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Inbound Transactions Tax Framework | US International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Inbound transactions deal with Non-US persons who operate in and/or derive income from the United States. This introductory essay opens a series of articles concerning US taxation of inbound transactions. Today, I will set forth the general inbound transactions tax framework; in future articles, I will explore in more detail each element of this framework.

Inbound Transactions Tax Framework: General Guiding Principals

US taxation of inbound transactions is mainly based on the following guiding principle – nexus to the United States. In other words, the US government taxes Non-US persons in a different manner depending on the level and extent of a Non-US person’s activities in the United States.

The more extensive and regular these activities are, the more likely the income derived from these activities to be taxed by the IRS on a net-income basis (as opposed to gross income) at graduated tax rates. On the other hand, if a Non-US person’s activities are limited, less frequent and more passive, then they are likely to be subject to a completely different type of taxation – the one based on gross income at a set rate.

This “US nexus” principal is subject to numerous exceptions due to the fact that the inbound transactions tax framework incorporates two additional goals. The first goal is the US government’s attempt to design the framework in a manner which would attract foreign investments into the United States. For this reason, the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) may exclude entire categories of income from US taxation either directly or by altering the source-of-income rules (i.e. excluding certain income from the definition of “US-source income”).

Second, as a counter to the “attraction of foreign investments” principal, the US government wishes to make sure that all income of Non-US persons that needs to be taxed is actually taxed and there is no inappropriate non-taxation of US-source income. As a result of the IRS efforts to ensure the effectiveness of this principal, certain types of income are subject to special regimes of taxation. The most prominent example is the taxation of foreign investments in US real property.

Finally, one should remember to consult US income tax treaties for country-specific exceptions. In particular, treaties often modify tax-withholding provisions with respect to various categories of US-source income.

Inbound Transactions Tax Framework: Main Test

The analytical framework for the taxation of inbound transactions is comprised of a test with seven critical questions. The answers to each question will point us to the right sections of the Internal Revenue Code and establish the correct tax treatment for specific types of income.

  1. Is the person who derives the income is a US person or a Non-US person?

Obviously, if the answer to the question is “US person”, then we are not dealing with an inbound transaction, but a domestic investment. Hence, the taxation of a transaction or investment should be examined under a different tax framework (the one that applies to US persons) than the inbound transactions tax framework.

The difference between these tax frameworks is huge. A US person is subject to worldwide income taxation, whereas a Non-US person is generally taxed only on the income derived from US business activities and US investments.

2. Is it a US-source income?

The question whether a Non-US person derives US-source income or foreign-source income is of huge importance and complexity. The answer to this question involves the analysis of relevant source-of-income rules as modified by a relevant tax treaty.

Generally, Non-US persons are taxed only on their US-source income. This means that if it is determined that the income is derived from a foreign-source, none of it is likely to be subject to US taxation. However, certain types of foreign-source income deemed “effectively connected” with US business activities may still be taxed in the United States. Hence, even if the answer to this question #2 is “no”, you must still continue your analysis by answering question #4 below.

3. Does the Non-US person engage in US trade or business activities?

The determination of whether a Non-US person engages in “trade or business within the United States” depends highly on the facts of a case. In a future article, I will discuss in more detail what the IRS and the courts have determined this term of art to mean.

4. Is the income effectively connected to these US trade or business activities?

The term “effectively connected income” or ECI is one of the most important concepts in US international tax law. It may include not only US-source income generated by a US trade or business, but also certain foreign-source income closely related to a US trade or business. In a future article, I will explore ECI in more detail.

5. Is the ECI subject to a special tax regime such as BEAT or Branch Tax?

The ECI of a foreign person may be subject to a special tax regime related to US companies owned by a foreign person or US branches of a foreign corporation. I will discuss each of these regimes in more detail in the future.

6. If the Non-US person is not engaged in US trade or business activities, is his US-source income classified as FDAP (Fixed, Determinable, Annual or Periodic) income?

