This article continues a series of articles on the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §318 constructive ownership rules. Today, I would like to focus on the §318 re-attribution rule. In this article, I will explain the general §318 re-attribution rule and mention the exceptions. I will discuss the exceptions in more detail in future articles.
§318 Re-attribution: General Rule
Generally, under the IRC §318(a)(5)(A), stock constructively owned by a shareholder under any of the §318 attribution rule is deemed to be actually owned for the purposes of re-attribution to others. In other words, except for limitations mentioned below, the constructive ownership of stock can be further attributed to other persons.
For example, if a husband owns stocks in Corporation Y and his wife is deemed to owned these stocks under the family attribution rules of §318(a)(1)(A)(i), then these constructively-owned stocks can be further attributed from the wife to Corporation X under the shareholder-to-corporation rules of §318(a)(3)(C) if the wife owns 50% or more of the value of stocks issued by Corporation X.
§318 Re-attribution: Great Burden on Taxpayers
The breadth of the §318 re-attribution rule can present a huge challenge to taxpayers. Both individuals and entities must maintain correct ownership records to allow their tax attorneys to properly determine their ownership of stock under §318 and their consequent tax obligations.
The dangerous reach of the §318 re-attribution rule can be demonstrated by the following example. Let’s suppose that corporation X has 200 shares outstanding and all of the shares are owned as follows: H owns 100 shares, his wife W owns 60 shares and his son S owns 40 shares. Additionally, H owns 25% in partnership P.
Under the §318 family attribution rules, H actually owns 100 shares and constructively owns another 100 shares (i.e. his wife’s and his son’s shares) of X. Under §318(a)(5)(A), H’s constructive ownership of 100 shares is deemed to be actual ownership for the purposes of re-attribution of stock. Consequently, under the partner-to-partnership rules of §318(a)(3)(A), 100% ownership of X is now attributed to P.
This can get even worse. Assuming the same facts, what if P also actually owns 50% of the value of the stock of corporation Y? Then, under §318(a)(3)(C), Y would be a constructive owner of 100% of X, because these shares were attributed first to H and, then, from H to P.
§318 Re-attribution: Restrictions
It is obvious that, without any limitations, such an extensive re-attribution of stock can easily get out of hand and spread to cover persons who have no relationship to the original owners. For this purpose, the US Congress imposed certain restrictions on the re-attribution of stock under §318(a)(5)(A). Each provision §318(a)(5)(B)–§318(a)(5)(D) imposes limitations on re-attribution of stock where the relationship between the original owner and the person subject to stock re-attribution no longer justifies the assertion of constructive ownership. I will detail these restrictions in future articles.
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