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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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Indian US Dollar Remittances | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

For some years now, India has remained at the top of all countries that receive remittances in US dollars. A lot of these funds flow from Indian-Americans and Indians who reside in the United States. The problem is that a lot of them are not in compliance with respect to their US international tax obligations that arise as a result of these Indian US dollar remittances.

Indian US Dollar Remittances: India Has Been the Top Recipient

For many years now, India has been one of the top countries in turn of US dollar remittances; lately it has occupied the number one spot. For example, in 2018, India received about $78.6 billion from overseas; China was a distant with only $67.4 billion followed by Mexico ($35.7 billion), the Philippines ($33.8 billion) and Egypt ($28.9 billion).

One of the biggest (if not the biggest) sources of these Indian US dollar remittances has been the United States. In fact, according to the World Bank, one of the reasons why Indian US dollar remittances were so high in 2018 was a better economic performance of the US economy. Hence, we can safely conclude that a large number of Indian-Americans and Indians who reside in the United States send a large portion of their US earnings back to India.

Indian US Dollar Remittances: US International Tax Compliance Issues

The biggest problem with Indian US dollar remittances is their potential for triggering various US international tax compliance requirements, because these remittances are made by US tax residents. Oftentimes, the repatriated funds are sitting in Indian bank accounts or they are invested in Indian stocks, bonds, mutual funds and structured products. Moreover, some of these funds are used to purchase real estate which is rented out to third parties. Still other funds are used to finance business ventures in India.

Such usage of repatriated funds may result in the obligation not only to report Indian income in the United States , but also to file numerous US information returns such as: Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FinCEN Form 114 better known as FBAR), Forms 8938, 8621, 5471 and others. Failure to report foreign income and file these information returns may result in the imposition of draconian IRS penalties and even a criminal prosecution.

Indian US Dollar Remittances: Unawareness Among Indians of US Tax Compliance Requirements

The high potential of Indian US dollar remittances to give rise to US tax compliance issues is combined with a widespread unawareness of these issues among Indians and Indian-Americans. Many of these taxpayers are not even aware of the fact that they are considered US tax residents. Others simply have never heard of the requirement to disclose foreign accounts and other foreign assets in the United States. Still others cling to erroneous ideas and various incorrect myths concerning US tax system.

The rise of various US tax compliance requirements as a result of remittances of funds to India and the widespread ignorance of these requirements among Indians is a bad combination, because it creates the potential for the imposition of the aforementioned draconian IRS penalties on Indians who are not even conscious of the fact that they need to report their worldwide income.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US International Tax Compliance and Offshore Voluntary Disclosures Concerning Remittances of US Earnings to India

If you are an Indian who resides in the United States and you sent part of your US earnings to India, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have successfully helped hundreds of Indians and Indian-Americans to resolve their US international tax compliance issues, including conducting offshore voluntary disclosures (such as Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures) with respect to past US tax noncompliance. We can help you!

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§318 Upstream Estate Attribution | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

This article continues a series of articles concerning the constructive ownership rules of the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §318. Today’s focus is on the §318 upstream estate attribution rules.

§318 Estate Attribution Rules: Downstream Attribution vs. Upstream Attribution

There are two types of the IRC §318 estate attribution rules: downstream and upstream. In a previous article, I discussed the downstream attribution rules concerning attribution of ownership of corporate stocks held by an estate to its beneficiaries. This brief article focuses on the upstream attribution rules, which means rules governing the attribution to the estate of corporate stocks held by its beneficiaries.

§318 Upstream Estate Attribution: Main Rule

The IRC §318(a)(3)(A) states the general rule for the upstream estate attribution of beneficiaries’ corporate stock: irrespective of the proportion of his beneficiary interest in the estate, all corporate stocks owned directly or indirectly by a beneficiary are deemed to be owned by the estate.

Notice the difference here between the downstream and the upstream estate attribution rules. §318 downstream estate attribution rules attribute the ownership of corporate stock proportionately from an estate to its beneficiaries. The upstream attribution rules under §318, however, completely disregard the proportionality rule; instead, all of the stocks of a beneficiary are attributed to the estate even if he has only 1% interest in the estate.

For example, let’s suppose that W owns 100 shares in corporation X; then, H dies and leaves one-tenth of his property to W. Due to the fact that W is a beneficiary of H’s estate, the estate constructively owns all of W’s 100 shares in X.

§318 Upstream Estate Attribution: No Re-Attribution

I already stated this rule in another article on estate attribution, but it is also important to re-state it here. §318 estate attribution rules contain a prohibition on re-attribution of stocks. Under §318(a)(5)(C), a beneficiary’s stock constructively owned by an estate through the operation of the §318 estate attribution rules cannot be attributed to another beneficiary.

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If you have questions concerning US business tax in general and US international business tax law specifically, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We are a highly-experienced tax law firm that specializes in US international tax law, including offshore voluntary disclosures, US international tax compliance for businesses and individuals and US international tax planning.

