Business service income sourcing is a highly important issue in US international tax law. In this article, I will explain the concept of business service income sourcing and discuss the general rules that apply to it. Please, note that this is a discussion of general rules only; there are important complications with respect to the application of these rules.
What is Business Service Income Sourcing?
Business service income sourcing refers to the classification of income derived from services rendered by a business entity as “domestic” or “foreign”. In other words, if a corporation performs services for another business entity or individual, should it be considered US-source income or foreign-source income?
Importance of Business Service Income Sourcing
The importance of business service income sourcing cannot be overstated. With respect to foreign businesses, these income sourcing rules determine whether the income derived from these services will be subject to US taxation or not. For US business entities, the sourcing of income will be a key factor in their ability to utilize foreign tax credit.
Moreover, in light of the 2017 tax reform, the sourcing rules are now important for qualification of various benefits that the new tax laws offer to US corporations.
Business Service Income Sourcing: General Rule
Now that we understand the importance of the business services income sourcing rules, we are ready to explore the General Rule that applies in these situations. Generally, the services are sourced to the country where the services are performed.
In other words, if the services are performed in the United States, then, the income generated by these services is considered US-source income. If the services are performed outside of the United States, then, the income is considered foreign-source income.
Business Service Income Sourcing: Services Performed Partially in the United States and Partially Outside of the United States
The general rule is clear, but what happens if services were only partially performed in the United States? Here, we are now getting into practical complications and we have to look at the Treasury Regulations.
The Regulations begin with the general proposition that the sourcing of income from services rendered by a corporation, partnership, or trust, should be “on the basis that most correctly reflects the proper source of the income under the facts and circumstances of the particular case.” Treas. Reg. §1.861-4(b)(1)(i). This is the so-called “facts and circumstances test”.
Then, the Regulations clarify that usually “the facts and circumstances will be such that an apportionment on the time basis, as defined in paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(E) of this section, will be acceptable.” Id. In other words, the Time Basis Allocation will be the default method for business service income sourcing, but it is possible to use other tests where it is reasonable to do so.
Curiously, the Regulations provide only one example of business service income allocation that involves a corporation, and this example does not utilize the Time Basis Allocation method.
Business Service Income Sourcing: Time Basis Allocation
The Time Basis Allocation method offers two ways to source income: the “number of days” allocation and the “time periods” allocation. Under the “number of days” variation, the business entity adds together the number of days worked by its employees who worked in the United States and the number of days they worked in a foreign country, figures out the percentages for each country and sources the income according to the percentage allocation. See Treas. Reg. §1.861-4(b)(2)(ii)(F).
Under the “time periods” variation, a tax year is split into distinct time periods: one where the employees of a business entity spent all of their time in the United States and one where they spent all of their time in a foreign country. The compensation paid in the first period is allocated entirely to the United States, whereas the proceeds paid in the second time period is considered to be foreign-source income. Id.
The Time Basis Allocation methodology works better for specific employees rather than a business entity as a whole, particularly the “time periods” variation. Often, a business entity would have its employees working at the same time in the United States and outside of the United States making it very difficult to use the “time periods” allocation. Even the “number of days” allocation becomes fairly complex if one has a large number of employees working back and forth between the countries.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Business Service Income Sourcing
Sherayzen Law Office is a premier US international tax law firm that helps businesses and individuals with their US international tax compliance, including business service income sourcing. If you have employees who work in the United States and overseas, you need the professional help from our law firm.