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, secure the help of an experienced international tax lawyer as soon as possible. Contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help concerning foreign trusts as soon as possible. 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!