In a previous article, I described the analytical framework for conducting tax analysis of inbound transactions. In this article, I will focus on the first issue of this framework – the Non-US Person definition.
Non-US Person Definition: Importance in the Context of Inbound Transactions
Before we delve into the issue of Non-US Person definition, we need to understand why this definition is so important in the context of inbound transactions.
The significance of this definition comes from the fact that the extent of exposure to US taxation depends on whether a person is classified as a US-Person or a Non-US Person. A US person is taxed on his worldwide income and may be subject to a huge array of US reporting requirements. A Non-US Person, however, may only be taxed by the IRS with respect to income earned from US investments or US businesses (even then, there are a number of exceptions). Hence, the classification of US Person versus Non-US Person may have a huge practical impact on a person’s US tax exposure.
Non-US Person Definition: Everyone Who Is Not a US-Person
There is no definition of “Non-US Person” in the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”); there is not even a definition of a “foreign person”.
Rather, one needs to look at the IRC §7701(a) to look for identification of categories of persons who are considered “domestic”. Anyone who is not a “domestic person” is a foreign person or, for our purposes, a Non-US Person.
Non-US Person Definition: What Does “Person” Mean
Before we analyze who is considered to be a “US Person”, we should first clarify who a “person” is. Under §7701(a)(1), a person “shall be construed to mean and include an individual, a trust, estate, partnership, association, company or corporation”. In other words, a “person” may mean not only an individual, but also a business entity, trust or estate.
Non-US Person Definition: General Definition of US Person
Under §7701(a)(30), a “US Person” means a US citizen, US resident alien, domestic partnership, domestic corporation, any estate that is not a foreign estate and a trust that satisfies both condition of §7701(a)(30)(E). Almost each of these categories is highly complex and needs a special definition. I will not cover here every detail, but I will provide certain general definitions with respect to each category.
Non-US Person Definition: Individuals Who Are US Persons
As I stated above, all US citizens and US resident aliens are considered US Persons. In the vast majority of cases, it is fairly easy to determine who is a US citizen; most complications occur with “accidental Americans” and Americans with only one parent who is a US citizen.
A US resident alien is a more complex term. It includes not only US Permanent Residents (i.e. “green card” holders), but also all persons who satisfied the Substantial Presence Test and all persons who declared themselves as US tax residents. This means that a person may be a US resident for tax purposes, but not for immigration purposes. This situation creates a lot of confusion among people who marry US persons or who come to the United States to work; many of them believe themselves to be Non-US Persons, but in reality they are US tax residents.
Non-US Person Definition: Domestic Corporations & Partnerships
Under §7701(a)(4), corporations and partnerships are considered US Persons if they are created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States or any of its states. In the case of partnerships, the IRS may issue regulations that provide otherwise, but the IRS has not done so yet. Conversely, a corporation or a partnership is a Non-US Person if it is not organized in the United States.
Pursuant to §7701(a)(9), the definition of the United States for the purposes of §7701(a)(4) includes only the 50 States and the District of Columbia. In other words, §7701(a)(9) excludes all US territories and possessions from the definition of the United States. For example, a corporation formed in Guam is a Non-US Person!
Non-US Person Definition: Domestic Trust
A trust is a US Person if it satisfies both tests contained in §7701(a)(30)(E). The first test is a “court test”: a court within the United States must be able to exercise primary supervisorial administration. The second test is a “control test”: one or more US persons must have the authority to control all substantial decisions of the trust. Failure to meet either test will result in the trust being a Non-US Person with huge implications for US tax purposes.
Non-US Person Definition: Domestic Estate
While all other definitions described above define a domestic entity and state that a foreign entity is not a domestic one, it is exactly the opposite with estates. Under §7701(a)(30)(D), an estate is a US Person if it is not a foreign estate described in §7701(a)(31). §7701(a)(31)(A) defines a foreign estate as: “the income of which, from sources without the United States which is not effectively connected with the conduct of a trade or business within the United States, is not includible in gross income under subtitle A”.
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