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Employee Stock Option Sourcing Rules | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Employee stock option sourcing rules govern the US tax classification of income generated by stock options as US-source income or foreign-source income. In this article, I will provide a general overview of the employee stock option sourcing rules.

Employee Stock Option Sourcing Rules: Importance of Income Sourcing Rules

Income sourcing rules are very important in US international tax law for two reasons. First, for US taxpayers, these rules will determine the ability to utilize their foreign tax credit. Second, for foreign taxpayers, the issue is whether they will be taxed in the United States. For example, if a non-resident alien received stock options the income from which is sourced to a foreign country, then he may completely escape US taxation of this income.

Employee Stock Option Sourcing Rules: Qualified vs. Non-Qualified Options

There are two types of stock options relevant to the employee stock option sourcing rules – qualified options (also called Incentive Stock Options) and non-qualified options. Let’s discuss both types in more detail.

A stock option is a qualified option if it is issued pursuant to rules set forth in the Internal Revenue Code. In the vast majority of cases, if an employee exercises a qualified stock option, he will not receive income at that time. Moreover, as long as he meets the statutory holding requirements, once the employee sells the stock, he will realize a capital gain. So, when we are talking about income sourcing for qualified stock options, we really need to concentrate on the sourcing of long-term capital gain.

Non-qualified options are the options that do not qualify for the preferential tax treatment under the Internal Revenue Code. Obviously, they are taxed in a different manner than qualified stock options. Generally, the employee does not recognize any income when he receives a non-qualified stock option. Rather, he will recognize ordinary income upon the exercise of the option; this ordinary income will equal to the difference between the value of the stock received and what he paid to exercise the option. This is the income that is relevant to our discussion of the employee stock option sourcing rules.

Now that we understand both types of options and what type of income they usually generate, we are ready to apply the employee stock option sourcing rules to this income.

Employee Stock Option Sourcing Rules Concerning Qualified Options

As we have already established, an employee usually generates a long-term capital gain as a result of a disposition of stock from a qualified option. The sourcing rules in this case require that the source of income is determined in the same manner as any other gain from a security disposition. In other words, the income must be sourced to the employee’s residence.

For example, let’s suppose that Pierre, a citizen of France, worked for a few years as a business analyst in New York for a multinational corporation. On the third year of his employment, the employer rewarded Pierre with qualified stock options. Then, the employer moved Pierre back to France. In France, he exercised his options; two years later (while still in France), Pierre sold the stocks. In this scenario, Pierre’s long-term capital gain would be treated as French-source income since he resided in France when the gain was realized.

Employee Stock Option Sourcing Rules & Non-Qualified Options: General Rule

The analysis with respect to non-qualified options is a lot more complex. Our starting point is the fact which we already established – income generated from non-qualified option is treated as compensation.

Second, the IRS does not list non-qualified options as a fringe benefit. Hence, we can assume that the IRS does not wish to apply the fringe benefit sourcing rules to compensation. Rather, most likely, the general salary-sourcing rules should apply.

As I pointed out in another article, the main rule here is that the location where the employee renders his services determines whether this is US-source income or foreign-source income. If an employee works in the United States, then his salary would be considered US-source income; if he works in a foreign country, his salary would be sourced to that country. See §§861(a)(3) and 862(a)(3).

Employee Stock Option Sourcing Rules & Non-Qualified Options: Allocation

In the context of non-qualified stock options, the general rule means that we have to determine where the employee was when he earned the options. If the employee worked only in the United States or only in a foreign country, this is a very easy case.

What happens, however, if we are dealing with a cross-border employee who is paid, in part, with non-qualified options? In this case, we have to engage in the process of allocating time between the United States and a foreign country (or even various foreign countries). As I pointed out in another article, time allocation is the default method in this case, but other options are available.

