Impact of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Part V – Certain Changes Affecting Cross-Border Withholding and Sourcing

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November 6, 2017

Thursday, November 2, the House Ways and Means Committee released the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) (the “Bill”), a bill that, if enacted, would represent the most substantial overhaul of the U.S. tax code in decades.  We are releasing a series of posts to highlight the provisions of the Bill affecting the topics pertinent to our readers, where each post will cover a different area of importance.  Part I of this series covered potential changes to employer-provided benefits, Part II addressed entertainment expenses and other fringe benefits, Part III discussed changes to employee retirement plans, and Part IV covered changes to the Code section 162(m) deduction limitation for executive compensation.  In this Part V, we will discuss the Bill’s potential impact on two cross-border tax issues.

Reduced FIRPTA Withholding Rates.  Under the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA), gain or loss on the disposition of U.S. real property interests by a nonresident alien individual or foreign corporation is subject to U.S. income tax as though the taxpayer were engaged in a trade or business in the United State and such gain or loss were effectively connected with such trade or business.  Section 1445 applies a withholding mechanism to ensure the payment of any tax due.  When a domestic partnership, trust, or estate disposes of a U.S. real property interest, section 1445 requires that it (or the trustee or executor, in the case of a trust or estate, respectively) withhold 35 percent of the gain realized that is allocable to a foreign person (or allocable to a portion of a trust treated as owned by a foreign person).  Similarly, when a foreign corporation distributes a U.S. real property interest to its shareholders, it must withhold at a rate of 35 percent.  The same withholding rate applies to distributions that are treated as gains or losses from the disposition of a U.S. real property interest allocable to foreign persons from certain domestic entities (such as real estate investment trusts and registered investment companies that would be considered U.S. real property holding corporations if their shares were not publicly traded).  Section 3001 of the Bill, which reduces corporate tax rates in general, includes a corresponding reduction of the FIRPTA tax withholding rate, modifying paragraphs 1445(e)(1), 1445(e)(2), and 1445(e)(6) to require withholding at a 20 percent rate.  The reductions would take effect for tax years beginning after 2017.

Modification to Sourcing Rule for Sales of Inventory Property.  Currently, up to 50 percent of income from the sale of inventory property produced entirely within the United States and sold outside the United States (or vice-versa) can be treated as foreign-source income for purposes of calculating foreign tax credits.  Section 4102 of the Bill would require sales of inventory property to be sourced solely based on the location of production activity with respect to the inventory.  This change would be effective for tax years beginning after 2017.

Mobile Workforce Bill Passes House Again, Senate Fate Uncertain

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July 7, 2017

On June 20, 2017, the House of Representatives passed legislation to simplify state income tax rules for employees who temporarily work outside their home state.  Under the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2017 (H.R. 1393), a state generally could tax a nonresident’s wages earned in the state only if he or she is working in the state for more than 30 days during the year.  Likewise, employers would have no corresponding duty to withhold and report the tax unless the 30-workday threshold is met.  Propelled by bipartisan support, similar measures have twice passed in the House in 2012 and 2015 but failed to gain traction in the Senate.  Currently, legislation similar to the House bill is awaiting Senate consideration, and once again, faces an uphill battle amidst concerns that the bill would cause significant revenue losses to certain states—including New York—with large employment centers close to state borders.

The bill is intended to reduce confusion and compliance costs stemming from inconsistent state income tax laws on nonresident employees and their employers.  Currently, forty-three states impose personal income tax on wages, including nonresidents’ wages earned in the state.  Thus, a traveling employee working on temporary projects in multiple states may be obligated to file and pay taxes in each of those states, and the employer would have corresponding withholding and reporting obligations.  Although states have three main measures that reduce compliance costs, the measures are largely piecemeal and inconsistent.  First, states generally provide an income tax credit for income taxes paid to other states, but the credit system does not eliminate the travelling employee’s obligation to file a nonresident return and the employer’s obligation to withhold and report the tax.  Second, some states waive the income tax obligations of nonresident employees and employers based on de minimis earnings and/or time spent in the state, but the waiver thresholds vary, and not all states have them.  Third, some bordering states have entered into reciprocity agreements under which each state agrees not to tax each other’s residents’ wages (see prior coverage of NY-NJ reciprocity agreement).  But these agreements only cover one-third of the states, and are geared toward regular commuters living near state borders, rather than employees traveling to multiple states for temporary work.

