Tag Archives: NON RESIDENT ALIEN

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).

Saving International Taxes with Tax Treaty’s Tie Breaker Rules for the Green Card Holder

Last tax season, I  was busy with many callers asking “I have a green card.  May I be a non-resident for U.S. income taxes under a tax treaty and obtain benefits under the tax treaty?”

A green card holder is a U.S. income tax resident if he or she is not a citizen of a country with a tax treaty.
A green card holder who is a citizen of a country with a tax treaty may be a U.S. income tax non-resident.  Tax treaties override the U.S. tax code.

As a non-tax resident, you live and work in the U.S. but only pay tax on your U.S. income and not your foreign income.

Here is what happens:  If you are a dual-resident taxpayer (a resident of both the United States and another country), a tax treaty’s “tie-breaker” rule determine if you are a U.S. income tax resident.   

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Foreign Investors Learn Why a Foreign Corporation is U.S. Death Tax Trap

The problem for the non-resident alien is that their estate tax exemption is $60,000 and not $5.3 million (as it is for Americans).   And there is one more problem… the U.S. estate tax planner.  While the U.S. has a tax on the estate, other countries tax the recipient.  This tax is called an “inheritance tax.”

Thus the  American tax planner also must know “international inheritance tax planning” for the foreign country of the investor.

They advise the nonresident alien (the term for estate and gift taxes is “nondomiciled“) to own their U.S. investments and U.S. real estate through a foreign corporation (such as a Panamanian company or a British Virgin Island company).  

Since the 1950’s, this tax plan has failed.  The U.S. courts have ruled for the IRS (more on these cases on this link).  These court cases focused on the power to revoke (section 2038) and the right to the corporate dividends (section 2036).  These tax laws  required the assets owned by the foreign entity to be included in the deceased’s U.S. taxable estate

The best estate tax planning method for the foreign investor involves a trust.   Here is a link on the basics.  In Europe and the United Kingdom have an inheritance tax.  Estate taxes and inheritance differ.  This difference challenges international inheritance tax planners. 
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International Tax Strategy for the Foreign Investor in U.S. Real Estate

The video below covers the tried and true strategies of wealthy foreign investors.  They know that U.S. death tax is the most important risk. This tax at about 40% is of the total value of the home.  This tax applies to ownership by a foreign corporation, by a domestic partnership, domestic LLC or a domestic corporation.

Income tax planning must get the foreign investor U.S. long-term capital gains tax rate (20%). Besides the death tax caused by ownership of a foreign corporation, the gain on the sale is taxed at ordinary income tax rate (about 40%).

In this short video below, I provide the method used by the very wealthy foreign investor.   If you have any questions, then call me, Brian Dooley, CPA, MBT for a free one-hour consultation at 949-939-3414.

We recommend that you work with the IRS and get their okay of your tax plan with a private letter ruling (get more information on this link).