FDAP income typically includes passive investment income, such as interest, dividends, rents and royalties. Unless modified by a treaty, FDAP income is subject to a 30% tax withholding on gross income. I will cover FDAP income in more detail in the future.

7. Is this FDAP income subject to an IRC or Treaty Exemption?

In order to promote foreign investment into the United States, certain types of FDAP income are entirely exempted rom US taxation. These exemptions can be found in the IRC or a relevant tax treaty. Again, I will discuss FDAP exemptions in more details in a future article.

Inbound Transactions Tax Framework: Information Returns

In addition to income tax considerations, it is important to remember that the answers to the questions above may lead to the determination of additional compliance requirements in the form of information returns. For example, if a Non-US person engages in a US trade or business through a foreign-owned US corporation, then this corporation may likely have to file Form 5472. A failure to file relevant information returns may lead to an imposition of significant IRS penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US Tax Compliance and Planning

If you are a Non-US person who has income from the United States or engages in business activities in the United States, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US tax compliance. We have helped hundreds of taxpayers around the world and we can help you!

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Introduction to Corporate Distributions | US Business Tax Law Firm

This essay opens our new series of articles which focuses on corporate distributions. The new series will cover the classification, statutory structure and tax treatment of various types of corporation distributions, including redemptions of corporate stock. This first article seeks to introduce the readers to the overall US statutory tax structure concerning corporate distributions.

Corporation Distributions: Legal Philosophy for Varying Treatment

In the United States, the tax code provisions with respect to corporate distributions were written based on the belief that stock ownership bestows on its owner an inherent right to determine the right to receive distributions from a corporation.

Generally, a corporation can make distributions from three types of sources. First, a corporation can distribute funds from its accumulated earnings, to be even more precise accumulated Earnings and Profits (E&P). Second, a corporation may also distribute some or all of the invested capital to its shareholders. Finally, in certain circumstances, a corporation may distribute funds or property in excess of invested capital.

Moreover, certain corporate distributions may in reality be made in lieu of other types of transactions, such as payment for services. Additionally, some corporate distributions may be made in the form of stocks in the corporation, which may or may not modify the ownership of the corporation and which may or may not entitle shareholders to additional (perhaps unequal) future distribution of profits.

This varied nature of corporate distributions lays the foundation for their dissimilar tax treatment under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC).

Corporation Distributions: General Treatment under §301

IRC §301 generally governs the tax treatment of corporation distributions. This section classifies these distributions either as dividends, return of capital or capital gain (most likely, long-term capital gain). In a future article, I will discuss §301 in more detail.

Corporation Distributions: Special Case of Stock Dividends

The IRC treats distribution of stock dividends in a different manner than distribution of cash and property. Under §305(a), certain stock distributions are not taxable distributions. However, §305 contains numerous exceptions to this general rule; if any of these exceptions apply, then such stock distributions are governed by §301.

Moreover, additional exceptions to §305(a) are contained in §306. If a stock distribution is classified as a §306 stock, then the disposition of this stock will be treated as ordinary income. In a future article, I will discuss §§305 and 306 in more detail.

Corporation Distributions: Special Case of Stock Redemptions

Stock redemptions is a special kind of a corporate distribution. §317(b) defines redemption of stock as a corporation’s acquisition of “its stock from a shareholder in exchange for property, whether or not the stock so acquired is cancelled, retired, or held as treasury stock.”

§302 governs the tax treatment of stock redemptions. In general, it provides for two potential legal paths of stock redemptions. First, if a stock redemption satisfies any of the four §302(b) tests, then it will be treated as a sales transaction under §1001. Assuming that the redeemed stock satisfied the §1221 definition of a capital asset, the capital gain/loss tax provisions will apply.

On the other hand, if none of the §302(b) tests are met, then the stock redemption will be treated as a corporate distribution under §301. Again, in a future article, I will discuss stock redemptions in more detail.