The bill would impose a 30-workday threshold on state income taxation of nonresidents, but would not prevent states from adopting higher or other types of thresholds.  Reciprocity agreements of bordering states, for instance, would still be effective.  Moreover, the bill allows an employer to avoid withholding and reporting penalties if they simply rely on their employees’ annual determination of days to be spent working in the nonresident state (barring actual knowledge of fraud, collusion, or use of a daily time and attendance system).  The bill also defines what constitutes a workday to minimize double counting.  The bill would not cover the wages of professional athletes, professional entertainers, certain production employees, and prominent public figures paid on a per-event basis.  Additionally, the bill does not specifically address equity or trailing compensation and employees who work for more than one related employer.

The bill likely faces an uphill battle in the Senate because the bill would cause significant revenue losses to certain states.  Generally, states that have large employment centers close to a state border (e.g., Illinois, Massachusetts, California, and New York) would lose the most revenue, while their neighboring states (e.g., New Jersey) from which employees travel would gain revenue.  Notably, New York would likely lose between $55 million and $120 million per year—an amount greater than the estimated revenue impact on all the other states combined (a $55 million to $100 million loss).  For these reasons, three members of the House Committee on the Judiciary opposed the bill and proposed to replace the 30-workday threshold with a 14‑workday threshold.  This is, not coincidentally, the threshold New York currently has in place for employer withholding obligations (but not for employee income tax liability or employer reporting obligations).  Although rejected, the effort to reduce the threshold may ultimately reshape the bill in the Senate or signal its continued lack of action.

With the Senate preoccupied with other legislative matters such as health reform (see prior coverage of health insurance reporting under the American Health Care Act) and opposition from some powerful Senators, it is unclear whether the Senate will consider the mobile workforce bill despite bipartisan interest.  In the meantime, employers with employees temporarily working in multiple states must continue to meet their nonresident state income tax withholding and reporting obligations.  We will continue to monitor further developments on the mobile workforce bill and its impact on state income tax filing, withholding, and reporting rules.

IRS Approves First Group of Certified PEOs under Voluntary Certification Program

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June 5, 2017

Last week, the IRS announced that it issued notices of certification to 84 organizations that applied for voluntary certification as a certified professional employer organization (CPEO), nearly a year after the IRS finished implementing this program (see prior coverage).  The IRS will publish the CPEO’s name, address, and effective date of certification, once it has received the surety bond.  Applicants that have yet to receive a notice of certification will receive a decision from the IRS in the coming weeks and months.

Congress enacted Code sections 3511 and 7705 in late 2014 to establish a voluntary certification program for professional employer organizations (PEOs), which generally provide employers (customers) with payroll and employment services.  Unlike a PEO, a CPEO is treated as the employer of any individual performing services for a customer with respect to wages and other compensation paid to the individual by the CPEO.  Thus, a CPEO is solely responsible for its customers’ payroll tax—i.e., FICA, FUTA, and RRTA taxes, and Federal income tax withholding—liabilities, and is a “successor employer” who may tack onto the wages it pays to the employees to those already paid by the customers earlier in the year.  The customers remain eligible for certain wage-related credits as if they were still the common law employers of the employees.  To become and remain certified, CPEOs must meet certain tax compliance, background, experience, business location, financial reporting, bonding, and other requirements.

The impact of the CPEO program outside the payroll-tax world has been limited thus far.  For instance, certification does not provide greater flexibility for PEO sponsorship of qualified employee benefit plans.  In the employer-provided health insurance context, the certification program leaves unresolved issues for how PEOs and their customers comply with the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate (see prior coverage).  While the ACA’s employer mandate may become effectively repealed should the Senate pass the new American Health Care Act (AHCA) after the House of Representatives did so last month (see prior coverage here and here), the AHCA would impose its own information reporting requirements on employers with respect to offers of healthcare coverage or lack of eligible healthcare coverage for their employees.  It remains to be seen if the AHCA becomes law, what information reporting requirements will remain, and how PEOs and CPEOs can alleviate these obligations for their customers.

