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§318 Re-attribution: General Rule | International Tax Lawyers Miami

This article continues a series of articles on the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §318 constructive ownership rules. Today, I would like to focus on the §318 re-attribution rule. In this article, I will explain the general §318 re-attribution rule and mention the exceptions. I will discuss the exceptions in more detail in future articles.

§318 Re-attribution: General Rule

Generally, under the IRC §318(a)(5)(A), stock constructively owned by a shareholder under any of the §318 attribution rule is deemed to be actually owned for the purposes of re-attribution to others. In other words, except for limitations mentioned below, the constructive ownership of stock can be further attributed to other persons.

For example, if a husband owns stocks in Corporation Y and his wife is deemed to owned these stocks under the family attribution rules of §318(a)(1)(A)(i), then these constructively-owned stocks can be further attributed from the wife to Corporation X under the shareholder-to-corporation rules of §318(a)(3)(C) if the wife owns 50% or more of the value of stocks issued by Corporation X.

§318 Re-attribution: Great Burden on Taxpayers

The breadth of the §318 re-attribution rule can present a huge challenge to taxpayers. Both individuals and entities must maintain correct ownership records to allow their tax attorneys to properly determine their ownership of stock under §318 and their consequent tax obligations.

The dangerous reach of the §318 re-attribution rule can be demonstrated by the following example. Let’s suppose that corporation X has 200 shares outstanding and all of the shares are owned as follows: H owns 100 shares, his wife W owns 60 shares and his son S owns 40 shares. Additionally, H owns 25% in partnership P.

Under the §318 family attribution rules, H actually owns 100 shares and constructively owns another 100 shares (i.e. his wife’s and his son’s shares) of X. Under §318(a)(5)(A), H’s constructive ownership of 100 shares is deemed to be actual ownership for the purposes of re-attribution of stock. Consequently, under the partner-to-partnership rules of §318(a)(3)(A), 100% ownership of X is now attributed to P.

This can get even worse. Assuming the same facts, what if P also actually owns 50% of the value of the stock of corporation Y? Then, under §318(a)(3)(C), Y would be a constructive owner of 100% of X, because these shares were attributed first to H and, then, from H to P.

§318 Re-attribution: Restrictions

It is obvious that, without any limitations, such an extensive re-attribution of stock can easily get out of hand and spread to cover persons who have no relationship to the original owners. For this purpose, the US Congress imposed certain restrictions on the re-attribution of stock under §318(a)(5)(A). Each provision §318(a)(5)(B)–§318(a)(5)(D) imposes limitations on re-attribution of stock where the relationship between the original owner and the person subject to stock re-attribution no longer justifies the assertion of constructive ownership. I will detail these restrictions in future articles.

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§318 Option Definition | US International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

This article continues our series of articles on the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §318 constructive ownership rules. In this article, I would like to introduce the readers to the infamous §318 option attribution rules. Before we delve into the discussion of the constructive ownership rules for options, however, it is important to understand what “option” actually means for the purpose of §318. Hence, today, I will focus on the §318 option definition.

§318 Option Definition: Main Rule

An option is a right to obtain stock at a certain price and date. I want to emphasize that option is not an obligation, it is a right which a taxpayer may or may not ever exercise.

Such a broad §318 option definition includes a great variety of options: options to purchase stock, option to acquire unissued stocks (as long as a shareholder has the right to obtain stock at his election – see Rev. Rul. 68-601), certain warrants and debentures that may be converted into stocks (as long as there are no contingencies, other than time, that must be met before the conversions rights can be exercised – see FSA 200244003), et cetera.

§318 Option Definition: Rights Not Considered Options

Not all rights to acquire stock, however, are considered options for the purposes of §318 option definition. There is a large number of exceptions, but all of them are centered around the concept of some type of restrictions on the exercise of the option. I will list below the five most popular exceptions which are not considered options under §318(a)(4):

First, a right to acquire stock is not an option if the optionee does not have control over the exercise of the option. For example, if there are many contingencies which can prevent exercise of an option, then this is not an option of the purposes of §318(a)(4). See FSA 199915007.

Second, a corporation’s right to buy back its own stocks is not an option for the purposes of §318. Rev. Rul. 69-562.

