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Specified Domestic Entity: Passive Test | FATCA Form 8938 Lawyer & Attorney

This article is published as part of a long series of articles on the Specified Domestic Entity (“SDE”) Definition. In a previous article, I stated that the term “formed or availed of” consists of two legal tests: the Closely-Held Test and the Passive Test. Since I already explained the general requirements of the Closely-Held Test in another article, I would like to focus today on the Passive Test.

The Passive Test: Background Information

Starting tax year 2016, business entities classified as SDEs may be required to attach Form 8938 to their US tax returns. What entity is considered to be SDE? The answer is found in Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(a): “a specified domestic entity is a domestic corporation, a domestic partnership, or a trust described in IRC Section 7701(a)(30)(E), if such corporation, partnership, or trust is formed or availed of for purposes of holding, directly or indirectly, specified foreign financial assets.”

I already explained in a previous article that “formed or availed of” is a term of art and a requirement that an entity meets two legal tests: the Closely-Held Test and the Passive Test.

The Passive Test: General Requirements

The Passive Test consists of two threshold requirements: the Passive Income Threshold and the Passive Assets Threshold. If one of these Thresholds is satisfied, the Passive Test is met and a business entity would be considered as formed or availed of for the purposes of holding specified foreign financial assets. Let’s explore these two requirements in more detail.

The Passive Test: the Passive Income Threshold

The Passive Income Threshold is satisfied if “at least 50 percent of a corporation’s or a partnership’s gross income for the taxable year is passive income.” Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(b)(1)(ii). The definition of passive income includes:

“(A) Dividends,

(B) Interest;

(C) Income equivalent to interest, including substitute interest;

(D) Rents and royalties, other than rents and royalties derived in the active conduct of a trade or business conducted, at least in part, by employees of the corporation or partnership;

(E) Annuities;

(F) The excess of gains over losses from the sale or exchange of property that gives rise to passive income described in paragraphs (b)(3)(i)(A) through (b)(3)(i)(E) of this section;

(G) The excess of gains over losses from transactions (including futures, forwards, and similar transactions) in any commodity, but not including –

(1) Any commodity hedging transaction described in section 954(c)(5)(A), determined by treating the corporation or partnership as a controlled foreign corporation; or

(2) Active business gains or losses from the sale of commodities, but only if substantially all the corporation or partnership’s commodities are property described in paragraph (1), (2), or (8) of section 1221(a);

(H) The excess of foreign currency gains over foreign currency losses (as defined in section 988(b)) attributable to any section 988 transaction; and

(I) Net income from notional principal contracts as defined in § 1.446-3(c)(1).” Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(b)(3).

The Treasury Regulations also contain certain exceptions to the definition of passive income (for example, for dealers).

The Passive Test: the Passive Assets Threshold

The Passive Assets Threshold is satisfied if at least 50 percent of the assets held by a corporation or a partnership for the taxable year “are assets that produce or are held for the production of passive income.” Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(b)(1)(ii). Such assets are called “passive assets”. Id.

The percentage of passive assets held by a corporation or a partnership during a taxable year is determined based on “the weighted average percentage of passive assets (weighted by total assets and measured quarterly).” Id. This is very similar to the PFIC test.

The regulations allow for two different methods of valuation of the assets for the purpose of the Passive Asset Threshold. The first method is Fair Market Value of the assets. The second method is valuation of assets based on the “book value of the assets that is reflected on the corporation’s or partnership’s balance sheet.” Id. Surprisingly, both US and an international financial accounting standard are permitted for the purpose of the valuation of assets (usually, only US GAAP is allowed).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with FATCA Form 8938 Compliance

If you are concerned about whether your entity is required to file Form 8938 or you have any other FATCA-related questions, please contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in the US international tax compliance, including FATCA Form 8938 compliance. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their FATCA requirements and We can help You!

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Specified Domestic Entity: Formed or Availed Of | FATCA Lawyer & Attorney

We are continuing our series of articles on the Specified Domestic Entity definition. In previous articles, I already explained what entities are considered to be domestic and what kind of foreign assets are included in the Specified Foreign Financial Assets. In this article, I would like to introduce the key part of the definition of a Specified Domestic Entity: formed or availed of.

Due to the fact that there is a significant difference in treatment of trusts versus business entities (partnerships and corporations), I will analyze these two types of entities separately. In this article, I will focus solely on introducing the concept of Formed or Availed Of as it applies to partnerships and corporations.

Formed or Availed Of: Context

It is first useful the remember the context in which the clause “Formed or Availed Of” arises.  Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(a) defines a Specified Domestic Entity as “a domestic corporation, a domestic partnership, or a trust described in 26 U.S.C. §7701(a)(30)(E), if such corporation, partnership, or trust is formed or availed of for purposes of holding, directly or indirectly, specified foreign financial assets” (italics added).

Thus, the concept of “formed or availed of” is the key part to the definition of a Specified Domestic Entity.

Formed or Availed Of: Main Legal Test

It may seem to a person unfamiliar with Form 8938 that Formed or Availed Of concept implies some sort of a factual finding of intent. This first impression is not correct.

