Foreign Inheritance Definition | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Foreign inheritance definition is a topic of crucial importance for both US income and US estate tax compliance, because domestic inheritance and foreign inheritance have vastly different income tax results and reporting requirements. Hence, the topic of foreign inheritance definition directly concerns millions of Americans who reside overseas and tens of millions of Americans who have relatives outside of the United States. In this article, I will explore the foreign inheritance definition and warn against the common tax traps associated with it.

Foreign Inheritance Definition: Confusion Among Taxpayers

There is an enormous confusion right now among many US taxpayers with respect to US tax compliance requirements concerning a foreign inheritance. Some taxpayers firmly believe that a foreign inheritance is never subject to US taxation, some adopt an exactly opposite position while the rest simply do not know what to think.

It appears that the notion that foreign inheritance is non-taxable was acquired by reading various articles on the internet that state exactly this point. The people who believe that foreign inheritance is taxable also draw their conclusion from the internet – the difference arises from the fact that they read different articles. Finally, the third category of taxpayers read both kinds of articles and they simply do not know who to believe.

What is going on? Why is it that the articles on the internet seem to draw mutually-exclusive conclusions? Is one category of articles correct while the other one is one hundred percent wrong?

The answer to these questions lies in identifying the purpose for which an internet article was written, because the source of confusion lies in the foreign inheritance definition. It turns out that there are two definitions with separate applicable US tax compliance requirements!

Foreign Inheritance Definition for Income Tax Purposes

The first foreign inheritance definition exists for income tax purposes only. Under this rule, foreign inheritance is an inheritance received from a decedent who is a non-resident alien.

In this context, “non-resident alien” is defined by the IRS income tax rules. In other words, a non-resident alien is a person who does not fall into any of the tax residency categories. He cannot be a US citizen or US permanent resident; he did not stay long enough to satisfy the Substantial Presence Test; and he never declared himself a US tax resident (for example, by filing a joint US tax return with his US spouse).

Foreign Inheritance Definition for Estate Tax Purposes

A different definition of foreign inheritance applies under the US estate tax rules. Here, a foreign inheritance is defined as an inheritance received from a decedent who is a nonresident noncitizen. A noncitizen is a nonresident if he is domiciled outside of the United States. The term “domicile” here means acquiring a place to live without a present intention of later leaving. There are various factors used to determine a person’s domicile.

It is important to understand that, due to these two different definitions of a foreign inheritance, it is possible that a person could be a tax resident for income tax purposes and a nonresident noncitizen for estate tax purposes. Vice-versa may also be true.

Foreign Inheritance Definition and Tax Consequences

Now that we understand that there is a separate foreign inheritance definition for each tax regime (income and estate), we can clarify the confusion that prevails on the internet and among US taxpayers.

Generally, if the decedent was a non-resident alien, then neither his estate nor his US heirs would be subject to income taxes at the time of inheritance. I wish to emphasize here that this rule applies only “at the time of inheritance”, not before or after the foreign inheritance takes place. Exceptions may be possible with respect to foreign trusts.

On the other hand, if an inheritance was received from a taxpayer who is domiciled in the United States, then it will be subject to US estate tax rules irrespective of the country where the inherited assets are located. Of course, estate tax treaties may provide a certain amount of relief against double-taxation in this case.

If an inheritance was received from a nonresident noncitizen, then all foreign assets, except those considered as “US situs assets”, will avoid US estate taxation. The US situs assets above the exclusion of $60,000, however, may still be taxed in the United States.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Tax Help With Your Foreign Inheritance

All of the rules that I have stated here are general, and your international tax attorney needs to apply them to your specific fact pattern in order to determine whether an inheritance fits a foreign inheritance definition for either estate or income tax purposes or both.

Furthermore, one should remember that “non-taxable” does not mean “non-reportable”. There are various income tax information reporting requirements that may apply to you even if your foreign inheritance was not taxable. Additionally, income tax recognition may be required in certain situations with respect to your foreign inheritance, especially before and after the you are deemed to have inherited your foreign assets.

Under these circumstances, the help of Sherayzen Law Office is of critical importance if you wish to stay in US tax compliance and avoid high IRS tax penalties. We are an international tax law firm highly experienced in US tax compliance concerning a foreign inheritance. We have successfully helped US taxpayers all over the globe with their foreign inheritance issues, and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation About Your Foreign Inheritance!

Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. Conducts Foreign Inheritance Seminar | News

On January 17, 2019, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an international tax attorney and owner of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., conducted a foreign inheritance seminar for the International Business Law and Probate and Trust Law Sections of the Minnesota State Bar Association. The title of the seminar was “Foreign Inheritance – the Pandora’s Box of U.S. International Tax Reporting Requirements.”

