Tag Archives: FIRPTA

How to Prepare Form 8288-B, Application for Withholding Certificate for Dispositions by Foreign Persons of U.S. Real Property Interests

Form 8288, form 8288-b

Preparing Form 8288-B, Application for Withholding Certificate for Dispositions by Foreign Persons of U.S. Real Property Interests

The non-resident alien, foreign LLC and foreign corporations all have one common international tax problem- the U.S. 15% real estate sale price withholding tax.

Additionally, states have a  withholding tax.

For example, Hawaii is a five percent withholding tax of the sales price.  As a result, a whooping 20% of the sales price is withheld.

The seller is personally responsible for this tax and so is the escrow company or law firm handling the sale.   It is what we call, in America, as a “hot potato”.   Every person connected with the sale proceeds is personally responsible.

I am sorry.  I have more bad news about Form 8288-B FIRPTA Certificate.  Congress slashed funding for the IRS.  The other day, an IRS International Tax Attorney told me that the IRS has “limited resources”.   This means a longer, much longer, wait for your FIRPTA Certificate   (click here to learn how to get a fast refund of the tax). 

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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.

U.S.-U.K. Inheritance Planning-an-update on Estate Tax Treaty

U.K- U.S. Inheritance Tax Planning starts with your family needs versus saving taxes.   For example,  if you want to preserve your wealth for both your children and great grandchildren, you want a trust that can last for one hundreds years or more.

Such a trust requires a corporate trustee (such as a bank) versus an individual.  The corporate trustee must be a licensed financial institution that you believe will stay in business for 100 years.

The terms of the trust are more complex when the beneficiaries include next generation or generations.  We have seen that children start to demonstrate the real personality and behavior when they become teenagers.  As we watch our children become young adults, we finally learn their long term characteristics.

Because our needs change, we need a trust that we can change.  However, the United Kingdom and the United States inheritance tax and estate tax laws have restrictions on the trust amendments.  The solution is found with the use of an “amendment committee” that satisfies both Inland Revenue and the Internal Revenue Service. 

With your needs and goals in mind, your tax planners will start to draft your trust agreement.  The favorable provisions of the tax treaty provide the framework for your trust. 

One of the biggest international tax planning mistakes, that I have seen in my 40 years of experience, is the client hiring one firm for both the United States and the United Kingdom.

The old saying “Jack of all trades, master of none” applies to international tax planning.

The Best Tax Treaty for Inheritance and Estate Planning is the U.K.-U.S. Tax Treaty

One of my favorite cross border U.K.-U.S. tax plans is found in the tax treaty.  This allows the ownership of a home in the U.S. to avoid the complexity of the “Foreign Investors Real Property Tax Act” (FIRPTA).  Here is what I like:

Ian and Elizabeth are U.K. citizens and domiciles. They own a home in California. Assuming that Ian dies first, his will can provide that the home is inherited by his Elizabeth.  Under the tax treaty,  the U.S. will not charge an estate tax.  Plus, the cost of income taxes is now the market value of the home.

If Elizabeth sells the home after the death of Ian, she will avoid U.S. and California income tax on the appreciation in the value of the home.  The UK-US tax treaty overrides FIRPTA.

The link to the treaty is below.  If you would like a tax planning study then please contact me at [email protected]

  1. UK-US Gift Tax Treaty and UK-US Inheritance Tax Treaty
  2. An article on U.S estate tax for the non-citizen

Avoiding the Form 1120F- Foreign Corporation Branch Profits Tax Trap

Preparing the Branch Profits Tax section of the IRS form 1120F  has trapped many foreign investors in U.S. real estate and with US business operations.

 In addition to paying income tax on your profit, the foreign corporation pays tax again on the change in the value of its U.S. business. 

The branch profits tax is based upon a law from the 1950’s. The section 531, tax on accumulated earnings, was deadly to a small business.  However, now most small businesses operate in S-corporations or limited liability company. Since entities of this type are pass through, avoid section 531 does not apply.   Because of this many tax professionals are unaware of this law.

The branch profits tax is just as deadly to the foreign business.  This tax applies if the foreign corporation has income effectively connected with a U.S. business. The applies if the corporation has either a permanent establishment of a fixed place of business.

 If you want help preparing your Form 1120F, then call me Brian Dooley, CPA, MBT at 949-939-3414.

Some CPA’s are advising their clients that keeping assets on the American branch office balance sheet avoids the branch profits tax.    Just holding assets on the books,  does prevent the branch profits tax.  The assets must be continued to be used in an active corporate business.

Section 531 (a tax on accumulated distribution) is the concept used when the branch profit tax was enacted.  Under this section, the corporation must prove the business reason for keeping liquid assets.   The point of section 531 is to cause the second tax.  This is a tax on a dividend that the corporation has refused to distribute.

Likewise, the IRS can impose the branch profits tax when a foreign corporation with a US branch merely retains liquid assets just to avoid the tax.   

Upon a distribution of property to the shareholder of a foreign corporation, the 30 percent branch profits tax apply.  Similar to section 531, corporation needs to maintain ongoing director minutes, shareholder minutes and business plans explaining why assets are not distributed to the shareholder or the home office.

Learn about winning the IRS audit of the branch profits tax on this link.   On this link, find out more innovative methods to eliminate both the branch profits tax and foreign corporation income tax on this link.   If you need help with an international tax audit, then contact me at[email protected]

tax planning, international tax strategies, foreign tax strategies, foreign tax plan, international tax plan, offshore tax,

Learn how to save taxes with “International Taxation in America for the Entrepreneur” using tried and true methods.

If you would like to us to prepare your Form 1120F,  then please call me, Brian Dooley CPA, at 949-939-3414.  

Learn move about international tax planning with my easy to read book, International Taxation in America for the Entrepreneur available at Amazon on this link.  The book takes about two hours to read.