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Factual Basis & Tax Planning | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

In a previous article, I discussed the necessity of balancing international tax planning priorities in order to obtain an optimal tax result. In this article, I will explain why international tax planning should be based on a carefully-studied factual basis.

Factual Basis as the Foundation for International Tax Planning

Young inexperienced lawyers often come up with a particular tax strategy and then they try to implement it independent of the actual facts on the ground. Irrespective of how brilliant such a strategy would be in the abstract, it is almost always doomed to become a failure.

Why? The answer is very simple: these lawyers turn international tax planning on its head. They build the second level of a house without ever building a foundation for it. No matter how well they plan out a strategy, it will fall apart almost immediately when it comes in conflict with the facts – how the business is run, its capital structure, its needs, its goals, its cash flow source, its operating model, its E&P, its foreign tax credit and numerous other important considerations.

Hence, the starting point of any tax planning should be a careful factual study of the business.

Studying Factual Basis as a Way to Uncover Potential Opportunities

In my practice, I have found that a careful study of a business may generate a number of potential planning opportunities that may have otherwise been ignored. For example, during a study of a company’s loan structure, one can sometimes find opportunities to treat these loans as equity investments and utilize much better currency exchange rates to build up the client’s basis in the company (potentially even resulting in a reversal of an entire capital gain upon the sale of this company).

Factual Basis: Four Most Important Components

While an attorney should study all relevant facts, there are four main components that he must cover. The components are: (1) organizational chart and capital structure; (2) operating model; (3) tax status and characteristics; and (4) analysis of financial statements. Let’s analyze each component in more detail.

Factual Basis Components: Organizational Chart and Capital Structure

You should start your factual analysis by building the organizational chart of the business and understanding its capital structure. What you need to do is to understand each entity within the corporate structure and the place it occupies in the overall business structure, identify the tax status of each business, understand the sources of cash and where it is used, create a diagram of debt and equity instruments (including whether these are related or unrelated party instruments), study how the business operates across the entire corporate structure, uncover which currencies are used in business (as well as any currency hedging) and review the withholding tax exposure/compliance.

This first component is likely to help you to identify the tax inefficiencies of the existing corporate structure and seek structural alternatives. I recommend that at this stage you plan for creating a more tax-efficient financing of foreign affiliates to maximize foreign country deductions, minimize tax imposed on interest income, reduce withholding tax and assure sufficient cash flow throughout the structure.

Factual Basis Components: Operating Model

The second component of your factual analysis (though it will probably come at about the same time as you start working on the first component) is the operating model of the business. In other words, what type of a business is it: manufacturing, sales, services or IP (development, ownership and/or usage of IP)? How does the business operate: local country manufacturing, local distributing/franchising, global service contracts, et cetera?

I recommend that you especially focus here (as a goal of your tax planning strategy) on: tax-efficient structuring of current and anticipated foreign operations to maximize tax deferral, tax-efficient financing of capital needs and development of strategy concerning IP development and licensing.

Factual Basis Components: Tax Characteristics

The third component is the one that tax attorneys are likely to like the most, because it is very close to their training and professional interest – the study of the tax characteristics of the corporate structure: income/losses, NOL, AMT, foreign tax credit position (carryovers), E&P, transfer pricing, local tax position and PTI (previously taxed income through Subpart F, 965 tax, GILTI tax, et cetera).

The focus of your tax planning goals here are centered around foreign tax credit, repatriation of earnings, minimizing Subpart F income and transfer pricing (i.e. allocation of profits between the US head office and its foreign affiliate companies).

Factual Basis Components: Financial Statements

Finally, the fourth component of your factual basis study consists of the financial statement analysis. You need to carefully review the financial statement with the focus on: Effective Tax Rate (“ETR”) reconciliation, deferred tax analysis, reinvestment, valuation and foreign currency. The focus of your tax planning goals here should be on low-tax deferral structures (for example, through indefinite reinvestment outside of the United States at a lower tax rate) and the most optimal foreign tax credit utilization.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With International Tax Planning

If your US company conducts business outside of the United States, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your international business tax planning. We have helped companies plan their inbound and outbound transactions for US and foreign companies, and we can help you!

Subsidiary vs. Branch | International Business Tax Lawyer Minneapolis

For the purposes of US international tax laws, it is very important to distinguish a subsidiary from a branch. Let’s define both terms in this short essay.

Subsidiary vs. Branch: Definition of a Branch

A branch is a direct form of doing business by a corporation in another country where the corporation retains the direct title of the assets used in the branch’s business. In other words, a branch is a direct extension of the corporation to another country.

