The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “2017 tax reform” or “TCJA”) enacted a highly-lucrative incentive for US corporations to export directly from the United States – the Foreign-Derived Intangible Income (“FDII”) regime. In this article, I would like to introduce the readers in a general manner to the FDII export incentive contained in the TCJA.
FDII Export Incentive: TCJA
The creation of the participation exemption system posed a problem for the drafters of the TCJA – how does one stop US corporations from running all of their foreign business through a foreign corporation since foreign corporate profits may actually be transferred to the United States tax-free? Among other provisions of this complex law, the drafters utilized two powerful incentives for US corporations to export directly overseas.
The first one was a “stick” – the Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income or GILTI. The GILTI regime established what can be best described as a global minimum tax on the earnings of foreign subsidiaries of a US business entity.
The second approach was a “carrot” – the FDII export incentive. The FDII regime creates a powerful incentive for US corporations to export goods and services from the United States by creating a deemed deduction of a large percentage of corporate export income. In other words, the effective corporate tax rate is reduced through the FDII regime because a portion of a corporation’s export income is being deducted and never subject to US taxation.
FDII Export Incentive: General Description of the Deemed Deduction
The deemed deduction applies only to a US corporation’s FDII. FDII is basically a certain portion of corporate income from foreign sources determined by a formula established by Congress.
The formula requires a multi-step process. The first steps involve the determination of the Deduction-Eligible Income (DEI), Qualified Business Asset Investment (“QBAI”), Foreign-Derived Deduction-Eligible Income (“FDDEI”). Once all of these items are calculated, then the Deemed Intangible Income (“DII”) is figured out.
FDII is calculated last. The basic formula for FDII is: DII times the ratio of FDDEI over DEI.
The last step is to calculate the tax liability which involves the reduction of FDII by 37.5%. Thus, the effective tax rate for a corporate taxpayer (assuming the current 21% corporate tax rate stays the same) with respect to its FDII is only 13.125%.
It should be mentioned that the current deemed deduction will stay at 37.5% only through December 31, 2025. For the years after December 31, 2025, the deemed deduction will go down to 21.875%. This means that the effective tax rate on FDII will be 16.406%. Unless the law changes (which is possible), non-FDII corporate income will continue to be taxed at 21%.
FDII Export Incentive: Net Impact of the Deemed Deduction
Based on even just this general analysis of FDII, we can understand why the FDII export incentive is such an important part of the US corporate tax law. First, in most cases, the FDII deduction is a disincentive to shift foreign-source income from a US corporation to a controlled foreign corporation (“CFC”). A CFC may be subject to taxation under two different anti-deferral regimes, Subpart F or GILTI tax. Subpart F income will just force the recognition of foreign income by the CFC right away without any deemed deduction (i.e. this would be the worst-case scenario).
If the Subpart F rules do not apply, then the corporation may be subject to the GILTI tax. It is true that the effective corporate tax rate for GILTI, after its current 50% deemed reduction is only 10.5%. Nevertheless, FDII”s effective tax rate of 13.125% significantly reduces the difference from that what it would have been otherwise (i.e. between 10.5% and 21%). Moreover, when one factors in the additional administrative, US tax compliance and local tax compliance expenses, this difference may become nonexistent.
Second, the FDII deemed deduction makes US corporations more competitive worldwide, because they may now realize a higher profit margin even if they lower the prices for their products and services sold overseas.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With FDII Calculations and International Business Tax Planning
If your business engages in selling products or services overseas, there are opportunities for international business tax planning from US perspective. Contact Sherayzen Law Office to take advantage of these opportunities through professional, creative and ethical tax help.