Archive for 'Nonresidents and U.S. tax'

Electing Resident Alien Status Under Section 7701(b)(4)

[Note:  I am preparing the course materials for an all-day program I am teaching for the California Society of Certified Public Accountants on the taxation of multinational families.  This is a portion of the handout I am writing.]

You do not have a green card, and you were not in the U.S. enough days to meet the substantial presence test.  You want to be a U.S. resident for income tax purposes.  Here is how you do it, by making a special election under Section 7701(b)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Why

This election is used by nonresident aliens who become residents of the United States after the middle of the year, and do not hold a green card.  Therefore they will not qualify as a U.S. resident under either the substantial presence test or the green card test.

As a nonresident alien, the taxpayer will not be able to claim an itemized deduction for mortgage interest or property tax.  Or perhaps there are some foreign losses in the current year that could be taken on Form 1040 that cannot be taken on Form 1040NR.  By making the election described here, the taxpayer becomes a resident alien and will be able to take these deductions and thereby reduce his or her Federal income tax liability.

As you read the description of this election—and what is required to qualify for it—you will probably wonder whether the effort is worth the expected tax savings.

The requirements to satisfy are, like many things in tax law,  unnecessarily complicated.1  In order to make the election for a particular tax year, you must know certain things about the past, and you must accurately predict certain things about the future.  Then there are complicated rules for what you do in the current year.

Prior Year: Be a Nonresident Alien

First, you must have been a nonresident alien in the prior year.  To be precise, you must not have been a resident alien under the definitions found Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(1)(A) for the prior year.2

Current Year: Be a Nonresident Alien

Second, you must be a nonresident alien for the current year.3  This means that you fail both the green card test and the substantial presence test for the current year.

Current Year: 31 Consecutive Days in the United States

Third, you must be in the United States for 31 consecutive days in the current year.4  This means you are physically present5 in the United States on every day for 31 days in a row.6  You cannot be out of the country, even for a day.

These days in the United States do not count toward the “31 days in a row” requirement:

  • If you are in the United States but you are an exempt individual7 because you have a specific type of visa status;8
  • If you are present in the United States because you have a medical condition and cannot travel;9
  • If you are in the United States solely because you are in transit between two foreign places;10 or
  • If you are in the United States because are a regular commuter for employment purposes into the United States from Mexico or Canada.11

Current Year: At Least 75% Time in the United State

Fourth, you must be in the United States for a period of continuous presence, starting with the first day of the 31 day period described above.12  That phrase—“a period of continuous presence”—needs a definition.13

It means that you start counting on the first day of the 31-day period of continuous presence.  From that day until December 31, you determine whether you were physically present14 in the United States at least 75% of the time.  This is harder than it looks.  You are instructed to include some days that you are outside the United States, and to exclude some days that you are inside the United States.  And you have extra work to figure out the correct “Day 1” to use to compute whether you satisfy this requirement or not.

In calculating whether you were “in the United States” for at least 75% of the time, you can count days abroad as if you were in the United States If you are out of the United States for fewer than five days—only for purposes of determining whether you satisfy the “period of continuous presence” requirement.15  The moral of this story is clear: do not leave the United States, or if you do, make very brief trips abroad.

Conversely, some days that you are physically within the borders of the United States are not counted toward the 75% test of the “period of continuous presence.”  These are the same types of days that are excluded for the “31 days in a row” requirement:

  • If you are in the United States but you are an exempt individual16 because you have a specified type of visa status;17
  • If you are present in the United States because you have a medical condition and cannot travel;18
  • If you are in the United States solely because you are in transit between two foreign places;19 or
  • If you are in the United States because are a regular commuter for employment purposes into the United States from Mexico or Canada.20

It gets worse.  Consider the possibility (because the author of the Treasury Regulations considered it) that your hapless taxpayer has more than one “31 days in a row” period of presence in the United States.  For satisfying the “period of continuous presence” requirement, you must figure out a starting date.  Which of the 31-day periods do you use as Day 1 for the “period of continuous presence” requirement?

It’s easy.21  Look at each 31-day period, and figure out whether the taxpayer satisfied the “period of continuous presence” requirement by being in the United States for at least 75% of the days between the starting point of each 31-day period and the end of the calendar year.

  • If you satisfy the “period of continuous presence” requirement for all of the 31-day periods, you use the first of those 31-day periods.22
  • If you do not satisfy the “period of continuous presence” requirement for the first of the multiple 31-day periods but you do satisfy it for a later 31-day period, then you use the starting date of the earliest of those later 31-day periods to satisfy the “period of continuous presence” requirement.23

Next Year: You Meet the Substantial Presence Test

Fifth and finally, you must be in the United States for a sufficient number of days in the NEXT calendar year to satisfy the substantial presence test.24  It does not matter whether you are treated as a resident alien because you a green card or not.25  Indeed, it would seem that becoming a citizen will not satisfy this requirement. You must be physically present in the United States for a sufficient number of days in the following year to be a resident alien under the substantial presence test.

