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B54. What is the definition of intangible asset as used in computing the business income tax base?

Intangible assets are defined as those assets that cannot be seen, touched or physically measured and which are created through time and/or effort. Intangible assets may include but are not limited to patents, franchises, trademarks and goodwill. Intellectual property is an intangible asset and includes copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets. Intangible assets may be wasting and have a finite life such as a patent or they may have an infinite life such as goodwill.

Under the MBT, a person must add back, in computing its business income tax base, certain payments made for the use of intangible assets that were deducted in arriving at federal taxable income. The payments must have been to a person related through ownership or control that is not a member of a unitary group with the taxpayer. Add back of the deducted payments is required unless the taxpayer can prove to the satisfaction of the Department that the payments were at arms-length, have a business purpose other than the avoidance of tax and meet one of three other requirements. MCL 208.1201(2) (f) sets forth these requirements:

Except as otherwise provided under this subdivision, to the extent deducted in arriving at federal taxable income, add any royalty, interest, or other expense paid to a person related to the taxpayer by ownership or control for the use of an intangible asset if the person is not included in the taxpayer's unitary business group. The addition of any royalty, interest, or other expense described under this subdivision is not required to be added if the taxpayer can demonstrate that the transaction has a nontax business purpose other than avoidance of this tax, is conducted with arm's-length pricing and rates and terms as applied in accordance with sections 482 and 1274(d) of the internal revenue code, and satisfies 1 of the following:

(i) Is a pass through of another transaction between a third party and the related person with comparable rates and terms.

(ii) Results in double taxation. For purposes of this subparagraph, double taxation exists if the transaction is subject to tax in another jurisdiction.

(iii) Is unreasonable as determined by the treasurer, and the taxpayer agrees that the addition would be unreasonable based on the taxpayer's facts and circumstances.