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Form 1120-F (U.S. Income Tax Return of a Foreign Corporation) covers three different taxes. Saving International Taxes Requires an International Tax Accountant.

Table of Contents

1. This blog tells you how to protect yourself from the U.S. courts and the IRS.
2. his blog is primarily about U.S.  international income taxation and the branch profits tax.
3. Two important international tax laws to watch.
4. Tax Planning for your Balance Sheet and the Branch Profits Tax.
5. Liability Of Corporate Agent in the USA.

6. You Must Timely File  Form 1120F to Claim Deductions or Credits.
7, Protective Filing of Form 1120F:  Smart International Tax Accounting.
8. What if only part of your U.S. income is U.S. business income?

This just might be the most important blog on international tax that you will ever read. Here is the problem for U.K., EU, Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian corporations with U.S. income.

The internet is full of stories of how the tax treaty permanent establishment article prevents the USA from taxing you.  What the stories don’t tell is that the U.S. Tax Court does not care about your tax treaty.

The U.S. Tax Court is part of the Government.  The Government wants your money.  It is that simple.  Okay, it’s not fair.  But they really  do not care.  This link discusses a few of these anti-tax treaty court cases.

This blog tells you how to protect yourself from the U.S. courts and the IRS.

Foreign corporations have income from U.S. sources are always required to file U.S. tax returns.
Three different taxes are on the form as follows:

  1. Foreign corporations must pay a 30 percent tax on income from U.S. sources not connected with a U.S. trade or business.
  2. Foreign corporations engaged in trade or business within the United States is subject to income tax, alternative minimum tax, and other taxes applicable to corporations on their taxable income.
  3. Foreign corps engaged in business within the U.S. must pay the branch profits tax.

This blog is primarily about U.S.  international income taxation and the branch profits tax.

A foreign corporation with a business in the United States at any time during the tax year or that has income from United States sources must file a return on Form 1120-F.  A foreign corporation with U.S. business income must file (I will explain why later in this blog) even though:

(1) It has no business income (that is income effectively connected with the conduct of a trade or business) in the United States,

(2) It has no income from U.S. sources  or

(3) Its revenues are exempt from income tax under a tax convention or any provision of the tax law.

Two important international tax laws to watch.

  1. If the foreign corporation has no gross income for the year, it is not required to complete the return. However, it must file a Form 1120F and attach a statement (I will explain why later in this blog) to the return indicating the nature of any tax treaty exclusions claimed and the amount of such exclusions to the extent these amounts are readily determinable.[1]  For example, if you believe that you have avoided having a permanent establishment, you need to explain why.  Here is more on court cases on permanent establishment).
  1. To claim tax deductions and credits,  the corporation must file an accurate tax return on time. If the return is not timely file, all of the expenses and costs of goods sold can never be deducted.  If the U.S. income of a foreign corporation includes income that is subject to a lower rate of tax under a treaty, it must attach a statement to its return explaining this and showing:

(a) The income and amounts of tax withheld,

(b) The names and post office addresses of withholding agents, and

(3) any other information required by the return form or its instructions.[2]

Tax Planning for your Balance Sheet and the Branch Profits Tax.

The foreign corporation may elect to limit the balance sheets and reconciliation of income to the U.S. business use assets, liability and equity and its other income from U.S. sources.[3]   The branch profits tax traces the U.S. business equity and debts.  Thus, the balance sheet is the IRS’s primary audit tool.   Reporting your worldwide assets is providing the IRS information that has little or no value.

TAX TIP: A foreign corporation that is not engaged in a trade or business in the United States it is not required to file a return when the U.S. withholding of tax at the source of its payments covers the taxes owed.   A matter of fact, the goal of U.S. withholding tax is eliminated U.S. tax compliance for the foreign person.

Liability Of Corporate Agent in the USA

A representative or agent of a foreign corporation must file a return for and pay the tax on the income coming within his control as representative.   The agent can include a related corporation or an individual.

