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Taxation of Investment Trusts

This article on investment trusts continues a series of articles on classification of foreign trusts. In earlier essays, I explored the definition of foreign trusts and some of the exceptions to this definition. In the present writing, I would like to discuss the general circumstances when investment trusts would be treated as corporations or partnerships rather than ordinary foreign trusts (this discussion focuses on foreign trusts, but it is also equally applicable to domestic trusts).

Investment Trusts: Definition and Taxation

Where several individuals, in a voluntary association, create a trust as a means of pooling their capital into investments in which interests are sold, such a trust is considered to be an “investment trust”. The principal law concerning investment trusts can be found in IRS Regs. §301.7701-4(c).

The taxation of investment trusts is a complex and mostly depends on two factors: the number of classes of ownership interests in the trust and the power vested in the trustee under the trust agreement to vary the investment (and reinvestment) of the certificate holders. In certain circumstances, investment trusts are taxed as ordinary trusts while, in other circumstances, they can be taxed as business entities.

One-Class Investment Trusts: Definition and Taxation

One-Class Investment trusts are investment trusts “with a single class of ownership interests, representing undivided beneficial interests in the assets of the trust”. IRS Regs. §301.7701-4(c)(1).

Generally, one-class investment trusts are taxed as ordinary trusts as long as “there is no power under the trust agreement to vary the investment of the certificate holders.” Id. The concept of “power to vary the investment” is highly complicated and requires detailed exploration of relevant case law and PLRs. The focus of the IRS examination will be on the Trust Agreement and related documents.

Multiple-Class Investment Trusts: Definition and Taxation

Multiple-class investment trusts are investment trusts with multiple classes of ownership interest. Generally, it is much harder for a multiple-class investment trust to be taxed as a trust, rather than a business entity.

IRS Regs. §301.7701-4(c)(1) sets forth the legal test which states that multiple-class investment trusts will generally be taxed as business entities unless two conditions are satisfied: (1) “there is no power under the trust agreement to vary the investment of the certificate holders”, and (2) “the trust is formed to facilitate direct investment in the assets of the trust and the existence of multiple classes of ownership interests is incidental to that purpose”. Id.

This is a tough, but not an impossible test to meet.  In fact, one can point to multiple PLRs where the IRS agreed with the taxpayers that this test was met. Nevertheless, a high degree of precision, planning and professionalism is needed to assure that the test is met.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Foreign Trusts

If you are a beneficiary or grantor of a foreign trust, you need to secure the help of an experienced international tax lawyer as soon as possible. This is why you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help concerning foreign trusts as soon as possible. Our founder, attorney Eugene Sherayzen, has developed deep expertise in international tax law in order to help hundreds of U.S. taxpayers around the world. He can help You!

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Main Differences between Model FATCA IGAs

As FATCA is being adopted by more and more countries, it is important to understand that there are two types of model FATCA IGAs (i.e. intergovernmental agreements to implement FATCA) that are signed between various countries and the United States. Both model FATCA IGAs were issued by the US Treasury Department and both model FATCA IGAs are perfectly valid, but some countries prefer one model FATCA IGA over the other. In this article, I would like briefly discuss the main differences between the two model FATCA IGAs.

Model FATCA IGAs Background

FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) was enacted by US Congress in 2010 to target tax non-compliance of U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts. Since that time, this law has established the global standard for promoting tax transparency and has been adopted by a very large number of countries around the globe.

The adoption of FATCA usually occurs as a two-step process. First, a foreign jurisdiction signs one of the two model FATCA IGAs with the IRS. Second, the foreign jurisdiction’s legislature modifies domestic law to implement the provisions of whatever one of the two model FATCA IGAs that the country signed.

Model FATCA IGAs: Model 1

The first of the two Model FATCA IGAs is called “Model 1IGA”. Its principal feature is that it requires foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to report all information required under FATCA to their domestic government tax agencies. The domestic tax agencies would collect all of the FATCA information and turn it over of the IRS.

Since the FFIs would do all of their reporting domestically to their own agencies, Model 1 IGA is sometimes negotiated as a reciprocal agreement. This means that some Model 1 IGAs require the IRS to provide certain information with respect to the tax residents of the country that signed such a reciprocal Model 1 IGA.

Finally, the FFIs covered by a Model 1 IGA do not need to sign an FFI agreement. However, the FFIs will still need to register on the IRS’s FATCA Registration Portal or file IRS Form 8957.

Model FATCA IGAs: Model 2

The second of the two Model FATCA IGAs is called “Model 2 IGA”. Unlike the other model IGA, Model 2 IGA requires FFIs to report the FATCA-related information directly to the IRS and without any intermediaries.

Since the FFIs report all FATCA-related information directly to he IRS, they need to register with the IRS and sign an FFI agreement (which should reflect the specific changes to the model FATCA IGAs negotiated by the foreign jurisdiction).

