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§318 Re-attribution: General Rule | International Tax Lawyers Miami

This article continues a series of articles on the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §318 constructive ownership rules. Today, I would like to focus on the §318 re-attribution rule. In this article, I will explain the general §318 re-attribution rule and mention the exceptions. I will discuss the exceptions in more detail in future articles.

§318 Re-attribution: General Rule

Generally, under the IRC §318(a)(5)(A), stock constructively owned by a shareholder under any of the §318 attribution rule is deemed to be actually owned for the purposes of re-attribution to others. In other words, except for limitations mentioned below, the constructive ownership of stock can be further attributed to other persons.

For example, if a husband owns stocks in Corporation Y and his wife is deemed to owned these stocks under the family attribution rules of §318(a)(1)(A)(i), then these constructively-owned stocks can be further attributed from the wife to Corporation X under the shareholder-to-corporation rules of §318(a)(3)(C) if the wife owns 50% or more of the value of stocks issued by Corporation X.

§318 Re-attribution: Great Burden on Taxpayers

The breadth of the §318 re-attribution rule can present a huge challenge to taxpayers. Both individuals and entities must maintain correct ownership records to allow their tax attorneys to properly determine their ownership of stock under §318 and their consequent tax obligations.

The dangerous reach of the §318 re-attribution rule can be demonstrated by the following example. Let’s suppose that corporation X has 200 shares outstanding and all of the shares are owned as follows: H owns 100 shares, his wife W owns 60 shares and his son S owns 40 shares. Additionally, H owns 25% in partnership P.

Under the §318 family attribution rules, H actually owns 100 shares and constructively owns another 100 shares (i.e. his wife’s and his son’s shares) of X. Under §318(a)(5)(A), H’s constructive ownership of 100 shares is deemed to be actual ownership for the purposes of re-attribution of stock. Consequently, under the partner-to-partnership rules of §318(a)(3)(A), 100% ownership of X is now attributed to P.

This can get even worse. Assuming the same facts, what if P also actually owns 50% of the value of the stock of corporation Y? Then, under §318(a)(3)(C), Y would be a constructive owner of 100% of X, because these shares were attributed first to H and, then, from H to P.

§318 Re-attribution: Restrictions

It is obvious that, without any limitations, such an extensive re-attribution of stock can easily get out of hand and spread to cover persons who have no relationship to the original owners. For this purpose, the US Congress imposed certain restrictions on the re-attribution of stock under §318(a)(5)(A). Each provision §318(a)(5)(B)–§318(a)(5)(D) imposes limitations on re-attribution of stock where the relationship between the original owner and the person subject to stock re-attribution no longer justifies the assertion of constructive ownership. I will detail these restrictions in future articles.

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If you own foreign assets, including foreign business entities, you have the daunting obligation to meet all of your complex US international tax compliance requirements; otherwise, you may have to face the wrath of the IRS in the form of high noncompliance penalties. In order to successfully meet your US international tax compliance obligations, you need the professional help of Sherayzen Law Office.

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§318 Option Attribution | International Tax Lawyers United States

A previous article defined “option” for the purposes of the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §318(a)(4). Today, I will discuss the main §318 option attribution rule.

§318 Option Attribution: Main Rule

Under §318(a)(4), “if any person has an option to acquire stock, such stock shall be considered as owned by such person.” For the purposes of §318 option attribution rules, an option to acquire an option to acquire stock is also considered an option to acquire stock. Id. It does not matter whether the option to acquire an option is granted by the corporation or by a shareholder.

Additionally, a series of options to acquire an option to acquire stock is considered an option to acquire stock Id.; in other words, the owner of a series of options is the constructive owner of the stock. That is the subject of this series.

Let’s use the following example to illustrate §318 option attribution: A and B each own 10 shares in X, a C-corporation; A has an option to acquire 5 shares of X owned by B; A also has an option to acquire an option to acquire B’s other 5 shares of X; finally, A has an option to acquire 5 unissued shares of X. The issue is: how many shares does A own?

By applying the rules above, A would actually and constructively own a total of 25 shares: 10 shares that he actually owns and 15 shares the he constructively owns under §318(a)(4) (all 10 shares of X owned by B plus 5 unissued shares of X).

§318 Option Attribution: Special Case of Convertible Debentures

Pursuant to Rev. Rul. 68-601, an owner of a convertible debenture (i.e. a debenture that can be converted into stock of a corporation) is deemed to be in the same position as a an option owner for the purposes of §318(a)(4) as long as he has the right to obtain the stock at his election. In other words, an owner of such a convertible debenture is a constructive owner of the stock into which the debenture can be converted.

