New PFIC Foreign Trust Rules by June of 2018 | PFIC Lawyer & Attorney

On November 9, 2017, the IRS gave a clear signal that it is working on new PFIC Foreign Trust rules and hopes to have these new regulations published by June of 2018. The IRS also indicated that other areas of PFIC rules will be affected and it expects the Subpart F regulations to come out before the new PFIC regulations.

The area of intersection of PFIC rules and Foreign Trust rules is an area of law that has remained murky since the late 1980s. Let’s explore in more detail what exactly is the problem and why the new PFIC Foreign Trust regulations are so important.

PFIC Foreign Trust Rules & Regulations

PFIC Foreign Trust Rules

PFIC Foreign Trust Rules: What is a PFIC?

In general, a foreign corporation that is not a “controlled foreign corporation” (CFC) as defined in IRC section 957, nor a “foreign personal holding company” (FPHC) as defined in IRC section 552, will be determined to be a Passive Foreign Investment Company or (PFIC) if it has at least one US shareholder and meets either one of the two tests found in IRC section 1297: (a) income test: at least 75% or more of the corporation’s gross income is passive income; or (b) asset test: at least 50% of the average percentage of its assets are investments that produce or are held for the production of passive income.

PFIC is a unique US classification that has no equivalents anywhere in the world. The PFIC designation was created by Congress in 1986 (as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986). In essence, this is an anti-deferral regime meant to deter US taxpayers from deferring or avoiding payment of US taxes by transferring money or investing in passive offshore entities. This is why the PFIC rules are so severe, imposing the highest marginal tax on the income considered as “excess distribution” and converting the rest of the income from capital gains into ordinary income.

PFIC Foreign Trust Rules: Foreign Trust Rules on Distribution of Accumulated Income

The IRS also has a special set of rules concerning foreign trust’s distribution of accumulated income from prior years. In order to analyze these rules, we need to understand two concepts: distributable net income (“DNI”) and undistributed net income (“UNI”). With respect to foreign trusts, in general (and there are exceptions), DNI includes all of the ordinary income and capital gains earned by a foreign trust in current taxable year. If a foreign trust does not distribute its entire DNI in the taxable year when DNI is earned, then, the undistributed portion of DNI (after taxes) becomes UNI.

Hence, whenever we discuss a distribution of a foreign trust’s accumulated income, this means a distribution of UNI in excess of DNI (on FIFO basis). So, what happens if a foreign trust distributes UNI to a US beneficiary?

In general, such distributions of UNI are taxed according to the infamous “throwback rule”. The throwback rule is complex and I can only state here a very simplified description of it. In general, under the throwback rule, distributed UNI will be taxed at the beneficiary’s highest marginal tax rate for the year in which UNI was earned. In other words, the throwback rule divides up UNI back into DNI portions for each relevant taxable year (but not exactly; this is an assumed DNI, not an actual one), adds these portions to the already-reported income on the beneficiary’s US tax returns and, then, imposes the tax on this income.

The throwback rule, however, does more than just add the income to the tax returns – it adds the income always as ordinary income, even if the original undistributed DNI consisted of long-term capital gains. Moreover, the throwback rule imposes an interest charge on the additional “throwback” taxes; the interest accumulates in a way somewhat similar to PFIC rules.

There is a way to mitigate the highly unfavorable consequences of the throwback rule called the “default method” (the name does not make much sense because you can use it only in specific circumstances). In general, you can use the default method in situations where the foreign trust does not provide its US beneficiaries with the information sufficient to identify the character of the distributed income. It is beyond the scope of this article to describe this method in detail, but, there are potentially highly unfavorable consequences to using the default method as well.

PFIC Foreign Trust Rules: the Inconsistency Between PFIC Rules and Foreign Trust Rules With Respect to Accumulated Income

Now that we have a general familiarity with PFIC rules and the foreign trust UNI distribution rules, we can now understand the area of confusion between PFIC rules and Foreign Trust rules that the IRS wishes to finally clear up by June of 2018. The confusion arises when both anti-deferral regimes are combined into PFIC Foreign Trust rules.

