|ENTERPRISE PRODUCTS PARTNERS L P filed this Form 10-K on 02/28/2018|
Tax Risks to Common Unitholders
Our tax treatment depends on our status as a partnership for federal income tax purposes, as well as our not being subject to a material amount of entity-level taxation by individual states. If the Internal Revenue Service were to treat us as a corporation for federal income tax purposes or if we were otherwise subject to a material amount of entity-level taxation, then cash available for distribution to our unitholders would be reduced.
The anticipated after-tax economic benefit of an investment in our common units depends largely on our being treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes. Despite the fact that we are organized as a limited partnership under Delaware law, we will be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes unless we satisfy a “qualifying income” requirement. Based on our current operations, we believe we satisfy the qualifying income requirement. Failing to meet the qualifying income requirement or a change in current law could cause us to be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes or otherwise subject us to taxation as an entity. We have not requested, and do not plan to request, a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) with respect to our classification as a partnership for federal income tax purposes.
If we were treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes, we would pay federal income tax on our taxable income at the corporate tax rate and we would also likely pay additional state and local income taxes at varying rates. Distributions to our unitholders would generally be taxed again as corporate dividends, and no income, gains, losses or deductions would flow through to our unitholders. Because a tax would be imposed upon us as a corporation, the cash available for distribution to our unitholders would be reduced. Thus, treatment of us as a corporation could result in a reduction in the anticipated cash-flow and after-tax return to our unitholders, likely causing a reduction in the value of our common units.
At the state level, several states have been evaluating ways to subject partnerships to entity-level taxation through the imposition of state income, franchise, capital, and other forms of business taxes as well as subjecting nonresident partners to taxation through the imposition of withholding obligations and composite, combined, group, block, or similar filing obligations on nonresident partners receiving a distributive share of state “sourced” income. We currently own property or do business in a substantial number of states. Imposition on us of any of these taxes in jurisdictions in which we own assets or conduct business or an increase in the existing tax rates could substantially reduce the cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
The tax treatment of publicly traded partnerships or an investment in our common units could be subject to potential legislative, judicial or administrative changes and differing interpretations, possibly on a retroactive basis.
The present federal income tax treatment of publicly traded partnerships, including us, or an investment in our common units, may be modified by administrative, legislative or judicial interpretation. For example, from time to time, members of Congress propose and consider substantive changes to the existing federal income tax laws that affect publicly traded partnerships or an investment in our common units.
Further, final Treasury Regulations under Section 7704(d)(1)(E) of the Internal Revenue Code recently published in the Federal Register interpret the scope of qualifying income requirements for publicly traded partnerships by providing industry-specific guidance. We do not believe the final Treasury Regulations affect our ability to be treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes.
In addition, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Tax Act”) enacted December 22, 2017, makes significant changes to the federal income tax rules applicable to both individuals and entities, including changes to the effective tax rate on an individual or other non-corporate unitholder’s allocable share of certain income from a publicly traded partnership. The Tax Act is complex and lacks administrative guidance, thus, unitholders should consult their tax advisor regarding the Tax Act and its effect on an investment in our common units.
Any changes to federal income tax laws and interpretations thereof (including administrative guidance relating to the Tax Act) may or may not be applied retroactively and could make it more difficult or impossible for us to be treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes or otherwise adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations. Any such changes or interpretations thereof could adversely impact the value of an investment in our common units.