Effective Date for the Election

If you meet all of the requirements,26 you may elect to be treated as a resident of the United States for the current year.27)  The effective date for the election—the first day on which you are treated as a resident of the United States—is the first day of the “period of continuous presence” that applies to you. 28  That is, it is the first day of the “31 days in a row” in the United States that kicks of the “period of continuous presence” in which you were physically in the United States for at least 75% of the days between that first day of the 31-day period and December 31.

First Ask for an Extension

Actually making the election to be treated as a resident alien in the current year is tricky, because you do not qualify for the election until you meet the substantial presence test for the following year.29

The election is made by filing a statement on Form 1040 for the year for which you want to make the election.30  However, you cannot make the election until you have satisfied the substantial presence test for the following year.31  This guarantees you will miss the filing deadline for the current year, of course.

As a result, the Regulations allow you to apply for an extension of time to file your current-year income tax return.  You will get enough time to accrue enough days to satisfy the substantial presence test in the following year, plus a “reasonable period”.32  You must apply for this extension of time prior to the due date for filing the tax return for the year in which you want to make the election (i.e., the usual April 15 deadline).  You do not include extensions—even if you file Form 4868 and get an extension until October 15, you must still apply for the extension of time for purposes of this particular election before the April 15 filing deadline.

There is no form for this election, and no specific instructions exist for how to make the election for resident status under Section 7701(b)(4).  As a result, we look to the default rules under the Regulations for guidance on how and where to make the election.  These rules tell you to make the request for extension in the form of a letter.33  The letter must “clearly set forth” information about the tax return for which a filing deadline extension is requested,34 and enough facts to allow the examining officer to figure out whether to grant the extension or not.35  Presumably, providing all of the information required under the Section 7701(b)(4) regulations would satisfy this requirement.

The extension request is sent to the place where you would be required to file your income tax return.36  This should be the place where you would file your Form 1040, assuming your application for resident status under Section 7701(b)(4) is successful.

Interestingly, the default rules for granting extensions of time to file returns have time limits that are at odds with the specific rules for the extension of time under Section 7701(b)(4).  The default rules say that the Commissioner may grant a “reasonable” amount of time as an extension.37  However, “reasonable” is limited by a flat prohibition on extensions greater than six months.38  We have a collision between a six month limit in the general Regulations about extensions of time,39 and an open-ended amount of time allowed under the specific Regulations for making the Section 7701(b)(4) election.40  Go with the open-ended authorization and ask for enough time for you to guarantee that you satisfy the substantial presence requirement for the year following the year for which you wish to make the election.

In addition to filing the extension request at the right time, you must make an estimated tax payment.  The payment is computed as if you are a nonresident alien for the entire election year.41

Election for Dependent Children

If you are making the election for yourself, you can also make the election for a dependent child.42

The Election Statement

Once you have satisfied the substantial presence test for the following year, you will file your Form 1040 for the year for which you want to make the election to be treated as a resident alien.  The information required in this statement is specified in the Regulations:43

  • Your name and address;44
  • A statement that you were not a resident of the United States in the immediately preceding tax year;45
  • A statement that you are a resident alien under the substantial presence test in the year following the election year;46
  • The actual number of days of presence in the United States that you had in the year following the election year;47
  • The starting and ending date of the 31-day period of presence in the United States for the election year;48
  • The starting and ending dates of the period of continuous presence in the United States for the election year;49 and
  • If you were out of the United States for five or fewer days during the period of continuous presence in the election year (so that those days are in fact treated as if you were in the United States, even though you were not),50 those dates are identified.51

The statement must be a “signed declaration” that you are making the election.52  If you are making the election for a dependent, you must include all of that information for the dependent as well.53  Although the Regulations do not require it, I suggest you attach a copy of the extension correspondence to your Form 1040.

Conclusion

These rules are astonishingly complex.  The likely tax benefit to an individual making the election will probably be outweighed by the cost of professional fees incurred in making the election.  If the taxpayer makes the election himself or herself, the opportunity cost and brain damage incurred is likely to yield an economic benefit slightly lower than the Federal minimum wage.  Why bother?