Let’s clarify this issue further. The basic problem occurs whenever a foreign trust distributes UNI that originates from accumulated PFIC income. For example, in a situation where a foreign trust received PFIC dividends and did not distribute them as part of its DNI distribution, such dividends would be added to the trust’s UNI. In this situation, if the trust distributes its PFIC UNI and we just follow the standard UNI rules, the PFIC rules would never be taken into account. The IRS, however, never said that the throwback rule or the default method should trump PFIC rules; it is also unclear about what should be reported on Form 8621 (for indirect ownership of PFICs).

On the other hand, if a taxpayer calculates his tax liability under the PFIC rules, then, he cannot comply with his Form 3520 requirements. The IRS also never stated that PFIC rules should triumph over either the throwback rule or the default method for UNI distributions. In other words, there is no clear guidance on what to do in this situation.

There is simply no compatibility between the foreign trust’s UNI distribution rules and the PFIC rules: one of them has to triumph or a completely new set of regulations has to be issued by the IRS to address the PFIC Foreign Trust rules. As an international tax attorney, I hope that the IRS keeps its word and resolves this highly important dilemma of the US international tax law.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With PFIC Foreign Trust Rules and Other International Tax Issues

If you are struggling with the PFIC Foreign Trust rules or you have any other issues concerning your compliance with your US international tax obligations, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

Sherayzen Law Office has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe with their US tax compliance issues, including those concerning the PFIC rules and foreign trust rules. We can help You!

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Manafort FBAR Violations Indictment | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On October 30, 2017, Mr. Paul Manafort was charged with FBAR violations among other charges. Manafort FBAR violations charges were filed as a result of an ongoing investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

While the investigation should have been searching for possible ties between Mr. Manafort and the Russian government, it found something completely different. Instead of finding any ties to the Russians, it found that Mr. Manafort was lobbying on behalf of the Ukrainian government (currently the archenemy of Russia and involved in a civil war with its eastern provinces) without registering as a foreign agent.

Moreover, it has led to the IRS Criminal Investigation with respect to Mr. Manafort’s FBAR noncompliance. Let’s explore this part of the investigation in more detail.

Manafort FBAR Violations Indictment: Alleged Facts

According to the indictment, Manafort failed to report his interest in over a dozen foreign entities, primarily in Cyprus, and used those entities to hide millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts from the U.S. government. Over $75 million allegedly flowed through the accounts, but only a portion of it was accessed. Manafort was accused of using over $18 million of proceeds on personal expenses.

The government further alleges that, during 2008-2014, Mr. Manafort falsely stated on his tax returns that he did not have an authority over any foreign bank accounts (I believe the reference here is to Part III of Schedule B, Form 1040).

Furthermore, the government claims that Mr. Manafort lied, in writing, to Mr. Manafort’s tax return preparer in order to conceal his authority over the undisclosed foreign accounts. It is obvious that this accusation is meant to preempt the reasonable cause reliance defense against FBAR penalties.

The indictment includes seven counts of willful FBAR violations under 31 U.S.C. section 5322. It is possible that Mr. Manafort may try to throw out some of the counts on the basis of the FBAR Statute of Limitations, but not all facts of the case are known at this point to estimate the success of this defense.

Manafort FBAR Violations Indictment: No Tax Evasion Charges

It is very strange, but the indictment does not contain a separate tax evasion charge, which requires the approval of the DOJ’s Tax Division. This omission is even more puzzling in light of the fact that the government alleges in its indictment that Mr. Manafort did not pay taxes on any income related to undisclosed foreign accounts. The government even specifically states that he purchased properties in Virginia and took out loans for the purpose of having access to untaxed income.

Manafort FBAR Violations Indictment: How Was $18 Million Calculated

The Manafort case is very good in one aspect: it allows us to see the government methodology for identifying potential willful FBAR violations. The main tool in this case was the government’s analysis of Mr. Manafort’s lifestyle.

