Payments to foreign persons and 1042 – Don’t miss the March 15 deadline

IR 2017-43

The Internal Revenue Service today reminded non-U.S. citizens who may have taxable income, such as international students and scholars who may be working or receiving scholarship funds, that they may have special requirements to file a U.S. tax return.

The IRS also reminded withholding agents — such as payroll professionals or universities — that accurately filed Forms 1042-S help speed any refunds due to their non-U.S. citizen taxpayers. Errors on forms or returns could result in some refunds being delayed.

What Non-U.S. Citizen Taxpayers Must Do

The Internal Revenue Code generally requires non-U.S. citizens, whom the code defines as either resident or non-resident aliens, who are engaged in a trade or business within the U.S. to file tax returns. Non-resident aliens such as foreign students, teachers or trainees temporarily in the United States on F, J, M or Q visas are considered engaged in a trade or business.

Most individuals in F-1, J-1, M-1, Q-1 and Q-2 non-immigrant status are eligible to be employed in the U.S. and are eligible to apply for a Social Security number if they are actually employed in the United States. Those not eligible for an SSN but who have a tax filing requirement may request an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from the IRS.

The non-U.S. citizen’s name must be reported exactly as it appears on the official documentation provided to the withholding agent (such as a Social Security Administration card or some other form of official governmental documentation).

Filing a Form 1040-NR or 1040NR-EZ is required by non-U.S. citizens who have a taxable event such as:

A taxable scholarship or fellowship, as described in Chapter 1 of Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education;

  • Income partially or totally exempt from tax under the terms of a tax treaty; and/or
  • Any other income, which is taxable under the Internal Revenue Code.

Non-U.S. citizens also must attach one copy (generally Copy B) for each Form 1042-S received to their tax returns. Non-U.S. citizens should review the Form 1042-S to ensure it accurately reflects their name and income. If the form does not contain accurate information, they must contact the withholding agent for an amended Form 1042-S.

What Withholding Agents Must Do

Generally, non-U.S. citizens who have taxable income also may have withholding of taxes by the source of their income. Withholding agents are required to complete Form 1042-S, Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding.

Withholding agents must provide five copies of the Form 1042-S. Copy A should go to the IRS; Copies B, C and D to the recipient of the income; and copy E should be retained by the withholding agent. All information, including the name of the taxpayer, must match exactly on all copies of Form 1042-S.

If withholding agents create a substitute Form 1042-S, all five copies must be in the same physical format. The size, shape and format of any substitute form must adhere to the rules of Publication 1179, General Rules and Specifications for Substitute Forms 1096, 1098, 1099, 5498, and Certain Other Information Returns. The official Form 1042-S is the standard for substitute forms.

A common error is to have a Form 1042-S listing two or more recipients in box 13a. The 2016 instructions to Form 1042-S have been updated to clarify that in the case of joint owners, Form 1042-S can only list one of the owners in box 13a.

Withholding agents should review Fact Sheet 2017-03, where they can find the latest changes to Form 1042-S instructions and common errors that delay processing of tax returns.

Mexico enacts penalty free repatriation program

On January 18, 2017, Mexican government approved a decree that will incentivize the taxpayers who have unreported funds offshore. The gist of the decree is as follows:

  1. Applies to Mexican resident individuals or companies as well as to permanent establishments (PEs) in Mexico that generated revenues through direct and indirect investments maintained abroad as of December 31, 2016.
  2. The funds can be repatriated without any penalties and by paying a flat 8% tax on the repatriated funds
  3. The decree took effect on January 19, 2017 and will end on July 19, 2017
  4. Entrants to the program have August 3, 2017 as the last date to pay the tax
  5. Taxpayers are asked to file the tax returns via SAT website and pay tax within 15 days of repatriation of funds
  6. Repatriated funds must be invested in the listed categories only

Mexican individuals and entities who have the undisclosed funds offshore should carefully review the decree and obtain benefit before the deadline.

Calling all non-residents! Your ITIN may be expiring

IRS recently announced that the Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) will need to be renewed every 3 years. The new release states that the ITIN is temporary and cannot be permanently used. In order to renew the ITIN, non-residents will need to file a new application on Form W-7 after 3 years, otherwise their tax returns will be rejected.