 

 

  1. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(4)(A). []
  2. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(4)(A)(4)(ii); Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(i)(A).  The three ways to become a resident alien, as specified in Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(1)(A), are to have a green card, meet the substantial presence test, or make an election to be a resident alien. []
  3. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(4)(A)(i); Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(i). []
  4. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)-4(A)(iv)(I); Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(i). []
  5. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(ii). []
  6. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iii). []
  7. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(3)(D)(i); Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-3(a)(1). []
  8. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv).  Form 8843 is used to report exempt individual status. []
  9. The medical condition rules are found in Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(3)(D)(ii); Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-3(a)(2).  The exclusion of these days from the “30 days in a row” requirement is found in Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv). []
  10. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-3(a)(3) describes the concept of transit; Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv) excludes those transit days from the “31 days in a row” requirement. []
  11. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-3(a)(4) describes the commuter exception; Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv) excludes those commuter days from the “31 days in a row” requirement. []
  12. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)-4(A)(iv)(II). []
  13. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv). []
  14. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(ii). []
  15. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv). []
  16. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(3)(D)(i); Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-3(a)(1). []
  17. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv).  Form 8843 is used to report exempt individual status. []
  18. The medical condition rules are found in Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(3)(D)(ii); Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-3(a)(2).  The exclusion of these days from the “period of continuous presence” requirement is found in Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv). []
  19. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-3(a)(3) describes the concept of transit; Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv) excludes those transit days from the “period of continuous presence” requirement. []
  20. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-3(a)(4) describes the commuter exception; Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv) excludes those commuter days from the “31 days in a row” requirement. []
  21. This, of course, is flat-out sarcasm. []
  22. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv). []
  23. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv). []
  24. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(4)(A)(iii); Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(i)(B). []
  25. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(4)(A)(iii); Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(i)(B). []
  26. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(4)(A). []
  27. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(4)(B []
  28. Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(4)(C); Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(i). []
  29. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(i)(B). []
  30. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(A). []
  31. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(A). []
  32. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(A). []
  33. Treasury Regulations Section 1.6081-1(b)(1). []
  34. Treasury Regulations Section 1.6081-1(b)(1)(i). []
  35. Treasury Regulations Section 1.6081-1(b)(1)(ii). []
  36. Treasury Regulations Section 1.6081-1(b)(1). []
  37. Treasury Regulations Section 1.6081-1(a). []
  38. Treasury Regulations Section 1.6081-1(a). []
  39. Treasury Regulations Section 1.6081-1(a). []
  40. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(A). []
  41. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(A). []
  42. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(B). []
  43. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(C). []
  44. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(C). []
  45. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(C)(1). []
  46. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(C)(2). []
  47. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(C)(3). []
  48. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(C)(4). []
  49. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(C)(4). []
  50. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(iv). []
  51. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(C)(5). []
  52. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(C). []
  53. Treasury Regulations Section 301.7701(b)-4(c)(3)(v)(C). []

Step up in basis for nonresident’s assets in irrevocable trust

What “basis” is

One of the continuing mysteries of life involves the concept of “basis”. Think of basis as your acquisition cost. This is essential in calculating your capital gain tax after selling an asset. Capital gain is the difference between the sale price and your acquisition cost. The higher your basis — or acquisition cost — for an asset, the lower your capital gain (and therefore capital gain tax) will be.

Here is an example:

A person bought a piece of land 20 years ago for $100,000, and now it is worth $1,000,000. If that person sells the real estate today, the capital gain would be $900,000 ($1,000,000 received from sale minus $100,000 acquisition cost). Multiply the $900,000 capital gain by the correct tax rate and you have the tax that must be paid in the year of sale.

Basis when you inherit an asset

It is easy to understand “acquisition cost” when you buy something: how much money did it cost? But what about when you inherit something?

In that case, your acquisition cost (or “basis”) is the fair market value of the asset when the previous owner died. (In some instances you can use the value on the date 6 months after the person died). Think of this as if you “bought” the asset at fair market value on the date of death of the person who left you the inheritance.

Again, an example:

A person bought a piece of land 20 years ago for $100,000, and it is worth $1,000,000 when he dies. The person leaves the land to you in his will. You are treated as if you acquired the land at a cost equal to the value of the land on the day of death.

These basis rules are found in Internal Revenue Code Section 1014.

Step up in basis

Wait. There’s a disconnect: $900,000 of taxable capital gain evaporated. You got a fresh start, so if you sell the land for $1,000,000 you will pay zero capital gains tax — because you have zero capital gain. The land is worth $1,000,000 and your acquisition cost (“basis”) is $1,000,000. Yet, if the person who left you the land had sold it a month before he died, there would have been $900,000 of capital gain, and capital gain tax would be imposed. What happened?

The “what happened” is a concept called “step up”. Simply put, if someone owns an asset when he dies, all of the built-in capital gain is eliminated. The deceased person’s basis (acquisition cost) in the asset adjusted upward to the fair market value when he died. This upward adjustment is called “step up” in tax jargon.