Let’s use an example to illustrate the time allocation rule with respect to non-qualified options: a US corporation hired Charles to work for its UK subsidiary in 2016. As part of his compensation, the employer granted non-qualified options exercisable in 2019. The work involved working not just in London, but also in New York. In 2019, Charles exercised the options. At the same time, he determined that out of the total 1,200 days he worked during the past three years, he was in the United States for 200 days and 1,000 days in the United Kingdom. This means that one-sixth (200/1,200) of income from non-qualified options will be US-source income.

Employee Stock Option Sourcing Rules & Non-Qualified Options: Foreign Tax Credit

The real complexity comes in, however, when we include the foreign tax credit (“FTC”) considerations into our analysis. Other countries may treat non-qualified options differently from the United States and recognize the income earlier. This means that, potentially, an employee can receive bills from multiple countries at different times. The FTC calculations here will become quite complex.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Employee Stock Option Sourcing Rules

If you work in two or more countries and receive stock options from your employer, you will need to engage in complex tax calculations to correctly determine your US tax liability. This is why you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their international tax issues, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

July 2018 IRS Compliance Campaigns | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On July 2, 2018, the IRS announced the creation of another five compliance campaigns. Let’s discuss these July 2018 IRS Compliance Campaigns in more detail.

July 2018 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Background Information

The IRS compliance campaigns is the end result of a long period of planning by the IRS Large Business and International division (“LB&I”). The idea behind the IRS compliance campaigns is to concentrate the LB&I resources in a way that deals with the potential noncompliance area in the most efficient way. The first campaigns were announced by the IRS on January 31, 2017. Then, the IRS rapidly added new campaigns in November of 2017, March of 2018 and May of 2018. As of July 1, 2018, there were 35 campaigns outstanding.

Five New July 2018 IRS Compliance Campaigns

Here are the new July 2018 IRS Compliance campaigns that should be added to the already existing thirty-five campaigns: Restoration of Sequestered AMT Credit Carryforward, S Corporation Distributions, Virtual Currency, Repatriation via Foreign Triangular Reorganizations and Section 965 Transition Tax.

Each of these campaigns was identified by the IRS through LB&I data analysis and suggestions from IRS employees.

July 2018 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Restoration of Sequestered AMT Credit Carryforward

This campaign deals with the complex issues concerning sequestered Alternative Minimum Tax (“AMT”) credit. Refunds issued or applied to a subsequent year’s tax, pursuant to IRC Section 168(k)(4), are subject to sequestration and are a permanent loss of refundable credits. Taxpayers may not restore the sequestered amounts to their AMT credit carryforward, but some are doing so in any case.

Given the complexity of the issues involved, the IRS decided to make soft letters as the primary treatment stream for this campaign. Soft letters will be mailed to taxpayers who are identified as making improper restorations of sequestered amounts. The IRS will then monitor these taxpayers to make sure that they correct the problem and stay in compliance. The idea is to educate taxpayers on the proper treatment of sequestered AMT credits so that they self-correct all problems.

July 2018 IRS Compliance Campaigns: S Corporation Distributions

This is a very important campaign that will affect a very large number of small business owners. It will focus on three major problem areas. The first issue is failure to report gain upon the distribution of appreciated property to a shareholder. The second issue is the proper classification of a corporate distribution (of cash and property) as a taxable dividend. Finally, the third issue concerns non-dividend distributions to shareholders in excess of their stock basis; such distributions are taxable. The IRS adopted a more severe approach to this campaign. The treatment streams for this campaign include issue-based examinations, tax form change suggestions and stakeholder outreach.

July 2018 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Virtual Currency

This campaign is the IRS attempt to catch up with modern technology and properly tax transactions that involve virtual currencies. IRS Notice 2014-21 classifies virtual currency as “property” for federal tax purposes. Hence, any sales or exchanges that involve virtual currencies will be taxable in the United States.

The fact that these transactions take place outside of the United States would not affect the taxability of foreign currencies as long as a US tax resident is involved in these transactions. As Sherayzen Law Office has pointed out numerous times in the past, US tax residents are subject to taxation on their worldwide income. This rule includes virtual currencies.

