually deliver.” (Only 43 APAs were completed in 2011.)
  2. Shorter recommended negotiating position papers. These are sometimes twice as long as the submissions, he says.
  3. A 30-day turnaround from taxpayers responding to questions.
  4. An environment where APMA staff can make decisions and move on. One case had an issue that “was sitting unresolved for two years,” he says. “That, to me, is unacceptable.”

Staff need to let go of the desire for perfection, according to McAlonan, and “not be concerned that they’re going to be second-guessed … Let’s do the best job we can in a reasonable period of time and get it out the door.”

Molly Moses
Managing Editor, Transfer Pricing Report