COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
|3 Months Ended|
Dec. 31, 2020
|Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]|
|COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES||COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
As of December 31, 2020, we were contingently liable for guarantees of indebtedness owed by third parties of $431 million, of which $109 million was related to VIEs. Refer to Note 1 for additional information related to the Company's maximum exposure to loss due to our involvement with VIEs. Our guarantees are primarily related to third-party customers, bottlers, vendors and container manufacturing operations and have arisen through the normal course of business. These guarantees have various terms, and none of these guarantees is individually significant. These amounts represent the maximum potential future payments that we could be required to make under the guarantees. However, management has concluded that the likelihood of any significant amounts being paid by our Company under these guarantees is not probable.
We believe our exposure to concentrations of credit risk is limited due to the diverse geographic areas covered by our operations.
The Company is involved in various legal proceedings. We establish reserves for specific legal proceedings when we determine that the likelihood of an unfavorable outcome is probable and the amount of loss can be reasonably estimated. Management has also identified certain other legal matters where we believe an unfavorable outcome is reasonably possible and/or for which no estimate of possible losses can be made. Management believes that the total liabilities of the Company that may arise as a result of currently pending legal proceedings (excluding tax audit claims) will not have a material adverse effect on the Company taken as a whole.
At the time we acquire or divest an ownership interest in an entity, we sometimes agree to indemnify the seller or buyer for specific contingent liabilities. Management believes that any liability to the Company that may arise as a result of any such indemnification agreements will not have a material adverse effect on the Company taken as a whole.
The Company is involved in various tax matters, with respect to some of which the outcome is uncertain. We establish reserves to remove some or all of the tax benefit of any of our tax positions at the time we determine that it becomes uncertain based upon one of the following conditions: (1) the tax position is not "more likely than not" to be sustained; (2) the tax position is "more likely than not" to be sustained but for a lesser amount; or (3) the tax position is "more likely than not" to be sustained but not in the financial period in which the tax position was originally taken. For purposes of evaluating whether or not a tax position is uncertain, (1) we presume the tax position will be examined by the relevant taxing authority that has full knowledge of all relevant information; (2) the technical merits of a tax position are derived from authorities, such as legislation and statutes, legislative intent, regulations, rulings and caselaw and their applicability to the facts and circumstances of the tax position; and (3) each tax position is evaluated without consideration of the possibility of offset or aggregation with other tax positions taken. A number of years may elapse before a particular uncertain tax position is audited and finally resolved. The number of years subject to tax audits or tax assessments varies depending on the tax jurisdiction. The tax benefit that has been previously reserved because of a failure to meet the "more likely than not" recognition threshold would be recognized in income tax expense in the first interim period when the uncertainty disappears under any one of the following conditions: (1) the tax position is "more likely than not" to be sustained; (2) the tax position, amount, and/or timing is ultimately settled through negotiation or litigation; or (3) the statute of limitations for the tax position has expired. Refer to Note 14.
On September 17, 2015, the Company received a Statutory Notice of Deficiency ("Notice") from the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") seeking approximately $3.3 billion of additional federal income tax for years 2007 through 2009. In the Notice, the IRS stated its intent to reallocate over $9 billion of income to the U.S. parent company from certain of its foreign affiliates that the U.S. parent company licensed to manufacture, distribute, sell, market and promote its products in certain non-U.S. markets.
The Notice concerned the Company's transfer pricing between its U.S. parent company and certain of its foreign affiliates. IRS rules governing transfer pricing require arm's-length pricing of transactions between related parties such as the Company's U.S. parent and its foreign affiliates.
To resolve the same transfer pricing issue for the tax years 1987 through 1995, the Company and the IRS had agreed in 1996 on an arm's-length methodology for determining the amount of U.S. taxable income that the U.S. parent company would report as compensation from its foreign licensees. The Company and the IRS memorialized this accord in a closing agreement resolving that dispute ("Closing Agreement"). The Closing Agreement provided that, absent a change in material facts or circumstances or relevant federal tax law, in calculating the Company's income taxes going forward, the Company would not be assessed
penalties by the IRS for using the agreed-upon tax calculation methodology that the Company and the IRS agreed would be used for the 1987-1995 tax years.
The IRS audited and confirmed the Company's compliance with the agreed-upon Closing Agreement methodology in five successive audit cycles for tax years 1996 through 2006.
The September 17, 2015 Notice from the IRS retroactively rejected the previously agreed-upon methodology for the 2007 through 2009 tax years, in favor of an entirely different methodology, without prior notice to the Company. Using the new tax calculation methodology, the IRS reallocated over $9 billion of income to the U.S. parent company from its foreign licensees for tax years 2007 through 2009. Consistent with the Closing Agreement, the IRS did not assert penalties, and it has yet to do so.
The IRS designated the Company's matter for litigation on October 15, 2015. Litigation designation is an IRS determination that forecloses to a company any and all alternative means for resolution of a tax dispute. As a result of the IRS' designation of the Company's matter for litigation, the Company was forced either to accept the IRS' newly imposed tax assessment and pay the full amount of the asserted tax or litigate the matter in the federal courts. The matter remains subject to the IRS' litigation designation, preventing the Company from any attempt to settle or otherwise mutually resolve the matter with the IRS.
The Company consequently initiated litigation by filing a petition in the U.S. Tax Court ("Tax Court") in December 2015, challenging the tax adjustments enumerated in the Notice.
