The Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) announced at the May 26 meeting of the International Fiscal Association in Montreal that limited liability limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships organized under the laws of Florida or Delaware will be taxable as corporations for Canadian income tax purposes. The CRA has treated US limited liability companies as corporations for many years, but previously treated US LLLPs and LLPs as pass-through entities. The announcement did not specify whether similar entities organized in other US states would be treated the same, but the justification provided by the CRA would appear to apply to such other entities.
The CRA’s announcement raises several issues for US LLLPs and LLPs that have Canadian owners, including such entities that own US real estate. One issue is that income from these entities will now be subject to double income tax. The US will treat these entities as pass-through entities and so only the owners will be subject to US income tax, but Canada will now treat these entities as corporations. Consequently, Canadian dividend tax will apply to distributions received by the Canadian owner, and a Canadian tax credit is not available for the US tax. Previously for such LLLPs and LLPs, but not for LLCs, the Canadian owner could credit the US tax they paid against their Canadian tax. Issues can also arise for US LLLPs or LLPs that do not have Canadian owners, but have business operations or investments in Canada.
The CRA did announce transitional relief so that US LLLPs and LLPs can be treated as pass-through entities for Canadian tax purposes retroactively if certain conditions are satisfied. One of the key conditions is that the LLLP or LLP must convert before 2018 to an entity that is recognized by the CRA as a pass-through entity, such as a general partnership or a limited partnership.
In the wake of the Panama Papers leak, Treasury promulgated proposed regulations that require a US disregarded entity that is wholly-owned by a foreign owner to comply with the reporting, record maintenance, and associated compliance requirements that currently apply to US corporations that are owned 25% or more by a foreign owner under Code section 6038A, including the obligation to file Form 5472. The regulations also expand the types of transactions that must be reported. For example, contributions and distributions between the disregarded entity and its foreign owner would be subject to reporting even though these transactions would otherwise be ignored for tax purposes because of the involvement of the disregarded entity.
From a legal perspective, global expansion can have many forms, structures, and functions, including creating contractual relationships with distributors or licensees; establishing international legal entities for sales, manufacturing, or other business functions; or entering into an international joint venture. Regardless of the form or size of the contemplated global business expansion, there are a host of complex tax issues that have to be wrestled with in addition to the plethora of business and regulatory issues. Mike Wilson recently authored an article on this topic, which can be found here: http://www.williamsparker.com/docs/default-source/PDFs/international-tax-small-business_mjw
There are various ways to structure a foreign investment in US real property and each has its own advantages and disadvantages (see below for a link to a previous blog post on this topic). A frequently chosen structure is a pass-through or fiscally transparent structure which, very generally, has income tax advantages (especially upon a disposition of the property), but US estate tax disadvantages. Over time, however, clients age and their plans change, and so we are sometimes called upon to convert a pass-through structure to a structure with US estate tax advantages (i.e., typically by inserting a foreign corporation into the structure), but which has income tax disadvantages. Converting such structures can at first blush seem relatively simple, but there are several traps for the unwary. A common approach to converting such structures is for the foreign client to contribute their ownership interests in the US pass-through entity (such as a partnership or LLC taxed as a partnership or disregarded for federal income tax purposes) to a foreign corporation. Normally, such a transaction would be tax-free under IRC section 351 as a contribution to the capital of a corporation. However, FIRPTA complicates the picture. Specifically, FIRPTA rules add additional requirements in order for this transaction to be tax-free, including that the ownership interest in the US pass-through entity (which is considered a US real estate property interest (“USRPI”) for FIRPTA purposes), be exchanged for another USRPI. Stock of a foreign corporation is generally not a USRPI, and therefore the contribution of the ownership interests in the pass-through entity to the foreign corporation would be considered a taxable sale. There are at least two planning techniques to avoid this issue that involve the use of a US corporation or having the foreign corporation elect to be treated as a US corporation for federal income tax purposes, but both techniques have their own set of advantages and disadvantages that must be carefully considered.
Foreigners, especially Canadians, continue to comprise a significant percentage of Florida real estate purchases. The National Association of Realtors reported that during the recent 12-month period ending July 2013 the total sales volume of Florida residential real estate purchases by foreigners was $6.4 billion (9% of total Florida residential sales volume). 30% of these foreign purchasers were Canadian. These figures do not included foreign purchases of commercial real estate. Unfortunately, many Canadians and other foreign real estate purchasers do not sufficiently consider the U.S. tax ramifications of their purchase. There are many alternatives for structuring a foreigner’s purchase of U.S. real estate, and each alternative has tax advantages and disadvantages.
Below is a link to an article that discusses the U.S. tax issues and planning techniques that can help minimize tax headaches for Canadian (and other foreign) owners of Florida real property.