Both Model FATCA IGAs Lead to Disclosure of Foreign Accounts Held by US Persons

Irrespective of the type of the agreement, it is important to remember that both model FATCA IGAs are designed to perform the same function – disclosure of foreign accounts held by US persons (directly or indirectly). This means that the spread of both types of model FATCA IGAs presents a direct threat to any undisclosed foreign accounts of US persons with potentially catastrophic consequences for these US persons, including potential criminal prosecution and willful FBAR penalties in excess of the balances of these secret accounts.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, please contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our international tax lawyers will first carefully review the facts of your case and identify the best voluntary disclosure options available to you.  Our international tax professionals will conduct your voluntary disclosure process from the beginning through the end, including the preparation all of the required legal documents and tax forms.

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Treatment of Business Profits under the Canada-US Tax Treaty

In this article we will briefly examine the treatment of the business profits of a resident of a contracting State under the Canada-US Income Tax Convention, and the important definition of a “permanent establishment” for purposes of determining the potential taxability of income of such profits.

This article is intended to provide informative material for US taxpayers involved with US-Canada cross-border businesses, and is not intended to constitute tax or legal advice. Please contact the experienced international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. for issues involving the Canada-US Tax Treaty.

Business Profits under the Canada-US  Tax Treaty

Under the US-Canada Tax Treaty, the business profits of a resident of a Contracting State, “[S]hall be taxable only in that State unless the resident carries on business in the other Contracting State through a permanent establishment situated therein.” (See the definition of “permanent establishment” in next section). Hence, if the resident of a Contracting State carries on, or has carried on, such business, then the business profits of the resident may be taxed in the other State but only to the extent attributable to the permanent establishment.

In determining the business profits of a permanent establishment, certain deductions incurred for the purposes of the permanent establishment, such as executive and general administrative expenses (whether in the State in which the permanent establishment is situated, or elsewhere) may be allowed. However, under the Canada-US Tax Treaty, a Contracting State is not required to allow the deduction of an expenditure which is not generally deductible under the taxation laws of such State.

Additionally, the Canada-US Tax Treaty states that “no business profits shall be attributed to a permanent establishment of a resident of a Contracting State by reason of the use thereof for either the mere purchase of goods or merchandise or the mere provision of executive, managerial or administrative facilities or services for such resident.”

Definition of Permanent Establishment under the Canada-US Tax Treaty

Article V of the Canada-US Tax Treaty provided the original definition of the term “permanent establishment”. As stated in the Canada-US Tax Treaty, the term is defined to mean “[a] fixed place of business through which the business of a resident of a Contracting State is wholly or partly carried on.” Under the Canada-US Tax Treaty, permanent establishment includes: (a) a place of management; (b) a branch; (c) an office; (d) a factory; (e) a workshop; and (f) a mine, an oil or gas well, a quarry or any other place of extraction of natural resources. Furthermore, a building site or construction or installation project constitutes a permanent establishment provided that it lasts more than 12 months. In addition, “A person acting in a Contracting State on behalf of a resident of the other Contracting State other than an agent of an independent status to whom paragraph 7 applies shall be deemed to be a permanent establishment in the first-mentioned State if such person has, and habitually exercises in that State, an authority to conclude contracts in the name of the resident.” (Please see Article V of the Canada-US Tax Treaty for more specific examples of a “permanent establishment”).

The Fifth Protocol (the “Protocol”) to the Canada-US Tax Treaty, signed in September of 2007 and entered into force on December 15, 2008, further modified the definition of permanent establishment. Under the Protocol (Article 3, Paragraph 2), an “enterprise of a Contracting State” that provides services in the other Contracting State may be deemed to have a permanent establishment if it meets at least one of the following conditions:

“(a) Those services are performed in that other State by an individual who is present in that other State for a period or periods aggregating 183 days or more in any twelve-month period, and, during that period or periods, more than 50 percent of the gross active business revenues of the enterprise consists of income derived from the services performed in that other State by that individual; or (b) The services are provided in that other State for an aggregate of 183 days or more in any twelve-month period with respect to the same or connected project for customers who are either residents of that other State or who maintain a permanent establishment in that other State and the services are provided in respect of that permanent establishment.”

Further, the diplomatic notes of Annex B to the Protocol added that, “[t]he principles of the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines shall apply for purposes of determining the profits attributable to a permanent establishment”.

Elimination of Article XIV of the Canada-US Tax Treaty

The Protocal had further important impact with respect to services defined as “Independent Personal Services” – Article 9 of the Protocol eliminated Article XIV of the Canada-US Tax Treaty (“Independent Personal Services”). Under previous Article XIV a resident of a Contracting State performing independent personal services in the other Contracting State could be taxed if such “individual has or had a fixed base regularly available to him in that other State but only to the extent that the income is attributable to the fixed base.” The business profits rules explained above and the various definitions of permanent establishment now determine the taxability of such cases.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for legal help with respect to Canada-US Tax Treaty

Treaty interpretation, international tax resolution and international tax planning may involve very complex issues, and it is advisable to seek the assistance of an international tax attorney in this area. This is why it is advised that you contact Sherayzen Law Office to secure professional legal help involving issues related to Canada-US Tax Treaty.

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