On the contrary, Formed or Availed Of concept has nothing in common with the actual intent of the parties who formed the business entity. Rather, the IRS established a very specific legal test to determine if a business entity is formed or availed of for purposes holding specified foreign financial assets.

The Formed or Availed Of Test is in reality a combination of two legal tests found in Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(b). An entity is considered to be formed or availed of for purposes of holding specified foreign financial assets if: (1) the corporation or the partnership is closely held (the “Closely-Held Test”), AND (2) the corporation or the partnership meets the Passive Income or Passive Assets threshold requirement (the “Passive Test”). See Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(b). Please, note that both tests needs to be satisfied in order for a business entity to be considered as formed or availed of for purposes of holding specified foreign financial assets.

In future articles, I will explore the Closely-Held Test and the Passive Test in more detail.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help Concerning US International Tax Compliance Requirements for Owners of US and Foreign Businesses

If you are an owner of a foreign business or a US domestic business which owns assets overseas, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help concerning relevant US tax compliance requirements. We have helped US business owners around the world, and We can Help You!

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Specified Foreign Financial Assets | Form 8938 International Tax Lawyers

Specified Foreign Financial Assets is one of the most important terms in contemporary US international tax law. In this article, I will explore what these Specified Foreign Financial Assets are and why they play such an important role in modern US international tax compliance.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets and FATCA

In order to understand the significance of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets, we must turn to one of the most important US tax laws called Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act or FATCA.

FATCA was signed into law in 2010 and it immediately became the most important development in international taxation since at least 1970s, if not all the way to the end of the Second World War. There are three parts of FATCA that made it such a revolutionary development in international tax law. The first part of FATCA requires all foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to report to the IRS, directly or indirectly, Specified Foreign Financial Assets (be careful, this concept can be modified by a FATCA implementation treaty to include and exclude various foreign assets) owned by US persons. In essence, it meant that the world financial community would now serve as an IRS informer, providing the third-party reporting of financial assets owned by US persons.

In order to enforce this “obligation”, the second part of FATCA imposed a 30% penalty on the gross amount of a transaction whenever the transaction is related to an institution that is not compliant with FATCA. Such a huge penalty was meant to force all FFIs to become FATCA-compliant and, to a large extent, this goal has been attained.

With the third-party reporting secured by the first two parts of FATCA, the third part of FATCA imposed a new reporting requirement, Form 8938, on certain categories of US taxpayers who would fall within the categories of Specified Individuals and (starting 2016) Specified Domestic Entities. FATCA Form 8938 forced these Specified Persons to directly report their Specified Foreign Financial Assets with their US tax returns.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets: General Definition

In general, Specified Foreign Financial Assets include: foreign financial accounts and assets that are held for investment and not held in an account maintained by a financial institution. The concept of “assets held for investment and not held in an account” covers stocks or securities issued by anyone who is not a US person, any interest in a foreign entity, any financial instrument or contract that has an issuer or counterparty that is other than a US person, stock issued by a foreign corporation, an interest in a foreign trust or foreign estate and a capital or profits interest in a foreign partnership.

In other words, definition of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets is so broad that it applies to virtually any financial instrument or security one can imagine as long as one of the counterparties and/or issuers is a foreign person. It also includes pretty much any ownership interest in a foreign business entity as well as a beneficiary interest in a foreign trust. Therefore, it is always prudent to contact an international tax attorney to confirm whether your particular investment is covered by the definition of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets: Additional Non-Exclusive Lists of Assets

Additionally, the instructions to Form 8938 specifically state that Specified Foreign Financial Assets encompass an interest rate swap, currency swap, basis swap, interest rate cap, interest rate floor, commodity swap, equity swap, equity index swap, credit default swap, or similar agreement with a foreign counterparty. Specified Foreign Financial Assets also include a note, bond, debenture, or other form of indebtedness issued by a foreign person. Finally, options and other derivative instructions with a foreign counterparty or issuer are also included in the definition of Specified Foreign Financial Assets.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets: Influence of FATCA Implementation Treaties

Despite the broad general definition of Specified Foreign Financial Assets and despite the “laundry” list of assets specifically identified above, one should always look at a specific FATCA implementation treaty in order to verify whether an asset is considered to fall within the definition of Specified Foreign Financial Assets. In particular, one must have extra care with foreign retirement accounts. During the negotiation of FATCA Implementation Treaties, countries often insisted that particular types of retirement accounts should be excluded from FATCA reporting (the United Kingdom was particularly successful in this respect).

A word of caution: even if an asset is excluded from FATCA reporting, it does not automatically mean that it would also be excluded from FBAR reporting. It is possible to have a financial asset reportable exclusively on FBAR, but not Form 8938.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Reporting of Specified Foreign Financial Assets on Form 8938

If you have any of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets listed above, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. In addition to annual tax compliance, our firm can help you with the offshore voluntary disclosure with respect to any delinquent Forms 8938 which you have not timely filed in any of the prior years.

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