This question has been asked several times in our practice. A recent IRS Chief Counsel Advice discusses the issue and provides the answer.
Facts.The taxpayer, a UK resident, was a university professor who contributed to UK pensions scheme, qualified under UK law, over the course of his working life. The UK pension scheme was a qualified scheme for UK tax purposes.
Taxpayer accepted a position at a U.S. university where he taught from Date 1 through Date 3. After Date 3, the taxpayer permanently moved back to the UK.
Upon returning to the UK, the taxpayer sought to rollover his US pension contributions to his UK. scheme. To that end, the US pension plan issued a lump-sum check in the amount of his US pension contributions payable to the taxpayer’s UK plan. The following year, the taxpayer received a Form 1099-R (Distribution from Pension, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc.)
Issue. The question presented in the memo is whether the taxpayer could rely on the parenthetical language in Article 18(1) to make a tax-deferred rollover distribution from a U.S. pension scheme to a UK pension scheme that is not an “eligible retirement plan” under IRC 402. The memo also addressed whether the lump-sum transfer from a US pension scheme to a U.K. pension scheme is taxable as a distribution in the US under Article 17(2).
Rollover did not satisfy US Internal Revenue Code Sec. 402 requirements. Chief Counsel said that the parenthetical language referenced by the taxpayer in Article 18(1), provided that a transfer of earnings from one pension scheme to another would not be treated as a distribution if the transfer qualified as a rollover. The language, however, did not create an independent basis for treating a transfer as tax deferred rollover distribution. To qualify as a tax-deferred rollover, the rollover would have to satisfy the requirements under the domestic laws of both the transferor and transferee pension scheme.
In this case, the memo found that the rollover did not satisfy US requirements because the UK pensions scheme is not an eligible plan as described under IRC 402. The failure to satisfy the IRC 402 requirements rendered Article 18 inapplicable making the distribution taxable under Article 17(2).