You Must Timely File  Form 1120F to Claim Deductions or Credits

I can not say this too often. A foreign corporation must its return on time to take deductions and credits against its U.S. business income.[4]

However, the following deductions and credits are allowed even if such a return is not filed:

(1) the charitable deduction;

(2) the foreign tax credit passed through from mutual funds;

(3) the fuels tax credit; and

(4) The credit for income tax withheld.[5]  

Timely filed means the Form 1120-F is filed no later than 18 months after the due date of the current year’s return.  

But it is more complicated, and you must read this:  I know this next section is tricky.  So, please be patient.  However, if you need help, then just give me, Brian Dooley, CPA, MBT a call at 949-939-3414. 

When the return for  the prior year was not filed, the return for the current year must have been filed no later than the earlier:

  1. of the date which is 18 months after the deadline for filing the current year’s return, or
  2. the date, the IRS mails a letter to the foreign corporation advising it that the current year return has not been filed and no deductions may be claimed it.[6]

The IRS may waive these deadlines when the foreign corporation proves that:

  1. It acted “reasonably and in good faith”  in failing to file a U.S. income tax return (including a protective return), and
  2. cooperates in determining its income tax liability for the year for that the return was not filed.[7]  

 Protective Filing of Form 1120F:  Smart International Tax Accounting 

This is the smartest thing you can do as a foreign corporation.   The chances of an audit are low and the tax protection is high.  I have the rules below. 

A foreign corporation with limited activities in the United States that it believes does  not give rise to U.S. gross business income should file a protective return.  

A timely filed protective return preserves the right to receive the tax savings  of the deductions and credits if it is later determined that the foreign corporation did have a U.S. business.  

Here is the very good news:  On that timely filed protective return, the foreign corporation is not required to report any gross income taxable income and thus pays no net income tax or branch profits tax.  

However, do not forget to attached a statement indicating that the return is being filed as a protective return and to check the box on the Form 1120F.  Also, you must include your tax treaty disclosure IRS form. Be sure to attach the IRS tax treaty disclosure Form 8823, on this link.  

What if only part of your U.S. income is U.S. business income? 

If the foreign corporation determines that part of the activities is U.S. business gross income that U.S. business income and part are not, then the foreign corporation must timely file a return reporting the U.S. business gross income and deducting the related costs and expenses.  

Important: Also, the foreign corporation must attach a statement that the return is a protective return about the other activities.   The protective election ensures that it can deduct the related expenses if the IRS should disagree.  

The same procedure is available if the foreign corporation when if they initially believe that it has no U.S. tax liability due to a tax treaty.[8]  Be sure to attach the IRS tax treaty disclosure Form 8823, on this link

As discussed above, many foreign corporations believe that their home country tax treaty “permanent establishment” provisions protect them since they do not have an office in the U.S.  However, the U.S. courts treat almost any office (even an office owned by an agent or a related person) as a permanent establishment.  

Lastly, U.S. Department of the Treasury will guide you and provide you with a tax guarantee.  This is known as a private letter ruling.  Here is more information.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Section 1.6012-2(g)(1)(i).

If the foreign corporation with a place of business in the United States, the return must be filed by the 15th day of the third month after the end of the tax year.

[2] Reg. Section 1.6012-2(g)(1)(ii).

[3] Reg. Section 1.6012-2(g)(1)(iii).

[4] Code Section 882(c)(2).

[5] Reg. Section 1.882-4(a).

[6] Reg. Section 1.882-4(a)(2).

[7] Reg. Section 1.882- 4(a)(3).

[8] . Reg. Section 1.882-4(a)(3)(iv).

International Tax CPA Prepares Form 1120F and Avoid the Branch Profits Tax

The branch profits tax is a sneaky beast.   It has three prongs.  One is your interest expense. Next, the amount of equity in your U.S. business,  Lastly, the reason you have equity in your U.S. business.

If you kept equity in your U.S. business to avoid the branch profits tax, then you owe the branch profits tax.   Form 1120F’s balance sheet is where you study this topic.

The branch profits tax is designed after the domestic corporate tax law known as the “accumulated earnings and profits tax”.  This law is found in tax code section 531.  This key factor is the accumulation of profits to avoid paying a dividend (and thus the income tax on the dividend).

My course to the California Society of CPA’s on international tax planning included the branch profits tax.  Below is part of the course.   If you need help preparing your Form 1120F, then 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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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).

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).