Source of Income: Sale of Real Property | International Tax Law Firm

One of the most common questions that often arises is whether a sale of real property is considered to be a foreign-source or US-source income. In this short essay, I will briefly describe the source of income rule for the sale of real property and discuss its importance.

Sale of Real Property: What is “Source of Income”

The sourcing rules within the United States Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) determine to which part of the world a particular income item needs to be assigned. In other words, the source of income rules allow a taxpayer to determine whether his income is considered to be “domestic” or “foreign” for US tax purposes.

Sale of Real Property: the Importance of the Source of Income Rules

The importance of the source of income rules is difficult to overstate. For US tax residents, the source of income rules determine the amount of foreign tax credit that can be claimed on their US tax returns. Moreover, the source of income rules may have other important effects, especially for corporate taxpayers.

However, the significance of the source of income rules is felt the most by nonresident aliens. For these foreign persons, the determination of whether income is foreign or domestic may result in a complete escape from US taxation or, on the opposite end, the obligation to submit a US tax return (even if the nonresident alien has no other connection to the United States). Moreover, the sourcing of income has direct implications for the numerous US tax withholding obligations.

Sourcing of a Sale of Real Property

The US source of income rule with respect to sales of real property is clear: the gain from a sale of real property is sourced to the place where the property is located. In other words, if a house is located in the United States, then the gains from the sale of the house will be considered US-source income. On the other hand, if a house is located in a foreign country, then it will be considered foreign-source income (actually, sourced to the specific country where the sold property is located).

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Sherayzen Law Office is a tax law firm that specializes in US international tax law. We have developed deep expertise in US international tax law that allows us to effectively resolve our clients’ problems in this area. Procedurally, we are experienced in every stage of an international tax case: tax planning, tax preparation, offshore voluntary disclosures, IRS representation and federal litigation. We have successfully helped hundreds of taxpayers around the globe with their US international tax issues, and We can help You!

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Dividend Income Sourcing | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

One of the most important issues in US international tax law is the sourcing of income – i.e. the determination of whether the income is foreign or domestic for US tax purposes. In this article, I will introduce readers to US tax rules concerning dividend income sourcing (note, I will not be discussing substitute dividends and so-called “fast-pay” stocks as part of this article).

Dividend Income Sourcing: General Rule

Aside from limited exceptions, the source of dividend income is determined by whether the corporation that pays the dividends is foreign or domestic.

Dividend Income Sourcing: Domestic Corporations

Generally, if a US domestic corporation pays a dividend to its shareholders, the income is sourced in the United States. IRC §861(a)(2)(A).

There are three limited exceptions to this general rule, but only the first exception is really relevant at this point. The first exception is found in the complex rules concerning a Domestic International Sales Corporation (“DISC”). Basically, under IRC §861(a)(2)(D), dividends from a DISC are US-source income unless the dividends are attributable to “qualified export receipts”. In other words, if all of the gross income of a DISC satisfies the definition of qualified export receipts, then the entire gross income will be considered as derived from a foreign source. This is the basic rule and there are important exceptions and considerations that must be considered if one engages in a detailed analysis.

The second exception was a dividend paid by a Section 936 corporation. A Section 936 corporation was a special type of a domestic corporation that did business in US possessions. At this point, the repeal of IRC §936 makes this section largely irrelevant.

Finally, the third exception existed mostly prior to 1987. At that time, if a taxpayer was able to show that 80% of the gross income of the payor corporation for the relevant period of time consisted of foreign-source income, then the dividend was also foreign-source even if it was paid by a domestic corporation. The relevant period of time for making this determination included the three fiscal years of the corporation preceding the year in which the dividend was declared (obviously, if the corporation existed for less than three years, then the period of time was reduced to the number of years the corporation had been in existence). Interestingly, with the exception of mergers and consolidations, the dividends were foreign-source even if the payor corporation filed a consolidated return with an affiliated group which did not meet what was known as the 80/20 rule.

This third exception became largely irrelevant as of January 1, 1987. However, the 80/20 corporations were exempted from tax withholding even as late as prior to 2010. At that time, the Congress finally repealed the 80/20 company rule, though it still left a grandfather clause for it.