The government alleged that, between 2008 and 2014, Mr. Manafort made domestic expenses of close to $18 million dollars which the government believes came from undisclosed foreign bank accounts and should be directly tied to Mr. Manafort FBAR violations. Most of this money was spent on improving real estate as well as purchases at antique shops, car dealerships and so on.

Manafort FBAR Violations Indictment: A Political Case With Important Lessons

It is important to remember that, at this point, these are merely government allegations and Mr. Manafort is presumed to be innocent until found otherwise by a court of law or a jury. While it is too early to state whether the government can prove its allegations and the case does have a very strong political background, it is still important to study the lessons of this case with respect to the government’s ability to pursue FBAR violations. The government’s methodology in this case is somewhat unusual, and all international tax lawyers should follow this case closely to see how the courts react to the government’s strategy.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On November 3, 2017, the IRS Large Business and International Division (“LB&I”) announced the rollout of additional 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns in addition to the 13 already existing campaigns. Most of these campaigns directly address the IRS concerns with respect to US international tax law compliance. Let’s explore these new 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: What Does This Mean for Taxpayers?

The issue-based IRS Campaigns is the brand-new strategy of the IRS to maximize the utility of its strained resources. Unlike previous efforts, a Campaign basically focuses on a specific issue that may carry a significant non-compliance risk and, then, applies a variety of solutions (called “treatment streams”) to increase the compliance with respect to this issue. The treatment streams range from development of an externally published practice unit, potential published guidance to issue-based examinations.

From a taxpayer point of view, the new strategy means that, if the IRS announces a new campaign, US taxpayers associated with the risk issue at the heart of a new campaign are at increased audit risk.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: General Emphasis on International Tax Compliance

Seven out of total eleven campaigns are focused on international tax compliance. This means that the IRS continues to give priority to international tax enforcement. Hence, US taxpayers who own foreign assets or are involved in international business transactions are likely to be affected by the IRS campaigns and should make sure they are in full US tax compliance.

Let’s briefly describe each of the new 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: 1120-F Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 Withholding

This campaign focuses upon verification of the withholding credits before the claim for refund or credit is allowed. To make a claim for refund or credit to estimated tax with respect to any U.S. source income withheld under chapters 3 or 4, a foreign entity must file a Form 1120-F. Before a claim for credit (refund or credit elect) is paid, the IRS must verify that withholding agents have filed the required returns (Forms 1042, 1042-S, 8804, 8805, 8288 and 8288-A).

In other words, this campaign is designed to verify withholding at source for 1120-Fs claiming refunds.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Swiss Bank Program

A non-surprising new addition to campaigns that will focus on tax and FBAR noncompliance of US beneficial owners of Swiss bank and financial accounts. The IRS will draw on the materials supplied to the DOJ by Swiss Banks as part of the Swiss Bank Program.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

This campaign is likely to affect US taxpayers who reside overseas. The campaign will focus on taxpayers who claimed Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, but did not meet the requirements for claiming them. The IRS will address noncompliance through a variety of treatment streams, including examination.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Verification of Form 1042-S Credit Claimed on Form 1040NR

The campaign’s goal is to ensure the amount of withholding credits or refund/credit elect claimed on Forms 1040NR is verified and whether the taxpayer has properly reported the income reflected on Form 1042-S.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Agricultural Chemicals Security Credit

The first of the new four domestic campaigns. The Agricultural chemicals security credit is claimed under Internal Revenue Code Section 45O and allows a 30 percent credit to any eligible agricultural business that paid or incurred security costs to safeguard agricultural chemicals. The credit is nonrefundable and is limited to $2 million annually on a controlled group basis with a 20-year carryforward provision. In addition, there is a facility limitation as outlined in Section 45O(b). The goal of this campaign is to ensure taxpayer compliance by verifying that only qualified expenses by eligible taxpayers are considered and that taxpayers are properly defining facilities when computing the credit. The treatment stream for this campaign is issue-based examinations.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Deferral of Cancellation of Indebtedness Income

This is an interesting addition and a correct one to the campaigns; I also believe that this area suffers from high rate of noncompliance. This issue stems from the Great Recession of 2008; in 2009 and 2010, a lot of US taxpayers elected to defer their cancellation of indebtedness (“COD”) income incurred as a result of reacquisition of debt instruments at an issue price less than the adjusted issue price of the original instrument. Such taxpayers should have reported their COD income ratably over a period of five years beginning in 2014 through 2018.

