IRS Adds Five New FATCA FAQs Addressing QDD, QI, and WP Concerns

The IRS updated its FATCA frequently asked questions to include five new FAQs.  The new FAQs address issues involving qualified intermediaries (QIs) that are or are seeking to become qualified derivatives dealers (QDDs), non-financial foreign entities (NFFEs) seeking to become withholding foreign partnerships (WPs), the period review requirements applicable to QIs that are QDDs, and the independence standard applicable to external reviewers of a QI, WP, or withholding foreign trust (WT).

Three FAQs were added to the “New Applications/Renewals” section, the first two of which address QIs.  In FAQ#17, the IRS clarifies that a QI that is not currently a QDD does not have to wait for its QI agreement to expire before applying for QDD status.  It also reiterates that branches of QIs wishing to become QDDs must complete their own separate QDD application.  FAQ#18 addresses the effective date (i.e., the date on which the QI can represent itself as a QDD on Form W-8IMY) of a newly-granted QDD status.  If a QI is granted QDD status prior to March 31 of a calendar year, or after March 31 for QIs that have not received any reportable payments before being granted QDD status, that status will become effective as of January 1 of that year.  Otherwise, QDD status will become effective the first day of the month in which the QDD application is approved.  FAQ#19 addresses the circumstances in which an NFFE that is a foreign reverse hybrid entity (a foreign entity that is fiscally transparent for foreign tax purposes but not transparent for U.S. tax purposes) can become a WP (a status reserved for foreign reverse hybrid entities that are FFIs under section 6.03(C) of the WP agreement).  The FAQ clarifies that a foreign reverse hybrid entity that is an NFFE may apply to be a WP but only with respect to payments of personal services income effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business.

The IRS also added a new section titled “Certifications and Periodic Reviews,” consisting of two review-related FAQs.  FAQ#1 addresses the circumstances in which QIs that are QDDs can avoid periodic review for certification periods ending in 2017 and 2018.  Section 10.07 of the QI agreement permits waivers of periodic review requirements for QIs not acting as QDDs, but Notice 2017-42 extended this waiver to QIs that are QDDs for its QDD activities with respect to certification periods ending in 2017 and 2018.  This left open the question of whether such QIs could seek a waiver of periodic review for their non-QDD activities.  FAQ#1 answers this question in the affirmative and provides instructions on the process of applying for a waiver.  In FAQ#2, the IRS expands on the requirement in section 10.04 of the QI agreement and section 8.04 of the WP and WT agreements that an external reviewer of a QI, WP, or WT not review the work of others in the same “firm,” a standard that has raised questions.  Accordingly, the IRS clarifies that for years before 2018, external reviewers may apply the standards otherwise applicable to their engagement to conduct the review (e.g., procedures for a certified public accountant).  The IRS intends to provide further guidance for calendar years 2018 and later.

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.