Defining a partnership as “foreign” or “domestic” can be highly important for US tax purposes. In this article, I will explain the foreign partnership definition and explain its significance.
Foreign Partnership Definition: Importance
There may be important US international tax law consequences that stem from whether a partnership is classified as “foreign” or “domestic”. These consequences may encompass not only income tax compliance, but also the type of information returns that may have to be filed. Even tax withholding requirements may be affected by this classification.
Let me give you a few examples of where foreign partnership directly appears in the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) in order for you to appreciate the significance of the foreign partnership definition. The term foreign partnership appears in such diverse provisions as IRC §6046A (filing of information returns by U.S. persons with regard to acquisition, disposition, or substantial change of interest in foreign partnership – this is the famous IRS Form 8865), §3401(d)(2) (wage withholding), §168(h)(5) (tax-exempt entity leasing rules) and even tax withholding rules for disposition of US real property under §1445.
The main reason for this significance of the foreign partnership definition lies in §7701(a)(30), which states that a foreign partnership is not a “US Person”, a highly important term of art in US international tax law. The implications of being a “foreign person” rather than a “US person” can be huge, extending as far as affecting anti-deferral tax regimes.
Foreign Partnership Definition: Formal Partnership
Let’s delve now into the foreign partnership definition. Our starting point is §7701(a)(5); it states that a partnership is considered to be foreign as long as it is “not domestic”. §7701(a)(4) defines domestic partnership as those which were “created or organized in the United States, or under the law of the United States or of any State.”
Under §7701(a)(9), the term “United States” includes only the states and the District of Columbia. In other words, if a partnership is formally organized in any place other than the fifty states of the United States and the District of Columbia, it is a foreign partnership.
What about partnerships created or organized in US possessions? The IRS and the courts have consistently stated that they are foreign (though there are more examples of these rulings with respect to corporations rather than partnerships).
What if a partnership is chartered both in the United States and another country? Without delving too deeply into legal analysis, pursuant to Treas. Reg. §301.7701-5(a), such a partnership would be classified as a domestic entity
Foreign Partnership Definition: Common Law/Private Agreement Partnerships
The above definition only works well in cases where a partnership is formally created or organized under the laws of a country. However, it is also possible for the IRS to classify a contractual relationship as a partnership for tax purposes. In these cases, the determination of whether a partnership is a foreign or domestic for US international tax purposes is a lot more difficult.
At this point, there is no absolute clarity provided by the IRS on this issue. However, there are two main approaches for determining whether a deemed partnership is domestic or foreign that may be acceptable to the IRS: (1) the contract’s governing law; and (2) primary location of the business of the deemed partnership. Let’s review these approaches.
Foreign Partnership Definition for Deemed Partnerships: Governing Law Approach
The governing law approach to classification of partnerships as foreign or domestic states that a partnership should be classified as foreign or domestic depending on the governing law which controls the agreement that gave rise to the deemed partnership.
The IRS often likes this approach, because it pretty much mimics the foreign partnership definition for formal partnerships described above. In other words, while in a formal partnership we look at the place of organization, the governing law approach for deemed partnerships basically looks at the jurisdiction which controls the legal enforcement of the partnership agreement. Both approaches are based on the premise that the foreign partnership definition should depend on whether the partners’ rights and duties are defined under domestic or foreign law.
Foreign Partnership Definition for Deemed Partnerships: Business Location Approach
The primary location of business approach, on the other hand, seeks to classify a deemed partnership not based on where the partners’ rights and duties are defined, but based on where the business of the partnership is actually conducted. The advantage of this approach is that it is closer to business reality and does not artificially classify a partnership based on which law governs it.
There are, however, problems with this approach which make the IRS like it a lot less. First of all, it is very difficult to apply this approach to a partnership with extensive business operations within and outside of the United States. Second, the classification of the same partnership may often switch depending on the shift in the volume of its US operations versus foreign operations.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Foreign Partnership Definition
If you are unclear about the classification of your partnership for US tax purposes or you wish to change the existing classification for US tax planning purposes, contact the US international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We Can Help You!