Furthermore, whenever a taxpayer defers his COD income, any related original issue discount (OID) deductions on the new debt instrument, resulting from debt-for-debt exchanges that triggered the original COD must also be deferred ratably and in the same manner as the deferred COD income.

The goal of this campaign is to ensure taxpayer compliance by verifying that taxpayers (who properly deferred COD income in 2009 and 2010) actually properly reported it in subsequent years beginning in 2014. The campaign will also look at situations where an accelerating event occurred and required earlier recognition of income under IRC § 108(i). The treatment stream for this campaign is issue-based examinations. The use of soft letters is under consideration.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Energy Efficient Commercial Building Property

The goal of this campaign is to ensure taxpayer compliance with the section 179D (Energy Efficient Commercial Building Deduction). Section 179D allows taxpayers who own or lease a commercial building to deduct the cost or portion of the cost of installing energy efficient commercial building property (EECBP). If the equipment is installed in a government-owned building, the deduction is allocated to the person(s) primarily responsible for designing the EECBP. The treatment stream for this campaign is issue-based examinations.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Economic Development Incentives Campaign

The goal of this campaign is to ensure taxpayer compliance with respect to a variety of government economic incentives. These incentives include refundable credits (refunds in excess of tax liability), tax credits against other business taxes (for example, payroll tax), nonrefundable credits (refunds limited to tax liability), transfer of property and grants. The common problems targeted by this campaign are situation where taxpayers improperly treat government incentives as non-shareholder capital contributions, exclude them from gross income and claim a tax deduction without offsetting it by the tax credit received. The treatment stream for this campaign is issue-based examinations.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Section 956 Avoidance

This campaign focuses on situations where a CFC loans funds to a US Parent (USP), but nevertheless does not include a Section 956 amount in income. The goal of this campaign is to determine to what extent taxpayers are utilizing cash pooling arrangements and other strategies to improperly avoid the tax consequences of Section 956. The treatment stream for this campaign is issue-based examinations.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Corporate Direct (Section 901) Foreign Tax Credit

Domestic corporate taxpayers may elect to take a credit for foreign taxes paid or accrued in lieu of a deduction. The goal of the Corporate Direct Foreign Tax Credit (“FTC”) campaign is to improve return/issue selection (through filters) and resource utilization for corporate returns that claim a direct FTC under IRC section 901. This campaign will focus on taxpayers who are in an excess limitation position. The treatment stream for the campaign will be issue-based examinations. The IRS emphasized that this is just the first of several FTC campaigns. The IRS further specified that future FTC campaigns may address indirect credits and IRC 904(a) FTC limitation issues.

New 11 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Individual Foreign Tax Credit (Form 1116)

This campaign addresses taxpayer compliance with the computation of the foreign tax credit (“FTC”) limitation on Form 1116. Due to the complexity of computing the FTC and challenges associated with third-party reporting information, some taxpayers face the risk of claiming an incorrect FTC amount. The IRS will address noncompliance through a variety of treatment streams including examinations.

Sale of Russian Real Estate by US Residents | International Tax Lawyer

Sale of Russian Real Estate by US permanent residents was the subject of a recent guidance letter from the Russian Ministry of Finance (“MOF”). Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382 (dated October 11, 2011, but released only earlier this week) provides a thorough analysis of questions concerning the sale of real estate in Russia by a US resident and, eventually, comes to conclusion such a sale should be subject to a 30% tax rate. Let’s explore this recent MOF analysis in more detail.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: What is MOF Guidance Letter?