IRS Negotiating CbC Information Exchange Agreements

The IRS is engaging in negotiations with individual countries to implement country-by-country (CbC) reporting according to Douglas O’Donnell, Commissioner of IRS’s Large Business and International Division.  In a March 10 speech at the Pacific Rim Tax Institute that, he clarified that the IRS is only negotiating with jurisdictions that have both an information exchange instrument and adequate information safeguards.  Mr. O’Donnell did not provide a definitive timeline for those negotiations, but he said that they would be completed in a timely manner.  The IRS’s approach to negotiating information exchange agreements is consistent with the United States’ existing approach to negotiating IGAs and related agreements under FATCA.

Companies are anxiously awaiting the agreements, as they could face reporting obligations in certain jurisdictions with which the United States does not have agreements in place, causing them to potentially prepare multiple CbC reports. Companies are also urging the IRS to release information on the expected scope of the U.S. information exchange network, as lack of knowledge on the scope could negatively impact companies’ ability to do business in certain countries if the companies do not comply with local filing requirements.

These information exchange agreements arise from recent recommendations provided by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) (additional information on OECD guidance on CbC reporting available here) on jurisdictions with respect to information on multinational corporations, requiring jurisdictions to exchange such information in a standardized format beginning in 2018 (please see prior post for additional background).  The IRS released final regulations in June 2016 imposing CbC reporting on U.S. persons that are the ultimate parent entity of a multinational enterprise group with revenue exceeding $850 million in the preceding accounting year (prior coverage).

D.C. Council Passes Mandatory Paid Leave Bill

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December 22, 2016

The District of Columbia Council passed a generous paid family leave bill on Tuesday by a 9-4 margin.  The bill will provide eight weeks of paid leave to new mothers and fathers, six weeks for employees caring for sick family members, and two weeks for personal sick leave.  As we explained in a prior post, the District will fund the new benefit with a new 0.62 percent payroll tax on employers.  Large employers, some of whom already provide similar benefits to employees, have been increasingly outspoken against the bill, taking issue with what it views as a bill requiring them to fund paid leave for small employers who do not currently offer such benefits.  Despite large employers’ strong lobbying effort, which were joined by Mayor Muriel Bowser, the bill still passed by a comfortable margin.  Mayor Bowser has not indicated whether she will sign the bill, but the 9-4 vote is sufficient to override a veto.  Regardless of Mayor Bowser’s decision, the program will likely not get off the ground until 2019 due to the administrative hurdles required to implement the new system.

D.C. Council Moves Closer to Enacting Employer Payroll Tax to Create Nation’s Most Generous Family Leave Law

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December 7, 2016

On December 6, the District of Columbia Council advanced a bill known as the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2016.  The bill would impose an estimated $250 million in employer payroll taxes on local businesses to fund a paid leave benefit created by the bill.  The bill would raise the funds by creating a new employer payroll tax of 0.62%.  Self-employed individuals may also opt-in to the program by paying the tax.  Federal government employees and District residents who work outside of the District would not be covered by the bill.  However, Maryland and Virginia residents who work within the district would be covered and entitled to benefits from the government fund created by the bill.

If ultimately passed, the bill would require businesses to provide eight weeks of paid time-off for both full and part-time workers to care for newborn or adopted children.  The bill, which advanced on an 11-2 vote, will also guarantee six weeks of paid leave for workers to care for sick relatives, as well as two weeks of annual personal sick leave.  (Many employees would already qualify for unpaid leave under the Federal and District family and medical leave laws.)