The reverse can happen, of course. The adjustment goes to market value on the date of death. Market value can be lower than acquisition cost. It’s been known to happen once or twice.

Inheriting from a nonresident

The same concepts apply when a U.S. taxpayer inherits an asset from a nonresident.

A resident of Saudi Arabia bought a piece of land in Jeddah 20 years ago for $100,000, and it is worth $1,000,000 when he dies. You inherit the land. You are treated as if you acquired the land at a cost equal to the value of the land on the day of death.

The first time I wrestled with this idea, I was boggled. Here was a tax break (the step up in basis) extended by the U.S. government to an asset outside the United States — an asset that had never been subjected to U.S. estate tax. It made sense, I thought, that the step up in basis idea would apply to an asset that passed through the U.S. estate tax gauntlet. If you inherit something and Uncle Sam had the chance to tax it (by imposing a tax on the estate of the deceased person), fairness says you get the new “acquisition cost” or basis in the asset you inherit.

Yet we have the interesting situation that a piece of land outside the United States is now owned by a U.S. person with an acquisition cost equal to the value of the property on the date of death.

Inheriting through a trust from a nonresident

Now we get to the point of this blog post. For a variety of reasons, people use trusts to hold their assets and pass the assets to their heirs. It’s usually simpler than the local Probate Court proceedings, and it gives far greater privacy. Probate is usually a publicly visible process. Trusts can be opaque to the outside world. Trusts are also a useful tool if you want to have outside managers for your assets.

But assets put into a trust are no longer passed to the heirs at death as an inheritance. The “heirs” are beneficiaries of the trust. What they receive (and when they receive it) is governed by what the trust document says.

This means that you cannot rely on the classic “step up in basis” rules I have described above. If an asset is distributed to a beneficiary from a trust, it will have the same acquisition cost (“basis”) as the trust had in the asset. The tax law jargon for this is “carryover basis”.

But that’s not universally true. It is possible for a nonresident to put assets into a trust (thereby avoiding the local probate procedures) and at the same time get step up in basis for the trust beneficiary (the heir) who receives the assets when the nonresident dies. All of this can happen while there is no U.S. estate tax imposed on the assets.

A resident of Hong Kong creates the right kind of trust (I will describe what “right kind of trust” means in a minute). He bought land in Hong Kong 40 years ago for US$100,000, and now it is worth US$1,000,000. He transfers the land in to the trust. A U.S. individual is the beneficiary of the trust. When the Hong Kong resident dies, the terms of the trust instruct the trustee to distribute the land to the beneficiary.

The beneficiary will receive the land from the trust with a stepped up basis of $1,000,000. If the beneficiary immediately sells the land at its fair market value of $1,000,000, he will have zero capital gain because his acquisition cost (basis) is US$1,000,000 and the money received from the sale is US$1,000,000.

Best of both worlds, etc. There is no U.S. estate tax (and no Hong Kong estate tax, for that matter). And there is no U.S. capital gain tax.

What kind of trust will work? A “grantor” trust

So what kind of trust should a nonresident of the United States establish in order to leave assets to a U.S. person at the time of the nonresident’s death? Simple: a “grantor” trust. This is a trust that — according to U.S. tax law — is treated as if the settlor (the person who contributed the assets to the trust) is the owner of all of the trust assets.

The grantor trust rules are in Internal Revenue Code Sections 671 through 679.

There are two kinds of grantor trusts that will work for nonresidents of the United States:

  • Revocable. The idea here is that if the settlor can unilaterally take the assets out of the trust at any time, the situation is functionally identical to direct ownership of the assets by the settlor. The assets remain in the trust solely at the settlor’s whim.
  • Irrevocable. With an irrevocable trust, the settlor does not have the unilateral power to extract assets from the trust anytime he wants to. But an irrevocable trust can be a grantor trust if the settlor (or settlor plus spouse) is the sole beneficiary during the lifetime of the settlor (or spouse).

A grantor trust can be a “foreign” grantor trust or a domestic grantor trust. We usually refer to domestic grantor trusts as simply being a grantor trust. A “foreign” trust of any type, whether grantor or nongrantor, is a trust that is either governed by a court outside the United States or is controlled (even just a little bit) by someone who is not a U.S. resident or citizen. I will leave the discussion of whether to make your grantor trust “foreign” or domestic for another blog post.

Private Letter Ruling 201245006 – An Irrevocable Trust is Approved

Don’t take my word for it. Read Private Letter Ruling 201245006. Specifically, look at Issue 1, where the use of an irrevocable trust (properly configured to be a grantor trust) was approved. Private Letter Rulings are only applicable to the taxpayer receiving the ruling, yadda yadda.

