Altria to pay $500 mln to settle US tax dispute

PM Altria

Altria Group Inc, the tobacco company, on Tuesday said it expects to pay $500 million to resolve a long-running dispute with the Internal Revenue Service over its tax treatment of leveraged lease transactions.

The parent of Philip Morris USA said the payment includes $450 million of federal income taxes and interest for the 2000 through 2010 tax years, plus $50 million of state income taxes and interest.

PM Altria

Logos of Philip Morris USA and Altria

Altria said the interest payout is lower than it expected, allowing it to boost its forecast for 2012 profit per share by 3 cents to a range of $2.28 to $2.34, before items. This forecast includes a $68 million benefit in the second quarter.

The Richmond, Virginia-based company affirmed its 2012 profit forecast of $2.17 to $2.23 per share excluding items. Analysts on average expect $2.21, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Altria’s stable of products include Marlboro cigarettes, Skoal and Copenhagen smokeless tobacco, and Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest wines.

The tax issue concerned leveraged lease transactions at its Philip Morris Capital Corp unit.

In recent years, the IRS has challenged some companies’ efforts to take deductions related to such transactions.

Court approval of Altria’s settlement is required.

Altria shares closed Tuesday down 9 cents at $31.76 on the New York Stock Exchange. The company announced the settlement after U.S. markets closed.

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