The closest US equivalent to the Russian MOF Guidance Letter is the IRS Private Letter Ruling (“PLR”). Similarly to PLR, the MOF Guidance Letters usually address a fairly specific situation and, generally, have a suggestive rather than normative value. A Guidance Letter does not have a precedential value (again similar to PLR). Nevertheless, the MOF Guidance Letters are good indicators of how the MOF would view similar situations and have a very strong persuasive value.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Fact Pattern Addressed by Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382

Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382 specifically addresses a situation where an individual is a Russian citizen who has resided in the United States since 1996. It is not clear whether the individual actually received his green card in 1996 or he simply commenced to reside in the United States on a permanent basis in 1996. This individual wishes to dispose of (or already sold) a real property in Russia.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Is the Sale Done by a Russian Taxpayer Who Is Subject to Russian Taxation?

The MOF begins its analysis by establishing that, in accordance with Section 1 of Article 207 of the Russian Tax Code (“Tax Code”), individuals who receive Russian-source income are Russian taxpayers for the purposes of the Russian income tax irrespective of whether they are Russian tax residents or not. Since Article 208, Section 1(5) states that income earned from the sale of Russian real estate is considered to be Russian-source income, an individual selling Russian real estate is considered to be a Russian taxpayer who is subject to Russian taxation.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Is the Sale Done by a Russian tax resident?

The MOF then continued its analysis to determine whether, in the situation described in the Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382, the individual is a Russian tax resident. I believe that this was the key reason why the individual in question requested the MOF Guidance letter: he was hoping that he would be found a Russian tax resident under the Russia-US tax treaty due to the fact that he had real estate in Russia (and, hence, subject to lower tax on the proceeds from sale).

The MOF analysis involved two steps: the determination of tax residency under the tax treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation (because the individual in question has resided permanently in the United States since 1996) and, then, the determination of tax residency under the domestic Russian tax laws.

First, the MOF stated that, pursuant to paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the Russia-US Tax Treaty, a person should be recognized as a permanent resident of a contracting state in accordance with the provisions of the national law of that state. In other words, the determination of who is a tax resident of the Russian Federation should be done under the Russian domestic tax law.

Here, the MOF also addressed the critical part of this Guidance Letter – does the ownership of Russian real estate matter for the purposes of establishing the Russian tax residency under the Treaty. The MOF determined that the factor of ownership of real estate matters only in cases where the owner of real estate is recognized as a resident of both contracting states in accordance with the national legislation of both, the United States and Russia. This is the most important part of the MOR Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382.

Having made this determination, the MOF went into the second half of its analysis – who is considered to be a Russian tax resident under the Russian laws. According to Section 2 of Article 207 of the Tax Code, individuals are considered Russian tax residents if they are physically present in Russia for at least 183 calendar days within a period of 12 consecutive months. Since the individual in question did not satisfy the residency requirement of Article 207, the MOF determined that he was not a tax resident of the Russian Federation.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Can Russia Tax the Proceeds from the Sale under the Russia-US Tax Treaty?

Having determined that the owner of the Russian Real Estate was not a Russian tax resident, the next issue was whether Russia can still tax the proceeds from the sale. The MOF stated that, under paragraph 3 of Article 19 of the Treaty, the gains from the sales of real estate located in one contracting state received by a permanent resident of the other contracting state can be taxed in accordance with the domestic tax legislation of the state where the property is located. Hence, Russia can tax the sale of Russian Real Estate made by a US permanent resident.

As a side note, Russia can also tax a disposition of shares or other rights of participation in the profits of a company in which Russian real estate makes up at least 50 percent of the assets.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: What is the Applicable Tax Rate?

The final point addressed by the MOF was the applicable tax rate for the sale of Russian real estate by a US permanent resident and a nonresident of Russia. Pursuant to Section 3 of Article 224 fo the Tax Code, the MOF decided that tax rate in this situation should be 30 percent.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional International Tax Help

If you are looking for a professional advice concerning US international tax law, contact Sherayzen Law Office. Our legal team, headed by attorney Eugene Sherayzen, is highly experienced in US international tax law, including international tax compliance filing requirements, international tax planning and offshore voluntary disclosures.

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