Internal Revenue Service

Department of the Treasury

Washington, DC 20224

Number: 201245006

 Release Date: 11/9/2012

 Index Number: 671.00-00, 1014.00-00

 Person To Contact:

 Telephone Number:

 Refer Reply To: CC:PSI:B04 _PLR-105239-12

 Date: JULY 19, 2012


RE:

Legend:

Taxpayer =

 X =

 Trust =

 Country =

 Company 1 =

 Company 2 =


Dear [redacted data]:

This letter responds to your authorized representative’s letter, dated February 2, 2012, requesting a ruling on the application of § 671 and § 1014 of the Internal Revenue Code.

FACTS

The facts submitted and representations made are as follows:

Taxpayer, a citizen and resident of Country, proposes to transfer assets to Trust, an irrevocable trust subject to the laws of Country. The assets of Trust include cash and stock in Company 1 and Company 2 that are publicly traded in Country and on the New York Stock Exchange. Taxpayer and X, an unrelated party, are Trustees.

Under the terms of Trust, Trustees are to pay all of the income of Trust to Taxpayer during his lifetime and may, in Trustees’ absolute discretion, pay principal of Trust to Taxpayer. Article IV. Upon the death of Taxpayer, any income of Trust and any corpus remaining in Trust are to be paid or transferred to or in trust for one or more of Taxpayer’s issue in such proportions as Taxpayer may appoint by deed or will. In default of appointment, corpus and accumulated income will be held in further trust for the benefit of Taxpayer’s issue. Article V. Trust further provides that during Taxpayer’s lifetime no adverse party within the meaning of § 672(a) is eligible to serve as Trustee. Article XI.

You have requested the following rulings:

1. Following the death of Taxpayer, the basis of the property held in Trust at Taxpayer’s death will be the fair market value of the property at the date of Taxpayer’s death under § 1014(a).

2. Taxpayer will be treated as the owner of Trust for purposes of § 671, such that the items of income, deductions and credits against tax of Trust will be included in computing Grantor’s taxable income and credits against tax.

ISSUE 1:

Section 1014(a)(1) provides that the basis of property in the hands of a person acquiring the property from a decedent or to whom the property passed from a decedent shall, if not sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of before the decedent’s death by such person, be the fair market value of the property at the date of the decedent’s death.

Section 1014(b)(1) provides that property acquired by bequest, devise, or inheritance, or by the decedent’s estate from the decedent shall be considered to have been acquired from or to have passed from the decedent for purposes of § 1014(a).

Section 1014(b)(9) provides that, in the case of a decedent dying after December 31, 1953, property acquired from the decedent by reason of death, form of ownership, or other conditions (including property acquired through the exercise or non-exercise of a power of appointment), if by reason thereof the property is required to be included in determining the value of the decedent’s gross estate, shall be considered to have been acquired from or to have passed from the decedent for purposes of § 1014(a).

Section 1014(b)(9)(C) provides that § 1014(b)(9) shall not apply to property described in any other paragraph of § 1014(b).

Section 1.1014-2(b)(2) of the Income Tax Regulations provides, in part, that § 1014(b)(9) property does not include property that is not includible in the decedent’s gross estate, such as property not situated in the United States acquired from a nonresident who is not a citizen of the United States.

In this case, Taxpayer’s issue will acquire, by bequest, devise, or inheritance, assets from Trust at Taxpayer’s death. The assets acquired from Trust are within the description of property acquired from a decedent under § 1014(b)(1). Therefore, Trust will receive a step-up in basis in Trust assets under § 1014(a) determined by the fair market value of the property on the date of Taxpayer’s death. See Rev. Rul. 84-139, 1984-2 C.B. 168 (holding that foreign real property that is inherited by a U.S. citizen from a nonresident alien will receive a step-up in basis under § 1014(a)(1) and 1014(b)(1)). This rule applies to property located outside the United States, as well as to property located inside the United States.

Accordingly, based solely upon the information submitted and the representations made, we conclude that following the death of Taxpayer, the basis of the property held in Trust will be the fair market value of the property at the date of Taxpayer’s death under § 1014(a).

ISSUE 2:

Section 671 provides, in part, that where it is specified in subpart E of subchapter J that the grantor or another person shall be treated as the owner of any portion of a trust, there shall then be included in computing the taxable income and credits of the grantor or the other person those items of income, deductions, and credits against tax of the trust which are attributable to that portion of the trust to the extent that such items would be taken into account under this chapter in computing taxable income or credits against the tax of an individual.