Moreover, by drawing an analogy to the main §318 option attribution rule, an option to acquire a convertible debenture would be treated in the same manner under §318 as an option to acquire an option to acquire stock. Hence, the owner of an option to acquire a convertible debenture is a constructive owner fo the stock into which this debenture can be converted.

§318 Option Attribution vs. §318 Family Member Attribution

There are certain situations where stocks may be attributed to an individual under both, §318(a)(1) (i.e. family attribution rules) and the §318(a)(4) (i.e. option attribution rules). Since there are differences in legal effect, it is important to understand which rule governs in such situations.

Under §318(a)(5)(D), §318 option attribution supercedes the §318 family attribution. In other words, where an individual is deemed to be a constructive owner of shares under both rules, only the §318 option constructive ownership rules will apply to him.

This primacy of option attribution over family attribution may have a highly important tax impact in certain situations, such as the tax treatment of redemption of stock by a corporation. Let’s analyze an example to illustrate the disparate impact of these two attribution rules in the context of the §302(c)(2) waiver.

Let’s use the following hypothetical situation: W, an individual, owns 10 shares of X, a C-corporation; her husband, H, owns the remaining 40 shares of X; W has an option to purchase all of H’s shares of X. W redeems all l0 shares of X with the idea to establish a complete termination of her interest in the corporation once she waives the attribution of H’s shares to her by using the §302(c)(2) waiver (we assume here that she also fulfills all other requirements under §302). Will this strategy work in this case?

The answer is no. The problem is that the waiver under §302(c)(2) is available only for attribution from a family member. While it is true that W is a constructive owner of H’s 40 shares by the operation of family attribution rules, she is also the constructive owner of the same shares under the §318 option attribution rules. Since option attribution supercedes family attribution, she cannot use the §302 waiver. This means that W cannot establish a complete termination of her interest in X and the redemption of her 10 stocks will be treated as a dividend (with no cost-basis offset against the proceeds) as opposed to a sale.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US International Tax Law

If you own foreign assets, including foreign business entities, you have the daunting obligation to meet all of your complex US international tax compliance requirements; otherwise, you may have to face the wrath of the IRS in the form of high noncompliance penalties. In order to successfully meet your US international tax compliance obligations, you need the professional help of Sherayzen Law Office.

We are an international tax law firm that specializes in US international tax compliance and offshore voluntary disclosures. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide with their US international tax compliance, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

§318 Option Definition | US International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

This article continues our series of articles on the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §318 constructive ownership rules. In this article, I would like to introduce the readers to the infamous §318 option attribution rules. Before we delve into the discussion of the constructive ownership rules for options, however, it is important to understand what “option” actually means for the purpose of §318. Hence, today, I will focus on the §318 option definition.

§318 Option Definition: Main Rule

An option is a right to obtain stock at a certain price and date. I want to emphasize that option is not an obligation, it is a right which a taxpayer may or may not ever exercise.

Such a broad §318 option definition includes a great variety of options: options to purchase stock, option to acquire unissued stocks (as long as a shareholder has the right to obtain stock at his election – see Rev. Rul. 68-601), certain warrants and debentures that may be converted into stocks (as long as there are no contingencies, other than time, that must be met before the conversions rights can be exercised – see FSA 200244003), et cetera.

§318 Option Definition: Rights Not Considered Options

Not all rights to acquire stock, however, are considered options for the purposes of §318 option definition. There is a large number of exceptions, but all of them are centered around the concept of some type of restrictions on the exercise of the option. I will list below the five most popular exceptions which are not considered options under §318(a)(4):

First, a right to acquire stock is not an option if the optionee does not have control over the exercise of the option. For example, if there are many contingencies which can prevent exercise of an option, then this is not an option of the purposes of §318(a)(4). See FSA 199915007.

Second, a corporation’s right to buy back its own stocks is not an option for the purposes of §318. Rev. Rul. 69-562.

Third, a right of first refusal is not an option for the purposes of §318. For example, if the right to purchase stock is contingent on the obligor’s decision to sell, then this is not an option under §318(a)(4). TAM 8106008. We can even broaden the rule not only to a right of first refusal, but to almost all situations where the exercise of option depends on the other party’s decision to sell.

Fourth, certain stock appreciation rights are not options if they only entitle the owner of these rights to cash benefits, but do not permit acquisition of stock. Of course, if contract entitles the owner to the right to acquire stocks, then such stock appreciation rights may actually be options §318. See PLR 9341019.