This campaign involves highly complex issues and requires flexible approach to compliance enforcement. This is why the IRS will address noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through multiple treatment streams including outreach and examinations.

The IRS has expressly stated that its compliance enforcement activities will follow the general tax principles applicable to all transactions in property as outlined in Notice 2014-21. The IRS will also continue to consider and solicit taxpayer and practitioner feedback in education efforts, future guidance and development of Practice Units.

Interestingly enough, the IRS stated that it will not create a voluntary disclosure program specifically to address tax non-compliance involving virtual currency. Instead, the IRS urges taxpayers with unreported virtual currency transactions to self-correct their returns as soon as practical.

July 2018 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Repatriation via Foreign Triangular Reorganizations

This campaign focuses on enforcement of Notice 2016-73 (“the Notice”) which the IRS issued in December of 2016. The Notice curtails the claimed “tax-free” repatriation of basis and untaxed CFC earnings following the use of certain foreign triangular reorganization transactions. The goal of the campaign is to identify and challenge these transactions by educating and assisting examination teams in audits of these repatriations.

July 2018 IRS Compliance Campaigns: Section 965 Transition Tax

This is a highly important campaign that focuses on the issue that will continue to plague US taxpayers for a long time – 965 transition tax. IRC Section 965 requires US shareholders (a term of art) to pay a transition tax on the untaxed foreign earnings of certain specified foreign corporations as if those earnings had been repatriated to the United States. Taxpayers may elect to pay the transition tax as a lump-sum payment or in installments over an eight-year period. This means that some (and probably most) of these US shareholders should have paid some or all of the tax on their 2017 income tax return.

The LB&I already engaged in an outreach campaign in 2018 to reach trade groups, advisors and other outside stakeholders to raise awareness of filing and payment obligations concerning the 965 transition tax. The IRS even circulated an external communication on this subject through stakeholder channels in April of 2018.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Tax Help

If you have been contacted by the IRS as part of any of its campaigns, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their US tax compliance issues, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Main Worldwide Income Reporting Myths | International Tax Attorney St Paul

In a previous article, I discussed the worldwide income reporting requirement and I mentioned that I would discuss the traps or false myths associated with this requirement in a future article. In this essay, I will keep my promise and discuss the main worldwide income reporting myths.

Worldwide Income Reporting Myths: the Source of Myths

I would like to begin by reminding the readers about what the worldwide income reporting rule requires. The worldwide income reporting requirement states that all US tax residents are obligated to disclose all of their US-source income and foreign-source income on their US tax returns.

This rule seems clear and straightforward. Unfortunately, it does not coincide with the income reporting requirements of many foreign tax systems. It is precisely this tension between the US tax system and tax systems of other countries that gives rise to numerous false myths which eventually lead to the US income tax noncompliance. Let’s go over the four most common myths.

Worldwide Income Reporting Myths: Local Taxation

Many US taxpayers incorrectly believe that their foreign-source income does not need to be disclosed in the United States because it is taxed in the local jurisdiction. The logic behind this myth is simple – otherwise, the income would be subject to double taxation. There is a variation on this myth which relies on various tax treaties between the United States and foreign countries on the prevention of double-taxation.

The “local taxation” myth is completely false. US tax law requires US tax residents to disclose their foreign-source income even if it is subject to foreign taxation or foreign tax withholding. These taxpayers forget that they may be able to use the foreign tax credit to remedy the effect of the double-taxation.

Where the foreign tax credit is unavailable or subject to certain limitations, the danger of double taxation indeed exists. This is why you need to consult an international tax attorney to properly structure your transactions in order to avoid the effect of double-taxation. In any case, the danger of double taxation does not alter the worldwide income reporting requirement – you still need to disclose your foreign-source income even if it is taxed locally.

The tax-treaty variation on the local taxation myth is generally false, but not always. There are indeed tax treaties that exempt certain types of income from US taxation; the US-France tax treaty is especially unusual in this aspect. These exceptions are highly limited and usually apply only to certain foreign pensions.

