Tag Archives: tax treaty planning

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).

Amazon Fulfillment International Tax Strategies with a Tax Treaty Corporation

Wow, the speed of change in business is leaving worldwide governments in the dust. From Netflix streaming to Google AdWords, the 21st Century business has many legitimate tax avoidance strategies.

This blog explains U.S. taxation (I should say lack of U.S. taxation) for the foreign corporation doing business via the Amazon fulfillment center (referred to as FBA). At the end of this blog is Amazon’s short video explaining their FBA.

Let me tell you about Sam. He is an entrepreneur. He also is wise. He has a tax team of a CPA and a business attorney.  He does not read a blog like this and then goes out and does his tax planning by himself. This blog gives the concept. But the tax savings are in the legal details that only your attorney and CPA can do for you.

Sam has decided to sell beauty products that he has manufactured in Switzerland to U.S. consumers. He will create a fantastic e-commerce and branding website. He will use Google Adwords as part of his marketing. Sam plans to have no employees.

Sam met with his CPA and attorney. After careful research, they have decided on an Irish company. His tax team explained that his Irish company must create the website, contract with the Swiss manufacturer of the products, pay for the marketing including Google Adwords and be the party to the contract with Amazon FBA.

His tax team informed Sam that he must request an IRS private letter ruling before he starts an international business.  Sam is a smart business person. He knows that working with the IRS is the best way to create wealth.

The Irish company needs a U.S. bank account and credit card processing. Sam’s bank required the Irish company to qualify to do business in the state where the bank is located. Sam and his bank are in Florida. The Irish company registers with the State of Florida.

Okay…now it is time to build the business. The Irish company hires an Irish web design firm to create and host the website. In Ireland, many chartered accountants and law firms provide the registered office. As part of this process, the firm provide directors and their staff to help with the management. The Irish company signs the contracts with Amazon and the Swiss manufacturer.

The beauty products are shipped to the Amazon fulfillment centers, and Amazon does the rest.

Back in Florida, Sam checks up on the operations. He gets fantastic reports from Amazon. He talks to the Irish web consultant about the SEO for his website.  He looks at the Google Adwords dashboard. From time to time, Sam travels to Europe to meet with the Swiss manufacturer of new products and to meet with his team in Ireland.

The Irish company files many tax returns. First, an Irish income tax return (the tax rate is about 12%). Here in the U.S., the IRS gets two returns, a Form 1120F (a foreign corporation income tax return) and a Form 5471 (an information return for controlled foreign corporations).  Sam’s CPA explains the tax treaty to the IRS using Form 8833.

The U.S. Irish tax treaty provides that If an Irish company has what is known as a “permanent establishment” in the U.S., it owes tax on its U.S. source income (the sales to its U.S. customers). The definitions of a “permanent establishment” are from the 1960’s, and they do not include the concept of a fulfillment center’s contract with the vendor(fn1).    While the Irish Tax Treaty has been updated many times, the updates have been for the exchange of information and the American concept of pass-through entities (such as an S-corporation or a trust).

Your tax team must carefully review the fulfillment center’s contract and compare it to the definition of a permanent establishment in the Tax Treaty.

Get a tax study for your business from us.  We will look at your business and provide you with a tax study for only  (USD) $1,000.  We accept credit cards and wire transfers.  Email me, Brian Dooley, CPA. MBT at [email protected] to get started. 

Footnote (1)  Treaty Article Five, Paragraph 6 states:  ” An enterprise shall not be deemed to have a permanent establishment in a Contracting State merely because it carries on business in that State through a broker, general commission agent, or any other agent of an independent status, provided that such persons are acting in the ordinary course of their business as independent agents.”

If Sam was using a non-treaty corporation (such as the Isle of Man company) then  pursuant to tax code section 864(c)(5)(A), the office or other fixed place of business of an independent agent will not be attributed to a foreign corporation even if the agent has the authority to negotiate and conclude contracts on behalf of the foreign corporation or maintains as stock of goods from which to fill orders on the foreign corporation’s behalf.    

This is where the tax law is tricky.  The agreement with the fulfillment center must be carefully examined to determine if section 864(c)(5)(A) applies. 

Learn more about permanent establishment vs. fixed place of business, section 864(c)(5)(A)  on this link.  As in all international tax strategies, the company should apply for an IRS ruling before proceeding.  Learn about IRS rulings on this link.