A government insurance fund funded with the new employer payroll taxes would pay workers during their leaves. The bill provides for progressive payment rates, such that lower-income individuals receive a greater percentage of their normal salary during periods of time off covered by the program.  The fund created with the tax revenue would pay a base amount equal to 90% of a worker’s average weekly wage up to 150% of the District’s minimum wage.  (Based on the District’s current minimum wage laws, the base amount is expected to be calculated on up to $900 in weekly salary by the time the program would take effect based on a $15 per hour minimum wage rate that is currently being phased in.)  An employee whose average weekly wage exceeds 150% of the District’s minimum wage would receive the base amount plus 50% of the worker’s weekly wage above the District’s minimum wage.  Payments would be capped at $1,000 a week, with the cap being subject to increases for inflation beginning in 2021.

The bill must pass a final D.C. Council vote on December 20 and approval by District Mayor Muriel E. Bowser. A Bowser spokesman reported that the mayor was still undecided on the bill.  If the bill ultimately passes, benefits would likely not be available before 2019, as the District would need time to prepare and fund the program.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania Will Maintain Tax Reciprocal Agreement

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November 23, 2016

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who promised in September to revoke New Jersey’s 40-year-old tax reciprocal agreement with Pennsylvania, announced through a November 22 statement that he would continue the agreement.  Governor Christie had said he would eliminate the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Reciprocal Personal Income Tax Agreement unless the New Jersey legislature took steps to reduce public employee health insurance costs.

The stated impetus for scrapping the agreement was to make up for a budget deficit: cancelling the agreement was estimated to produce $180 million in revenue for New Jersey. Under the agreement, New Jersey and Pennsylvania residents who work in the other state are only required to file a tax return in their state of residence.  Pennsylvania residents working in New Jersey must file Form NJ-165, Employee’s Certificate of Nonresidence in New Jersey, and New Jersey residents working in Pennsylvania must file Form REV-419EX, Employee’s Nonwithholding Application Certificate, with their employers to avoid having New Jersey taxes withheld from compensation.

Without the agreement, residents of Pennsylvania and New Jersey who work in the other state would need to file two tax returns and claim a credit against taxes owed in their state of residence for taxes paid in their state of employment. Because Pennsylvania imposes a 3.07% flat tax and New Jersey imposes a graduated tax that is capped at 8.97%, New Jersey would greatly benefit from taxing the income of Pennsylvania residents working in New Jersey.  However, cancelling the agreement would have hurt many lower-income New Jersey residents who work in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, in particular), as they would be forced to pay Pennsylvania’s 3.07% flat tax, instead of the lower New Jersey graduated rate.

However, Governor Christie stated that the agreement could continue due to the $200 million in savings caused by a public worker union-backed health care bill that was signed into law on November 21 (S2749).  The new legislation saves money by adjusting the process through which public workers receive their prescriptions.  Several major corporations that operate in New Jersey, including Subaru of America and Campbell Soup Co., have already praised the decision to maintain the agreement.

Beware of Errors in Limitations on Benefits Table on IRS Website When Vetting Treaty Claims on Forms W-8BEN-E

Earlier this year, the IRS changed the Form W-8BEN-E to require beneficial owners to identify the applicable limitation on benefits (“LOB”) test under the LOB article (if an LOB exists under the treaty) to claim tax treaty benefits. Income tax treaties often contain LOB articles to prevent treaty shopping by residents of a third country by limiting treaty benefits to residents of the treaty country that satisfy one of the tests specified in the LOB article. The form change requires additional complexity on the part of beneficial owners and additional due diligence on the part of withholding agents when vetting treaty claims. In the revised Instructions to the Form W-8BEN-E, the IRS includes a URL to an IRS table that summarizes the major tests within the LOB articles of U.S. tax treaties (“IRS LOB Table”) to document an entity’s claim for treaty benefits. The table can be found here.  After reviewing a recent treaty claim on Form W-8BEN-E, we discovered that the table contains some errors and misleading information with respect to several countries.

