Two Notable FATCA Transition Rules Set to Expire January 1, 2017

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) provided several transition rules that are set to expire on January 1, 2017, one related to limited branches and limited foreign financial institutions (FFIs), and one related to the deadline for sponsoring entities to register their sponsored entities with the IRS.

Limited Branches and Limited FFIs

FATCA included a transition rule to temporarily ease compliance burdens for certain FFI groups with members otherwise unable to comply with FATCA that will no longer be available beginning January 1, 2017. Under Treas. Reg. § 1.1471-4(a)(4), an FFI that is a member of an expanded affiliated group (EAG) can become a participating FFI or a registered deemed-compliant FFI, but only if all FFIs in its EAG are participating FFIs, registered deemed-compliant FFIs, or exempt beneficial owners.

However, certain FFIs in an EAG may be located in a country that prevents them from becoming participating FFIs or registered deemed-compliant FFIs. This can arise when the country does not have an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the United States to implement FATCA, and when domestic law in that country prevents FFIs located within its borders from complying with FATCA (e.g., preventing FFIs from entering into FFI agreements with the IRS).

The IRS included a transition rule for so-called “limited branches” and “limited FFIs” that eased the often harsh consequences of this rule by providing temporary relief for EAGs that included FFIs otherwise prevented from complying with FATCA, but the transition rule was only intended to ease the burden while the countries either negotiated IGAs with the United States or modified its local laws to permit compliance with FATCA, or while the EAGs decided whether to stop operating in that country. While the IRS announced in Notice 2015-66 its intent to extend the transition rule originally set to expire December 31, 2015 through December 31, 2016, no additional extension has been announced.  Accordingly, this transition rule will expire on January 1, 2017.

EAGs with limited branches or limited FFIs doing business in countries with local laws that prevent compliance with FATCA may be faced with a choice. If the EAG has FFIs located in non-IGA jurisdictions, the EAG will either need to stop doing business in those countries or the FFIs within the EAG that are resident in non-IGA jurisdictions will be treated as noncompliant with FATCA even if they could otherwise comply as participating FFIs.  FFIs resident in countries that have entered into IGAs will generally be unaffected by a “related entity” (generally, an entity within the same EAG) or branch that is prevented from complying with FATCA by local law, so long as each other FFI in the EAG treats the related entity as a nonparticipating financial institution, among other requirements.

This provision is contained in Article IV, Section 5 of all iterations of Treasury’s model IGA (e.g., Reciprocal Model 1A with a preexisting tax agreement, Nonreciprocal Model 1B and Model 2 with no preexisting tax agreements).  The primary effect of this IGA provision is that only the nonparticipating FFIs become subject to FATCA withholding while the EAG as a whole can remain untainted.

Sponsored Entity Registration

Another transition rule set to expire is the ability of sponsored entities to use the sponsoring entity’s global intermediary identification number (GIIN) on Forms W-8. Under FATCA, withholding is not required on payments to certain entities that are “sponsored” by entities that are properly registered with the IRS, under the theory that all FATCA requirements imposed on the sponsored entity (due diligence, reporting, withholding, etc.) will be completed by the sponsoring entity.  Under the transition rule, sponsored entities have been able to use the sponsoring entity’s GIIN on forms such as the W-8BEN-E, but beginning on January 1, 2017, certain sponsored entities will need to include their own GIIN.  This means that the sponsoring entity must register the sponsored entity with the IRS before that date.  If a sponsored entity required to include its own GIIN after December 31, 2016, on a withholding certificate furnishes a form containing only the sponsoring entity’s GIIN, a withholding agent may not rely on that withholding certificate under FATCA’s due diligence requirements.  In such instance, the withholding agent will be required to withhold 30% of any payment made to the sponsored entity.  Originally, sponsored entities were required to be registered with the IRS by December 31, 2015, but the deadline was extended by Notice 2015-66.  The IRS has not announced any additional extension and the FATCA registration portal began allowing sponsoring entities to register sponsored entities earlier this year.

Treasury to Remove Jurisdictions from List of Countries Treated as Having IGAs in Effect

August 1, 2016 by  
Filed under FATCA, IRS

Last week, the IRS announced that on January 1, 2017, the U.S. Treasury will remove some jurisdictions from the list of foreign jurisdictions that are treated as having intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) in effect.  To remain on the list after December 31, 2016, each jurisdiction that seeks to continue to be treated as having an IGA in effect must provide to the Treasury a detailed explanation of its failure to bring an IGA into force and a step-by-step plan and timeline for signing the IGA, or if the IGA has already been signed, to bring the IGA into force.  Since 2013, the Treasury has provided a list of jurisdictions that are as having an IGA in force as long as the jurisdiction is taking “reasonable steps” or showing “firm resolve” to sign the IGA (if no IGA has been signed) or to bring the IGA into force.

As of today, the United States has signed IGAs with 83 jurisdictions and 61 of those IGAs are in effect.  Another 30 jurisdictions are considered to have an agreement in substance, but have not yet signed an IGA.  The jurisdictions who are treated as having an IGA in effect that have not yet signed an agreement or who have signed an agreement but not yet brought it into effect are: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Bahrain, Belgium, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Macao, Malaysia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, South Korea, St. Lucia, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.

Under FATCA, an IGA is a bilateral agreement between the United States and a foreign jurisdiction to collect information related to U.S. accountholders at foreign financial institutions (FFIs) in the foreign jurisdiction and transmit the information to the IRS.  If a foreign jurisdiction lacks an IGA in force, then FFIs in that jurisdiction face greater FATCA compliance burdens.  First, they must register with the IRS as participating FFIs (rather than registered deemed compliant FFIs) to avoid the mandatory 30% withholding on payments of U.S. source FDAP income that they receive.  This subjects them to the full requirements of the Treasury Regulations governing FATCA rather than the streamlined procedures in the IGAs.  Further, they are often subject to conflicting obligations, because the foreign jurisdiction may have privacy or bank laws that conflict with the disclosure requirements of FATCA.

In the announcement, the IRS stressed that a jurisdiction initially determined to have shown firm resolve to bring an IGA into force will not retain that status indefinitely (e.g., if the jurisdiction fails to follow its proposed plan and timeline for bringing an IGA into force).  If the IRS determines that a jurisdiction ceases to be treated as having an IGA effect, an FFI in the jurisdiction generally will have to enter into a FFI Agreement to comply with the FFI’s FATCA reporting obligations within 60 days.