Third, a right of first refusal is not an option for the purposes of §318. For example, if the right to purchase stock is contingent on the obligor’s decision to sell, then this is not an option under §318(a)(4). TAM 8106008. We can even broaden the rule not only to a right of first refusal, but to almost all situations where the exercise of option depends on the other party’s decision to sell.

Fourth, certain stock appreciation rights are not options if they only entitle the owner of these rights to cash benefits, but do not permit acquisition of stock. Of course, if contract entitles the owner to the right to acquire stocks, then such stock appreciation rights may actually be options §318. See PLR 9341019.

Finally, the right to acquire stocks is not an option under §318 if such transfer is restricted and requires consent. For example, the IRS held in TAM 9410003 that such an arrangement (i.e. restriction on the transfer of shares without other shareholders’ consent) combined with the right of first refusal did not constitute an option to acquire those shares.

§318 Option Definition: Exceptions to Restrictions

I would like to warn the readers, however, that not all restrictions on exercise of an option automatically exclude a right to acquire a stock from the §318 option definition. We can outline two broad exceptions to restrictions here.

First, where the control over the decision to exercise the option rests with the holder of the right to purchase a stock, such a restriction is insufficient to prevent this arrangement to be treated as an option. See Rev. Rul. 68-601.

Second, where the restriction is fixed in time. For example, under FSA 200244003, a warrant is an option if there are no contingencies or limitations on the right to exercise other than time limitation. Similarly, if the right to acquire shares can only be exercised on a fixed date, it is an option. Rev. Rul. 89-64.

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§318 Upstream Corporate Attribution | International Tax Lawyers Florida

In a previous article, I discussed the rules for the downstream attribution of corporate stocks under the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §318. Today, I would like to discuss the §318 upstream corporate attribution rules.

§318 Upstream Corporate Attribution: Two Types of Attribution

There are two types of §318 corporate attribution rules: downstream and upstream. Under the downstream corporate attribution rules, stocks owned by a corporation are attributed to this corporation’s shareholders. The upstream corporate attribution rules are exactly the opposite: stocks (in another corporation) owned by shareholders are attributed to the corporation. This article will focus on the upstream attribution rules.

§318 Upstream Corporate Attribution: Main Rule

Under §318(a)(3)(C), a corporation is deemed to be the constructive owner of all stocks owned directly or indirectly by its 50% shareholder. The 50% threshold is determined by value of the stock in the corporation. Id.

Of course, this rule applies only to stocks owned by shareholders in another corporation; a corporation can never be a constructive owner of its own stock under §318(a)(3)(C). Treas. Reg. §1.318-1(b)(1).

§318 Upstream Corporate Attribution: 50% Threshold

“In determining the 50-percent requirement of section 318(a)(2)(C) and (3)(C), all of the stock owned actually and constructively by the person concerned shall be aggregated.” Treas. Reg. §1.318-1(b)(3). In other words, for the purpose of upstream corporate attribution under §318, all actual and constructive ownership of a shareholder should be considered in order to determine whether th 50% value ownership threshold is met.

Let’s consider the following hypothetical to illustrate this rule: H owns 50% of value of the stock of X, a C-corporation, while his wife W owns 50% of the value of stock in Y, another C-corporation; the rest of Y’s stock is owned by unrelated third-parties. The question is how much of X’s stock ownership is attributed to Y.

We should begin our analysis by stating that, under the family attribution rules of §318(a)(1)(A), H’s shares in X are attributed to W; in other words, W is a constructive owner of 50% of the value of X’s stock. Since W is a 50% value-owner of Y’s stock, Y is deemed to own the stock actually and constructively owned by W under the operation of §318 upstream corporate attribution rules. This means that Y constructively owns 50% of X’s stock, even though W has no actual ownership of X.

§318 Upstream Corporate Attribution: S-Corporations

It should be emphasized that the §318 upstream corporate attribution rules do not apply to S-corporations with respect to attribution of corporate stock between an S-corporation and its shareholders. Rather, in such cases, S-corporation is treated as a partnership and its shareholders as partners. See §318(a)(5)(E). Hence, corporate stocks owned by a shareholder are fully attributed to the S-corporation irrespective of the value ownership of a shareholder in the S-corporation.

