Tag Archives: branch profits tax

Quick Refund of the FIRPTA Withholding Tax with Form 8288, Form 1120F and Form 1040NR for the Foreign Investor in U.S. Real Estate

You are about to sell your U.S. real estate and have learned about the 15% Firpta (foreign investor real property tax act) withholding tax.  You want to avoid the tax with Form 8288, but the IRS will not process your request by the time you close escrow (learn how to get a faster IRS response to Form 8288 on this link).

Here is how to get a fast refund of the FIRPTA Withholding Tax

The best method to get a quick refund is to file a “fiscal year” tax return claiming the refund.  Assume that your U.S. real estate is owned by a foreign corporation.   The corporation owns property that you have used as a personal home.   Assume that the sale is completed on September 15th.  If the corporation elects a “fiscal year end” of September 30th,  it can file an IRS Form 1120F (the U.S. tax return for a foreign corporation) on October 1st with a claim of refund of the tax.

For example, you have a British Virgin Islands company that owns a home in the United States.  The home cost $500,000.  It is being sold for $600,000.  Your cost of sale (commissions and fees) is $40,000.  Your taxable gain is $60,000 ($600,000 – $40,000 – $500,000).  Your U.S. income tax is $10,000.  The FIRPTA withholding is $90,000.

You file IRS Form 1120F and claim a refund of $80,000 ($90,000 withheld less the income tax of $10,000).  

A word of caution.  You must file a “complete and accurate” tax return.  This requires you to attach all of the supporting evidence of the cost of the home, the real estate commission, fees, and the Firpta withholding certificate showing the tax withheld.

One last concern is the “Branch Profits Tax”  U.S. tax law has a second corporate tax called the branch profits tax.   International tax planners use various strategies to avoid this tax.  Here is a link to our blog post on one such strategy.

If you would like to hire our firm to prepare the refund claim of the FIRPTA tax, then email me, Brian Dooley, CPA, MBT) [email protected]   Our fees start as low as $5,000 for the Form 1120F.

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).

U.S. International Tax Planning for the Canadian and U.K. Investor in Real Estate

Canadian and the United Kingdom citizens are caught in a double tax issue.  On one side, there is income tax.  On the other hand, there is inheritance tax (for the U.K. citizen), estate tax in the U.S. (which will be repealed but only for a few years) and the Canadian deemed sale at death tax.

We all want the American 20% long-term capital gain tax rate.  However, this means the foreign investor can’t own the U.S. real estate in a corporation.    Both a domestic corporation and a foreign corporation incur two U.S. income taxes.    For the domestic corporation, the second tax is called “the accumulated earnings and profits tax”.

For the foreign corporation, the tax is called the “branch profits tax”.   Foreign shareholders of a corporation owning U.S.  real estate are subject to the U.S. estate tax (but not the gift tax).

Wealthy Americans have the same tax problem.  They solve the problem by using a special type of a trust.  Here is a short video on reducing U.S. taxes with the use of a trust.   If you want to learn more about a Nevada Self-directed trust for your tax planning, then please call me, Brian Dooley, CPA, at 949-939-3414.

International Tax Accountants Are Watching for the New Form 1120F and Form 5471

A great debate over the United States corporate tax reform is underway.   Foreign tax accountants are waiting to see how this will change the Form 1120F (reporting for an international company with U.S. income)  and the Form 5471 (reporting for a controlled foreign corporation).

The Form 1120F includes the Branch Profits Tax.  A tax on U.S. equity and foreign interest expense.

Form 1120F’s Branch Profits Tax is a surprise attack tax.   Small international businesses rarely spend the time needed to avoid this tax.  Quarterly proforma tax returns are required to manage this tax.   Corporate minutes are needed to justify the retention of liquid assets on the U.S. branch.

The word “branch” is misleading.  A foreign corporation does not need a branch (such as an office or a factory) for this tax to apply.  The tax is on U.S. equity that is not necessary for an active U.S. business.

The second part of the branch profits tax is in the method of the corporation’s debt financing.

Foreign tax accountants are expecting the new Form 1120F to include an easy to use worksheet for computation of the interest expense portion of the branch profits tax.

International and Global Tax Strategies as the U.S. reduces the business tax rate.

The best international and global tax structure includes an IRS approved Nevada Self-directed trust.

Optimizing your tax savings requires thinking outside the box. Using a foreign trust for tax planning and asset protection will keep you and your family safe.

Optimizing your tax savings requires thinking outside the box. Using a foreign trust for tax planning and asset protection will keep you and your family safe.

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How to Prepare Form 1120F for a Foreign Corporation’s non-U.S. Business Income and Investment Income & Form 5471

Table of Contents to Foreign Corporation Tax Planning and Preparation for Form 1120F.  For Form 5471, please click on this link.

