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).

Print Out IRS FAQs and Other Informal Guidance While You Have the Chance

July 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Chapter 3, IRS

When you find favorable informal guidance posted on the IRS website, print it out and save it.  A few years ago, a Treasury official from the Office of Tax Policy rebuked someone who proposed addressing a technical issue through IRS FAQs, conveying that the Treasury frowns on issuing such informal guidance.  At the time, we wondered whether the official had recently visited the IRS website and understood how much informal guidance the IRS provides to taxpayers and practitioners in this manner.

The U.S. tax system is complicated, and significant guidance is necessary to foster compliance.  Yet, the IRS and Treasury does not publish adequate formal guidance (e.g., regulations, revenue rulings, notices, etc.) each year to keep up, so the IRS fills the gaps through FAQs and other informal guidance on its website.  The problem is multifaceted, from the IRS brain drain due to the loss of retiring seasoned technicians, to difficulty recruiting qualified personnel at IRS Chief Counsel related to inadequate Congressional funding and compensation that is no longer reasonably competitive with the private sector, to a logjam of draft guidance at the Treasury Office of Tax Policy.  The IRS seems to feel that the issuance of informal guidance on its website is better than nothing, and it is probably right.

The knock on FAQs and its ilk is twofold.  First, taxpayers probably cannot rely on it because it is informal, unreviewed, and occasionally wrong.  Second, it has a way of disappearing from the website without a trace.  This happened recently with respect to slides made public by the LB&I International Practice Service Concept Unit, which were issued last month and revised this month.  We wrote about how the original slides addressed “transportation income” in an earlier post.

The original slides included a reference to “transportation income” with a parenthetical indicating that such income was “not FDAP.”  FDAP stands for fixed or determinable annual or periodical income.  This struck us as odd, because we felt that transportation income likely was FDAP income, but practitioners have been asking the IRS to issue formal guidance to clarify withholding rules regarding transportation income for years, without success.  (If you are interested, see the IRPAC briefing books on the IRS website to see a discussion of the requests for guidance from 2010 through 2013.)  Thus, any discussion from the IRS to address Chapter 3 withholding related to U.S. source gross transportation income is of great interest to those of us who have been requesting it. Publication 515, for the record, indicates Chapter 3 withholding is not required on U.S. source gross transportation income.  Taxpayers paradoxically should not really rely on statements of law included in IRS publications either.

Alas, someone must have told the responsible LB&I unit that transportation income is FDAP, so when the slides were updated, the statement about transportation income not being FDAP income was removed.  The older version of the practice unit has been replaced with the updated version, so the statement can no longer be found on the IRS website.  Unfortunately, the latest hope for a trump card on U.S. source transportation income disappeared like so many FAQs on other issues before it – into the ether.  The before and after slides are shown below.

Original Practice Unit [Click Image to Enlarge]


Updated Practice Unit [Click Image to Enlarge]


IRS Signals Intent to Scrutinize Foreign Payments

March 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Chapter 3, FATCA, IRS

The IRS intends to more closely scrutinize payments made to foreign corporations, as indicated by its creation of a new international LB&I “practice unit,” which will provide guidance for IRS auditors.  With respect to foreign corporations, auditors are instructed to focus significantly on whether FDAP income is paid to foreign corporations, and if it is, whether 30% withholding should apply under Chapter 3. Though the practice unit does not issue official pronouncements of law, its guidance to the field can provide taxpayers with valuable insights into issues of importance to the IRS.  Further, guidance issued by the new unit can help to educate taxpayers on the process auditors will use to analyze transactions.  The development of this new practice unit highlights the IRS’s focus on compliance with respect to outbound payments of U.S.-source income.  Taxpayers should ensure that they carefully consider the character and source of payments to determine whether withholding might apply under either Chapter 3 or Chapter 4 (FATCA) of the Code.  Failure to withhold as required subjects withholding agents to secondary liability for amounts that should have been withheld.