Corporate Distributions in the Context of US International Tax Law

All of these tax provisions concerning corporate distributions are relevant to US shareholders of foreign corporations. In fact, in the context of US international tax law, these tax sections become even more complex and may have far graver consequences for US shareholders than under purely domestic tax law. These consequences may be in the form of higher tax burden (for example, due to an anti-deferral tax regime such as Subpart F rules) or increased compliance burden (for example, triggering the filing of international information returns such as Form 5471 or Form 926).

A failure to recognize these differences between the application of aforementioned tax provisions in the domestic context from the international one may result in the imposition of severe IRS noncompliance penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Tax Help Concerning Corporation Distributions

Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm highly-experienced in US and foreign corporate transactions, including corporate distributions. We have helped our clients around the world not only to engage in proper US tax planning concerning cash, property and stock distributions from US and foreign corporations, but also resolve any prior US tax noncompliance issues (including conducting offshore voluntary disclosures). We can help you!

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Family Re-Attribution Limitation Under §318 | International Tax Lawyers

This article explores the second limitation on the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §318 re-attribution rule – family re-attribution limitation.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: General §318 Re-Attribution Rule

The general §318 re-attribution rule states that a constructively-owned corporate stock should be treated as actually owned for the purpose of further re-attribution of stock to other persons. §318(a)(5)(A). This re-attribution should occur with respect to other persons considered related persons under §318.

As I stated in another article, unless checked, the general §318 re-attribution rule may ultimately cause persons completely unrelated to the actual owners of corporate stock to be considered as constructive owners of this stock. For this reason, the IRS imposed a number of limitations on this re-attribution rule. One of the limitations concerns specifically §318 family attribution rules.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: No Family Re-Attribution

Under §318(a)(5)(B), corporate stock constructively owned by a person pursuant to the §318 family attribution rules is not considered as owned by this person for the purpose of re-attributing stock ownership to another family member.

This rule is clear: stock attributed to one family member cannot be re-attributed for the second time to another family member. The idea of this rule is also very clear – to prevent re-attribution of stock to remote family members.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: Examples

Let’s look at a couple of hypothetical examples to gain deeper understanding of the family re-attribution limitation.

First hypothetical: grandfather GF owns 100 shares of X corporation. Under the family attribution rules, this ownership is attributed to GF’s son, A. However, due to §318(a)(5)(B), this constructively-owned stock cannot be attributed for the second time to A’s wife and A’s son.

Second hypothetical: X, a C-corporation has 200 shares outstanding; A owns 100 shares, S (A’s son) owns 40 shares and D (A’s daughter) owns 60 shares. Under §318(a)(1)(A)(ii): A actually owns 100 shares and constructively owns his children’s 100 shares; S actually owns 40 shares and constructively owns his mother’s 100 shares; D actually owns 60 shares and constructively owns her mother’s 100 shares.

However, due to the re-attribution limitations under §318(a)(5)(B), the shares A constructively owns are not re-attributed from one child to another. Hence, 40 shares of S are not re-attributed to D through their father’s constructive ownership of shares actually owned by S. Similarly, D’s 60 shares are not re-attributed to S through A’s constructive ownership of D’s shares.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: Interaction with the §318 Option Attribution Rule

It is important to understand that §318(a)(5)(B) does not per se prohibit the re-attribution of stock to another family member. Rather, this re-attribution limitation only applies to stock constructively owned under the §318 family attribution rules. However, the stock may still be re-attributed to another family member through the operation of another rule such as the §318 option attribution rule.

The most prominent example of such a situation is situations where ownership of stock is imputed under both §318 family attribution rule and §318 option attribution rule at the same time. Under §318(a)(5)(D), if a stock is attributed under both, §318 family attribution rules and §318 option attribution rules, then the option rules take priority. This means that, if both rules apply, the option rule governs and the person is deemed to own stock under the option rule rather than under the family rule.

