Archive for Virginia La Torre Jeker, J.D.

US Tax Issues – Ownership of Real Property Abroad

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When purchasing a real property overseas, there are situations when it may prove advantageous or even necessary to do so through an offshore corporation, rather than owning the property individually. It is crucial to understand that this can also have significant US tax consequences for US persons. Fortunately, “checking the box” on Form 8832 provides a possible solution to this problem, taking advantage of the protections provided by the corporate entity while avoiding many of its tax repercussions.

Benefits of Corporate Ownership

Investment in real property through a vehicle offering limited liability, as opposed to direct ownership, offers numerous protections. Should any legal claims arise, such as in the case of tenant injury when renting out property owned through a corporation, the liability of Read more

How To Treat Gifts And Bequests From Foreign (Non-US) Persons

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If you are a US citizen or resident and you receive gifts or bequests (generally, an inheritance or gift of property by a Will) of money or other property from a foreign (non-US) person or entity, you may need to report these gifts on Form 3520, Annual Return to Report Transactions with Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts. Form 3520 is an information return, not a tax return. Many people receiving gifts or bequests get very confused. They mistakenly believe that they have to pay tax when they receive a gift or bequest. This is not the case – bona fide gifts or bequests are not subject to income tax in the hands of the recipient. This remains the case regardless of whether the person giving the gift is a US person or a foreign person. It remains the case regardless of the amount of the gift or bequest. Read more

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion: What Is “Earned Income”?

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Americans working abroad may be eligible to exclude certain foreign earned income (wages, compensation for services) from US taxable income under the rules governing the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE). The FEIE amount is adjusted annually for inflation. This amount for 2014 is $99,200. If a couple is married, each spouse can claim the full FEIE amount (e.g., for 2014, each spouse can exclude up to $99,200 of his or her earned income). If one spouse does not earn enough salary to fully utilize the exemption amount and has “excess” FEIE, this excess cannot be used by the other spouse to exclude amounts beyond his or her own exemption.

The exclusion can apply regardless of whether any foreign tax is paid on the foreign earned income, provided certain tests are met. Generally, for an individual to qualify for the Read more

OVDP — IRS Commissioner Offers Hope For The Minnow

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On June 3, 2014 the new IRS Commissioner, John A. Koskinen indicated there may be hope for the numerous US persons who “non-wilfully” did not properly report their offshore assets and financial accounts. The relevant text of his remarks, is reproduced below. The full report can be accessed here. Maybe there is hope for the sea of minnows! Let’s stay tuned. I will be curious to know whether the contemplated “modifications” to the OVDP will address recompense for those taxpayers who have completed OVDP and paid the penalties now viewed as inappropriate.

“Now, while the 2012 OVDP and its predecessors have operated successfully, we are currently considering making further program modifications to accomplish even more. We are considering whether our voluntary programs have been too focused on those willfully Read more

Cathay Pacific – Long Arm of IRS Withholding Tax on US Pilots’ Wages

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Starting in June, we understand that Cathay Pacific Airlines will commence withholding 30 percent of its American pilots’ salary every month. The withholding will be for US taxes and will be passed on to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In addition, Cathay will remit the pilots’ personal information to the IRS so that the proper records will be maintained and tax credit given to the taxpayer-pilot. It has been reported that the move will affect about 18% of the cockpit crew.

Tax professionals in Hong Kong have queried the legal grounds for Cathay’s decision and are understandably befuddled. Some have wondered if the decision is due to the “Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act”, known as FATCA. Read more

Expatriation – What Happens to the “Principal Residence?”

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Certain individuals who give up their US citizenship or their green cards are subject to the so-called ”Exit Tax” imposed under Section 877A of the Internal Revenue Code.

Under the so-called “expatriation” tax rules, harsh tax consequences will result if the individual giving up his US citizenship or “long-term” permanent residency (generally, this is an individual who has held a green card for 8 out of the past 15 years) is a so-called “covered expatriate”. Only “covered expatriates” will suffer the onerous tax consequences.