Foreign Inheritance Seminar

Foreign Inheritance Seminar, MSBA, 01/17/2019

This foreign inheritance seminar was well-attended; there were close to 50 attendees. The majority of the attendees were business and estate planning lawyers; there were also a few immigration lawyers.

Mr. Sherayzen defined the main goal of the seminar as broadening the awareness of the U.S. international tax implications of receiving a foreign inheritance. He first focused on the definition of the concept of “foreign inheritance”, exposing the complexity behind this term. Mr. Sherayzen further explained how this term is defined for income tax versus estate tax purposes. He concluded this first part of the seminar by going over a set of hypothetical situations and explaining the U.S. tax consequences the foreign inheritance definition would have in each of them.

During the second part of the seminar, Mr. Sherayzen explained the reporting requirements associated with foreign inheritance. He also explained the difference between the taxability of a foreign inheritance and the reporting of a foreign inheritance. A foreign inheritance may still be required to be reported to the IRS even if it is not taxable.

Mr. Sherayzen devoted the third part of the foreign inheritance seminar to pre-inheritance transfers of assets by a foreign decedent. He explained how an international tax attorney has to analyze each of these transfers in the context of three main strategic issues: classification, income recognition and information reporting. The attorney then focused on the example that embodied all three of these issues – the usufruct.

During the final part of the seminar, Mr. Sherayzen focused on the post-inheritance U.S. tax compliance issues. The attorney described, in a broad manner, the income tax and information tax reporting requirements associated with various classes of assets.  Additionally, Mr. Sherayzen separately discussed the concept of a foreign trust, stated its main reporting requirements and introduced the complications concerning the foreign trust income tax recognition.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Tax Help With Your Foreign Inheritance Reporting to the IRS

If you are about to receive or already received a foreign inheritance, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We are a team of tax professionals highly experienced in U.S. international tax reporting of a foreign inheritance as well as offshore voluntary disclosures which involve inherited foreign assets. We have helped hundreds of U.S. taxpayers with their IRS foreign inheritance issues; and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Foreign Inheritance and Stepped-Up Basis | US International Tax Lawyer

If you received a property as part of your foreign inheritance, one of the key questions that you are facing is whether this inherited property is entitled to a stepped-up basis in the United States. This issue was resolved some time ago by the IRS in Revenue Ruling 84-139, 1984-2 C.B. 168.

What is a Stepped-Up Basis?

First, let’s understand the concept of “stepped-up basis”. From the outset, it is important to understand that this is a purely tax concept – the property that existed right before and right after the step-up in the basis is exactly the same property.

There are two terms that we need to understand here: “basis” and “step-up”. Basis is basically the amount of capital investment in a property – i.e. the amount of capital a taxpayer invested in a property, including the purchase price, the construction costs, subsequent improvements of the property, et cetera. Not all expenses are allowed to be “capitalized” or added to the basis (also referred to as “cost-basis”) under US tax law; sometimes, expenses are just deducted in the year they were incurred. Furthermore, the cost-basis may also be reduced by certain usage of a property through appreciation, amortization, depreciation, et cetera.

The “step-up” in the basis means the adjustment of the basis for tax purposes to the fair market value of the asset at the time the “step-up” event occurs. One of the most common step-up events is inheritance.

Of course, this is a simplified explanation of a stepped-up basis and many complexities are simply omitted here (such as step-up in a community property state, et cetera), but, for educational purposes, it is sufficient to provide the general idea.

Is an Inherited Foreign Property Subject to Stepped-Up Basis?

Despite the fact that the foreign inherited property was not subject to an estate tax in the United States, the IRS has clearly ruled that such a property is entitled to a step-up in its basis. The logic is not complex. IRC (Internal Revenue Code) Section 1014(a)(1) states that the basis of a property acquired from a decedent shall be the fair market value of the property at the date of the decedent’s death. IRC Section 1014(b)(1) adds that an inherited property is considered to be acquired under IRC Section 1014(a)(1). Treasury Regulations Section 1.1014-2(b)(2) in essence provides that the stepped-basis applies to a foreign property (because the requirement that such property is includible in the value of a decedent’s gross estate does not apply).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with US Tax Issues Concerning a Foreign Inheritance

If you received a foreign inheritance, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US tax compliance. Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that has helped its clients around the world with planning for a foreign inheritance, identification of the relevant US tax requirements and the preparation of the necessary tax forms (including Forms 3520). Our legal team has also helped our clients with the issues concerning late reporting of a foreign inheritance, including as part of an offshore voluntary disclosure.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!