The tax drag and unsatisfactory options to deal with accumulated income often result in moving an offshore trust to the United States and giving up the tax deferral. However, there is an alternative method, suitable for very long-term trusts, that takes an almost diametrically opposite approach. Rather than restricting the US beneficiaries to the value of the original trust capital and virtually giving up on future tax deferral, this method sacrifices the original trust capital to a final payment of taxes and interest (or a gift to charity) and tries to maximise the duration of the deferral.
US beneficiaries of foreign trusts are subject to a throwback tax regime and an interest charge when they receive distributions of accumulated income from the trust. To avoid these punitive payments, families often choose to convert or decant the trust to a US domestic trust. However, the easy answer may not be the best answer, as a trust that tries to rebound from an ill-considered move to the United States may face a tax on the way out – a toll charge that precludes returning offshore.
In order for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to gather information on the foreign financial assets of US persons, more than 145,000 financial institutions have registered through the IRS Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) registration system. FATCA requires these financial institutions to report information on their US account holders beginning in 2015 for reporting year 2014.
For a foreign trust with a foreign professional trust company as trustee, compliance with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is relatively straightforward. However, a private trust company that is not in the business of providing trustee services for compensation should assess its options with regard to how it complies with FATCA.
When the United States and the offshore jurisdictions negotiated intergovernmental agreements in order to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), they added a category of deemed-compliant foreign financial institution that is not in the final FATCA regulations: the trustee-documented trust. Financial institutions have now begun asking trustees of trustee-documented trusts to provide a FATCA certificate for the trust.
Withholding is soon scheduled to begin on certain payments of US source income to non-US entities that are not compliant with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). International families and their trustee companies are advised to familiarise themselves with the revised compliance deadlines and review succession planning structures to determine where FATCA withholding could take place and then take the necessary steps to prevent it.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently posted to its website updated model intergovernmental agreements which it is using to implement the 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Changes to the model agreements highlight the IRS's current thinking as implementation moves forward.
It is time for advisers to international families to assess the classifications of the family office, trust company, trusts and holding companies within the family's succession planning structures under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and any relevant intergovernmental agreements, regardless of whether such entities currently have US owners, beneficiaries or investments.
After passing major tax legislation in 2010 and following up with some regulations and guidance notices, the US tax authorities have now released new forms and additional guidance on reporting foreign accounts and the use of foreign trust property. However, despite the new guidance, US tax compliance continues to be complicated and burdensome.
Recent US government hearings and reports have focused on abusive international tax planning and the unscrupulous promoters selling those plans. These government investigations should serve as a reminder to all professionals involved in international tax planning that international trust structures, their underlying corporations and transactions between them must be real and have economic substance.
The Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act introduced tax and reporting requirements designed to ensure the imposition and collection of tax on gain recognized upon a foreign owner's disposition of US real property. The Internal Revenue Service is to issue regulations revising rules for inbound and foreign-to-foreign asset reorganizations involving the transfer of US real property interests.
The American Jobs Creation Act 2004 has eliminated the tax avoidance motive test previously applied to determine whether an individual was subject to the 10-year alternative income tax regime following expatriation and the expatriate estate and gift tax rules following expatriation. The act also amends the gift and estate tax rules to address concerns of tax avoidance opportunities.