One is a “covered expatriate” if the individual has either a net worth of US$2 million at the time of expatriation; or, if he has a certain average income tax liability over the past 5 years prior to expatriation. One is also automatically treated as a “covered expatriate” if the Read more

Americans Abroad – Selling the Principal Residence

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When it comes to considering gross income for tax purposes, Section 121 of the US Internal Revenue Code allows for the exclusion of up to $250,000 in gains arising from the sale of a “principal residence.” The exclusion should apply whether the property is in the US or a foreign country. In the case of married couples filing a joint return, up to $500,000 may be excluded. The tax law is very specific in how it defines a “principal residence”, and in the “ownership” and “use” requirements that form part of the definition for utilizing this exclusion.

Principal Residence under Section 121

In order for a property to qualify as a principal residence, the residence must have been owned and occupied by the taxpayer for a minimum of 2 years (specifically, 730 days) Read more

Dividends From Foreign Corporations Part III – “Controlled Foreign Corporations”

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As will be recalled from the previous blog posting that discussed so-called “Controlled Foreign Corporations” (CFC), a United States shareholder of a CFC can possibly be treated as having received “dividend” income at various times. These are when the US shareholder (i) has current income inclusions from the CFC under the anti-deferral regime (Subpart F income); (ii) has amounts actually distributed to him that had not been previously taxed as Subpart F income (these are ‘actual’ dividends); (iii) has amounts actually distributed to him that had been previously taxed as Subpart F income and (iv) recognizes gain on the sale of his CFC stock and the CFC has undistributed earnings and profits.

The question arises whether any of these amounts (i)-(iv), can be treated as “qualified dividend income”? Full details about the tax beneficial treatment of “qualified dividend Read more

Dividends from Foreign Corporations Part 2 – “Controlled Foreign Corporations”

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As detailed in my last blog posting, “qualified dividend income” is taxed at beneficial lower tax rates and can be received from both domestic (US) corporations and certain “qualified” foreign (non-US) corporations. A “qualified foreign corporation” excludes a so-called “Passive Foreign Investment Company” or, PFIC. Subject to this limitation, the term “qualified foreign corporation” means any foreign corporation that is incorporated in a possession of the United States or that is eligible for the benefits of a comprehensive US income tax treaty which the IRS has determined is satisfactory for qualified dividend purposes. In addition, a foreign corporation will be treated as a “qualified’ with respect to any dividend paid by the corporation on stock which is readily tradable on an established securities market in the United States. The Internal Revenue Code does not exclude a so-called “controlled foreign corporation” Read more

Dividends From Foreign Corporations – Understand Your Investment! Part 1

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Not all dividends are treated the same and the nuances can make a big difference to your ultimate investment return.

“Regular Dividends” and “Qualified Dividends”

In general, there are two different types of dividends – “regular dividends” and “qualified dividends”. One is taxed far more favorably than the other.  A so-called “qualified” dividend is given beneficial tax treatment because it is taxed at a lower more beneficial long-term capital gains tax rate.  For most individuals this rate is currently at 15%, but the rate can be lower or higher for very low or very high income earners.

For individuals whose income tax rate is in the 10% or 15% brackets, then the dividend Read more

More Net Investment Income Tax: 3.8% NIIT And The NRA-Spouse

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Taxpayers working on their 2013 tax returns are now grappling with the new 3.8% Medicare surcharge imposed on high wage earners. This tax is more commonly called the “Net Investment Income Tax” or (“NIIT”). There is a lot of confusion because the rules governing application of the NIIT contain nuances with regard to Americans working overseas and with regard to so-called nonresident alien individuals (NRA).

See my previous blog posting “NIIT-Picky Nuances For Americans Overseas Or With Offshore Investments” concerning how the NIIT impacts Americans overseas or those with offshore investments.

Broadly speaking, the NIIT is a 3.8% surtax on “net investment income” that applies to Read more