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Dividend Income Sourcing | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

One of the most important issues in US international tax law is the sourcing of income – i.e. the determination of whether the income is foreign or domestic for US tax purposes. In this article, I will introduce readers to US tax rules concerning dividend income sourcing (note, I will not be discussing substitute dividends and so-called “fast-pay” stocks as part of this article).

Dividend Income Sourcing: General Rule

Aside from limited exceptions, the source of dividend income is determined by whether the corporation that pays the dividends is foreign or domestic.

Dividend Income Sourcing: Domestic Corporations

Generally, if a US domestic corporation pays a dividend to its shareholders, the income is sourced in the United States. IRC §861(a)(2)(A).

There are three limited exceptions to this general rule, but only the first exception is really relevant at this point. The first exception is found in the complex rules concerning a Domestic International Sales Corporation (“DISC”). Basically, under IRC §861(a)(2)(D), dividends from a DISC are US-source income unless the dividends are attributable to “qualified export receipts”. In other words, if all of the gross income of a DISC satisfies the definition of qualified export receipts, then the entire gross income will be considered as derived from a foreign source. This is the basic rule and there are important exceptions and considerations that must be considered if one engages in a detailed analysis.

The second exception was a dividend paid by a Section 936 corporation. A Section 936 corporation was a special type of a domestic corporation that did business in US possessions. At this point, the repeal of IRC §936 makes this section largely irrelevant.

Finally, the third exception existed mostly prior to 1987. At that time, if a taxpayer was able to show that 80% of the gross income of the payor corporation for the relevant period of time consisted of foreign-source income, then the dividend was also foreign-source even if it was paid by a domestic corporation. The relevant period of time for making this determination included the three fiscal years of the corporation preceding the year in which the dividend was declared (obviously, if the corporation existed for less than three years, then the period of time was reduced to the number of years the corporation had been in existence). Interestingly, with the exception of mergers and consolidations, the dividends were foreign-source even if the payor corporation filed a consolidated return with an affiliated group which did not meet what was known as the 80/20 rule.

This third exception became largely irrelevant as of January 1, 1987. However, the 80/20 corporations were exempted from tax withholding even as late as prior to 2010. At that time, the Congress finally repealed the 80/20 company rule, though it still left a grandfather clause for it.

Dividend Income Sourcing: Foreign Corporations

Dividend income sourcing with respect to foreign corporations is more complex. Generally, dividends from foreign corporations are considered to be foreign-source income unless 25% or more of the corporation’s gross income for the three years preceding the taxable year (in which the distribution occurred) was from income that was effectively connected with a trade or business in the United States. This is the so-called “25% exception”.

If the 25% threshold is satisfied, then the dividend is apportioned according to the percentage of the corporation’s income effectively connected to the United States versus foreign-source income. This rule obviously affects the ability of a US person to take full foreign tax credit.

Now, let’s look at the 25% exception from the perspective of a foreign person receiving a dividend from a foreign corporation. Again, if a foreign dividend was paid to a foreign person from a company that did not satisfy the 25% exception, then no part of the dividend was sourced to the United States. If, however, the 25% exception was satisfied, then a foreign person had US-source income according to the apportionment rule described above. In other words, a foreign dividend paid from a foreign company to a foreign individual may result in US-source income even though none of these persons are US tax residents!

Moreover, prior to 2005, such a foreign individual would have to declare this US-source income in the United States and, theoretically, pay tax on it. Obviously, this was unlikely to happen because either the foreign corporation was subject to the branch profits tax which offset the tax on dividends paid by the corporation or a tax treaty prevented the taxation of such dividend. Nevertheless, if neither exception applied, a foreign person could find himself in noncompliance with US tax laws (and there was even some litigation on this subject).

When it passed the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, the US Congress finally relented and exempted from US taxation all dividends that fell within the 25% exception and were paid to foreign persons on or after January 1, 2005. IRC §871(i)(2)(D).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Dividend Income Sourcing

Sherayzen Law Office is a highly experienced international tax law firm that specializes in US international tax compliance, offshore voluntary disclosures and international tax planning. Our clients have greatly benefitted from our reliability, profound knowledge of international tax law (including dividend income sourcing), detailed and comprehensive approach to tax compliance and creative ethical tax planning (even during offshore voluntary disclosures). We can help You!