The IRS announced changes which require certain taxpayers to renew their ITINs. The renewal of ITINs requirement does not apply to ITIN holders who do not need to file their tax returns in 2017.

The following taxpayers require renewal of ITINs:

  • Taxpayers with ITINs not used on federal tax returns for at least once in last 3 years i.e. 2013, 2014 and 2015. Such unused ITINs will require renewal and will not be valid for filing tax returns in 2017.
  •  Taxpayers who were issued ITINs prior to 2013. Their ITINs will begin expiring this year and the taxpayer must renew them to prevent rejection of their tax returns.

IRS further states that Taxpayers will need to renew their ITINs on a rolling basis which means that the first ITINs that will expire are the ones with middle digits of 78 or 79 and the ones that are not used for one of the 3 prior years. These ITINs will need to be renewed with the period beginning October 1, 2016.

The taxpayer who has an expired ITIN and who does not renew it before filing the tax returns in 2017, may have a delay in refund and may be ineligible for certain tax credit like American Opportunity tax credit and child tax credit till the time new ITIN is not received.

Taxpayers should check their ITINs as soon as possible. Taxpayers with an ITIN with middle digits of 78 or 79 can apply for ITINs for the entire family at the same time. Family members include taxpayer, spouse and dependents claimed on their tax returns.

Other important changes for dependents of taxpayers:

Following are the new requirements for dependents whose passport do not have the date of entry in the U.S.:

  1. The IRS will not accept passport as stand-alone identity document if the passport does not have the date of entry in the US for dependents from countries other than Canada and Mexico or dependents of military members overseas.
  2. All such applicants who do not have a date of entry in the US on their passports will now be required to submit medical records for dependents under the age of 6 or U.S. school records for dependent under the age of 18 along with the passport.

All dependents aged 18 years or above can submit the rental or bank statement or utility bill having full name of the applicant and US address along with the passport.

CPA Global Tax & Accounting is an IRS approved Certifying Acceptance Agent. Generally, taxpayers are required to send their original passports and/ or other original documents, however, we can certify these documents, ensure that the Form W-7 is correctly prepared and submit them to IRS.

Fact check for NRAs – is your US source capital gain exempt?

This article should serve as a reminder to foreign students, scholars and other foreign government employees in the USA.

Based on the F, J, Q or M visa categories, the above taxpayers are considered non- resident aliens even if they meet substantial presence test and would otherwise be considered US tax residents.

Internal Revenue Code specifically exempts US source capital gain income generated by the non-resident aliens. I am being often asked a question whether the capital gains are taxable for foreign students, scholars and other NRAs who are in “exempt” categories for the US residency purposes. 

The tax law is very clear on this. A flat 30% tax applies on US source capital gain for the NRAs who are substantially present in US for more than 183 days. This 183-day rule bears no relation to the 183-day rule under the substantial presence test of IRC section 7701(b)(3). 

For example, a foreign diplomat, consular officer, or other nonresident alien employee of a foreign government, or nonresident alien employee of an international organization, who is visiting the United States in A or G nonimmigrant status for a period longer than 183 days in a calendar year would be subject to the 30 percent tax on his/her U.S. source capital gains – even if he/she continues to be a nonresident alien per the “exempt individual” rules under the substantial presence test. The same rule applies to a foreign student or scholar visiting the United States in F, J, M, or Q nonimmigrant status whose presence in the United States equals or exceeds 183 days in any calendar year.

 

Refunds approved! Some good news from IRS for foreign students and other foreign workers

Tax professional community including CPA Global Tax & Accounting encountered issues in recent times regarding the filing of tax returns and receiving refunds for foreign students, grantees, researchers and similar foreign persons working temporarily in United States. In recent years number of tax returns filed by these taxpayers, whose US source income and tax withholding were reported on 1042-S, were either regularly audited or their refunds were delayed beyond a reasonable period of time. This was creating an undue hardship to such taxpayers. After several representations, IRS was convinced that in most cases there were no fraudulent or questionable claims and provided a reassurance that such refunds are being issued as soon as possible while IRS is working on redesigning the process in the interim.