 

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.   

Continue reading

Getting the Best of Both Worlds – International Tax Planning for S Corporations and their Alien Shareholders

Dual residents are citizens of nations that have a tax treaty with the U.S.  Most tax treaties have a “tie-breaker” rule that favors the country of citizenship.  

International Tax Planning for S Corporations and their Alien Shareholders – Getting the Best of two tax Worlds

Okay, here is the general rule. A general rule is that dual resident residents are treated as U.S. residents for purposes.  This link provides an IRS legal memorandum on the topic of the dual resident process.    For tax planning, the dual resident will use its home country tax treaty to elect to be a non-resident alien.  This way, he is not paying U.S. tax on his worldwide income. 

Dual residents are often shareholders of S corporation. Here the dual resident international tax planning needs to be cautious.

Until recently, the  IRS regulations provide that if a dual resident taxpayer is a shareholder in an S corporation and the alien claims a treaty benefit as a non-resident alien, the taxpayer is a non-resident alien for the S corporation’s rules.  As a result, the entity’s S corporation election will be terminated.[2]

Most tax planners will tell you that this continues to be the law.   If they do, then you know that you have the wrong international tax planner.

The dual resident alien usually wants to elect to be a non-resident alien.   The tax savings are huge.  For example, no self-employment tax, no controlled foreign corporation tax, no tax on foreign income, no passive income tax, no tax on U.S. bank income and no tax on gains on the U.S. stock market.  Yes, all of this is tax-free.

But here is the problem.  How to invest into a U.S. business.  The easiest is to invest using a domestic limited liability company.   But for the dual resident, his/her home country may not recognize the LLC for asset protection. Thus, why you are protected in the U.S., you are not protected outside the U.S.  The alternative is a corporation. A subchapter S corporation allows a single tax structure.

The IRS issued Treasury Decision 8733 provides that a  dual resident is allowed the best of both tax worlds.   First, he/she remains a non-resident alien legally avoiding the taxes mentioned above.

Next, the dual resident alien can elect to pay U.S. income tax on the S-corporation’s income as if the income was U.S. business income.  If he does, he is an allowed to be a shareholder of the corporation.

For example, the S-corporation is a retail store.  Mr. Wilson a U.K. citizen and a dual resident is a shareholder.  He has not elected to be U.S. resident.  However, he has elected to follow the IRS rules in Treasury Decision 8733.   The S-corporation also earns interest income on its bank deposits.  Mr. Wilson earned $100,000 investing in the U.S. stock market.

The income from the store and the interest income are taxable as business income.  However, the dual resident alien continues to avoid self-employment tax.   The $100,000 gain in the stock market is not taxable by the IRS. 

The IRS  Treasury Decision 8733    states “under section 7701(b) provide that for purposes of determining the U.S. income tax liability of a dual-status alien who is a shareholder of an S corporation, the trade or business or permanent establishment of the S corporation shall be passed through to the dual status alien pursuant to section 1366(b).”

Here is what is happening. The taxpayer and the S corporation entering into an agreement to be subject to tax and withholding as if the dual resident were a non-resident alien partner in a partnership.  This means that the S-corporation withholds tax on his share of the income.  The tax is withheld at the highest tax rate.  This tax is refundable when the dual resident alien files his income tax return.

If the dual resident taxpayer does this then:
1.  the character and source of the S corporation items included in the dual resident shareholder’s income are determined as if realized by the shareholder and
2. the dual resident shareholder is considered as carrying on a business within the United States through a permanent establishment if the S corporation carries on such a business.[4]

This exception is not available if the S corporation was a C corporation[5]

Special IRS reporting: A dual resident taxpayer who is an S corporation shareholder must:
1. comply with the filing requirements and
2  must include an additional declaration indicating that he understands that claiming a treaty benefit as a non-resident will terminate the S corporation’s election unless the exception applies. [6]   IRS Form 8833, Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure (under Section 6114 or 7701(b)) is required if the payments or income items reportable because of that determination are more than $100,000.

By the way, this blog article is the only article on this topic.  It represents on of the many innovations international tax plans found only in my book, International Tax Planning in America for the Entrepreneur, on this link.  You will learn many tried and true tax plans that no one else knows.

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).

