§318 Partnership Attribution | International Corporate Tax Lawyers

This article continues a series of articles on the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §318 constructive ownership rules. In this essay, we will discuss the §318 partnership attribution rules – i.e. attribution of ownership of shares from partnership to partners and vice versa.

§318 Partnership Attribution Rules: Two Types

There are two types of the IRC §318 partnership attribution rules: downstream and upstream. The downstream attribution rules attribute the ownership of corporate stocks owned by a partnership to its partners. The upstream attribution rules attribute the ownership of corporate stocks owned by partners to the partnership. Let’s explore both types of attribution rules in more detail.

§318 Partnership Attribution Rules: Attribution from Partnership to Partners

Pursuant to §318(a)(2)(A), corporate stocks owned, either directly or indirectly, by or on behalf of a partnership is deemed constructively owned by its partners proportionately. Interestingly, the attribution of corporate stock from a partnership to its partners continues to happen even if the partnership does not do any business or stops all of its operation. See Baker Commodities, Inc. v. Commissioner 415 F.2d 519 (9th Cir. 1969); Sorem v. Commissioner 40 T.C. 206 (1963), rev’d on other grounds, 334 F.2d 275 (10th Cir. 1964).

The biggest problem with applying §318(a)(2)(A) is determining what “proportionate attribution” means. Where a partner owns the same interest in capital, profits and losses of a partnership, the proportionality is easy to apply. However, in situations where a partner owns varying interests in capital, profits and losses, it is much more difficult.

Unfortunately, this problem is not addressed at all by the IRS or courts – the proportionality of attribution is not defined in any IRC provision, Treasury Regulations and even case law. Looking at Treas. Reg. §1.318-2(c) Ex. 1, however, it is likely that the IRS will accept a position where proportionality of attribution is based on the “facts-and-circumstances” test of §704(b).

§318 Partnership Attribution Rules: Attribution from Partners to Partnership

Under §318(a)(3)(A), a partnership constructively owns corporate stocks owned by a partner. There are no limitations on the attribution – all stocks held by a partner are deemed to be owned by the partnership irrespective of the percentage of an ownership interest in the partnership held by the partner. There is no de minimis rule that would apply to §318(a)(3)(A).

For example, assume that partner P (an individual) owns 25% in a partnership X. P also owns 100 shares out of the total 200 shares outstanding of Y corporation; X owns the remaining 100 shares. Under §318(a)(3)(A), X actually owns 100 shares of Y and constructively owns P’s 100 shares of Y; in other words, X owns 100% of Y.

§318 Partnership Attribution Rules: Certain Attributions Not Allowed

There are two special §318 rules concerning partnership attributions that I would like to mention in this article. First, there is no partner-to-partner attribution of stock under the §318 partnership attribution rules. In other words, stocks owned by a partner will not be owned by another partner simply by virtue of both partners having an ownership interest in the same partnership (however, this does not mean that stocks may not be attributed through another provision of §318).

Second, §318(a)(5)(C) prevents re-attribution of stocks that were already attributed from a partner to the partnership. This means that, where stocks are attributed from a partner to a partnership, they cannot be then re-attributed from the partnership to another partner.

§318 Partnership Attribution Rules: S-Corporations

Under §318(a)(5)(E), an S-corporation and its shareholders are respectively considered to be a partnership and its partners. Hence, corporate stocks owned by an S-corporation are attributed to its shareholders proportionately to each shareholder’s ownership of the S-corporation’s stock. Also, stocks owned by shareholders are deemed to be owned by the S-corporation.

It is important to emphasize that §318 partnership attribution rules do not apply to the stock of the S-corporation. Id. In other words, §318 does not treat shareholders in an S-corporation as being constructive owners of the stock of the S-corporation itself.

§318 Partnership Attribution Rules: Comprehensive Example

I would like to finish this article with a comprehensive example of how §318 partnership attribution rules work. Let’s suppose that A and B own Y partnership in equal portions (i.e. 50% each); Y owns 120 shares of X, a C-corporation, out of the total 200 outstanding shares; another 80 shares are owned by A.

Let’s analyze each parties’ actual and constructive ownership of X. A actually owns 80 shares and constructively owns half of Y’s ownership of X shares (60 shares) under §318(a)(2)(A) – i.e. he owns a total of 140 shares.

B constructively owns half of Y’s ownership of X shares – i.e. 60 shares. He does not constructively own any of A’s shares, because there is no partner-to-partner attribution of stocks and there is no attribution to B of A’s shares that were attributed to Y.

Finally, Y actually owns 120 shares and constructively owns all of A’s 80 shares. In other words, Y is deemed to be a 100% owner of X.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With §318 Partnership Attribution Rules

The constructive ownership rules of §318 are crucial to proper identification of US tax reporting requirements with respect domestic and especially foreign business entities. Hence, if you are a partner in a partnership that owns stocks in a domestic or foreign corporation, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with §318 partnership attribution rules.

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