IRS Attacks “Blocker” Partnerships

In May the IRS made it tougher for foreign investors to escape taxation.

However, the notice states that the gross income inclusion may have “little or no tax consequences, depending on the treatment of each partner’s distributive share of such income.” In fact, the Treasury Department and the IRS believe that the taxpayer’s position is contrary to the purpose and intent of the tax code’s Section 951. Therefore, the Treasury Department and the IRS have determined that the general definition of a domestic partnership under Section 7701(a)(4)3, in the case of certain partnerships owned by foreign corporations, is manifestly incompatible with the intent of Section 951.

“Re-Domiciling” a Domestic Partnership

Accordingly, the agencies promulgated regulations that treat a domestic partnership as foreign solely for purposes of identifying the U.S. shareholder of a CFC required to include in gross income the amounts determined under Section 951(a). These regulations will operate in cases where:
• The partnership is a U.S. shareholder of a foreign corporation that is a CFC;
• If the partnership were treated as foreign, that foreign corporation would continue to be a CFC;
• At least one U.S. shareholder of the CFC would be treated as indirectly owning stock of the CFC owned by the partnership that is indirectly owned by a foreign corporation and would be required to include an amount in gross income under Section 951(a) with respect to the CFC.

That means that a domestic partnership to which the regulations apply will continue to be classified as domestic for all other purposes. In the instant case, the domestic partnership between Alpha and Beta would be treated as foreign because:
• The partnership would be a U.S. shareholder of a foreign corporation that is a CFC (Omega) if the regulations did not apply;
• If the partnership were treated as foreign, (1) Omega would continue to be a CFC and (2) the corporate taxpayer, USCorp (a U.S. shareholder of Omega), would be treated as indirectly owning the stock of Omega owned by the partnership that is indirectly owned by Alpha and Beta, and therefore would be required to include in gross income the amounts determined under
Section 951(a) with respect to Omega.4

These new regulations apply to taxable years of a domestic partnership ending on or after May 14, 2010.

Contributor Robert Willens, founder and principal of Robert Willens LLC, writes a weekly tax column for CFO.com.


Footnotes

1 Ownership within the meaning of Section 958(a).
2 U.S. person as defined in Section 957(c).
3 Section 957(c) defines a U.S. person by reference to Section 7701(a)(30). Section 7701(a)(30)(B) defines a U.S. person to include a domestic partnership. Section 7701(a)(4) provides that the term domestic when applied to a corporation or partnership, means created or organized in the United States. However, Section 7701(a) provides that any general definition included therein does not apply where such definition is manifestly incompatible with the intent of the relevant Code provision.
4 See Section 958(a)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code; stock owned by a foreign corporation or foreign partnership shall be considered as being owned proportionately by its shareholders and partners.

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