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IRS 2016 Standard Mileage Rates for Business, Medical and Moving

On December 17, 2015, the IRS issued its 2016 standard mileage rates to calculate deductible automobile operation costs for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

The 2016 standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

54 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 57.5 cents for 2015
19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down from 23 cents for 2015
14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

These 2016 standard mileage rates are effective January 1, 2016 and they are optional; taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

There are some circumstances where a taxpayer cannot use the business standard mileage rate. These exceptions include where a vehicle is depreciated using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. Furthermore, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

The 2016 Standard Mileage Rates apply to the vehicles that the taxpayers own or lease (though, there may be additional complications if the vehicle is leased). In addition to standard mileage rates, taxpayers may also deduct, as separate items: parking fees and tolls attributable to the use of a car for business purposes; interest related to the business purchase of a car; state and local personal property taxes (to the extent allowed by IRC Sections 163 and 164).

Parking fees and tools are also available for deduction, as separate items, for the use of a car for charitable, medical, or moving expense purposes. The interest related to the purchase of a car and state/local property taxes are not deductible as charitable, medical or moving expenses; however, they may be deducted as separate items to the extent allowed by IRC Sections 163 and 164.

IRS Notice 2016-01 contains the 2016 standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

US Tax Return Statute of Limitations and IRC Section 6501(c)(8)

Most tax practitioners are familiar with the general rules of assessment statute of limitation for US tax returns. However, very few of them are aware of the danger of potentially indefinite extension of the statute of limitations contained in IRC Section 6501(c)(8). In this article, I would like to do offer a succinct observation of the impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) on the US tax return Statute of Limitations as well as your offshore voluntary disclosure strategy.

Background Information

While IRC Section 6501(c)(8) has existed for a while, its present language came into existence as a result of the infamous HIRE act (the same that gave birth to FATCA) in 2010. The major amendments came from PL 111-147 and PL 111-226.

When IRC Section 6501(c)(8) Applies

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) applies when there has been a failure to by the taxpayer to supply one or more accurate foreign information return(s) with respect to reporting of certain foreign assets and foreign-related transactions under IRC Sections 1295(b), 1298(f), 6038, 6038A, 6038B, 6038D, 6046, 6046A and 6048. In essence, it means IRC Section 6501(c)(8) applies whenever the taxpayer fails to file Forms 8621, 5471, 5472, 926, 3520, 3520-A, 8865, 8858 and 8938 (and potentially other forms). In essence, this Section comes into play with respect to virtually all major international tax reporting requirements, with the exception of FBAR (which is governed by its own Title 31 Statute of Limitations provisions).

It is important to emphasize that it is not just the failure to file these international tax returns that triggers IRC Section 6501(c)(8). Rather, most international tax attorneys agree that, if the filed international tax returns are inaccurate or incomplete, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) still applies.

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) only applies to the returns filed after the date of the enactment of the provisions that amended the section – March 18, 2010. The Section also applies to returns filed on or before March 18, 2010 if the statute of limitations under Section 6501 (without regard to the amendments) has not expired as of March 18, 2010.

The Impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) On the Statute of Limitations

As amended by PL 111-147 and PL 111-226, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) may have a truly monstrous effect on the statute of limitations for the entire affected tax return – a failure to file any of the aforementioned international tax forms (including a failure to provide accurate and complete information) will keep the statute of limitations open indefinitely with respect to “any tax return, even, or period to which such information relates”.

Thus, a failure to file a foreign information return may keep the statute of limitations open forever for the entire tax return, not just that particular foreign information return. This means that the IRS can potentially audit a taxpayer’s return and assess additional taxes outside of the usual statute of limitations period; the IRS changes can affect any item on the US tax return, not just the items on the foreign information return.

Reasonable Cause Exception to the “Entire Case” Rule

IRC Section 6501(c)(8)(B) provides a limited exception to the “entire case” rule. Where a taxpayer establishes that the failure ot file an accurate international information return was due to a reasonable cause and not willful neglect, only the international tax forms will be subject to indefinite statute of limitations and not the entire return.

Impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) on Your Voluntary Disclosure Strategy

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) may have a significant impact on the voluntary disclosure strategy where multiple international tax forms need to be filed. In these cases, the taxpayers are more likely to go into Streamlined disclosures or 2014 OVDP rather than attempt doing a reasonable cause disclosure.

