Tag Archives: FIRPTA

Changing Investment Structures for Foreign-Owned US Real Property has Many Traps for the Unwary

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.

A previous blog post on structuring options for foreign investment in US real estate can be found here:
blog.williamsparker.com/businessandtax/2014/04/15/tax-planning-foreign-investors-purchasing-real-estate

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043

Tax Planning for Foreign Investors Purchasing Real Estate

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.

Tax Planning For Canadians Purchasing Property In Florida

If you need assistance with a foreign purchaser of U.S. real estate, please contact us.

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043