Section 672(f)(1) and § 1.672(f)-1 provide that, as a general rule, the grantor trust rules (§ § 671 through 679) apply only to the extent such application results in an amount (if any) being taken into account (directly or through one or more entities) in computing the income of a citizen or resident of the United States or a domestic corporation. Section 672(f)(2)(A)(ii) and § 1.672(f)-3(b)(1) provide that the general rule does not apply to any portion of a trust if the only amounts distributable from such portion (whether income or corpus) during the lifetime of the grantor are amounts distributable to the grantor or the spouse of the grantor.

Section 677(a)(1) provides that the grantor shall be treated as the owner of any portion of a trust, whether or not he is treated as such owner under § 674, whose income without the approval or consent of any adverse party is, or in the discretion of the grantor or a nonadverse party, or both, may be distributed to the grantor or the grantor’s spouse.

Under the terms of Trust, the trustees are required to pay all Trust income to Taxpayer during his lifetime and the trustees are authorized to pay, in their absolute discretion, any amounts out of the capital of Trust to Taxpayer. In addition, the only distributions that Trust may make during the Taxpayer’s lifetime are to Taxpayer. Thus, § 672(f) will not prevent Taxpayer from being treated as the owner of Trust. Therefore, Taxpayer will be treated as the owner of Trust under § 677(a).

The rulings contained in this letter are based upon information and representations submitted by the taxpayer and accompanied by a penalty of perjury statement executed by an appropriate party. While this office has not verified any of the material submitted in support of the request for rulings, it is subject to verification on examination.

Except as specifically ruled herein, we express no opinion on the federal tax consequences of the proposed transaction under the cited provisions or under any other provisions of the Code.

This ruling is directed only to the taxpayer who requested it. Section 6110(k)(3) provides that it may not be used or cited as precedent.

Sincerely yours,

Leslie H. Finlow

 Senior Technician Reviewer, Branch 4

 Office of Associate Chief Counsel

 (Passthroughs and Special Industries)

Enclosure

 Copy for section 6110 purposes

Form 1040NR Filing, Tax Payment Deadlines

I received an email from a CPA friend of mine today. She and another person in her office disagreed on a seemingly simple question. They were preparing a Form 1040NR for a nonresident alien and wanted to get an extension of time to file the tax return. They both agreed that Form 4868 should be filed before June 15 to get the extension of time to file a timely tax return. But they disagreed on making the tax payment: is the tax payment due on April 15 or June 15?

I was about to reflexively answer her question when I thought to myself, “Hang on. Let’s look at the Code.” I’m glad I did. My reflexive answer would have been conservative, safe, and wrong. (Hint: I would have said “Pay the tax by April 15, file Form 4868 by June 15. That’s wrong. But it’s safe!)

This blog post will now explain the rules entirely without using IRS Publications, instructions to various forms, or other similar unreliable and lazy crutches. This is totally an Internal Revenue Code plus Treasury Regulations boondoggle. The Board of Accountancy should award you bonus CPE credits for reading this blog post. :-)

Since this post is written in response to a CPA’s question (and she will read this), you should approach it as if you are a CPA. Basic terminology will not be explained.

TL;DR

A nonresident alien who has U.S. taxable income and must file a U.S. income tax return (Form 1040NR) must do so on or before June 15.

The nonresident alien can get an extension of time to file a tax return by filing Form 4868. This will extend the filing deadline to December 15.

If the nonresident alien owes U.S. income tax, the payment deadline is June 15.

The rules are cheerfully and needlessly different for a nonresident alien who has wage income subject to U.S. income tax withholding. For these folks, the filing deadline is April 15. An extension of time will run to October 15. The payment deadline is April 15 for any tax liability.

Filing Deadline

I am going to ignore nonresident aliens who have wage income subject to U.S. income tax withholding. Let’s just talk about my friend’s client, who has rental income from U.S. real property and must file Form 1040NR to report the income and pay the income tax.

Internal Revenue Code Section 6072(c) contains the rule:

Returns made by nonresident alien individuals (other than those whose wages are subject to withholding under chapter 24) . . . under section 6012 on the basis of a calendar year shall be filed on or before the 15th day of June following the close of the calendar year and such returns made on the basis of a fiscal year shall be filed on or before the 15th day of the 6th month following the close of the fiscal year.

(Section 6012 of the Internal Revenue Code is the basic rule that says humans and other sentient and non-sentient beings must file income tax returns in the United States).

I am going to ignore fiscal year taxpayers. Rare indeed is the nonresident alien who has the presence of mind to claim a fiscal year for a tax year on his or her U.S. income tax return. Plus it is well known that fiscal year accounting (and the accrual method, for that matter) cause brain damage. It’s true! You can look it up.