This is the case because this indefinite statute of limitations may undermine a reasonable cause strategy if the disclosure period does not coincide with the years in which the international tax returns were due. For example, let’s suppose that US citizen X owned PFICs during the years 2008-2014, but he never filed Forms 8621 even though they were required. If X decides to do a reasonable cause disclosure and files amended 2012-2014 tax returns only, then, the years 2008-2011 will still be open to an IRS audit (though, if X successfully establishes reasonable cause for the earlier non-filing, only Forms 8621 will be subject to an IRS audit). In this case, X may have to make a choice between an unpleasant filing of amended 2008-2011 tax return or doing a Streamlined disclosure.

Obviously, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) is just one factor in what could be a very complex maze of pros and cons of a distinct voluntary disclosure strategy. Other factors need to be taken into effect in determining, including whether the financials were disclosed on the FBAR and Form 8938 and the amounts of underreported income (which may actually keep the statute of limitations open for the years 2009-2011 as well).

These types of decisions need to be made carefully by a tax professional on a case-by-case basis with detailed analysis of the facts and potential legal strategies; I strongly recommend retaining an experienced tax attorney for the creation and implementation of your voluntary disclosure strategy.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Delinquent International Tax Forms

If you have not filed international tax forms and you were required to do so, you should contact the professional international tax team of Sherayzen Law Office. Our team is lead by an experienced international tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, and has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their US tax affairs into fully US tax compliance.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Swiss Bank Program Update: Bank Zweiplus and Banca Stato del Cantone Ticino

On August 20, 2015, the US Department of Justice announced another Swiss Bank Program update – Bank Zweiplus AG (Bank Zweiplus) and Banca dello Stato del Cantone Ticino (Banca Stato) have reached resolutions under the department’s Swiss Bank Program.

The Swiss Bank Program, which was announced on August 29, 2013, provides a path for Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal liabilities in the United States. Swiss banks eligible to enter the program were required to advise the department by December 31, 2013, that they had reason to believe that they had committed tax-related criminal offenses in connection with undeclared U.S.-related accounts. Banks already under criminal investigation related to their Swiss-banking activities and all individuals were expressly excluded from the program.

Swiss Bank Program Update: Bank Zweiplus Background and Non-Prosecution Agreement

As part of its Swiss Bank Program Update, the DOJ provided various background information regarding Bank Zweiplus. The Bank was founded in July 2008 as a retail bank based in Zurich. Offices located in Geneva and Basel, Switzerland, were closed in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Since Aug. 1, 2008, Bank Zweiplus maintained and serviced 44 U.S.-related accounts with an aggregate value of approximately $12.1 million.

Bank Zweiplus was aware that U.S. taxpayers have a legal duty to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) their ownership of bank accounts outside the United States and to pay taxes on income earned in such accounts. Nevertheless, in disregard of U.S. laws, the bank provided a variety of traditional Swiss banking services that assisted some U.S. taxpayers in concealing their undeclared accounts. For example, Bank Zweiplus maintained numbered accounts and accounts held in the name of structures which were effectively owned or controlled by U.S. persons, including structures in the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.

Bank Zweiplus cooperated with the department during its participation in the Swiss Bank Program and encouraged its U.S. clients to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program. Bank Zweiplus will pay a penalty of $1.089 million.

Swiss Bank Program Update: Banca Stato Background and Non-Prosecution Agreement

As part of its Swiss Bank Program Update, the DOJ provided various background information regarding Banca Stato. Banca Stato was established in 1915 and is headquartered in Bellinzona, Switzerland. Banca Stato was aware that U.S. taxpayers had a legal duty to report to the IRS and pay taxes on the basis of all of their income, including income earned in accounts that the U.S. taxpayers maintained at the bank. Despite this, the bank opened and serviced accounts for U.S. clients who the bank knew or had reason to know were not complying with their U.S. income tax obligations.

During the applicable period, Banca Stato maintained and serviced 187 U.S.-related accounts with an aggregate maximum balance of approximately $137 million. Banca Stato will pay a penalty of $3.393 million.

Impact of this Swiss Bank Program Update on US Taxpayers

Starting August 20, 2015, noncompliant U.S. accountholders at Bank Zweiplus and Banca Stato must now pay that 50 percent penalty to the IRS if they wish to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

Follow this link to the DOJ website for more information on this Swiss Bank Program Update.