Finally, the right to acquire stocks is not an option under §318 if such transfer is restricted and requires consent. For example, the IRS held in TAM 9410003 that such an arrangement (i.e. restriction on the transfer of shares without other shareholders’ consent) combined with the right of first refusal did not constitute an option to acquire those shares.

§318 Option Definition: Exceptions to Restrictions

I would like to warn the readers, however, that not all restrictions on exercise of an option automatically exclude a right to acquire a stock from the §318 option definition. We can outline two broad exceptions to restrictions here.

First, where the control over the decision to exercise the option rests with the holder of the right to purchase a stock, such a restriction is insufficient to prevent this arrangement to be treated as an option. See Rev. Rul. 68-601.

Second, where the restriction is fixed in time. For example, under FSA 200244003, a warrant is an option if there are no contingencies or limitations on the right to exercise other than time limitation. Similarly, if the right to acquire shares can only be exercised on a fixed date, it is an option. Rev. Rul. 89-64.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US International Tax Law Concerning Foreign Corporations

If you are an owner of a foreign corporation, you are facing a very difficult task of working through the enormous complexity of US international tax compliance requirements and trying to avoid the high IRS noncompliance penalties. In order to be successful in this matter, you need the professional help of Sherayzen Law Office.

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§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution | Corporate Tax Lawyer & Attorney

This article continues a series of articles on the constructive ownership rules of the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §318. Today, we will discuss corporate attribution rules, even more specifically the §318 downstream corporate attribution rules.

§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution: Two Types of Attribution

There are two types of §318 corporate attribution rules: downstream and upstream. Under the downstream corporate attribution rules, stocks owned by a corporation are attributed to this corporation’s shareholders. The upstream corporate attribution rules are exactly the opposite: stocks (in another corporation) owned by shareholders are attributed to the corporation. As stated above, this article will focus on the downstream attribution rules; the upstream attribution rules will be covered in a future article.

§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution: Main Rule

Under §318(a)(2)(C), if a person owns, directly and indirectly, 50% or more in value of the stock “such person shall be considered as owning the stock owned, directly or indirectly, by or for such corporation, in that proportion which the value of the stock which such person so owns bears to the value of all the stock in such corporation.”

There are two critical parts of this downstream attribution rule: 50% threshold and proportionality. Let’s discuss each part in more detail.

§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution: 50% Threshold

A person must own directly or indirectly 50% or more of the stock value of a corporation in order for the §318 corporate attribution rules to apply. Under Treas. Reg. §1.318-1(b)(3), in determining whether the 50% threshold is satisfied, one must aggregate all stocks that the person actually and constructively owns.

The valuation of stocks should be determined in reference to the relative rights of the outstanding stock of a corporation. All restrictions, such as limitations on transferability, should be considered. On the other hand, the presence or absence of control of the corporation is irrelevant. This means that the value of stocks may differ from the voting power associated with these stocks.

Let’s use the following fact scenario to demonstrate the potential complexity of stock valuation: C, a C-corporation, has two classes of stocks – 100 shares of common stock with a value of $1 each and 50 shares of preferred stock with a value of $1 each (i.e. the total value of common stock is $100 and the total value of preferred stock is $50) – with only common stocks having voting rights; A owns 60 shares of common stock and 10 shares of preferred stock (i.e. his common stock is worth $60 and his preferred stock $10); C owns all of the outstanding shares of another corporation, X. The issue is how many shares of X should be attributed to A?

The answer is none. A does not constructively own any of X’s shares because his total value of C’s stocks is below 50% (the value of his stocks is $60 + $10 = $70, but the total value of C’s stocks is $100 + $50 = $150). The fact that A controls C through his 60% voting power is irrelevant.

§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution: Proportionality

As it was stated above, if the 50% corporate ownership threshold is met, then the shareholder will be considered a constructive owner of shares owned by the corporation in another corporation in proportion to the value of his stock.

While this looks like a straightforward rule, there is one problem. Whether the 50% threshold is satisfied should be determined by the combination of actual and constructive stock ownership. Does it mean that the attribution of corporate stocks under §318 should be in proportion to the value of both actual and constructive ownership combined? Or, does the proportionality of attribution based solely on the actual stock ownership in the holding corporation?

As of the time of this writing, the IRS still has not issued any guidance on this problem. Hence, taking either position is fine by an attorney as long as it is reasonable under the facts.

§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution: S-Corporations

It should be emphasized that the §318 downstream corporate attribution rules do not apply S-corporations with respect to attribution of corporate stock between an S-corporation and its shareholders. Rather, in such cases, the S-corporation is treated as a partnership and its shareholders as partners. See §318(a)(5)(E). Hence, generally, corporate stocks owned by an S-corporation are attributed on a proportionate basis even to shareholders who own less than 50% of the value of the S-corporation stock.