Dividend Income Sourcing: Foreign Corporations

Dividend income sourcing with respect to foreign corporations is more complex. Generally, dividends from foreign corporations are considered to be foreign-source income unless 25% or more of the corporation’s gross income for the three years preceding the taxable year (in which the distribution occurred) was from income that was effectively connected with a trade or business in the United States. This is the so-called “25% exception”.

If the 25% threshold is satisfied, then the dividend is apportioned according to the percentage of the corporation’s income effectively connected to the United States versus foreign-source income. This rule obviously affects the ability of a US person to take full foreign tax credit.

Now, let’s look at the 25% exception from the perspective of a foreign person receiving a dividend from a foreign corporation. Again, if a foreign dividend was paid to a foreign person from a company that did not satisfy the 25% exception, then no part of the dividend was sourced to the United States. If, however, the 25% exception was satisfied, then a foreign person had US-source income according to the apportionment rule described above. In other words, a foreign dividend paid from a foreign company to a foreign individual may result in US-source income even though none of these persons are US tax residents!

Moreover, prior to 2005, such a foreign individual would have to declare this US-source income in the United States and, theoretically, pay tax on it. Obviously, this was unlikely to happen because either the foreign corporation was subject to the branch profits tax which offset the tax on dividends paid by the corporation or a tax treaty prevented the taxation of such dividend. Nevertheless, if neither exception applied, a foreign person could find himself in noncompliance with US tax laws (and there was even some litigation on this subject).

When it passed the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, the US Congress finally relented and exempted from US taxation all dividends that fell within the 25% exception and were paid to foreign persons on or after January 1, 2005. IRC §871(i)(2)(D).

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Sherayzen Law Office is a highly experienced international tax law firm that specializes in US international tax compliance, offshore voluntary disclosures and international tax planning. Our clients have greatly benefitted from our reliability, profound knowledge of international tax law (including dividend income sourcing), detailed and comprehensive approach to tax compliance and creative ethical tax planning (even during offshore voluntary disclosures). We can help You!

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2019 First Quarter IRS Interest Rates Increase | Tax Lawyers MN

On December 6, 2018, the IRS announced that the 2019 First Quarter IRS interest rates for the underpayment and overpayment purposes will increase again. The increase in the 2019 First Quarter IRS interest rates follows the recent increases in interest rates by the Federal Reserve.

After the new increase, the 2019 First Quarter IRS interest rates will be as follows:

six (6) percent for overpayments (five (5) percent in the case of a corporation);
six (6) percent for underpayments;
eight (8) percent for large corporate underpayments; and
three and one-half (3.5) percent for the portion of a corporate overpayment exceeding $10,000.

The Internal Revenue Code requires that the rate of interest be determined on a quarterly basis. For taxpayers other than corporations, the overpayment and underpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points. Generally, in the case of a corporation, the underpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points and the overpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 2 percentage points. The rate for large corporate underpayments is the federal short-term rate plus 5 percentage points. The rate on the portion of a corporate overpayment of tax exceeding $10,000 for a taxable period is the federal short-term rate plus one-half (0.5) of a percentage point.

The rate on the portion of a corporate overpayment of tax exceeding $10,000 for a taxable period is the federal short-term rate plus one-half (0.5) of a percentage point.

The 2019 First Quarter IRS interest rates were computed based on the federal short-term rate determined during October of 2018 to take effect on November 1, 2018, based on daily compounding.

The 2019 First Quarter IRS interest rates have widespread impact beyond just the calculation of the interest rates that the IRS will calculate on the underpayments and overpayments of federal tax liability, as determined on an amended tax return or as a result of an audit. These rates will be used to determine the total amount due for any additional tax return liability that arose as result of filing under Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures.

Moreover, the 2019 First Quarter IRS interest rates are directly relevant the calculation of PFIC (Passive Foreign Investment Company) tax liability. In particular, these rates are used to determine the PFIC interest on PFIC tax imposed on “excess distribution” under the default IRC Section 1291 PFIC calculation method.

Sherayzen Law Office continues to watch the increase in IRS interest rates to properly adjust its interest calculation spreadsheets.