The new requirement to report the LOB provision on Form W-8BEN-E is onerous because it essentially requires withholding agents to pull the income tax treaty and protocols for each treaty claim submitted on a Form W-8BEN-E to validate that the appropriate LOB test is accurately reflected by the box checked on the form. There are two potential pitfalls for withholding agents reviewing these claims using information found on the IRS website. First, withholding agents must carefully review the U.S. income tax treaties and protocols made available to the public on the IRS website, which is a challenge for many Form W-8BEN-E reviewers who may be untrained or inexperienced regarding these documents. Many withholding agents are sure to either skip or struggle with this validation approach. Second, the table provided by the IRS is essentially incomplete and contains errors, so in certain cases it cannot be relied upon. This is particularly concerning in light of the “reason to know” standard as it applies to treaty claims set forth under Temp. Treas. Reg. §1.1441-6T(b) and the Instructions for the Requester of Forms W-8, which require diligence on the part of withholding agents with respect to treaty claims.

The IRS should be more careful before it releases informal guidance to the public, but it has repeatedly warned taxpayers over the years that the public relies upon informal guidance at its own peril. In fact, courts have upheld penalties assessed against taxpayers for relying on such guidance, holding that administrative guidance contained in IRS publications is not binding on the government. Accordingly, prudent withholding agents are best served to “trust but verify” when relying on the IRS LOB Table.

The errors we discovered in the IRS LOB Table are described below.

U.S. – Australia Treaty

The Australia entry should cite to Section 16(2)(h) (rather than Section 16(1)(h)) as the provision that permits a recognized company headquarters to claim treaty benefits.

U.S. – Bulgaria Treaty

The IRS LOB Table also fails to reflect a 2008 protocol modifying the 2007 U.S. – Bulgaria income tax treaty, which added a triangular provision that provides a safe harbor for certain companies resident in a partner state that derive income from the other partner state attributable to a permanent establishment located in a third jurisdiction. This triangular provision is set forth in new Section 21(5) of the treaty. The Bulgaria entry in the IRS LOB Table also contains the wrong citation for the provision permitting discretionary determinations of treaty eligibility. Because the 2008 protocol set forth a new Section 21(5), the discretionary provision was relocated to Section 21(6).

U.S. – China Treaty

The China entry does not specify the correct protocol in which certain LOB tests are located. The United States and China entered into protocols in 1984 and 1986, both of which are still in effect and neither of which actually supplement or modify the text of the U.S. – China income tax treaty—in other words, the text of the original treaty is left as-is and the protocols simply layer on top of it. This is a unique scenario, since protocols generally supplement or modify the original text of the treaty. In fact, we are only aware of one other country (Italy) with which the United States has entered into protocols that did not supplement or modify the original treaty text. The two China protocols, which do not contain provisions titled “Limitations on Benefits” and instead require a careful reading to identify the presence of LOB provisions, must therefore be read in tandem with the underlying treaty. The existence of multiple protocols, the second of which was solely created to modify a provision in the first protocol, serves as the cause of the errors in the IRS LOB Table. Specifically, the citations for the publicly traded company and stock ownership and base erosion test provisions should read “P2(1)(b)” and “P2(1)(a),” respectively.

U.S. – France Treaty

The IRS LOB Table makes several mistakes with respect to the 1994 U.S. – France income tax treaty, one of which relates to a 2009 protocol to the treaty. The 2009 protocol added new Section 30(3) to the treaty, which sets forth a provision on derivative benefits that allows a company to claim treaty benefits if a percentage of its shares is owned by persons who would be entitled to treaty benefits had they received the income directly. However, the IRS LOB Table currently states that Section 30(3) permits a recognized headquarters company to claim treaty benefits—the 2009 protocol eliminated the company headquarters safe harbor. In addition to this error, the U.S. – France treaty entry in the IRS LOB Table mistakenly points to Section 30(1)(c)–(f) as the location for three safe harbors (safe harbors for publicly traded companies or their subsidiaries, tax exempt organizations and pension funds, and persons satisfying the stock ownership and base erosion test), all of which are actually set forth in Section 30(2)(c)–(f).

