In a previous article, I discussed the necessity of balancing international tax planning priorities in order to obtain an optimal tax result. In this article, I will explain why international tax planning should be based on a carefully-studied factual basis.
Factual Basis as the Foundation for International Tax Planning
Young inexperienced lawyers often come up with a particular tax strategy and then they try to implement it independent of the actual facts on the ground. Irrespective of how brilliant such a strategy would be in the abstract, it is almost always doomed to become a failure.
Why? The answer is very simple: these lawyers turn international tax planning on its head. They build the second level of a house without ever building a foundation for it. No matter how well they plan out a strategy, it will fall apart almost immediately when it comes in conflict with the facts – how the business is run, its capital structure, its needs, its goals, its cash flow source, its operating model, its E&P, its foreign tax credit and numerous other important considerations.
Hence, the starting point of any tax planning should be a careful factual study of the business.
Studying Factual Basis as a Way to Uncover Potential Opportunities
In my practice, I have found that a careful study of a business may generate a number of potential planning opportunities that may have otherwise been ignored. For example, during a study of a company’s loan structure, one can sometimes find opportunities to treat these loans as equity investments and utilize much better currency exchange rates to build up the client’s basis in the company (potentially even resulting in a reversal of an entire capital gain upon the sale of this company).
Factual Basis: Four Most Important Components
While an attorney should study all relevant facts, there are four main components that he must cover. The components are: (1) organizational chart and capital structure; (2) operating model; (3) tax status and characteristics; and (4) analysis of financial statements. Let’s analyze each component in more detail.
Factual Basis Components: Organizational Chart and Capital Structure
You should start your factual analysis by building the organizational chart of the business and understanding its capital structure. What you need to do is to understand each entity within the corporate structure and the place it occupies in the overall business structure, identify the tax status of each business, understand the sources of cash and where it is used, create a diagram of debt and equity instruments (including whether these are related or unrelated party instruments), study how the business operates across the entire corporate structure, uncover which currencies are used in business (as well as any currency hedging) and review the withholding tax exposure/compliance.
This first component is likely to help you to identify the tax inefficiencies of the existing corporate structure and seek structural alternatives. I recommend that at this stage you plan for creating a more tax-efficient financing of foreign affiliates to maximize foreign country deductions, minimize tax imposed on interest income, reduce withholding tax and assure sufficient cash flow throughout the structure.
Factual Basis Components: Operating Model
The second component of your factual analysis (though it will probably come at about the same time as you start working on the first component) is the operating model of the business. In other words, what type of a business is it: manufacturing, sales, services or IP (development, ownership and/or usage of IP)? How does the business operate: local country manufacturing, local distributing/franchising, global service contracts, et cetera?
I recommend that you especially focus here (as a goal of your tax planning strategy) on: tax-efficient structuring of current and anticipated foreign operations to maximize tax deferral, tax-efficient financing of capital needs and development of strategy concerning IP development and licensing.
Factual Basis Components: Tax Characteristics
The third component is the one that tax attorneys are likely to like the most, because it is very close to their training and professional interest – the study of the tax characteristics of the corporate structure: income/losses, NOL, AMT, foreign tax credit position (carryovers), E&P, transfer pricing, local tax position and PTI (previously taxed income through Subpart F, 965 tax, GILTI tax, et cetera).
The focus of your tax planning goals here are centered around foreign tax credit, repatriation of earnings, minimizing Subpart F income and transfer pricing (i.e. allocation of profits between the US head office and its foreign affiliate companies).
Factual Basis Components: Financial Statements
Finally, the fourth component of your factual basis study consists of the financial statement analysis. You need to carefully review the financial statement with the focus on: Effective Tax Rate (“ETR”) reconciliation, deferred tax analysis, reinvestment, valuation and foreign currency. The focus of your tax planning goals here should be on low-tax deferral structures (for example, through indefinite reinvestment outside of the United States at a lower tax rate) and the most optimal foreign tax credit utilization.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With International Tax Planning
If your US company conducts business outside of the United States, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your international business tax planning. We have helped companies plan their inbound and outbound transactions for US and foreign companies, and we can help you!