IRS Releases Final Qualified Intermediary and Foreign Financial Institution Agreements

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December 30, 2016

With the end of the year upon them, the IRS has kicked into high gear with a flurry of new administrative guidance. On the heels of yesterday’s release of final reporting rules on slot machine, bingo, and keno winnings, proposed rules on horse track, dog track, and jai lai winnings, and a revenue procedure on Certified Professional Employer Organizations, the IRS released final agreements for foreign financial institutions (FFIs) and qualified intermediaries (QIs) to enter with the IRS, set forth in Revenue Procedure 2017-16 and Revenue Procedure 2017-15, respectively.

FFI Agreement

FFIs enter into an FFI agreement with the IRS to become participating FFIs for purposes of Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) withholding and reporting obligations. The final FFI agreement set forth in Revenue Procedure 2017-16, which was previously published in Revenue Procedure 2014-38, applies to FFIs seeking to become participating FFIs under FATCA, as well as FFIs and branches of FFIs treated as reporting financial institutions under a Model 2 intergovernmental agreement (IGA).  The update was necessary because Revenue Procedure 2014-38 was set to expire on December 31, 2016.  Accordingly, the FFI agreement contained in Revenue Procedure 2017-16 applies to FFIs with an FFI agreement effective beginning January 1, 2017.

Changes were made to the FFI agreement generally to align with subsequent changes to IRS regulations, such as the withholding and reporting rules applicable to U.S. branches that are not U.S. persons. Additionally, several changes reflect the expiration of certain transitional rules provided in the 2014 FATCA regulations including those related to limited branches and limited FFIs.  (For additional information on the expiration of the transition relief for limited branches and limited FFIs, please see our prior post).  The FFI agreement also clarifies the presumption rules applicable to Model 2 FFIs, and the ability of Model 2 FFIs to rely on certain documentation for purposes of the due diligence requirements.

The FFI agreement also contains new certification requirements applicable to FFIs attempting to terminate an FFI agreement and clarifies that the obligations imposed with respect to the period the agreement was in force survive the termination of the agreement.

QI Agreement

A QI serves as an intermediary for payments of U.S. source income made to non-U.S. persons, and it must collect a taxpayer identification number from the payee, or else it must withhold 30% on the payment. When an intermediary acts as a QI, it may agree to assume the primary withholding and reporting obligations with respect to payments made through it for purposes of Chapter 3, Chapter 4, and/or Chapter 61 and backup withholding under Section 3406 of the Code.  When a QI assumes such responsibility, it is not required to provide a withholding statement to the withholding agent/payor making payment to it.  FFIs, foreign clearing organizations, and foreign branches of U.S. financial institutions and clearing organizations are eligible to enter into QI agreements by completing Form 8957 through the IRS website, as well as Form 14345.

Notice 2016-42 set forth a proposed QI agreement (prior coverage), which made revisions to the previous final QI agreement published in Revenue Procedure 2014-39.  The proposed QI agreement created a new regime that allowed certain entities to act as qualified derivatives dealers and act as the primary withholding agent on all dividend equivalent payments they make.  Several changes in the final QI agreement were made in response to comments on the rules applicable to qualified derivatives dealers (QDDs), including provisions that reflect changes to the treatment of dividend equivalents from U.S. sources and provisions clarifying that entities acting as QIs and QDDs must file separate Forms 1042-S when acting in each distinct capacity.  Some of the changes in the final QI agreement were previously announced in Notice 2016-76 (prior coverage).  However, the final QI agreement makes further changes based on anticipated revisions to the regulations under Section 871(m), which are expected to be published in January.

Additionally, the final QI agreement provides greater detail on the internal compliance measures that are to replace the external audit procedures previously applicable to QIs. The final QI agreement also eliminates the ability of limited FFIs to enter into QI agreements, as limited FFI status will no longer be available beginning January 1, 2017.  Additionally, QIs seeking to use documentary evidence to document an entity claiming reduced withholding under a treaty must collect certain information regarding the applicable limitation on benefits provision, though the IRS has enabled a two-year transition period for QIs to gather this information.  The final agreement also eliminates the ability of an NFFE seeking to become an intermediary with respect to its shareholders to enter into a QI agreement.  The QI agreement also contains a modified standard of knowledge to align with the reason-to-know standard adopted in regulations, and modified documentation requirements and presumption rules to align with IGA requirements.  Finally, the term of validity for a QI agreement is six calendar years, extended from the three years provided in the proposed agreement.  The updated final QI agreement is effective beginning January 1, 2017.