IRS Appeals Medtronic Case: Implications for Transfer Pricing

IRS Appeals Medtronic Case: Implications for Transfer Pricing

IRS Appeals Medtronic Case: Implications for Transfer Pricing

  • Posted by kalyani
  • On January 8, 2024


Kavit Sanghvi

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The IRS has appealed the Tax Court’s decision in Medtronic III, contesting income tax deficiencies of around $176 million for 2005 and 2006. Explore the implications of IRS Appeals in the Medtronic case, allowing Medtronic to seek a refund related to foreign tax credits. The appeal challenges the Tax Court’s use of an unspecified method to determine royalty rates. The original disagreement arose from a licensing agreement between Medtronic US and its Puerto Rican subsidiary. This case’s outcome will set significant precedents for future related-party transactions.

In the latest decision, the Tax Court determined deficiencies in income tax for tax years 2005 and 2006 of approximately $175 million, plus interest.


Medtronic US, the global parent company of a medical device enterprise, engaged in licensing agreements (the MPROC Agreements) with its Puerto Rican subsidiary (MPROC) for the production of medical devices (devices and leads). These agreements outlined royalties payable by MPROC to Medtronic US for specific intangible assets utilized in the further development, manufacturing, and commercialization of these medical devices and leads. Alongside this, MPROC assumed responsibility for product liability expenses associated with its manufactured products.

The IRS, employing the Comparable Profits Method (CPM), asserted that the royalties paid by MPROC were not at arm’s length and necessitated an increase. However, in Medtronic I, the Tax Court rejected the IRS’s use of the CPM citing various reasons, such as insufficient consideration of MPROC’s quality control function, the use of incomparable companies engaging in different functions and manufacturing dissimilar devices, an inadequately reflective profit level indicator, and an aggregate analysis of certain functions that should have been assessed separately.

Furthermore, the Tax Court dismissed Medtronic US’s application of the Comparable Uncontrolled Transaction (CUT) method, noting issues with the analysis based on the agreement with Siemens Pacesetter Inc. (Pacesetter). These issues included a broader range of devices in the MPROC Agreements, variations in the licensed intangible property, the lack of separate analysis for devices and leads in adjusting royalty rates, and the absence of a profit-potential assessment.

In response, the Tax Court conducted its own transfer pricing analysis, utilizing the Pacesetter Agreement as a foundation for its CUT method. Various adjustments were made to achieve an arm’s-length outcome, accounting for factors like know-how, profit potential, and distinctions in intangible property. Ultimately, in Medtronic I, the Tax Court determined that wholesale royalty rates of 44% for devices and 22% for leads were at arm’s length.

The IRS appealed to the Eighth Circuit in Medtronic II, resulting in the vacation of Medtronic I due to insufficient factual findings and analyses. The case was remanded to the Tax Court for reconsideration wherein the Tax Court rejected the transfer pricing analysis of both the IRS and Medtronic US and applied an unspecified method to determine the royalty rate for a license agreement between Medtronic US and MPROC by increasing the royalty rate to 48.8% for devices and leads for both years.


The recent Tax Court decision in Medtronic III serves as a valuable guide for future related-party transactions, particularly in the context of IRS Appeals. Given the inherently factual nature of transfer pricing cases, each case is unique and depends on its specific facts. The Medtronic III opinion highlights the Tax Court’s willingness to employ an unspecified method if deemed the most reliable, emphasizing the importance of industry-specific product values and risk management.

Furthermore, the Tax Court’s analysis closely adhered to the comparability framework outlined in transfer pricing regulations. In cases involving the Comparable Uncontrolled Transaction (CUT) method, the decision underscores the meticulous consideration of all facts and circumstances related to comparables when scrutinizing related-party relationships. In light of Medtronic III, taxpayers are advised to prioritize best method selection and anticipate IRS scrutiny of alternative methodologies.



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