International tax planning has a thin line between non-business income and business income.

A foreign corporation pays a tax of 30 percent of the amount it receives from sources within the United States as investment income and sometimes compensation:1

The 30 percent tax does not apply to interest income on a “portfolio debt”  that a foreign corporation receives from U.S. sources.

Avoiding U.S. tax on Businesses Income with no Permanent Establishment. 

One part of the Form 1120-F to report and pay tax on U.S. source investment income and U.S. source income from the sale of property (including inventory).  When the foreign corporation does not file the U.S. Form 1120F, the IRS can at any time assess taxes.  The corporation will also lose its right to deduct expenses.

If you are not sure if Form 1120F is required, you can use the safe method of a protective filing.   If you need help, then please call me Brian Dooley, CPA, MBT at 949-939-3414.

International tax planning has a thin line between non-business income and business income.

This thin line decides which of two very different tax laws apply.  This blog is on the income that is not connected to a  U.S. office or “place of business”.

Sometimes this income is investment income and sometimes business income that is not connected to a U.S. business’s office or place of business.

A foreign corporation pays a tax of 30 percent of the amount it receives from sources within the United States as:

(1) interest (other than bank interest),  dividends, rents, salaries, wages, premiums, annuities, compensations, remunerations, and royalties,

(2) gains on the disposal of timber, coal or domestic iron ore with a retained economic interest;

(3) gains from the sale or exchange of patents, copyrights, secret processes and formulas, goodwill, trademarks, trade brands, franchises, and other like property, or of any interest in such property but only to the extent the gains are from payments that are contingent on the productivity, use, or disposition of the property or interest sold or exchanged.   The taxable portion is after recovery of your cost; and

(4) and other “fixed or determinable” annual or periodical gains, profits, and income (this is a “catch all” part of the tax law that rarely applies).

The gross income (income before expenses) is taxed a 30 percent.  Sometimes, a tax treaty may reduce this tax rate.

The 30 percent tax does not apply to interest income on a “portfolio debt”  that a foreign corporation receives from U.S. sources.

The purpose of the portfolio debt tax law is to allow the foreign investor to make loans to U.S. persons and avoid U.S. taxes.  Yes, the intent of the law is to avoid taxes.  The following is a summary of the type of debts.

(1) An unregistered obligation that is payable only outside the United States if the obligation is designed to be sold only to a non-U.S. person; and

(2) A registered obligation for which a statement is if the beneficial owner of the obligation is not a U.S. person.

The following types of interest cannot be portfolio debt interest:

(1) Contingent interest, such as interest payments that depend upon the income, profits, or assets of the debtor;

(2) Interest received by a bank on an extension of credit made under a loan agreement entered into in the ordinary course of its trade or business;

(3) Interest received by a 10-percent shareholder of the corporation paying the interest; and

(4) Interest received by a controlled foreign corporation from a related person.[1]

The other advantage is U.S. estate taxes.  Upon the death of a non-resident alien, portfolio debt is not included in his or her U.S. estate tax return.

Avoiding U.S. tax on Businesses Income with no Permanent Establishment.

Tax treaty corporations have a unique advantage.   They can earn U.S. business income and not pay U.S. taxes.

Here are some examples of international tax strategies.

Personal service income to U.S. customers

A British law firm has American customers.  They perform the services outside of the U.S.  However; they have an office in Los Angeles for administration and marketing.  Payments made by their American customers are deposited into a U.S. bank located in Los Angeles.

Their income is not subject to U.S. taxes.  You will note that the law firm has a permanent establishment in the U.S.  They did not try to avoid having a permanent establishment or even a place of business.

The tax planning is the international tax law on service income.  This income is sourced where the individual (or computer as in the example below) is located when the services are provided.

Web services to U.S. customers.

A Swiss business has an app that is used by both American businesses and European businesses.  The customer pays for the app pay watching commercials or by monthly subscription services.  The Swiss company maintains and office in Orange County, California for their American owners and directors.  The Swiss company does it banking in Newport Beach, California, and Geneva.

The Swiss businesses income is not subject to U.S. taxes.  Learn why on this link.

Sale of merchandise to Americans   

Sam, a Canadian citizen, has an investor visa and lives in Malibu, and his office is in the Santa Monica.   He owns a U.K. company that sales paddle boards via a U.K. website.  He is a director of the U.K. company.  He is also the sole shareholder.

The paddles are shipped directly from Canada using Federal Express ground shipping.  Title to the paddle board passes to the customer via the website in Canada. The income of the U.K. company is subject to U.S. taxes.   Sam must file form 5471.

FOOTNOTE

[1] Code Section 881(c).