IRS Says NFFEs Must Determine their Chapter 4 Status Under Treasury Regulations

In the preamble to the final FATCA regulations released on December 30, 2016, the IRS rejected a request from a commenter that the regulations be modified to permit a non-financial foreign entity (NFFE) operating in an IGA jurisdiction to determine its Chapter 4 status using the criteria specified in the IGA.

In the preamble, the IRS responded to the request by indicating that although an NFFE may use the IGA to determine whether it is a foreign financial institution (FFI) or a NFFE,  it must look to U.S. Treasury Regulations to determine its Chapter 4 status once it determines it is an NFFE.  As a result, different sets of rules apply to determine an entity’s specific Chapter 4 status depending upon whether the entity is determining its status for purposes of documenting its status to a withholding agent or documenting its status to an FFI in its own jurisdiction.  Similarly, the IRS said a passive NFFE will be required to report U.S. controlling persons to FFIs in IGA jurisdictions and report substantial U.S. owners to participating FFIs and U.S. withholding agents.  As a justification for its response, the IRS said that the rules in the IGAs are intended only for FFIs and not for NFFEs.

Many practitioners believe that it is illogical for a single entity to have different Chapter 4 statuses depending upon who is documenting its status or where its status is being documented.  As a result, many practitioners believed it was appropriate for an entity resident in an IGA jurisdiction to determine its Chapter 4 status under the terms of the applicable IGA.  Because different rules apply to determine the entity’s status in different jurisdictions, an NFFE could otherwise have one Chapter 4 status when receiving payments from a U.S. withholding agent and a different Chapter 4 status in an IGA jurisdiction.

From a policy perspective, the IRS’s decision appears somewhat irrational—it requires NFFEs to follow U.S. Treasury Regulations to identify their Chapter 4 status, rather than using the rules for determining their status that are in the IGA that was agreed to by Treasury and the tax authorities in their own jurisdictions.  The impact of this goes beyond mere nomenclature, as the specific type of NFFE determines an entity’s responsibilities under FATCA.  Fortunately, since the two sets of rules contain significant overlap, applying the different rules will lead to the same Chapter 4 status in many situations.  To the extent that the two sets of rules would arrive at different results, the entities affected will have additional compliance burdens, as they will have to be familiar with both the rules under the U.S. Treasury Regulations and under the applicable IGA.