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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Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting | Form 8938 Lawyers

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 reporting has quickly turned into one of the most important tax reporting requirements despite being one of the newest tax forms that debuted barely four years ago in 2012 (for the tax year 2011). In this article, I will discuss when Form 8938 needs to be filed with respect to inherited assets. For the purposes of this article, I will only discuss Form 8938 with respect to the assets actually received, not the assets which are still in the estate. I will also avoid the discussion of Form 3520; it is important to note, though, that Form 3520 is likely to be one of the most relevant reporting requirements with respect to foreign inheritance.

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting: Form 8938 Basics

IRS Form 8938 was created by the infamous Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and, generally, it requires individual U.S. taxpayers to report what are known as “specified foreign financial assets” if the value of those assets exceeds the applicable reporting threshold.

It is beyond the scope of this article to explore Form 8938 filing requirements in detail, but, in essence, IRS Form 8938 requires the reporting of three types of assets. The first category consists of financial accounts maintained at foreign financial institutions. This category closely follows the FBAR reporting requirements (with important exceptions, such as signatory authority accounts) but requires U.S. taxpayers to disclose more information with respect to these accounts.

The second category is the requirement to disclose the ownership of a whole new set of classes of assets grouped together under the vague definition of “other foreign financial assets”. Basically, other foreign financial assets include classes of assets which are held for investment but not held in an account maintained by a financial institution. Such assets include stocks or securities issued by anyone who is not a U.S. person, any interest in a foreign entity, and any financial instrument or contract that has an issuer or counterparty that is other than a U.S. person.

Finally, Form 8938 requires the taxpayer to report whether he disclosed any assets on Forms 5471, 8865, 8621, 3520 and 3520-A.

It should be remembered that Form 8938 has its own set of independent penalties associated with Form 8938 noncompliance. These penalties are imposed in addition to penalties associated with FBARs, Form 3520 and other U.S. information returns.

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting: Foreign Financial Accounts

If you received foreign bank and financial accounts as part of your foreign inheritance, you will need to disclose these accounts on Forms 8938 if the relevant filing threshold requirement is satisfied. In a foreign inheritance context, an issue often arises if you are an executor of a foreign estate and have signatory authority over the estate’s financial accounts. Whether Form 8938 would need to be filed for the accounts in this situation is a fact-dependent question and needs to be explored by an international tax attorney (though, in the great majority of cases, an FBAR would need to be filed in this context as long as the relevant reporting threshold is satisfied).

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting: Other Investment Instruments

If you received other investment instructions as part of your foreign inheritance, your international tax attorney should explore whether these instruments satisfy the second category of reportable Form 8938 assets. Examples of other foreign financial assets include: a note, bond, debenture, or other form of indebtedness issued by a foreign person; an interest rate swap, currency swap; basis swap; interest rate cap, interest rate floor, commodity swap; equity swap, equity index swap, credit default swap, or similar agreement with a foreign counterparty; an option or other derivative instrument with respect to any currency or commodity that is entered into with a foreign counterparty or issuer; and other assets held for investment.

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting: Foreign Business Ownership

The detailed exploration of the reporting of an ownership interest in a foreign business is beyond the scope of this article. Therefore, I want to briefly mention that, if you inherited an ownership interest in a foreign corporation, partnership or a disregarded entity, this interest may need to be reported on Form 8938. However, it is possible that this interest may also have to be reported on Forms 5471, 8865, 8858 and other U.S. information reports related to business entities. In this case, it is possible that you will only need to report on Form 8938 that the information regarding an ownership interest in a foreign entity was reported on Form 5471, 8865 and/or 8621.

The final decision on how a foreign business ownership needs to be reported to the IRS should rest with your international tax lawyer.

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting: Foreign Trust Beneficiary Interest

The detailed exploration of the reporting of a beneficiary interest in a foreign trust is beyond the scope of this article. For the purposes of this article, let me just provide this brief and over-simplified summary – if you inherited a beneficiary interest in a foreign trust, you should report it on Form 8938 unless it is already reported on Forms 3520 and/or 3520-A (if the latter is the case, you just need to check the box on Form 8938 for the appropriate form on which the beneficiary interest was reported). Again, the decision on how to report your foreign trust beneficiary interest should rest with your international tax lawyer.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting

The U.S. tax requirements related to reporting of your foreign inheritance may be highly complex and it is very easy to run into trouble. Contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our legal team is highly experienced in foreign inheritance reporting, including Forms 8938, 3520 (all parts of Form 3520: foreign trusts, foreign gifts and foreign inheritance), 3520-A, 5471, 8621, 8865 and other relevant forms. We have also helped U.S. taxpayers around the globe with their offshore voluntary disclosures with respect to late reporting of their foreign inheritance.

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