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.

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