[1] Warning:  The regulations 301.7701(b)- 7(b).  state that the filing of a Form 1040NR by the dual resident taxpayer may affect the determination by the Immigration and Naturalization Service as to whether the individual qualifies to maintain a residency permit.

[2] Regulation 301.7701(b)-7(a)(4)(iii).

[3] Regulation 301.7701(b)-7(a)(4)(ii).

[4]  Regulation 301.7701(b)-7(a)(4)(iv).

[5]  Regulation 301.7701(b)- 7(a)(4)(iv).

[6] Regulation 301.7701(b)-7(c)(3). In part 10 FSA (field service advice) 1992-50 states   “[10]  A dual resident taxpayer who is assigned residence to the treaty partner’s country and claims to be treated as a resident of that country will be treated as a nonresident of the United States solely for purposes of computing their U.S. income tax liability. For purposes other than the computation of their U.S. income tax liability, the individual will be treated as a U.S. resident under the Internal Revenue Code. To take advantage of the treaty “tie- breaker” rule exception, a dual resident taxpayer must timely file a completed Form 1040NR tax return with a statement in the form required by section 301.7701(b)-7(c) of the regulations, attached to the return. The filing of a Form 1040NR with the attached statement is required under section 301.7701(b)-7(b) whether or not the individual has any income subject to U.S. tax.”

U.S. Tax Planning for an Australian Retirement Pension Plan

The U.S. Ambassador to Australia in unhappy on how the Obama’s IRS (the IRS is part of the Executive Branch) have been treating Americans working in Australia and Australians working in the United States.

I have his letter below in blue print. This letter is an excellent description of the international tax planning trap.

The issue is that foreign retirement plans contributions are taxable to a U.S. taxpayer when the employer places the money in the plan.   The concern expressed by the U.S. Ambassador applies to all foreign retirement and pension plans.

International retirement plan tax planning should take place in the first year. In some cases, tax elections can avoid the tax problem

The Honorable Jacob Lew
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of Treasury
Washington D.C.Dear Mr. Secretary:

As I look toward the end of the (Obama) administration next year, I am on the lookout for issues where we still have time to make a positive difference for American citizens, workers, and our business community.

One such issue is the bilateral income tax treaty agreement between Australia and the United States. It was last revised 15 years ago and now features one unfortunate but fixable provision that I am calling to your attention.

Australia, as you know, is a great friend and ally, and one of the best places on the planet for Americans to live, work, and do business.

My view is that we should prioritize improvements in the business climate between our two countries to recognize and further build up this awesome relationship.

To do that, I also believe that we should work to achieve state-of-the-art economic architecture joining our two countries.

With AUSFTA (and, soon, the TPP), our bilateral investment agreement, and other economic and information-sharing agreements in place, we have almost achieved that goal.

The exception is our bilateral income tax treaty agreement.

The main shortcoming of the agreement is that it does not address the treatment of Australian retirement plans — called “Superannuation” here — which results in employer contributions (and the future unrealized gains on these contributions) made to Superannuation funds being subject to US income tax in the hands of the individual taxpayers.

This tax treatment raises the cost of doing business for American (and Australian) companies since, in many instances, the companies are the ones who incur this extra cost on behalf of the employee.

I also hear regularly from both Americans and Australians who are very upset to see their retirement savings taxed by the IRS before they even have access to the Superannuation monies.A simple solution that the two governments agree that contributions to retirement plans should not be taxed by either country will require both our administrations to agree to renegotiate the bilateral income tax agreement to exclude Superannuation from US income tax.

Indeed, the US Treasury since 2006 offers a model treaty to our negotiating partners that excludes retirement plans like Australia’s Superannuation from taxation — just the outcome we seek to achieve.

There may well be other items on which the two sides would agree if they met to renegotiate the 2001 agreement, but this issue has the advantage of being uncontroversial to either side; we should avoid letting “the perfect be the enemy of the good” in this matter.

If we could fix just this one issue in our agreement, that would constitute a major improvement for a number of citizens and companies in both countries.

I am therefore writing to ask you to consider making the renegotiation of the US-Australian bilateral income tax agreement a priority for the remainder of this administration, with the focus on this one issue.

If other issues can be resolved or other improvements can be achieved through this renegotiation, so much the better. But this is clearly one piece of low-hanging fruit that I believe would be worthy of our attention during the coming year.

John Berry
Ambassador of The United States of America