So the nonresident alien who is using the calendar year as his or her tax year has a filing deadline of June 15.

There are the usual rules for pushing the filing deadline forward if June 15 falls on a weekend or public holiday. In 2013, for instance, June 15 falls on a Saturday, so the actual filing deadline will be the first business day after that, which is Monday, June 17, 2013.

You can find the filing deadline information easily enough in the Instructions to Form 1040NR.

Extension of Time to File Tax Return

A nonresident alien (again we are talking about someone with no wage income subject to U.S. income tax withholding)) who wants more time to file a tax return can apply for an extension. This is done with the normal Form 4868.

A properly and timely-filed Form 4868 extends the filing deadline for our nonresident alien to file his Form 1040NR until December 15. You want to know why? Here you go.

The time prescribed for filing the tax return is June 15. Internal Revenue Code Section 6072(c). The taxpayer can get an automatic six month extension of time from the time prescribed for filng the tax return. Treasury Regulations Section 1.6081-4(a) says:

(a) In general. An individual who is required to file an individual income tax return will be allowed an automatic 6-month extension of time to file the return after the date prescribed for filing the return if the individual files an application under this section in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section. In the case of an individual described in §1.6081-5(a)(5) or (6), the automatic 6-month extension will run concurrently with the extension of time to file granted pursuant to §1.6081-5.

The last sentence does not apply to a nonresident alien. An individual described in Treasury Regulations Section 1.6081-5(a)(5) or 1.6081-5(a)(6) is a U.S. citizen or resident living abroad. A nonresident alien is not that.

The method for getting the automatic six month extension is spelled out in Treasury Regulations Section 1.6081-5(b). In plain English? File Form 4868.

Time to Pay Tax

Now we know when the nonresident alien must file an income tax return that is treated as filed “on time”. What if the taxpayer has a tax liability? What is the payment deadline for the tax payment?

The general rule is that income tax is due and payable at the time and place fixed for filing the tax return. Internal Revenue Code Section 6151(a) says:

Except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, when a return of tax is required under this title or regulations, the person required to make such return shall, without assessment or notice and demand from the Secretary, pay such tax to the internal revenue officer with whom the return is filed, and shall pay such tax at the time and place fixed for filing the return (determined without regard to any extension of time for filing the return).

As is common in the Internal Revenue Code, we are invited to go on a treasure hunt. “Except as otherwise provided in this subchapter” is the magic incantation that sends us on our quest. “This subchapter” refers to Title 26, Subtitle F, Chapter 62, Subchapter A of the United States Code. (Title 26 of the United States Code is colloquially referred to as the “Internal Revenue Code” and it is where Federal tax law lives). Subchapter A includes Sections 6151 through 6159. Trust me. There is no exception lurking in Sections 6151 through 6159 of the Internal Revenue Code that would apply to our nonresident alien.

Therefore, we conclude that a nonresident alien individual who must file Form 1040NR must — if tax is due — pay that tax on or before June 15.

An extension of time to file a tax return does not extend the time for payment of the tax due. Internal Revenue Code Section 6151(a); Treasury Regulations Section 1.6151(a)(1).

Note that the normal rules for estimated payments of tax will apply. If you make a big lump sum payment on June 15 and you should have made quarterly estimated payments, expect a little letter from the IRS asking you to shed some blood in penance.

Nonresidents with Wage Income Tax Withholding

Finally, I will just wave a flag here. My friend the CPA did not have this problem so I did not look at it. But if the nonresident alien taxpayer had received wage income on which withholding was imposed under “Chapter 24″ (i.e., Title 26, Subtitle F, Chapter 24 of the United States Code), then all of this would not apply.

Basis step-up on assets inherited from nonresident

Yes, I’m back from more than a week off the grid in the Quetico Provincial Park, paddling and portaging. This was a Boy Scout trip with my son’s troop, starting from the Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base. Who knew that going canoeing involves carrying extremely heavy stuff over steep, treacherous portages in the rain? I’ve already signed up for next year’s trip–a 12 day high country backpacking extravaganza at Philmont.

People keep asking me, uh, where’s your brother? (YouTube, turn it up loud).

No, actually, people keep asking me about whether they get a step up in basis for foreign assets inherited from a nonresident/noncitizen decedent.

Or, to say it in English, “My dad died and left me a piece of real estate in the old country. I’m going to sell it. What happens for U.S. tax purposes when I sell it?”

Ignore the tax imposed in the country where the real estate is located. Pretend there is no tax imposed. All we care about is capital gain tax for the U.S. heir who sells the property.