Keep in mind, however, that the usual constructive ownership rules for corporations and shareholders apply for the purpose of determination of whether any person owns stock in an S-corporation.

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§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution | Corporate Tax Lawyer & Attorney

This article continues a series of articles on the constructive ownership rules of the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §318. Today, we will discuss corporate attribution rules, even more specifically the §318 downstream corporate attribution rules.

§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution: Two Types of Attribution

There are two types of §318 corporate attribution rules: downstream and upstream. Under the downstream corporate attribution rules, stocks owned by a corporation are attributed to this corporation’s shareholders. The upstream corporate attribution rules are exactly the opposite: stocks (in another corporation) owned by shareholders are attributed to the corporation. As stated above, this article will focus on the downstream attribution rules; the upstream attribution rules will be covered in a future article.

§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution: Main Rule

Under §318(a)(2)(C), if a person owns, directly and indirectly, 50% or more in value of the stock “such person shall be considered as owning the stock owned, directly or indirectly, by or for such corporation, in that proportion which the value of the stock which such person so owns bears to the value of all the stock in such corporation.”

There are two critical parts of this downstream attribution rule: 50% threshold and proportionality. Let’s discuss each part in more detail.

§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution: 50% Threshold

A person must own directly or indirectly 50% or more of the stock value of a corporation in order for the §318 corporate attribution rules to apply. Under Treas. Reg. §1.318-1(b)(3), in determining whether the 50% threshold is satisfied, one must aggregate all stocks that the person actually and constructively owns.

The valuation of stocks should be determined in reference to the relative rights of the outstanding stock of a corporation. All restrictions, such as limitations on transferability, should be considered. On the other hand, the presence or absence of control of the corporation is irrelevant. This means that the value of stocks may differ from the voting power associated with these stocks.

Let’s use the following fact scenario to demonstrate the potential complexity of stock valuation: C, a C-corporation, has two classes of stocks – 100 shares of common stock with a value of $1 each and 50 shares of preferred stock with a value of $1 each (i.e. the total value of common stock is $100 and the total value of preferred stock is $50) – with only common stocks having voting rights; A owns 60 shares of common stock and 10 shares of preferred stock (i.e. his common stock is worth $60 and his preferred stock $10); C owns all of the outstanding shares of another corporation, X. The issue is how many shares of X should be attributed to A?

The answer is none. A does not constructively own any of X’s shares because his total value of C’s stocks is below 50% (the value of his stocks is $60 + $10 = $70, but the total value of C’s stocks is $100 + $50 = $150). The fact that A controls C through his 60% voting power is irrelevant.

§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution: Proportionality

As it was stated above, if the 50% corporate ownership threshold is met, then the shareholder will be considered a constructive owner of shares owned by the corporation in another corporation in proportion to the value of his stock.

While this looks like a straightforward rule, there is one problem. Whether the 50% threshold is satisfied should be determined by the combination of actual and constructive stock ownership. Does it mean that the attribution of corporate stocks under §318 should be in proportion to the value of both actual and constructive ownership combined? Or, does the proportionality of attribution based solely on the actual stock ownership in the holding corporation?

As of the time of this writing, the IRS still has not issued any guidance on this problem. Hence, taking either position is fine by an attorney as long as it is reasonable under the facts.

§318 Downstream Corporate Attribution: S-Corporations

It should be emphasized that the §318 downstream corporate attribution rules do not apply S-corporations with respect to attribution of corporate stock between an S-corporation and its shareholders. Rather, in such cases, the S-corporation is treated as a partnership and its shareholders as partners. See §318(a)(5)(E). Hence, generally, corporate stocks owned by an S-corporation are attributed on a proportionate basis even to shareholders who own less than 50% of the value of the S-corporation stock.

Keep in mind, however, that the usual constructive ownership rules for corporations and shareholders apply for the purpose of determination of whether any person owns stock in an S-corporation.

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§318 Downstream Trust Attribution | Foreign Trust Tax Lawyer & Attorney

The attribution of stock ownership to constructive owners is a highly important feature of US domestic and international tax law. The Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §318 contains complex constructive ownership rules concerning corporate stock; these rules vary depending on a specific §318 relationship. This article focuses on an important category of §318 relationships – trusts. Since these rules are very broad, I will discuss today only the §318 downstream trust attribution rules; the upstream rules and important exceptions to both sets of rules will be covered in later articles.