Rothschild Bank AG Signs Non-Prosecution Agreement

On June 3, 2015, the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that Rothschild Bank AG (Rothschild bank) have reached resolution under the department’s Swiss Bank Program.

Rothschild Bank Facts

Rothschild Bank was founded in 1968 and is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. Rothschild Bank offered services that it knew could and did assist U.S. taxpayers in concealing assets and income from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), including code-named accounts, numbered accounts and hold mail service, where Rothschild Bank would hold all mail correspondence for a particular client at the bank. These services allowed certain U.S. taxpayers to minimize the paper trail associated with the undeclared assets and income they held at Rothschild Bank in Switzerland.

For a number of years, including after Swiss bank UBS AG announced in 2008 that it was under criminal investigation, and following instructions from certain U.S. taxpayers, Rothschild Bank serviced certain U.S. customers without disclosing their identities to the IRS. Some of Rothschild Bank’s U.S. clients had accounts that were nominally structured in the names of non-U.S. entities. In some such cases, Rothschild Bank knew that a U.S. client was the true beneficial owner of the account but nonetheless obtained a form or document that falsely declared that the beneficial owner was not a U.S. taxpayer.

Since August 1, 2008, Rothschild Bank had 66 U.S.-related accounts held by entities created in Panama, Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands or other foreign countries with U.S. beneficial owners. At least 21 of these accounts had false IRS Forms W-8BEN in the file, which are used to identify the beneficial owner of an account. Rothschild Bank knew it was highly probable that such U.S. clients were engaging in this scheme to avoid U.S. taxes but permitted these accounts to trade in U.S. securities without reporting account earnings or transmitting any withholding taxes to the IRS, as Rothschild Bank was required to do.

Rothschild Bank also opened accounts for U.S. taxpayers who had left other Swiss banks that the Department of Justice was investigating, including UBS. Since August 1, 2008, Rothschild Bank had 332 U.S.-related accounts with an aggregate maximum balance of approximately $1.5 billion. Of these 332 accounts, 191 accounts had U.S. beneficial owners and an aggregate maximum balance of approximately $836 million.

Rothschild Bank Penalties and Disclosures

In accordance with the terms of the Swiss Bank Program, the Rothschild bank mitigated its penalty by encouraging U.S. accountholders to come into compliance with their U.S. tax and disclosure obligations. Nevertheless, Rothschild Bank will pay a penalty of $11.51 million.

Rothschild Bank also made numerous disclosures of various information regarding US-held accounts.

Consequences of Rothschild Bank Non-Prosecution Agreement for US Taxpayers

The most immediate impact of Rothschild Bank Non-Prosecution Agreement will be felt by US accountholders who wish to enter OVDP after June 3, 2015 – their penalty rate will go up from 27.5 percent of the highest value of their foreign accounts and other assets included in the OVDP penalty base to a whopping 50 percent penalty rate.

Furthermore, the US taxpayers with undisclosed accounts which were related in any way to Rothschild Bank face an increased risk of IRS detection due to transfer information turned over to the DOJ by Rothschild Bank. “The days of safely hiding behind shell corporations and numbered bank accounts are over,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division. “As each additional bank signs up under the Swiss Bank Program, more and more information is flowing to the IRS agents and Justice Department prosecutors going after illegally concealed offshore accounts and the financial professionals who help U.S. taxpayers hide assets abroad.”

Finally, the rest of the US taxpayers with undisclosed accounts must contemplate a potential future that their accounts maybe subject to IRS discovery if the Program for Swiss Banks is extended to other countries. This possibility is increasingly real when one takes into account the impact FATCA has had on the global international tax reporting landscape.

What Should US Taxpayers with Undisclosed Foreign Accounts Do?

If you have undisclosed foreign account and other foreign assets, you should immediately commence the review of your voluntary disclosure options. Since the introduction of the Streamlined Procedures, the IRS has opened up a world of reduced penalties to various non-willful taxpayers. Willful taxpayers should realize that, the longer they wait, the worse their tax position may become.

In order to do your voluntary disclosure properly, please consult Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an experienced international tax lawyer of Sherayzen Law Office. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide and we can help you.

Contact Us to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation Now!