In situations where corporate stock is deemed to be owned under both, family and option attribution rules, the option rule will allow the re-attribution of stock to another family member. In such cases, §318(a)(5)(B) is powerless to stop the application of re-attribution due to the precedence of the option rules.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: Example of the Option Rule Family Re-Attribution

Let’s look at an example to illustrate the §318 option attribution rule and the §318 family attribution rules interaction with respect to family re-attribution limitation. Let’s suppose that S, son of F, directly owns 100 shares of X, a C-corporation; F has an option to buy all 100 shares from S; D, F’s daughter and S’ sister, does not actually own any shares of X or a contract to buy any shares of X. The issue is whether D is deemed to own any shares of X.

F constructively owns all of his son’s shares of X under the family attribution rules and the option attribution rules. Normally, no shares would be attributed to D due to the family re-attribution limitations, but, in this case, F actually owns an option to buy all 100 shares. The option attribution rule holds preeminence over the family re-attribution limitation. Hence, F is deemed to own S’ shares under the option rule first and foremost; as a consequence, these shares are then re-attributed to D. Thus, D is treated as an owner of all of S’ 100 shares of X.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: Advanced Summary of Family Attribution Rules

Now that we have a more advanced understanding of the family attribution rules and the limits placed on the family re-attribution limitations, we can modify our earlier definition of the §318 family attribution rules in the following manner: where A and B are family members within the meaning of §318(a)(1), A is deemed to own: (1) all corporate stocks actually owned by B; (2) all corporate stocks constructively owned by B under the §318 option attribution rules; and (3) all stocks constructively owned by B pursuant to §318(a)(2) – i.e. due to the fact that he is a beneficiary of a trust, a partner in a partnership or a shareholder of a corporation.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US International Tax Law Compliance

US international tax law is incredibly complex and the penalties for noncompliance are severe. This means that an attempt to navigate through the maze of US international tax laws without assistance of an experienced professional will most likely produce unfavorable and even catastrophic results.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with US international tax law. We are a highly experienced, creative and ethical team of tax professionals dedicated to helping our clients resolve US international tax compliance issues. Led by our founder, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen (an international tax attorney), we have helped hundreds of clients with assets in over 70 countries around the world, and we can help you!

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§267 Constructive Ownership Rules | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

In a previous article, I discussed the related person definition for the purposes of the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §267. That article, however, focused on the definition itself rather than on a host of supplementary rules necessary to fully understand this definition. In this article, I would like to discuss one set of these rules – §267 constructive ownership rules.

§267 Constructive Ownership Rules: Purpose of §267(c)

During my initial discussion of the §267 related person definition, I focused only on the actual ownership by related persons. Congress, however, realized that the actual ownership limitations can be easily circumvented by utilizing individuals and entities closely connected to the related persons.

Hence, it enacted §267(c) and §267(e)(3) to expand the application of the related person definition to include the ownership by closely-connected individuals and entities. In other words, even where an individual or entity does not meet any of the §267(a) and (b) tests through his actual ownership, these tests may be met when his actual ownership is added to other persons’ ownership through the operation of §267(c) and §267(e) rules. These are the so-called §267 constructive ownership rules.

§267 Constructive Ownership Rules: Two Parts of the Rules

As explained in a previous article, the related person definition can be found in two different parts of §267 – thirteen categories of §267(b) and one category of §267(a)(2). Similarly, the constructive ownership rules are divided into two separate sections: §267(c) applies to the entire section and §267(e)(3) applies only to §267(a)(2).

§267 Constructive Ownership Rules: Three General Types of Ownership Attribution

§267(c) sets forth three general types of constructive ownership attribution rules:

  1. Entity-to-owner or beneficiary stock attribution – i.e. “stock owned, directly or indirectly, by or for a corporation, partnership, estate, or trust shall be considered as being owned proportionately by or for its shareholders, partners, or beneficiaries” §267(c)(1). I wish to emphasize there that §267(c)(1) applies to any type of an entity: corporations, partnerships, estates and trusts;
  2. Family member stock attribution – i.e. stocks owned by family members are treated as constructively owned by the related person (see §267(c)(2)). §267(c)(4) defines “family of an individual” to include: “only his brothers and sisters (whether by the whole or half blood), spouse, ancestors, and lineal descendants”; and
  3. Partner-to-partner stock attribution – i.e. “an individual owning … any stock in a corporation shall be considered as owning the stock owned, directly or indirectly, by or for his partner” §267(c)(3). This is a unique rule which is rarely found among other constructive ownership rules of the Internal Revenue Code.