Here is the news release issued by IRS today (2016-23):

“In response to concerns about the difficulties that some foreign students are experiencing in obtaining refunds of withholding tax reported on Form 1042-S, Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding, the IRS just completed a comprehensive review of the program. As a result, the IRS is taking steps to help foreign students at United States colleges and universities and other foreign taxpayers affected by this situation, including adjusting withholding and issuing refunds as appropriate.

No additional action is needed at this time by foreign students and other foreign taxpayers who filed Form 1040NR to request a refund of tax withheld on Form 1042-S.

Background

The IRS review found several areas that are resulting in a significant number of “false positives” in our processing systems – meaning tax returns are being selected for review and validation for issues that present minimal risk of fraudulent or erroneous refunds.  While some degree of false positives is inevitable in any compliance program aimed at detecting fraud and protecting revenue, our review indicated we are not achieving the proper balance in this area.  Although we initially thought the issues were caused by tax software, upon a closer review these problems were minimal and easily corrected.

Steps the IRS is taking

We are taking several actions to resolve the accounts of those taxpayers who were affected by our existing verification process and to adjust the process going forward to help avoid further issues.  We are working as quickly as possible to identify all the taxpayers whose refunds are being held as a result of this process.  As they are identified, we will release the hold and issue the refunds (with interest, in instances where we have exceeded the 180 calendar day period for processing these refunds).

Taxpayers whose withholding credits were denied will have their withholding restored, eliminating any balance due and thus stopping the notices of levy.  Also, we will not be holding any additional refunds until we have redesigned the process in place for detecting fraudulent or questionable returns and refunds. “)

Alert: FIRPTA withholding rate goes up effective today, February 16th

Foreign investors are generally not subject to US tax on US source capital gain unless it is effectively connected with a US trade or business, or it is realized by an individual who meets certain physical presence requirements. 

Gain from the disposition of a U.S. real property interest (USRPI), however, is treated as income effectively connected with a US trade or business under the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA). This FIRPTA gain is subject to tax and withholding under Code Sec. 897 and Code Sec. 1445. 

Stock or a beneficial interest in a US real property holding corporation (USRPHC) is a USRPI. 

Under pre-2015 PATH Act law, in the case of any disposition of a USRPI by a foreign person, the transferee was required to deduct and withhold at the rate of 10% of the amount realized on the disposition. 

Effective dispositions made on or after February 16, 2016, the new PATH Act increases the FIRPTA withholding rate to 15% on the dispositions of USRPIs and other prescribed transactions. 

However, the PATH Act provides for a reduced FIRPTA withholding rate of 10% in the case of a disposition of property which is acquired by the transferee for use by the transferee as a residence, and the amount realized for the property does not exceed $1,000,000, provided the exemption for a residence bought for $300,000 or less does not apply.

Flying over international waters and in U.S.? Flight attendant denied exclusion

Recently in Rogers case, the DC court affirmed the Tax Court’s decision that a flight attendant who performed some duties in and over the U.S. and international waters could not exclude all of her wages under IRC 911 as foreign earned income.

The taxpayer worked as an international flight attendant based in Hong Kong. She performed in-flight duties and some pre-departure and post-arrival work and was generally paid according to her flight time. She received vacation time and benefits, and could receive guarantee pay for work that she would have performed on flights that were canceled. When she received guarantee pay, she was required to remain in Hong Kong awaiting reassignment to another flight. The airline provided the taxpayer with an apportionment of her estimated duty time between minutes spent in or over foreign countries, in or over the U.S., and over international waters. The taxpayer and her husband filed a joint return and excluded all of the taxpayer’s earnings as foreign earned income under IRC 911.

IRS and later Tax Court disallowed the foreign earned income exclusion for the portion of income allocated to her time within U.S. and allowed exclusion only for the flight time that the taxpayer was outside the U.S.

Foreign earned income exclusion is claimed on Form 2555 and the taxpayer must meet either bona fide residence test or physical presence test. There are several exceptions and rules as well as planning opportunities. CPA Global Tax professionals can help you navigate this.