In a previous article, I introduced the constructive ownership rules of the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §267. Today, I would like to discuss one of them in more detail – §267 family attribution.
§267 Family Attribution: General Rule
The §267 family attribution rule is described in §267(c)(2). It states that, for the purposes of determining whether an individual is a related party under §267, this individual is considered as a constructive owner of stocks owned, directly or indirectly, by or for his family.
§267 Family Attribution: Who is a Family Member
The critical question for §267(c)(2) is the definition of family. §267(c)(4) provides the answer to this question: “the family of an individual shall include only his brothers and sisters (whether by the whole or half blood), spouse, ancestors, and lineal descendants.”
Under Treas. Reg. §1.267(c)-1(a)(4), if any such family relationship was formed through legal adoption, such adoption is given full legal force for the purposes of §267(c)(2). “Ancestors” here include parents and grandparents; it appears that great-grandparents should also be family members for the purposes of §267 family member attribution. Id. The term “lineal descendants” includes children and grandchildren. Id.
Neither §267 and relevant Treasury regulations contain any reference to aunts and uncles. There is, however, a reason to believe that aunts and uncles are not family members for the purpose of §267(c)(2). This argument is based on the fact that, prior to its repeal in 2004, the definition of family in §544(a)(2) (which was part of the foreign personal holding company provisions) was identical to that of §267(c)(4). The IRS held in Rev. Rul. 59-43 that aunts and uncles are not family members for the purposes of §544(a)(2); hence, the same logic should apply to §267(c)(2).
Furthermore, neither step-parents nor step-children are family members for the purposes of §267(c)(2) (see Rev. Rul. 71-50 and DeBoer v. Commissioner, 16 T.C. 662 (1951), aff’d per curiam, 194 F.2d 289 (2d Cir. 1952)). Based on Tilles v. Commissioner, 38 B.T.A. 545 (1938), aff’d, 113 F.2d 907 (8th Cir. 1940), nieces or nephews are also not family members. Nor are the in-laws.
§267 Family Attribution: Attribution and Limitations
Under the §267 family attribution rule, any family member will be the constructive owner of any other family member’s stocks. This will be the case even if the person to whom the stock ownership is attributed has no direct or even indirect ownership of stock in the corporation (see Reg. §1.267(c)-1(a)(2)).
On the other hand, §267(c)(5) prevents the double-attribution of stock. In other words, a stock constructively owned under the family attribution rules may not be owned by another person under §267(c)(2). For example, if stock ownership is attributed to an individual’s wife under §267(c)(2), §267(c)(5) prevents further attribution of stock ownership to the wife’s mother.
§267 Family Attribution: Other Doctrines Should Be Considered
It is important to emphasize that a lawyer should always be on the lookout for other doctrines which may intervene with the attribution under §267(c)(2). For example, where a wife transfers property to her husband in anticipation of the sale of that property by the husband to her brother, §267(c)(5) double-attribution limitation may be ignored by the application of the “substance over form” principle by a court. The “step transaction” doctrine should always be a concern in such transactions.
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