Generally, however, tax treaties would not prevent foreign income from being reportable in the United States. In other words, one should not turn an exception into a general rule; the existence of a tax treaty would not generally modify the worldwide income reporting requirement.

Worldwide Income Reporting Myths: Territorial Taxation

Millions of US taxpayers were born overseas and their understanding of taxation was often formed through their exposure to much more territorial systems of taxation that exist in many foreign countries. These taxpayers often believe that they should report their income only in the jurisdictions where the income was earned or generated. In other words, the followers of this myth assert that US-source income should be disclosed on US tax returns and foreign-source income on foreign tax returns.

This myth is false. US tax system is unique in many aspects; its invasive worldwide reach stands in sharp contrast to the territorial or mixed-territorial models of taxation that exist in other countries. Hence, you cannot apply your prior experiences with a foreign system of taxation to the US tax system. With respect to individuals, US tax laws continue to mandate worldwide income reporting irrespective of how other countries organize their tax systems.

Worldwide Income Reporting Myths: De Minimis Exception

The third myth has an unclear origin; most likely, it comes from human nature that tends to disregard insignificant amounts. The followers of this myth believe that small amounts of foreign source income do not need to be disclosed in the United States, because there is a de minimis exception to the worldwide income reporting requirement.

This is incorrect: there is no such de minimis exception. You must disclose your foreign income on your US tax return no matter how small it is.

This myth has a special significance in the context of offshore voluntary disclosures. The Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures can only be used if there is no income noncompliance. Oftentimes, taxpayers cannot benefit from this voluntary disclosure option, because they failed to disclose an interest income of merely ten or twenty dollars.

Worldwide Income Reporting Myths: Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

Finally, the fourth myth comes from the misunderstanding of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (the “FEIE”). The FEIE allows certain taxpayers who reside overseas to exclude a certain amount of earned income on their US tax returns from taxation as long as these taxpayers meet either the physical presence test or the bona fide residency test.

Some US taxpayers misunderstand the rules of the FEIE and believe that they are allowed to exclude all of their foreign income as long as they reside overseas. A variation on this myth ignores even the residency aspect; the taxpayers who fall into this trap believe that the FEIE excludes all foreign income from reporting.

This myth and its variation are wrong in three aspects. First of all, even in the case of FEIE, all of the foreign earned income must first be disclosed on a tax return and then, and only then, would the taxpayer be able to take the exclusion on the tax return. Second, the FEIE applies only to earned income (i.e. salaries or self-employment income), not passive income (such as bank interest, dividends, royalties and capital gains). Finally, as I already stated, in order to be eligible for the FEIE, a taxpayer must satisfy one of the two tests: the physical presence test or the bona fide residency test.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Worldwide Income Reporting

Worldwide income reporting can be an incredibly complex requirement despite its appearance of simplicity. In this essay, I pointed out just four most common traps for US taxpayers; there are many more.

Hence, if you have foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our highly-experienced tax team, headed by a known international tax lawyer, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to bring themselves into full compliance with US tax laws. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FACC Seminar (French-American Chamber of Commerce Seminar) | News

On October 19, 2017, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an owner of Sherayzen Law Office and a highly experienced international tax attorney, conducted a seminar titled “Introduction to U.S. International Tax Compliance for U.S. Owners of Foreign Businesses” at the French-American Chamber of Commerce in Minneapolis, Minnesota (the “FACC Seminar”). The audience of the FACC Seminar consisted of business lawyers and business owners.

The FACC Seminar commenced with the breakdown of the title of the seminar into various parts. Mr. Sherayzen first analyzed the tax definition of “owner” and contrasted it with the legal definition of owner. Then, he identified who is considered to be a “U.S. owner” under the U.S. international tax law.

During the second part of the FACC Seminar, Mr. Sherayzen discussed the definition of “foreign” (i.e. foreign business) and the definition of the concept of “business”, contrasting it with a foreign trust. At this point, the tax attorney also acquainted the attendees with the differences between the common-law and the civil-law definitions of partnership.

