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.

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Attention foreign investors in US real property! FIRPTA changes are coming

Few days ago Senate Finance Committee approved a Bill that would modify the FIRPTA – Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act. The affected foreign investors are primarily the shareholders of REIT – Real Estate Investment Trusts, however, the changes would also encompass other foreign investors in US real property.

Among other things the Bill if enacted would increase the FIRPA withholding tax under IRC 1445 from 10% to 15%. It would also impose additional reporting requirements than those exist now. For example, real estate brokers may also have a reporting requirements when they sell property owned by foreign investors!

It is important to monitor the development as it would significantly increase the burden on the withholding agents and buyers of the properties.

We at CPA Global Tax & Accounting are monitoring the developments and will post an update as soon as the Bill is finalized in its present form or with any changes. Please contact us (info@cpaglobaltax.com) if you need additional information about the provisions of the Bill.

Thinking of abandoning green card without a formal surrender? Think again!

In a recent court case, the taxpayer who argued that by living in Germany for many years and selling his US properties a long time back, he had relinquished his Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) or a green card and hence should not be subject to US taxes on his income. However, IRS did not accept this and court agreed with IRS making the taxpayer liable for the tax.

IRS contended that the taxpayer was liable for income tax deficiencies for 2004 and 2006 – 2009 (almost all of which was attributable to the gain on his installment sale of stock). IRS argued that (1) because the taxpayer did not formally abandon his LPR status (obtained in ’77) until 2010, he remained an LPR during the years in issue, and (2) because he was not taxable by Germany as a German resident during those years, he was not a German resident under Article 4 of the Treaty. Therefore, he was not exempted from U.S. taxation by the Treaty.

The Tax Court reasoned that the taxpayer did not formally renounce or abandon that status until Nov. 10, 2010, when he filed a Form I-407 and surrendered his green card to the USCIS consistent with the requirements of Reg. § 301.7701(b)-1(b)(3).The Court rejected the taxpayer’s argument that he “informally” abandoned his LPR status. The Court held that for Federal income tax purposes, the taxpayer’s LPR status turns on Federal income tax law and was only indirectly determined by immigration law. The taxpayer’s reliance on an immigration case that recognized “informal” abandonment was misplaced. Unlike immigration law, the Code and regs were not silent on the point at which a taxpayer’s LPR status was considered to change. The requirements set out in Code Sec. 7701(b)(6)(B), Reg. § 301.7701(b)-1(b)(1), and Reg. § 301.7701(b)-1(b)(3) for abandoning LPR status

IRS posts revised FATCA regulations and finalizes new FATCA forms

IRS today announced that it posted the revised FATCA regulations in the Federal register for publication.

This contains the regulations coordinating chapters 3, 4, 61, and Section 3406 of the Internal Revenue Code as well as the revised final FATCA regulations.

Revised Forms:

IRS also posted on its website the revised certain FATCA Forms. These Forms were in draft form until now:

  • Form 1042
  • Form 8966
  • Form W-8BEN
  • Instructions to Form W-8BEN
  • Form W-8ECI
  • Instructions to Form W-8ECI

It  is important to note that the foreign entity receiving the US source FDAP income should file Form W-8BEN-E and is not eligible to file W-8BEN. 

 

IRS releases transfer pricing audit roadmap

Transfer pricing audit is getting a momentum and is being perceived as a big weapon in the hands of IRS for the adjustments. IRC 482 gives immense powers to IRS for adjusting income, credits and deductions of a taxpayer where it finds that a revenue is lost due to the related party transactions that were not conducted on arm’s length standard.

The IRS’s Large Business and International division has released a roadmap providing detailed guidance on transfer audits, including audit techniques and tools to assist with transfer pricing exams, as well as an estimated timeline for the exam, insights as to how the exams will be conducted, and tips for upfront planning.

The roadmap provides the key themes and acknowledges that cases are won and lost on the facts and that enforcement of the arm’s length standard requires the exercise of judgment. As a result, the roadmap encourages IRS examiners to keep an open mind during the examination and avoid “fishing expeditions” (theories in search of facts). Ultimately, the roadmap encourages IRS auditors to determine a reasonable result under the facts and to consider that the taxpayer may have the more compelling theory regarding its situation.

It must be remembered that the roadmap is not an official guidance but a working document for the auditors in planning their audits without having to consult with the Internal Revenue Manual at all times. The roadmap would be equally helpful to the taxpayers and the IRS auditors to understand the objectives and plan for the equitable outcome.

The document can be found at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/FinalTrfPrcRoadMap.pdf.

“Investment in US property” inclusion is not qualified dividend – Tax Court affirms

In Osvaldo Rodriguez et ux V. Commissioner, the fifth circuit recently upheld the decision in a transaction involving inclusion of IRC 956 income with respect to the taxpayers’ Controlled Foreign Corporation (CFC) in Mexico.

Osvaldo and Ana Rodriguez, husband and wife, were citizens of Mexico and permanent residents of the U.S. They were the sole shareholders of Editora Paso del Norte, S.A. de C.V. (Editora). Editora had been incorporated in 1976 under Mexican  law, and in 2001 it had established operations in the U.S. as a branch under the name Editora Paso del Norte, S.A. de C.V., Inc.—a controlled foreign corporation (CFC).  On their amended 2003 and original 2004 U.S. federal income tax returns, the taxpayers included in gross income $1,585,527 and $1,478,202, respectively, for amounts of Editora’s earnings invested in U.S. property and taxable directly under IRC 951(a)(1)(B) and IRC 956. 

Taxpayers treated the IRC 951 inclusions as qualified dividend income subject to preferential qualified dividend rates. IRS determined that the Code Sec.  951 inclusions were taxable at ordinary income rates.

The fifth circuit upheld the decision and ruled that the amounts included in the Rodriguez’s gross income under IRC 951(a)(1)(B) and IRC 956 with respect to their CFC’s investments in U.S. property were not qualified dividend  income under IRC 1(h)(11).