U.S. – New Zealand Treaty

Yet another protocol not reflected in the IRS LOB Table is New Zealand’s 2008 protocol, which replaced the entire LOB article in the 1982 U.S. – New Zealand income tax treaty. The new LOB article still contains safe harbors for publicly traded companies and companies that satisfy the stock ownership and base erosion test, but the section references should be Section 16(2)(c) and 16(2)(e), respectively. The safe harbor categorized as “Other” in the IRS LOB Table, which required New Zealand and the United States to consult each other before denying benefits under the LOB article, no longer exists, so it should be removed from the table. However, the 2008 protocol added safe harbors for: (i) tax exempt organizations and pension funds, set forth in new Section 16(2)(d); (ii) certain active trades or businesses in new Section 16(3); (iii) persons that qualify under a triangular provision in new Section 16(5); and (iv) persons deemed to qualify under a discretionary determination made by the appropriate partner country in new Section 16(4).

U.S. – Tunisia Treaty

The provision in the Tunisia treaty permitting discretionary determinations is Article 25(7), not Article 25(5)(7).

Miscellaneous Issues with IRS LOB Table

The IRS LOB Table includes various non-substantive issues that signal that the document has not been subject to a final, careful review by the IRS. The footnotes set forth in the document are incomplete and, in certain cases, incorrect. The column headings for each LOB test refer to a footnote, but the footnotes at the end of the table seem to either merely restate the name of the LOB test or, in many cases, do not even align with the linked column headings. For example, the “Derivative Benefits” heading cites to footnote 8, which only states “Derivative benefits test –,”and the “Active Business” heading cites to footnote 9, which actually states “triangular provisions” (curiously, the “Triangular Provision” heading does not cite to a footnote). Most perplexing, however, are the blank footnotes. For example, the title of the chart, “Limitation on Benefits Tests (Safe Harbors)” cites to footnote 2, yet footnote 2 contains no text. A taxpayer might then turn to the “LOB Test Category Codes” to ease this confusion, which are located directly above the IRS LOB Table on the first page and appear to possibly correlate with the column headings. However, these Codes provide no detail beyond merely restating the headings themselves, or in the case of “01” and “02,” do not seem to correlate to anything in the Table.

Another non-substantive oversight relates to a lack of citations in the entry describing the LOB provisions for the U.S. – U.S.S.R. treaty (listed as “Comm. of Independent States”). Though the U.S. – U.S.S.R. treaty is no longer in effect, the LOB provisions are likely still relevant to many beneficial owners and withholding agents, as the IRS LOB Chart states that the U.S. – U.S.S.R. treaty still applies to nine former members of the Soviet Union.


The IRS LOB Table has the potential to be a helpful resource for withholding agents to use when reviewing new Forms W-8BEN-E submitted with treaty claims, but withholding agents should verify the information set forth in the table with the related treaties and protocols that are also available on the IRS website.

Israeli Court Threatens to Undermine FATCA Agreement

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September 8, 2016

Israel was nearing completion of the steps required to comply with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), but its attempt to comply may be in sudden jeopardy thanks to a recent Israeli court decision.  FATCA exchanges were to begin on September 1, but Justice Hanan Meltzer issued a temporary injunction that day that prevents FATCA-related regulations that would have permitted the exchange of information with the United States from going into effect.  The injunction was issued in response to a request filed August 8 by a group named Republicans Overseas Israel.  An emergency hearing is scheduled for September 12.

In July 2014, Israel signed an intergovernmental agreement with the United States to implement FATCA, under which it agreed to pass regulations to bring Israel into compliance with the agreement.  The Israeli parliament (Knesset) approved such regulations on August 2, which would have required Israeli financial institutions to report on certain accounts held by U.S. citizens to the Israel tax authority by September 20.  Financial institutions that failed to comply would face monetary penalties, in addition to the penalties that are required under FATCA, including 30% withholding on payments from the United States.

New ITIN Requirements in PATH Act Pose Challenges for Taxpayers and IRS

The PATH Act, signed into law in December 2015, may cause trouble for nonresident aliens who use individual tax identification numbers (ITINs) to file U.S. tax returns, as it creates additional hurdles to maintain a valid ITIN.  First, ITINs granted before 2013 must be renewed between 2017 and 2020 pursuant to a staggered schedule or they will expire.  Second, if an individual fails to file a U.S. tax return for three years, their ITIN will expire.  Third, the Treasury must adopt a system that will require in-person ITIN applications.