§318 Trust Attribution: Downstream vs. Upstream Attribution

Similarly to other §318 attribution rules, there are two types of §318 trust attribution: downstream and upstream. The downstream attribution rules attribute the ownership of corporate stocks owned by a trust to its beneficiaries. The upstream attribution rules are exactly the opposite: they attribute the ownership of corporate stocks owned by beneficiaries to the trust. As I stated above, this article focuses on the downstream attribution.

§318 Downstream Trust Attribution: Attribution from Trust to Beneficiary

Under §318(a)(2)(B)(i), corporate stocks owned, directly or indirectly, by or for a trust are considered owned by the trust’s beneficiaries in proportion to their actuarial interests in the trust.

Notice that the size of the actuarial interest does not matter. Moreover, §318(a)(2)(B) will apply even if the beneficiary does not have any present interest in a trust, but only a remainder interest (also calculated on an actuarial basis). This rule is the exact opposite of the §318 estate attribution rules.

Furthermore, the decision to attribute shares based on the actuarial interest, rather than actual one, may result in a paradoxical result where stocks are attributed to a person who will never become the actual owner of the shares.

§318 Downstream Trust Attribution: Determination of Actuarial Interest

Treas. Reg. §1.318-3 stated that, in determining a beneficiary’s actuarial interest in a trust, the IRS will use the factors and methods prescribed (for estate tax purposes) in 26 CFR § 20.2031-7.

The attribution of shares from the trust to its beneficiary should be made on the basis of the beneficiary’s actuarial interest at the time of the transaction affected by the stock ownership.

§318 Downstream Trust Attribution: Unstable Proportionality

The adoption of the attribution of stock based on the actuarial interest in a trust creates a constant calculation problem for beneficiaries, because the actuarial interest of the beneficiary in a trust varies from year to year. The variation of actuarial interest means that the number of shares attributed from a trust to its beneficiary will change every year.

For example, the actuarial interest of a beneficiary with a life estate in a trust will decrease every year as he ages. On the other hand, the actuarial interest of the owner of the remainder interest in the trust will increase with each year. Hence, the number of stocks attributed to the life tenant will decrease each year, while the attribution of stocks to the holder of the remainder interest will increase each year.

§318 Downstream Trust Attribution: Special Presumption Concerning Power of Appointment

Based on 95 Rev. Proc. 77-37, §3.05 (operating rules for private letter rulings), the IRS has adopted a special presumption with respect to when children will be considered beneficiaries for the purpose of §318 trust attribution rules. In order to understand this rule, we need to describe the setting in which it will most likely apply.

Oftentimes, estate plans are set up where the surviving spouse will have a life interest in a trust’s income and a power of appointment over the trust corpus. In such situation, estate planners often insert a clause that, if a spouse fails to exercise the power of appointment, the trust corpus will automatically go to the children.

In this situation, the IRS stated that, absent evidence that the power of appointment was exercised differently, it is presumed that it was exercised in favor of the children. By adopting this presumption, the children are immediately considered beneficiaries for the purpose of the stock attribution rules under §318.

§318 Downstream Trust Attribution: Planning to Avoid Attribution

In order to prevent the application of the trust attribution rules under §318, a beneficiary must renounce his entire interest in the trust. See Rev. Rul. 71-211. Such renunciation is valid only if it is irrevocable and binding under local law.

§318 Downstream Trust Attribution: Special Case of Voting Trusts

Under Rev. Rul. 71-262 and CCA 200409001, §318(a)(2)(B) does not apply in the context of a voting trust (i.e. where trustee has the right to vote the stock held in trust, but the dividends are paid to the certificate holder). This is because the certificate holder is deemed to be the owner of the shares and there is no attribution of ownership from the trust.

§318 Downstream Trust Attribution: Grantor Trusts and Employee Trusts

While it is beyond the scope of this article to describe them in detail, there are special rules that apply to the attribution of stock from grantor trusts and employee trusts. I will discuss these rules in more detail in the future.

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