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.

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.

 

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.

BEPS and Planet Mars

NASA recently announced that your name can be put on the planet Mars. This is incredibly great news for the people with good fortunes who are thrilled by the opportunity to gain their foothold in the universe and enhance their fame. However, in another space mission, scientists are attempting to find out if any life exists in other planets.

Think about it. If they indeed were able to find the life on Mars and if the inhabitants there happen to be much more advanced than the humans on earth, they are likely to have a tax law that can tax such inbound activities. Beware and think before you make that tempting decision. 

Putting your name on a planet may have its other side. If “cross planet” law applies and absence a tax treaty (we are not aware about any as of today), just by putting your name can create economic “nexus” and a Permanent Establishment in Mars. If BEPS – Base Erosion and Profit Shifting – laws are much more advanced than our planet earth, you may receive a tax bill from Martian tax authority as soon as your name appears there.

Not enough information is available at this stage if IRS has signed any information exchange pact under FATCA with Mars or whether the tax agencies around the globe are secretly using the “trick” to disclose your name to Martian government!

It will certainly be to your advantage to consult a “cross planet” tax advisor who can keep you out of any trouble. Watch out and do not fall in the trap – think before you leap!!

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.

U.S. Law firms consulting in India – trap for the unwary

International legal and independent professionals consulting in India often have issues receiving funds from their clients in India. India has stringent exchange control regulations contained in the Act called Foreign Exchange Management Act – FEMA. Accordingly all foreign remittances must go through certain procedures. Additionally, Income Tax Department asks for “Tax Residency Certificate” (TRC) from the US service provider so that the treaty benefits can be allowed. If TRC is not produced, the payer must withhold tax from the income remitted to US service provider. This is true regardless of where the services were provided.

Until recently, it was mandatory that TRC issued by foreign tax authority must contain all items required by the government of India in order to exempt any tax withholding requirements. As many of us are aware, Internal Revenue Service issues the US tax residency certificate in Form 6166 which cannot contain additional information as required by government of India. Due to this, in many cases, the Indian income tax department rejected the TRC issued by IRS and that resulted in withholding tax in India.

However, after a few representations, the government of India and the tax department agreed to accept the US residency certificate in its present Form 6166.

Accordingly the following documents are required to successfully receive payments form Indian companies without any withholding:

  1. Form 10F
  2. Permanent Account Number  (PAN or tax ID number)for India
  3. US Form 6166 for the relevant tax year
  4. Signed letter on US law firm’s letterhead stating that the law firm does not have a permanent establishment (PE) in India under the US – India tax treaty article.

Since the tax year in India runs from April 1 to March 31st, it is possible that some clients in India may request that the firm provide TRC issued by IRS in 2015 for payments processed in January through March 2015. Therefore US law firms may want to begin the process of collecting relevant data and partner signatures in advance, so as to file Form 8802 in a timely manner. This will expedite the process to receive TRC from IRS soon. Note that currently IRS charges a $85 user fee and processes the TRC within 45 days.

Please contact us to receive our assistance on both sides of the border.