Then, the focus of the FACC Seminar shifted to the discussion of the U.S. international tax requirements. The tax attorney stated that he would discuss four major categories of U.S. international tax requirements: (1) U.S. tax reporting requirements related to ownership of a foreign business; (2) U.S. owner’s tax reporting requirements related to assets owned by a foreign business; (3) U.S. tax reporting requirements related to transactions between a foreign business and its U.S. owners; and (4) income recognition as a result of anti-deferral regimes.

Mr. Sherayzen first discussed the U.S. tax reporting requirement related to the ownership of a foreign business. In particular, he covered Forms 5471, 8865 and 8858. The tax attorney also introduced the catch-all Form 8938. In this context, he also explained the second category of U.S. international tax requirements concerning the assets owned by a foreign business.

The next part of the FACC Seminar was devoted to the U.S. tax reporting requirements concerning transactions between a foreign business and its U.S. owners. Mr. Sherayzen explained in detail Form 926 and Schedule O of Form 8865, including the noncompliance penalties associated with these forms. The tax attorney also quickly reviewed Form 8886 for participating in transactions related to tax shelters. The discussion of the complex penalty system of Form 8886 surprised the audience.

The last part of the FACC Seminar was devoted to the income tax recognition and other U.S. tax reporting requirements that arise by the operation of anti-deferral regimes. Both, the Subpart F and the PFIC regimes were covered by the tax attorney.

Mistake as Reasonable Cause | Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Lawyer

This article is a continuation of a series of articles on the Reasonable Cause Exception as a defense against various IRS penalties. Today, we will be exploring whether a mistake made by a taxpayer satisfies the ordinary business care and prudence standard and can be considered a reasonable cause.

Mistake Alone Does Not Constitute Reasonable Cause

Generally, the IRS takes the view that a mistake alone is not sufficient to establish a reasonable cause defense to an imposition of an IRS penalty, because it is not considered to be a conduct that would qualify as ordinary business care and prudence – i.e. generally, situations when a taxpayer acted prudently, reasonably and in good faith (taking that degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise) and still could not comply with the relevant tax requirement.  We remind the readers that the ordinary business care and prudence standard is at the heart of the Reasonable Cause Exception.

Mistake Can Help Establish Reasonable Cause

While a taxpayer’s mistake alone is insufficient to establish a reasonable cause, the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) specifically foresees a possibility that a mistake can help assert a reasonable cause defense. IRM 20.1.1.3.2.2.4 (12-11-2009) specifically states that the Reasonable Cause Exception may be established if mistake with “additional facts and circumstances support the determination that the taxpayer exercised ordinary business care and prudence but nevertheless was unable to comply within the prescribed time”.

In other words, if mistake, in combination with other facts and circumstances, established that a taxpayer’s behavior was consistent with the ordinary business care and prudence standard, the IRS may agree that the tax noncompliance was caused by a reasonable cause.

IRS Factors Supporting Mistake as a Reasonable Cause

IRM 20.1.1.3.2.2.4 (12-11-2009) does not limit the number of factors that will be considered by the IRS in deciding whether there are sufficient facts and circumstances supporting mistake as a reasonable cause. However, it provides five specific factors to which the IRS will pay special attention:

1. When and how the taxpayer became aware of the mistake;

2. The extent to which the taxpayer corrected the error;

3. The relationship between the taxpayer and the subordinate (if the taxpayer delegated the duty);

4. If the taxpayer took timely steps to correct the failure after it was discovered;

5. The supporting documentation.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Legal Help with Establishing a Reasonable Cause Exception in Your Case

If the IRS imposed a penalty for your prior tax noncompliance, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for the legal help. We will thoroughly review the facts of your case, determine available defense options, including the Reasonable Cause Exception defenses, implement the case strategy with which you feel comfortable, and negotiate the abatement or reduction of your IRS penalties.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!