Keeping in mind US tax basis and estate tax issues while establishing and maintaining a succession planning structure can protect the estate of a non-US settlor from US estate tax and prove beneficial after the settlor's death where a branch of the family moves to the United States or a family member marries a US citizen. Recent changes to the US Tax Code have prompted some US tax advisers to suggest additional layers of entities to the structure, the additional cost and complexity of which may not result in substantial tax savings.
Trusts remain a flexible succession planning tool for families wishing to pass wealth to future generations in a responsible manner and can include philanthropic goals. The wealth-creating settlor wants to establish such a trust in a jurisdiction with well-established trust laws, a stable business environment, responsive and efficient trust officers and clearly stated comprehensive annual fees. When comparing jurisdictions, the United States should be included.
US citizens and US residents are subject to income, gift and estate taxes. Non-US persons are subject to tax on certain US income and property transfers. Advisers to international families must be able to recognise when a family member has come in contact with the US tax net and plan accordingly. This will often mean seeking advice from competent US tax counsel. Even if no tax is due, running the gauntlet of US reporting obligations requires specialised knowledge.
A limited liability company (LLC) created under the laws of a US state that is wholly owned by a single non-US person (a foreign-owned LLC) will be required to report transactions with its non-US owner and related parties to the Internal Revenue Service. Advisers to families with succession planning structures that use US foreign-owned LLCs should familiarise themselves with Form 5472 and determine whether the LLC has had any reportable transactions with its sole non-US owner or a related party.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released an updated Form W-8BEN-E and Form W-8IMY. Non-US entities should use these new forms when requested to certify their status under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Among other things, the new forms clarify confusion over which global intermediary identification number should be reported for the trustee of a trustee-documented trust.