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2019 Tax Filing Season for Individual Filers Opens on January 27 2020

On January 6, 2020, the IRS announced that the 2019 tax filing season will commence on Monday, January 27, 2020. In other words, on that date, the IRS will begin accepting and processing the 2019 tax returns.

This year the deadline for the filing of the 2019 tax returns as well as any payment of taxes owed is April 15, 2020. The IRS expects that individual taxpayers will file more than 150 million tax returns for the tax year 2019; the vast majority of them should come in prior to the April deadline.

This is not the case, however, for US taxpayers with exposure to international tax requirements. Usually, most of these taxpayers file extensions in order to properly prepare all of the required international information returns by the extended deadline in October. Often, such tax filing extensions are necessary in order to obtain the necessary information from foreign countries which may operate on a fiscal year rather than a calendar year. However, even in such cases, taxpayers are expected to pay at least 90% of the tax owed by April 15, 2020.

Moreover, it should be mentioned that taxpayers who reside overseas receive an automatic tax filing extension. For such taxpayers, the 2019 tax filing season will commence also on January 27, 2020, but their tax return filing deadline is June 15, 2020.

The IRS is certain that it will be ready for the 2019 tax filing season by January 27, 2020. In other words, the agency believes that it will not only be able to process the returns smoothly, but all of its security systems will be operational by that date. The IRS also believes that, by January 27, 2020, it will address the potential impact of recent tax legislation on 2019 tax returns

The IRS encourages everyone to e-file their 2019 tax returns. This, however, is not always possible for US taxpayers who have to file international information returns due to software limitations.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your 2019 Tax Filing Season If You Have To Comply With US International Tax Filing Requirements

Sherayzen Law Office helps US and foreign persons with their US international tax compliance requirements, including the filing of all required international information returns such as FBAR, FATCA Form 8938, Form 3520, Form 3520-A, Form 5471, Form 8865, Form 8858, Form 926 and other relevant forms.

With respect to taxpayers who have not been in full compliance with these requirements in the past, Sherayzen Law Office helps you to choose, prepare and file the relevant offshore voluntary disclosure option, including Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures, Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures, Reasonable Cause Noisy Disclosures and Modified IRS Traditional Voluntary Disclosures.

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§318 Relationship Categories | International Business Tax Lawyer & Attorney

In a previous article I discussed the importance of the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §318 constructive stock ownership rules. Today, I would like to introduce the readers to the various §318 relationship categories – i.e. what types of taxpayers are affected by this section’s constructive ownership rules.

§318 Relationship Categories: Related Persons

Congress created IRC §318 constructive ownership rules to prevent or minimize the possibility of using business transactions between related persons for tax avoidance purposes. In other words, in order for §318 to be relevant, there must be some type of a close relationship between persons engaged in a business transaction.

It is important to point out that one should not confuse §267 definition of related persons with the one described in §318. These are two completely separate sets of rules that apply to different situations.

§318 Relationship Categories: Six Main Categories

§318 deals specifically with six main categories of related individuals and entities. I will list them here with only a general description; in future articles, I will address each of these §318 relationship categories specifically.

  1. Family members: certain family members are treated as related persons for §318. Again, the §318 definition of “family” should not be confused with the §267 definition.
  2. Partnerships and partners: unlike §267, the constructive ownership rules of §318 are both “upstream” and “downstream”. In other words, the attribution of stock ownership works both ways: from partners to partnership and from partnership to partners. Additionally, one must remember that an S-corporation and its shareholders are treated respectively as a partnership and partners for the purposes of §318.
  3. Estates and beneficiaries: the IRS §318 constructive ownership rules with respect to estates and beneficiaries are quite unique and invasive. They also work downstream and upstream – i.e. the stocks owned by estate are attributed to its beneficiaries and vice-versa.
  4. Trusts and beneficiaries: again, the stock ownership attribution rules of §318 between a trust and its beneficiaries can be downstream and upstream. Stock owned, directly or indirectly, by or for a trust is considered owned by its beneficiaries in proportion to their actuarial interests in the trust. The upstream relationship is more complex: while generally all stocks owned directly or indirectly by a beneficiary of a trust is considered owned by the trust, there are important exceptions.
  5. Corporations and shareholders: surprisingly, §318 attribution rules between a corporation and its shareholders also contain both downstream and upstream provisions. The application of these rules, however, is limited to persons who own directly and indirectly 50% or more of the value of stocks in the corporation. Again, the corporate attribution rules under §318 apply only to C-corporations; S-corporations are treated as partnerships for the purposes of this section.
  6. Holders of stock options: unlike §267, the constructive stock ownership rules of §318 are expanded to options. §318(a)(4) classifies a holder of an option to acquire stock as the owner of that stock. There are detailed rules for defining what an “option” is for the §318 purposes. Interestingly, the stock option attribution rule supersedes the family member attribution rules (which often results in a more extensive constructive ownership).

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US business tax law is incredibly complex. In fact, an ordinary taxpayer who attempts to decipher it on his own is likely to get himself into deep trouble; this is especially the case, if one deals with the international aspects of US business tax law.

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