Most importantly, there is no separate legal identity between a corporation’s branch in one country and its head office in another. It is all the same company doing business in two countries.

One of the practical advantages of a branch is that it usually requires a lot less effort to establish a branch than a subsidiary. However, it is not always the case – for example, in Kazakhstan, creation of a branch is a very formal process. Moreover, while the legal formalities may not be that complicated, the tax consequences of having a branch in another country may be far more complex.

Subsidiary vs. Branch: Definition of a Subsidiary

A subsidiary is a complete opposite of a branch. It is a separately-chartered foreign corporation owned by a US parent corporation. In other words, a subsidiary has its own legal identify separate from that of its parent US corporation. In the eyes of a local jurisdiction, the US corporation is merely a shareholder of its foreign subsidiary; the US corporation is not directly doing any business in the foreign jurisdiction.

Of course, a situation can be reversed: it can be a foreign parent corporation that organizes a US subsidiary. In this case, the foreign parent company will have its separate identify from its US subsidiary. It will be merely a shareholder of the US company in the eyes of the IRS.

As a separate legal entity, subsidiaries will usually have a host of legal and tax duties in the jurisdiction where they are organized.

Subsidiary vs. Branch: Forced Tax Similarities

Despite these legal differences, the US tax treatment of a subsidiary and a branch created some artificial similarities between these two forms of business. The reason for these similarities is the huge potential for tax deferral through subsidiaries.

The basic trend here is to minimize the advantages of a separate legal identity of a subsidiary, making it a lot more similar to a branch when it comes to tax treatment. The IRS has achieved this through the usage of a number of anti-deferral regimes, such as Subpart F rules and GILTI tax, as well as transfer pricing rules.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office to Determine Whether a Branch or a Subsidiary is Best for Your Business

Whether you are a US business entity who wishes to do business overseas or a foreign entity that wishes to do business in the United States, you can contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped domestic and foreign businesses with their US international tax planning concerning their inbound and outbound transactions, and we can help you!

Foreign Partnership Definition | International Business Tax Lawyers

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!

January 28 2021 Inbound Transactions Seminar | US International Tax Lawyer

On January 28, 2021, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an international tax attorney and founder of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., co-presented with a business lawyer a seminar titled “Investing in US Businesses by Foreign Persons – Common Business and Tax Considerations” (the “Inbound Transactions Seminar”). The Inbound Transactions Seminar was sponsored by the International Business Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the seminar was conducted online.

Mr. Sherayzen began his part of the Inbound Transactions Seminar with an explanation of the term “inbound transactions” and how it differs from “outbound transactions”. He then laid out a flowchart which represented the entire analytical tax framework for inbound transactions; the tax attorney warned the audience that, due to time restraints, the breadth of the subject matter only allowed him to generally highlight the most important parts of this framework.

Then, Mr. Sherayzen proceeded with an explanation of each main issue listed on the inbound transactions tax framework flowchart. First, he discussed the explanation of the concept of a US person and how it related to the flowcharted. The international tax attorney provided definitions for all four categories of US persons: individuals, business entities (corporations and partnerships), trusts and estates.

Then, Mr. Sherayzen focused on the second part of the flowchart – US income sourcing rules. After the general explanation of the significance of the income sourcing rules, the international tax attorney discussed in general terms the application of these rules to specific types of income: interest, dividends, rents, royalties, sales of personal property, sales of inventory, sales of real estate and income from services. Despite the time limitations, he was even able to provide a few examples of some of the most paradoxical outcomes of some of the US source-of-income rules.

The third part of the Inbound Transactions Seminar was devoted to the definition of “US trade or business activities”, an important tax term. Mr. Sherayzen provided a general definition and gave some specific examples, warning the audience that this is a highly fact-dependent issue.

In the next two parts of the seminar, the international tax attorney explained one of the most important terms in US taxation – ECI or Effectively Connected Income. Mr. Sherayzen not only went over all three ECI income categories but he also explained how ECI should be taxed. He also mentioned the affect of specific tax regimes (such as BEAT and branch taxes) on the taxation of ECI.

After finishing the left side of the flowchart (the part that was devoted to the analysis of the ECI of US trade and business activities), Mr. Sherayzen switched to the explanation of inbound transactions that do not involve US trade or business activities. In this last part of his presentation, the international tax attorney discussed the definition of FDAP income and the potential Internal Revenue Code and treaty exemptions from US taxation.

While the ongoing pandemic currently limits the number of options for conducting seminars, Mr. Sherayzen already plans future talks in 2021 on the subjects of US international tax compliance and US international tax planning.

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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