§267 Constructive Ownership Rules: Chain Ownership Attribution

Generally, a taxpayer who is deemed to own stock under the §267 constructive ownership rules is treated as the actual owner of the stock. In other words, the stock that he constructively owns can be used for further attribution of ownership to others – this is the so-called “chain ownership attribution”.

There are three exceptions to this rule. I will mention here only one: §267(c)(5) limits attribution of ownership through a chain of related persons in the case of family member or partnership attribution.

§267 Constructive Ownership Rules: Fourth Type of Ownership Attribution

§267(e)(3) sets forth special constructive ownership rules for determining ownership of a capital or profits interest in a partnership; as it was mentioned above, this rule applies only to the deduction limitation rules of §267(a)(2). This fourth type of ownership attribution is basically an exception to the first three types of §267(c).

§267(e)(3) states that, for the purposes of determining ownership of a capital interest or profits interest of a partnership, §267(c) constructive ownership rules apply except that: (1) partner-to-partner stock attribution of §267(c)(3) shall not apply, and (2) with respect to interest owned (directly and indirectly) by and for C-corporation “shall be considered as owned by or for any shareholder only if such shareholder owns (directly or indirectly) 5 percent or more in value of the stock of such corporation” §267(e)(3)(B).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US Tax Law

US tax law is extremely complex, especially US international tax law. An ordinary person will simply get lost in this labyrinth of tax rules, exceptions and requirements. Once you get into trouble with US tax law, it is much more difficult and expensive to extricate yourself from it due to high IRS penalties.

This is why it is important to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with US tax law as soon as possible. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to successfully resolve their US tax compliance and US tax planning issues. We can help you!

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2017 Tax Reform Seminar | U.S. International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On April 19, 2018, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an international tax lawyer, co-presented with an attorney from KPMG at a seminar entitled “The 2017 U.S. Tax Reform: Seeking Economic Growth through Tax Policy in Politically Risky Times” (the “2017 Tax Reform Seminar”). This seminar formed part of the 2018 International Business Law Institute organized by the International Business Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

The 2017 Tax Reform Seminar discussed, in a general manner, the main changes made by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to the U.S. international tax law. Mr. Sherayzen’s part of the presentation focused on two areas: the Subpart F rules and the FDII regime.

Mr. Sherayzen provided a broad overview of the Subpart F rules, the types of income subject to these rules and the main exceptions to the Subpart F regime. He emphasized that the tax reform did not repeal the Subpart F rules, but augmented them with the GILTI regime (the discussion of GILTI was done by the KPMG attorney during the same 2017 Tax Reform Seminar).

Then, Mr. Sherayzen turned to the second part of his presentation during the 2017 Tax Reform Seminar – the Foreign Derived Intangible Income or FDII. After reviewing the history of several tax regimes prior to the FDII, the tax attorney concluded that the nature of the current FDII regime is one of subsidy. In essence, FDII allows a US corporation to reduce its corporate income by 37.5% of the qualified “foreign derived” income (after the year 2025, the percentage will go down to 21.875%). Mr. Sherayzen explained that, in certain cases, there is an additional limitation on the FDII deduction.

Qualifying income includes: sales to a foreign person for foreign use, dispositions of property to foreign persons for foreign use, leases and licenses to foreign persons for foreign use and services provided to a foreign person. There are also a number exceptions to qualifying income.

Mr. Sherayzen concluded his presentation at the 2017 Tax Reform Seminar with a discussion of the reaction that FDII produced in other countries. In general this reaction was not favorable; China and the EU even threatened to sue the United States over what they believed to be an illegal subsidy to US corporations.