Keep in mind, however, that the usual constructive ownership rules for corporations and shareholders apply for the purpose of determination of whether any person owns stock in an S-corporation.

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US Information Returns: Introduction | International Tax Lawyer Minnesota

In this article, I would like to introduce the readers to the concept of US information returns; I will also explore the differences between US information returns and US tax returns.

US Information Returns: Two Types of Returns

The US tax system is a self-assessment system where taxpayers must file certain forms or returns developed by the IRS in order to report information required by the Internal Revenue Code and the Treasury Regulations. The Internal Revenue Code specifies the due date for these returns.

There are two primary types of returns: tax returns and information returns. A tax return is a form that a taxpayer uses to compute the tax that he owes to the IRS. A tax return requires the taxpayer to set forth the relevant information and amounts for this computation.

On the other hand, the IRS requires US taxpayers to file information returns in order to obtain information on transactions and payments to taxpayers that may affect the information reflected on tax returns. In other words, the IRS uses information returns not to compute the tax liability, but to obtain information (or verification of information) to make sure that the tax returns were properly filed.

US Information Returns: Hybrid Returns

This ideal distinction between the two types of returns is often not preserved. Instead, there are many hybrid returns which possess the features of both, tax returns and information returns. For example, Part III of Form 1040 Schedule B is an information return which forms part of the overall tax return (i.e. Form 1040). Similarly, Form 8621 is a US international information return that is a hybrid return for the reporting of ownership of PFICs and calculation of PFIC tax at the same time.

US Information Returns: Domestic vs. International

The information returns are subdivided into two categories: domestic and international. The domestic information returns are usually filed by third parties with respect to US-source income or income under the supervision of a domestic financial institution. For example, US brokers provide Forms 1099-INT to report US-source interest income and foreign interest income that the taxpayer earned by investing through a domestic financial institution.

It should be mentioned that, due to the implementation of FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act), some foreign subsidiaries of US banks also began to issue Forms 1099 to US taxpayers with respect to foreign income from their foreign accounts. The most prominent example is Citibank. However, this is a tiny minority of foreign financial institutions at this point.

On the other hand, international information returns primarily report information concerning foreign assets, foreign income and foreign transactions; there are even information returns concerning foreign owners of US businesses. Usually, these returns are filed not by third parties, but by taxpayers directly – individuals, businesses, trusts and estates. For example, Form 5471 is an international tax return which US taxpayers must file to report their ownership of a foreign corporation, its financial statements and its certain transactions.

US Information Returns: High Civil Penalties

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of information returns are high noncompliance civil penalties. This is very different from tax returns.

The tax return civil penalties are calculate based on a taxpayer’s unpaid income tax liability. The worst case scenario is a civil fraud penalty of 75% of unpaid tax liability. This is followed by negligence, failure-to-file and accuracy penalties.

The noncompliance penalties for information returns, however, do not depend on whether there was ever any tax liability connected with the failure to file an accurate information return; in fact, many information return penalties are imposed in a situation where there is no income tax noncompliance at all. This is logical, because pure information returns would never have any income tax noncompliance directly related to them.

Hence, in order to enforce compliance with information returns, the IRS imposes objective noncompliance penalties per each unfiled or incorrect information return. This divorce between income tax noncompliance and information return penalties, however, may produce extremely unjust results. For example, failure to file a Form 5471 for a foreign corporation which never produced any revenue may result in the imposition of a $10,000 penalty.

It should be emphasized that the domestic information return penalties are much smaller in size than those imposed for noncompliance with international information returns. Again the logic is clear: since the temptation to avoid compliance with US international tax laws is much greater overseas, Congress wanted to raise the stakes for such noncompliant taxpayers in order to make the risk of noncompliance intolerable for most taxpayers.

US Information Returns: Special Case of FBAR

The IRS may impose the most severe penalties out of all information returns for a failure to file a correct FinCEN Form 114, commonly known as “FBAR”. The paradox of these penalties is that FBAR is not a tax form, but a Bank Secrecy Act information return. FBAR was created to fight financial crimes, not for tax enforcement. Its penalties were originally meant to deter and punish criminals, not induce self-compliance with US tax laws – this is precisely why FBAR penalties may easily exceed the penalties imposed with respect to any other US international information return.

So, why is the IRS able to use FBAR as a tax information return and impose FBAR penalties? The reason is that the US Congress turned over FBAR enforcement to the IRS after September 11, 2001. Since then, even though FBAR is not part of the Internal Revenue Code, the IRS has used this form as an information return for tax purposes.

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