Proposed QI Agreement Includes Rules for Qualified Derivatives Dealers

The IRS recently issued a proposed qualified intermediary (QI) agreement (Notice 2016-42) that spells out the new qualified derivatives dealer (QDD) regime.  The final QI agreement will be issued later in 2016 and will apply to agreements in starting January 1, 2017, replacing the 2014 QI agreement that will expire on December 31, 2016.  The QDD regime replaces the qualified securities lender (QSL) regime in Notice 2010-46.  The QSL rules will continue to apply for substitute dividend payments made under sale-repurchase or securities lending transactions.

The QDD regime was developed to mitigate cascading withholding that would occur as a result of the withholding requirements imposed on “dividend equivalents.”  Section 871(m) of the Code imposes withholding on certain payments that are determined by reference to or contingent upon the payment of a U.S. source dividend.  As a result, when a foreign financial institution holds U.S. equities and issues derivatives to non-U.S. investors that are based on the stock, it may be subject to withholding on dividend payments made with respect to the underlying equities and have to withhold on the payments it makes to the holders of the derivatives.

Under the proposed QI agreement, only a subset of QIs called “eligible entities” will be permitted to act as QDDs.  Eligible entities are: (1) regulated securities dealers; (2) regulated banks; and (3) certain entities wholly-owned by regulated banks.  Under the QDD regime, a dividend payment to a QDD is not subject to withholding if the QDD provides the withholding agent with a Form W-8IMY indicating the QDD’s status.  The QDD certification is made on Form W-8IMY even though the QDD is acting as a principal with respect to the transaction.

If a QI acts as a QDD, it must act as a QDD for all payments made as a principal with respect to potential Section 871(m) transactions, including any sale-repurchases or securities lending transactions that qualify as such, and all payments received as a principal with respect to potential Section 871(m) transactions and underlying securities, excluding payments effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business. All securities lending and sale-repurchase transactions the QI enters into that are Section 871(m) transactions will be deemed to be entered into by the QI as a principal.

When a QI is acting as a QDD, it must assume primary withholding responsibilities under Chapters 3 and 4 and primary Form 1099 reporting and Section 3406 backup withholding responsibility for all payments related to potential Section 871(m) transactions that it receives as a principal—even if such payments are not dividend equivalent payments.  As a consequence, a QDD will be required to withhold to the extent required for the applicable dividend on the dividend payment date.  In contrast, when a QI is acting as intermediary, i.e., not as a principal, with respect to such a payment, it may choose to act as a QI (and choose whether or not to assume primary withholding and reporting responsibility with respect to the payment) or a nonqualified intermediary (NQI).

A QDD is liable for any tax on any dividends and dividend equivalents it receives in its dealer capacity to the extent the QDD is not contractually required to make offsetting payments that reference the same dividend or dividend equivalent that it received as a dealer.  For purposes of determining the QDD tax liability, payments received by a QDD acting as a proprietary trader are treated as payments received in a non-dealer capacity, while transactions properly reflected in a QDD’s dealer book are presumed to be held in its dealer capacity.  A QDD will reports its QDD tax liability on Form 1042, Annual Withholding Tax Return for U.S. Source Income of Foreign Persons.  When a foreign branch of a U.S. financial institution acts as a QDD, the branch is not required to report the QDD tax liability for income related to potential Section 871(m) transactions and underlying securities; instead, the U.S. financial institution will file the appropriate tax return to report and pay its tax liability.

The proposed QI agreement also updated requirements relating to periodic review and certification of compliance, substitute interest, limitation of benefits for treaty claims, and other items.