The new requirements are part of Congress’s attempts to reform certain IRS programs in order to improve their reliability, but it will likely inconvenience many taxpayers seeking to acquire ITINs.  Nonresident alien individuals need to obtain an ITIN to complete a Form 8233 asserting treaty relief from withholding on personal services income.  The process is already a difficult one for many nonresident alien taxpayers due to various procedural hurdles—such as obtaining a written denial letter from the Social Security Administration—that already existed.  Moreover, many nonresident aliens whose income is exempt from U.S. tax under a treaty do not file a Form 1040-NR and attach Form 8833 as required.  The changes in the PATH Act may force them to meet this filing requirement.

The result of the changes will increase the volume of applicants, since many will need to be renewed in the coming years.  Speaking at the recent American Bar Association Section of Taxation meeting in Washington, D.C., Julie Hanlon-Bolton, a representative from the IRS Wage and Investment Division, stated that the IRS is currently debating whether the ITIN offices will require additional staffing, and whether new or expanded offices may be needed in Austin, Texas.  This would require employing additional certified acceptance agents.  A certified acceptance agent is someone who has been trained to verify the authenticity of identification documents and trained in the process for a person to apply for an ITIN.

Canada’s New Blanket Withholding Waiver for Non-Resident Employees

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March 1, 2016

A legislative amendment in Canada’s 2015 federal budget is providing some U.S. employers and employees much needed relief.  The amendment provides a blanket waiver for non-resident employers who otherwise would have to withhold from the wages of non-resident employees, including those ultimately entitled to full refunds.  The new waiver will eliminate a process by which many non-resident employees faced withholding and then had to file a return to claim a full refund.

Before 2016, a non-resident employer in Canada was required to withhold and remit taxes from compensation paid to an employee for work performed in Canada, even if the employee is a non-resident person exempt from Canadian income tax under a tax treaty. To get a refund, the non-resident employee was then required to file a Canadian income tax return and claim the treaty exemption.  Alternatively, a non-resident employee could have applied for a waiver from wage withholding—and point to the applicable treaty exemption—30 days before either the employment services began in Canada or when the initial payment was made for the services. But this per-employee waiver is administratively burdensome.

After 2015, however, a new blanket waiver valid for up to two years is available to qualifying non-resident employers paying qualifying non-resident employees.  To be certified as a qualified non-resident employer, an employer must file a Form RC473, Application for Non-Resident Employer Certification with the Canada Revenue Agency, 30 days before the first payment.  The employer must show that, at the time of the payment, it is resident in a country that Canada has a tax treaty with and it is certified by the Minister of National Revenue.  Additionally, an employer must agree that the employer will:

  1. Evaluate and document how its employee meets the definition of a qualifying non-resident employee at the time of any employment payment by (a) monitoring the employee’s qualification status on an ongoing basis; (b) obtaining documentation proving the employee’s country of residence; and (c) ensuring that the tax treaty between the employee’s resident country and Canada is applicable;
  2. Track and document the number of days the qualifying non-resident employee is working in Canada or is present in Canada, and the employment income that corresponds to these days;
  3. Keep a business number (or use Form RC1, Request for a Business Number, to get a business number if the employer does not yet have one) and register a program account number for payroll purposes if the employer expects to make remittances;
  4. Prepare and file a T4 slip and a T4 Summary for the non-resident employee who has provided employment services in Canada that are not excluded from reporting under proposed subsection 200(1.1) of the Income Tax Regulations;
  5. Complete and file Canadian income tax returns for calendar years covered by the certification period; and
  6. Render its books and records available for CRA inspection.

A qualifying non-resident employee is an employee that (a) is a resident in a country that Canada has a tax treaty with at the time of the payment; (b) owes no tax in Canada on the payment because of the tax treaty; and (c) works in Canada for less than 45 days in the calendar year that includes the time of the payment, or is present in Canada less than 90 days in any 12-month period that includes the time of the payment.

Although the new blanket waiver may lessen a non-resident employer’s administrative burdens, the employer must carefully comply with the conditions of certification.  The CRA may revoke a certification if the non-resident employer violates any of the conditions, rendering the employer liable for the whole amount that should have been withheld and remitted and subject to related penalties and interest.