§318 Upstream Trust Attribution | US Foreign Trust Tax Lawyer & Attorney

In a previous article, I discussed the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §318 downstream trust attribution rules. Today, I would like to focus on the §318 upstream trust attribution rules.

§318 Upstream Trust Attribution: Downstream vs. Upstream

There are two types of §318 trust attribution: downstream and upstream. In a previous article, I already covered the downstream attribution rules which attribute the ownership of corporate stocks owned by a trust to its beneficiaries. The upstream attribution rules are exactly the opposite: they attribute the ownership of corporate stocks owned by beneficiaries to the trust. This article focuses just on the upstream attribution.

§318 Upstream Trust Attribution: Main Rule

Under §318(a)(3)(B)(i), all corporate shares owned directly or indirectly by a beneficiary of a trust are considered owned by the trust, unless the beneficiary’s interest is a remote contingent interest. Notice that the proportionality rule does not apply to upstream trust attribution under §318.

For example: if trust T owns 25 shares of X, a C-corporation, and A owns another 25 shares of X, as long as A has a beneficiary interest in T which is not a remote contingent interest, then T will constructively own all of A’s shares of X – i.e. T will own 50 shares of X.

§318 Upstream Trust Attribution: Contingent Interest

If a beneficiary’s interest in a trust is both, remote and contingent, then there is no attribution of stock ownership from the beneficiary to the trust. Hence, the key issue with respect to upstream trust attribution is classification of a beneficiary’s interest in the trust – is it a remote contingent interest or not? Let’s first define what a contingent interest is and then discuss when such an interest is considered remote.

A contingent interest is defined as interest that is not vested. This means that the beneficiary has no present right to trust property and has no present interest in a property with respect to future enjoyment of the trust property. In other words, this interest can only be activated by an occurrence of an intervening event.

§318 Upstream Trust Attribution: Remote Contingent Interest

A contingent interest is remote if “under the maximum exercise of discretion by the trustee in favor of such beneficiary, the value of such interest, computed actuarially, is 5 percent or less of the value of the trust property.” §318(a)(3)(B)(i).

Let’s use an example to demonstrate how this rule works. The fact scenario is as follows: trust T owns 40 shares in X, a C-corporation; A, an individual beneficiary, has a contingent (not vested) remainder in the trust which has a value computed actuarially equal to 3% of the value of the trust property; A also owns the remaining 60 shares of X (X issued a total of 100 shares).

In this situation, A’s beneficiary’s interest is contingent because it is not vested and it is remote because its value is less than 5% of the value of the trust property. Hence, no shares of X are attributed from A to T, because A has a remote contingent interest.

It should be noted that T’s shares in X are still attributed to A under the §318 downstream attribution rules; hence, A would constructively own 1.2 shares of X.

§318 Upstream Trust Attribution: Special Situations

I wish to conclude this article with a discussion of two special situations.

First, if beneficiaries are entitled to trust corpus, this is a vested interest. This is case even if the life tenant in the trust’s property has the right to exercise power of appointment in favor of others. Of course, if such right is actually exercised in favor of others, then the beneficiary will lose its vested interest in the trust.

Second, if a beneficiary interest is conditioned upon surviving a life interest, it is considered a contingent beneficiary interest. For example, in Rev. Rul. 76-213, the IRS stated that a beneficiary had a contingent interest, because his remainder interest in the trust would terminate if the beneficiary predeceased the life tenant.

§318 Upstream Trust Attribution: Grantor Trusts and Employee Trusts

While it is beyond the scope of this article to describe them in detail, there are special rules that apply to the attribution of stock from grantor trusts and employee trusts. I will discuss these rules in more detail in future articles.

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