Sourcing of Income

The sourcing of income has very important tax consequences for U.S. and foreign taxpayers.  The IRS taxes U.S. taxpayers on all income, from any source derived; however, U.S. taxpayers will be relieved of double taxation and may utilize the foreign tax credit in many circumstances involving non-purely domestic taxation. Foreign taxpayers, on the other hand, will usually only pay U.S. taxes on income sourced in the U.S. Thus, the source of income rules are critical to determining where a taxpayer will pay applicable taxes. This article will examine both income sourced inside the U.S. and foreign-source income.

Income Source Determination

In order to determine the sourcing of income, income realized is first placed into certain categories (such as interest, dividends, rent, sale of property, etc.). At times, an item of income may overlap into more than one possible category, in which case, specific IRS rules will likely clarify the proper classification. Once income is categorized, income source rules will then be applied in order to ascertain whether the income is U.S. or foreign-source. As a rule of thumb, income will be either U.S. or foreign-source depending upon where property is located, or where the income was realized, however there are many exceptions to this principle.

Income Source Examples

In this section, common income categories such as dividends, interest, personal services income, rents and royalties, and sales or exchanges of property, and their income sourcing rules will be briefly explained (other common income source rules not detailed here apply to software income, and transportation and communications income).


Generally speaking, dividends received from U.S. (domestic) corporations are considered to be U.S.-source income. The fact that a domestic corporation may be distributing dividends derived from overseas operations usually will not matter for these purposes.

Conversely, dividends paid by a foreign corporation will generally be deemed foreign-source income. An important exception to this rule occurs in situations where a foreign corporation earns 25% or more of its gross income from income effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business for the three years immediately preceding the year of the dividend payment. In this case, that percentage of the dividend will be treated as U.S.-source income.


Interest income received from domestic corporations, the U.S. government and state governments, and non-corporate U.S. residents (among others) are deemed U.S.-source income.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, income will is deemed to be foreign-source if interest is received from a U.S. corporation which, over the prior three-year period, earned 80% or more of its active business income from foreign sources.

Personal services income

Personal services income includes such items as salaries, wages, fees, commissions. The location of where the services are performed will usually determine whether the personal services income is U.S. or foreign-source.

There are some exceptions to this general rule, including a limited commercial traveler exception for short business trips and de minimus amounts.

Rents and Royalties

For income received from the use of tangible property, the location of the property will determine its income sourcing. Other factors, such as where the property was manufactured, are not considered.

For income received for the use of intangible property (e.g. patents, copyrights, goodwill, etc.), in general, the location of where the property was used will determine its income sourcing.

Sale or Exchange of property

In general, the source of income relating to disposition of real property will depend upon the location of the property.

Broadly speaking, the sale of personal property (i.e, stocks, securities, equipment, inventory, intangible assets) will depend upon the residence of the seller. However, there are various exceptions to this rule. For example, if a item of purchased inventory is sold, the location of the sale will determine its income source.

Tax Treaty versus Regular Sourcing of Income Rules

Under certain circumstances, the sourcing source of an item of income or deduction could be changed by the provisions of a treaty. However, taxpayers claiming this benefit will need to file their tax return along with Form 8833.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office

This is a general overview of the taxation rules relating to sourcing of income. There are many other complex issues that may apply, depending upon the circumstances. Do you have questions concerning taxes relating to your international transactions or income? Sherayzen Law Office can assist you with these matters. Call (952) 500-8159 to set up a consultation today.

2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative vs. Statute of Limitations

As I already described in an earlier article, the IRS instituted a new voluntary disclosure program, called 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (“OVDI”). One of the most problematic areas under OVDI is the length of the examination period.

Agreeing to assessment of taxes and penalties for all voluntary disclosure years is part of the resolution offered by the IRS for resolving offshore voluntary disclosures. The OVDI disclosure period is 2003 through 2010 – eight years in total.

This contrasts greatly with the general three-year statute of limitations for IRS examination. Therefore, a tax attorney should consider all options prior to engaging in OVDI in order to avoid subjecting his client to unnecessary penalties.

One of the major factors in electing quiet disclosure versus OVDI is considering whether one or more of the numerous exceptions to the general IRS statute of limitations may apply. For example, if the IRS can prove a substantial omission of gross income, the statute of limitations is likely to be expanded to six years. Moreover, if there was a failure to file certain information returns, such as Form 3520 or Form 5471, the statute of limitations will not have begun to run. If the IRS can prove fraud, there is no statute of limitations for assessing tax. In addition, the statute of limitations for asserting FBAR penalties is six years from the date of the violation, which would be the date that an unfiled FBAR was due to have been filed. See 31 U.S.C. § 5321(b)(1).

Obviously, other factors should be considered before the decision to engage into OVDI is made. The chief factor would of course be the likelihood of criminal prosecution if the taxpayer fails to make use of OVDI. Engaging in voluntary disclosure pursuant to OVDI virtually eliminates possibility of criminal prosecution.

These factors aside, though, close analysis of the IRS statute of limitations is one of the most important considerations of whether to engage in OVDI.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office NOW!

Sherayzen Law Office can help. Our international tax firm has guided our clients throughout the United States through a voluntary disclosure process, making sure that the rights of our clients are protected and they pay only fair taxes and penalties.