IRS Rescues Non-Resident Alien Owning U.S. Real Estate and Residences

International tax planning and strategy

Applying for an IRS ruling on your international tax planning will save you taxes in the long run.

The British Virgin Island (BVI) corporation is used by many non-residents aliens  (NRA) to own real estate and their personal residences in the U.S.

When the property is sold, an excessive tax is paid.   Instead of being taxed at 15% to 20%, the corporate income tax rate is 35%.  After paying the corporate income tax, a foreign corporation also pays the branch profits tax.  This tax is 30% of the net income.

Removing  the real estate from the corporation caused a “double taxation”.    A corporate (domestic or foreign) distribution of  property is taxed as if the corporation sold the property.  Second, when the shareholder receives the property, he or she is taxed as if they have received a dividend.

Estate Tax for the Non-Resident Alien owning U.S. property with a Foreign Corporation.

About 15 years ago, the IRS won estate tax cases using section 2036.  This law puts assets of a foreign corporation in the alien’s taxable estate if he can enjoy the corporate property or  the corporate income.    Since the estate tax exemption for the non-resident alien is $60,000 or less, a large estate tax is due.

Because of the foreign corporation owns the real estate,  the corporate income taxes described in the first paragraph can apply either in whole or in part.

The IRS has come up with a method to solve the income tax problems.   The method is called a “dual resident corporation.”

A dual resident corporation has two corporate charters.  One charter is issued by a foreign government.  The other charter is issued by a State.  For example, a BVI corporation owns a home.   The corporate files for a charter to be a Delaware corporation.  The corporation now has two corporate charters.

The IRS allows such a corporation (if owned by Americans and residents) to elect the be taxed under Subchapter S.  Thus, any gain on the sale of the property is taxed by the individual shareholders at the 15% or 20%  long-term capital gain rate.

The foreign corporation branch profits tax does not apply because the corporation has two corporate charters (one of which is American).

Once Caveat:  A foreign corporation converted to a Subchapter S corporation has to wait 7 years to sell its appreciated property to avoid the double taxation discussed in the first paragraph.

However, the double taxation applies only to the amount of appreciation of the real estate (also known as “built-in gain”) at the time of converting to an S-corporation.   For example, the BVI corporation purchased a home for $100,000.  A few years later it becomes an S-corporation.  At that time the home is worth $200,000.  A few years later, the home is sold for $400,000.

The gain of $300,000 is a long-term capital gain.  An additional tax is charged on the gain of $100,000 ($200,000 minus the cost of $100,000).

One of the hidden savings of the dual resident corporation is the low cost of a domestic tax return.  A foreign corporation owning U.S. real estate must file a complicated Form 1120F.  The cost of preparing a Form 1120F is three to four times the cost of a domestic corporation tax return.    In additionally, a foreign corporation has special reporting because of a tax law known is the Foreign Investor Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA).

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