The capital gain must be reported on the U.S. heir’s personal Form 1040 in the year of sale. So the question is how do we calculate that capital gain? The answer — sale price minus expenses of sale minus the seller’s basis in the property equals capital gain for U.S. tax purposes.

The sale price is whatever it is. Expenses of sale are whatever they are. But basis. A U.S. taxpayer who inherits foreign real estate from a nonresident/noncitizen of the USA — this is interesting. The real estate was never subjected to U.S. estate tax. The deceased person never filed a U.S. income tax return, and the executor never filed a U.S. estate tax return, because they didn’t have to.

Does an asset inherited from a nonresident/noncitizen get a step up in basis even though no estate tax was ever imposed?

Yes, indeed.

Back to our little example. Pretend that Dad bought the land in the old country for $10,000 way back when. At the time of death the land was worth $100,000. The U.S. son who inherited the property immediately sold it for $100,000. Pretend that sale expenses are zero, because that makes my example a bit easier.

The U.S. son reports the sale on Schedule D. Proceeds of sale of $100,000 minus basis of $100,000 equals capital gain of zero.

For your light reading, here is Rev. Rul. 84-139, 1984 C.B. 168, which describes the situation and the reason why we get the results that we do.  Study hard.  There is a quiz at the end of the period.

REV. RUL. 84-139, 1984-2 C.B. 168

ISSUE

Will a United States citizen who inherits foreign real property from a nonresident alien receive a stepped-up basis in such property under section 1014 of the Internal Revenue Code even though the property is not includible in the value of the decedent’s gross estate?

FACTS

D, who was a citizen and a resident of Z, a foreign country, died in 1982 owning real property located in Z. B, a United States citizen, inherited the real property in accordance with the laws of Z. At the time of D’s death, the real property had a basis of 100 x dollars and a fair market value of 1000x dollars. Because the real property is located outside the United States and D was a nonresident alien, the value of such property is not includible in D’s gross estate under section 2103 of the Code for purposes of the United States federal estate tax. B sold the real property in 1983 for 1050x dollars, claiming a basis of 1000x and a gain of 50x dollars.

LAW AND ANALYSIS

Section 1014(a)(1) of the Code states that the basis of property in the hands of a person acquiring the property from a decedent or to whom the property passed from a decedent shall, if not sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of before the decedent’s death by such person, be the fair market value of the property at the date of the decedent’s death.

Section 1014(b)(1) of the Code provides that property acquired by bequest, devise, or inheritance, or by the decedent’s estate from the decedent shall be considered to have been acquired from or to have passed from the decedent for purposes of section 1014(a).

Section 1014(b)(9)(C) of the Code further provides that section 1014(b)(9) shall not apply to property described in other paragraphs of section 1014(b).

Section 1014(b)(9) of the Code provides that, in the case of a decedent dying after December 31, 1953, property acquired from a decedent by reason of death, form of ownership, or other conditions (including property acquired through the exercise or non-exercise of a power of appointment), if by reason thereof the property is required to be included in determining the value of a decedent’s gross estate shall be considered to have been acquired from or to have passed from the decedent for purposes of section 1014(a).

Section 1.1014-2(b)(2) of the Income Tax Regulations provides that section 1014(b)(9) property does not include property that is not includible in the value of a decedent’s gross estate, such as property not situated in the United States acquired from a nonresident who is not a citizen of the United States.

In this case, B inherited the real property from D, and such property is within the description of property acquired from a decedent under section 1014(b)(1) of the Code. Therefore, B will be entitled to a stepped-up basis under section 1014(a). Under section 1014(b)(9)(c), section 1014(b)(9) does not apply to property described in section 1014(b)(1); hence, the requirement of section 1014(b)(9) that property be includible in the value of a decedent’s gross estate does not apply here.

HOLDING

Foreign real property that is inherited by a United States citizen from a nonresident alien will receive a step-up in basis under sections 1014(a)(1) and 1014(b)(1) of the Code. B’s basis in the real property sold is 1000x, the fair market value of the property on the date of D’s death, as determined under sections 1014(a)(1) and 1014(b)(1) of the Code.

Alimony Payments to Nonresidents

[I am preparing course materials for an upcoming presentation at the 2012 CalCPA Family Law Conference (01 Nov 2012 in Los Angeles, 02 Nov 2012 in San Francisco; the San Francisco event will be webcast) on the international tax aspects of divorce. This is a piece of what I am working on. It is a draft version, so please forgive mistakes. People who attend the live show will get the final version of this, along with the other topics I will cover.]

Introduction

Alimony payments to nonresidents can be tricky.  The tax rules are similar enough to purely domestic situations to encourage complacency, but with withholding, paperwork, and penalty risks for the complacent.

Read more…