Over the years, the IRS has made a number of rulings with respect to whether certain foreign entities should be considered trusts for US tax purposes. In this article, I would like to discuss the US tax classification of Liechtenstein Anstalt based on the 2009 IRS Chief Counsel Advice Memorandum, AM 2009-012.
Liechtenstein Anstalt: Creation of the Entity
The word “anstalt” means “establishment”. Any natural and legal person can form an Anstalt. Such a person is called a “Founder”.
A person may form an Anstalt for himself or for another party pursuant to a power of attorney or through a fiduciary arrangement. In most cases, Founders are Liechtenstein attorneys or trust companies that protect the anonymity of the actual owner or beneficiary of the Anstalt.
In order to create an Anstalt, the Founder signs Anstalt’s articles. The legal personality of Anstalt is created once the Founder submits to the government registry its articles, the constitutive declaration, proof that capital has been paid in and evidence that the official registration fees have been paid.
Liechtenstein Anstalt: Founder’s Powers
The Founder has the same powers with respect to an Anstalt that are generally attributed to shareholders in a company. Additionally, the Founder possesses “Founder’s rights”, which provide unlimited control and powers of administration (including the power to dismiss directors, distribute profits and liquidate the Anstalt). The Founder may transfer the rights given to him by law and by the articles, in whole or in part, to one or more assignees or successors. The Founder’s rights may also pass through inheritance.
Liechtenstein Anstalt: Board of Directors
An Anstalt must have a Board of Directors (called a Board of Management or Administration) to represent it in its dealings with third parties. In most cases, the Founder will be a member of the Board. The Founder usually appoints the members of the Board for a term of three years, but may appoint for lesser or longer terms. The Board may consist of one or more natural or legal persons. At least one member of the Board authorized to represent the Anstalt and conduct business on its behalf must have a registered office in Liechtenstein. This member must also be authorized to practice as a lawyer, trustee or auditor, or have other qualifications recognized by the government.
The Board has power with respect to all matters that are not specifically reserved to the Founder. The Founder may give authority to the Board to exercise some or all of the Founder’s rights. The Board may give signatory or agency authority to its own members or to others on behalf of the Anstalt. The Board may assign its management and executive responsibilities partially or completely to one or more of its members or to third persons. In carrying out its management and representation functions, the Board must observe all limitations on its authority contained in the articles in instructions and/or regulations issued by the Founder.
Liechtenstein Anstalt: Beneficiaries and Power of Appointment
The Anstalt’s beneficiaries are those natural or legal persons designated by the Founder, or the person holding the Founder’s rights, as entitled to receive the profits and/or liquidation proceeds of the Anstalt. The right to appoint beneficiaries is usually set forth in the articles and may be reserved to the Founder or granted to the Board or to third persons. If no beneficiaries are appointed, the Founder or his successors are presumed to be the beneficiaries.
Liechtenstein Anstalt: No Shares
The capital of an Anstalt is usually not divided into shares.
Liechtenstein Anstalt: Limited Liability
The liability of an Anstalt is limited to the extent of its assets. No personal liability extends to the Founder, the Anstalt’s Board or the beneficiaries.
Liechtenstein Anstalt: Ability to Conduct Business
Anstalts may hold patents and trademarks, hold interests in other companies and may conduct any type of business except banking. If the articles permit the Anstalt to engage in commercial or industrial activities or a trade, the Anstalt is required to keep proper books and records as well as prepare annual financial statements.
In fact, in most cases, the primary purpose for the establishment of an Anstalt is to conduct an active trade or business and to distribute the income and profits therefrom to the beneficiaries of the Anstalt. The beneficiaries of an Anstalt are usually the previous owners of the business assets contributed to the Anstalt and, in most situations, the Founder acts as a nominee or agent of the beneficiaries in conducting the active trade or business of the Anstalt.
Liechtenstein Anstalt: US Tax Treatment
Based on this description of Liechtenstein Anstalts, the IRS held that a Liechtenstein Anstalt is generally not a trust, but a business entity under Treas. Reg.§301.7701-2(a). This decision would apply in a majority of cases where the primary purpose of a Liechtenstein Anstalt is to actively carry on business activities.
This decision, however, should not be applied automatically to all Liechtenstein Anstalts. Rather, the IRS stated that, in cases where the facts and circumstances indicate that a Liechtenstein Anstalt was created “for the primary purpose of protecting or conserving the property of the Anstalt on behalf of beneficiaries, the Anstalt in such a case may be properly classified as a trust under §301.7701-4.” IRS, Chief Counsel Advice Memorandum, AM 2009-012 – Section 7701 – Definitions. Thus, the critical issue in the analysis of whether a Liechtenstein Anstalt should be treated as a trust is whether it was established primarily to conduct a trade or business or to protect and conserve assets for the designated beneficiaries of the Anstalt.
Moreover, in order for a Liechtenstein Anstalt to qualify for trust classification, all elements of a trust must be present: (1) a grantor, (2) a trustee that has legal title and a legal duty to protect and conserve the assets for the designated beneficiaries, (3) assets, and (4) designated beneficiaries. See Swan v. Commissioner, 24 T.C. 829 (1955), aff’d and rev’d on other grounds, 247 F 2d 144 (2d Cir. 1957).
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help Concerning Proper US Tax Classification of a Liechtenstein Anstalt as well as Form 5471 and Form 3520 Compliance
Determining the proper classification of a Liechtenstein Anstalt is very important for its beneficiaries and Founders who are US tax residents, because classification of an Anstalt has a direct impact on these taxpayers’ US international tax compliance, including determining whether Form 3520 or Form 5471 has to be filed. Such determination of US tax treatment of a Liechtenstein Anstalt should be done by an experienced international tax law firm.
This is why, if you are a beneficiary and/or a Founder of a Liechtenstein Anstalt, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US tax compliance. We have successfully helped US taxpayers from over 70 countries with their US international tax compliance issues, including classification of foreign business entities and foreign trusts. We can help you!