First Friday FATCA Update

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September 1, 2017

Since our previous monthly FATCA update, we have addressed the following recent FATCA developments:

  • The Sixth Circuit issued an opinion on August 18, 2017 upholding the dismissal of a challenge to FATCA brought by Senator Rand Paul and several current and former U.S. citizens living abroad who hold foreign accounts (see prior coverage).
  • The IRS posted draft instructions to the Form 8966 (FATCA Report) dated August 9, 2017, with some changes pertaining to participating foreign financial institutions (PFFIs) and other changes reflecting the final and temporary Chapter 4 regulations released in January of this year (see prior coverage).

Additionally, an official with the IRS Office of Chief Counsel recently stated that the IRS will delay the date on which U.S. financial institutions must start treating an otherwise valid Form W‑8 as invalid merely because it does not include a foreign taxpayer identification number (FTIN) or a reasonable explanation for its absence, to avoid Chapter 3 withholding.  Specifically, a valid Form W-8 obtained before January 1, 2018, will not be treated as invalid on that date if the form simply lacks the FTIN or a reasonable explanation for its absence (e.g., the account holder’s country of residence does not provide TINs).  It is unclear what form the relief will take, but it is possible the IRS will continue to allow a U.S. financial institution to treat a Form W-8 as valid if the financial institution does not have actual knowledge that the beneficial owner has an FTIN for some period of time.

This informal relief from the new FTIN requirement (issued in final and temporary regulations in late 2016) is welcomed by banks and withholding agents that report income for foreign account holders.  The relief is still reflected in FAQs on the IRS website (see prior coverage).  But since Form W-8s expire on three-year cycles, banks and agents still have to update their withholding policies and annual re-solicitation processes to comply with the new FTIN requirements.  Additionally, banks and agents are still waiting for further guidance on how they can update Form W‑8s issued before 2018 with the newly‑required FTIN or reasonable explanation.  An IRS FAQ posted in April 2017 specifies that the information can be provided in a written statement, including an email, but it is unclear what other requirements might apply to such a statement.

Since our previous monthly FATCA update, the IRS has also released the Competent Authority Agreements (CAAs) implementing intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) between the United States and the following treaty partners:

  • Anguilla (Model 1B IGA signed on January 15, 2017);
  • Italy (Model 1A IGA signed on January 10, 2014).

Under FATCA, IGAs come in two forms: Model 1 or Model 2.  Under a Model 1 IGA, the foreign treaty partner agrees to collect information of U.S. accountholders in foreign financial institutions operating within its jurisdiction and transmit the information to the IRS.  Model 1 IGAs are drafted as either reciprocal (Model 1A) agreements or nonreciprocal (Model 1B) agreements.  By contrast, Model 2 IGAs are issued in only a nonreciprocal format and require FFIs to report information directly to the IRS.

A CAA is a bilateral agreement between the United States and the treaty partner to clarify or interpret treaty provisions.  A CAA implementing an IGA typically establishes and prescribes the rules and procedures necessary to implement certain provisions in the IGA and the Tax Information Exchange Agreement, if applicable.  Specific topics include registration of the treaty partner’s financial institutions, time and manner of exchange of information, remediation and enforcement, confidentiality and data safeguards, and cost allocation.  Generally, a CAA becomes operative on the later of (1) the date the IGA enters into force, or (2) the date the CAA is signed by the competent authorities of the United States and the treaty partner.

The Treasury Department website publishes IGAs, and the IRS publishes their implementing CAAs.