Prior to trial, the IRS increased its transfer pricing adjustment by $385 million, resulting in an additional tax adjustment of $135 million. The Company obtained a summary judgment in its favor on a different matter related to Mexican foreign tax credits, which thereafter effectively reduced the IRS' potential tax adjustment by approximately $138 million.
The trial was held in the Tax Court from March through May 2018, and final post-trial briefs were filed and exchanged in April 2019.
On November 18, 2020, the Tax Court issued an opinion ("Opinion") in which it predominantly sided with the IRS but agreed with the Company that dividends previously paid by the foreign licensees to the U.S. parent company in reliance upon the Closing Agreement should continue to be allowed to offset royalties, including those that would become payable to the Company in accordance with the Opinion. The Tax Court reserved ruling on the effect of Brazilian legal restrictions on the payment of royalties by the Company's licensee in Brazil until after the Tax Court issues its opinion in the separate case of 3M Co. & Subs. v. Commissioner, T.C. Docket No. 5816-13 (filed March 11, 2013). Once the Tax Court issues its opinion in 3M Co. & Subs. v. Commissioner, the Company expects the Tax Court thereafter to render another opinion, and ultimately a final decision, in the Company's case.
The Company believes that the IRS and the Tax Court misinterpreted and misapplied the applicable regulations in reallocating income earned by the Company's foreign licensees to increase the Company's U.S. tax. Moreover, the Company believes that the retroactive imposition of such tax liability using a calculation methodology different from that previously agreed upon by the IRS and the Company, and audited by the IRS for over a decade, is unconstitutional. The Company intends to assert its claims on appeal and vigorously defend its position.
In determining the amount of tax reserve to be recorded as of December 31, 2020, the Company completed the required two-step evaluation process prescribed by ASC 740, Accounting for Income Taxes. In doing so, we consulted with outside advisors and we reviewed and considered relevant laws, rules, and regulations, including, though not limited to, the Opinion and relevant caselaw. We also considered our intention to vigorously defend our positions and assert our various well-founded legal claims via every available avenue of appeal. We concluded, based on the technical and legal merits of the Company's tax positions, that it is more likely than not the Company's tax positions will ultimately be sustained on appeal. In addition, we considered a number of alternative transfer pricing methodologies, including the methodology asserted by the IRS and affirmed in the Opinion ("Tax Court Methodology"), that could be applied by the courts upon final resolution of the litigation. Based on the required probability analysis, we determined the methodologies we believe the federal courts could ultimately order to be used in calculating the Company's tax. As a result of this analysis, we recorded a tax reserve of $438 million during the year ended December 31, 2020, related to the application of the resulting methodologies as well as the different tax treatment applicable to dividends originally paid to the U.S. parent company by its foreign licensees, in reliance upon the Closing Agreement, that would be recharacterized as royalties in accordance with the Opinion and the Company's analysis.
While the Company strongly disagrees with the IRS' positions and the portions of the Opinion affirming such positions, it is possible that some portion or all of the adjustment proposed by the IRS and sustained by the Tax Court could ultimately be upheld. In that event, the Company would likely be subject to significant additional liabilities for the years at issue, and potentially also for subsequent periods, which could have a material adverse impact on the Company's financial position, results of operations, and cash flows.
The Company calculated the potential impact of applying the Tax Court Methodology to reallocate income from foreign licensees potentially covered within the scope of the Opinion, assuming such methodology was ultimately upheld by the courts, and the IRS were to decide to apply that methodology to subsequent years, with consent of the federal courts. This impact would include taxes and interest accrued through December 31, 2020 for the 2007 through 2009 litigated tax years and for subsequent tax years from 2010 to 2020. The calculations incorporated the estimated impact of correlative adjustments to the previously accrued transition tax payable under the Tax Reform Act. The Company currently estimates that the potential aggregate incremental tax and interest liability could be approximately $12 billion. Additional interest would continue to accrue until the time any such potential liability, or portion thereof, is paid. The Company currently projects that the impact of the continued application of the Tax Court Methodology in future years, assuming similar facts and circumstances as of December 31, 2020, would result in an incremental annual tax liability that would increase the Company's effective tax rate by approximately 3.5 percent.
The Company does not know when the Tax Court will issue its opinion regarding the effect of Brazilian legal restrictions on the payment of royalties by the Company's licensee in Brazil for the 2007 through 2009 tax years. After the Tax Court issues its opinion on the Company's Brazilian licensee, the Company and the IRS will be provided time to agree on the tax impact, if any, of both opinions, after which the Tax Court would render a final decision in the case. The Company will have 90 days thereafter to file a notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and pay the tax liability and interest related to the 2007 through 2009 tax period. The Company currently estimates that the payment to be made at that time related to the 2007 through 2009 tax period, which is included in the above estimate of the potential aggregate incremental tax and interest liability, would be approximately $4.6 billion (including interest accrued through December 31, 2020), plus any additional interest accrued through the time of payment. Some or all of this amount would be refunded if the Company were to prevail on appeal.
Risk Management Programs
The Company has numerous global insurance programs in place to help protect the Company from the risk of loss. In general, we are self-insured for large portions of many different types of claims; however, we do use commercial insurance above our self-insured retentions to reduce the Company's risk of catastrophic loss. Our reserves for the Company's self-insured losses are estimated using actuarial methods and assumptions of the insurance industry, adjusted for our specific expectations based on our claims history. Our self-insurance reserves totaled $265 million and $301 million as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively.
The entire disclosure for commitments, contingencies, and guarantees.
Reference 1: http://fasb.org/us-gaap/role/ref/legacyRef