Income Tax Return Deduction Refund Concept

作者:Michael W. Brooks 律师 和 Angela Li

同美国公民一样,非美国公民和企业也同样适用于税法1031相同或类似资产交换(LIKE-KIND EXCHANGE)的条例。投资美国个人和商业房地产的外国投资者被允许延迟缴纳已经出售房产的增值部分的税,只需要投资者在出售房产后45天内选定一个新的“替代”房产并在出售房产后的180天内完成新房产的购买程序。例如:一位中国公民在Irvine(尔湾)购买了价值100万美金的房屋作为投资屋。3年后,尔湾房地产市场增值,有人出价150万美金要购买这位中国公民的房子。如果中国投资者直接出售房屋并没有做1031相同或类似资产交换(LIKE-KIND EXCHANGE),投资者需要缴纳国税局大约6万美金的税(50万美金盈利减去大约10万美金房屋中介交易费等,剩下40万美金乘以15%的资本增值税率等于6万美金)。然而,如果我们的中国投资者在出售尔湾房产(“放弃房产”)后180天内在Newport Beach(新港海滩)购买另外一栋价值150万美金的房子(“替代房产”),中国投资者可以通过进行税法1031相同或类似资产交换(LIKE-KIND EXCHANGE)立即避免向国税局缴纳6万美金的税。

但是外国投资者售房时15%(按照房屋售价计算)的外国人预扣税怎么办?产权过户公证公司必须上缴15%的预扣税因为中国投资者是外国公民?或者可以因为中国投资者准备进行1031相同或类似资产交换(LIKE-KIND EXCHANGE)而自动免除外国人投资美国房地产税收法(FIRPTA)的15%预扣税的规定?答案是产权过户公证公司仍然必须上缴15%的预扣税,即使中国投资者准备进行1031相同或类似资产交换(LIKE-KIND EXCHANGE)。一般来讲产权过户公证公司必须在房屋结束交易后20天内上缴15%的预扣税到国税局。在我们以上的例子中,出售尔湾房产时,产权过户公证公司必须扣押150万美金售价的15%也就是22万5千美金,正常程序是把这22万5千美金在房屋结束交易后20天内上缴到国税局。同时,我们准备进行1031相同或类似资产交换(LIKE-KIND EXCHANGE)的中国投资者必须在尔湾房子结束交易后的180天内完成价值150万美金新港海滩房屋的购买,投资者当然需要22万5千美金来完成购买。可是22万5千美金已经被缴纳到了国税局,并需要等到明年才能申请退回而因此来不及用于新港海滩房屋购买。所以中国投资者必须另外准备一笔22万5千美金用于购买新港海滩房屋,如果他有这笔多余现金的话。他也可以申请贷款。或者,也是最好的解决方案就是进行国税局8288-B预扣税快速退还申请,也是预扣税免进国税局的申请。

By Michael W. Brooks, Esq.

As discussed in Part 1, we know Foreign Investors are permitted to enter IRC Section 1031 (like-kind exchange) transactions provided certain conditions are met.  The Foreign Investor can avoid (really delay) paying tax on the sale of the first property (the relinquished property), provided the Foreign Investor identifies a qualifying replacement property within 45 days of the sale and completes the purchase of the replacement property within 180 days of the sale.  But what about the 15% (of the gross sales price) non-US seller withholding tax?  Must the escrow company withhold 15% of the sales price because the seller is foreign (even though the foreign party is entering into a 1031 like-kind exchange)?  The answer is yes- 15% of the gross sales price must still generally be withheld at the time of closing, and not distributed to the Foreign Investor or to the 1031 Accommodator.  This is where 1031 transactions and the rules of FIRPTA (the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act) intersect.  The Foreign Investor entering into a like-kind exchange transaction has a big problem with respect to this 15% withholding tax requirement under FIRPTA.  For IRC Section 1031 to work, the Foreign Investor must complete the purchase of the replacement property within six months, so he or she will need the 15% held by escrow back quickly, or he or she will blow the like-kind exchange and not be able to avoid the recognition of taxes on the sale relinquished property.

Consider the example below, where a Canadian couple needs their 15% back quickly, or they will owe tax on the sale of their first property.

 By Michael W. Brooks, Esq.

As with US persons, non-US persons and parties (“Foreign Investors”) are allowed to enter into Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 (like-kind exchange) transactions. Foreign Investor exchanges allow owners of investment and business real estate to delay paying income tax on the appreciation of the property being sold (the “relinquished property”), provided the owner identifies a “replacement property” within 45 days of the sale of the relinquished property, and completes the purchase of the replacement property within 180 days of the sale of the relinquished property. This allows the person (even a Foreign Investor) to avoid paying the US (and California) tax on the sale of the relinquished property, but the investor will carry a lower basis from the relinquished property into the replacement property.

Take the example of a Chinese person who purchases an investment property (used as a rental property) in Irvine for $1,000,000. Three years after the purchase, the value of the Irvine property rises, and the Chinese person receives an offer to purchase the Irvine property for $1.5M. If the Chinese investor were to sell the property and not enter into a 1031 transaction, the investor might owe around $60,000 in tax to the IRS ($500,000 gain minus (say) $100,000 in realtor fees= $400,000 gain; $400,000 x 15% (federal capital gains tax rate)= $60,000 in tax owed to the IRS). The investor might also owe a tax to the State of California under this scenario, perhaps around $36,000 ($400,000 x 9% (average California tax rate)= $36,000). So in this case, our Chinese person will owe around $96,000 in total taxes on the sale if he does not take some action.   So what can he do to at least delay paying the $96,000 total tax on the sale? As long as he is willing to purchase another parcel of California real estate in the next 180 days the answer is simple- enter into a valid 1031 transaction. So to complete the example, let’s assume our Chinese person, within 45 days of the sale, identifies a Newport Beach property he wishes to buy (and again rent out) for $1.5M. Provided he completes the purchase of the Newport Beach property (the “replacement property”) within 180 days of the sale of the Irvine property (the “relinquished property”), our Chinese investor can delay paying any of the $96,000 in total tax pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 1031. In three years however, when our Chinese investor sells the Newport Beach property for $2M, he will owe probably $200,000 in total tax to the IRS and California (i.e., he must then pay the tax on the gain from the sale of both properties…but at least he was able to delay the tax on the sale of the Irvine property for three years because of Internal Revenue Code Section 1031).

At DIRECTS (Domestic and International Real Estate Closing Services), we help 100’s of non-US sellers of US real estate obtain their US Individual Taxpayer ID Numbers (ITIN’s) each year. The ITIN procurement process is critical for foreign sellers of US real estate. If they do not successfully obtain an ITIN, they will never obtain a refund of the large 15% of the gross sales price withholding tax withheld from them at sale (which is entirely refundable if they did not make a large gain on their sale of US real estate).  The ITIN procurement rules have recently undergone significant change (although they have returned, more or less, to where they were before the changes mandated by Congress in January 2017).

Q1) What Were the Changes to the ITIN Program?

A1) Effective January 1, 2017, certifying acceptance agents (private tax professionals who are approved by the IRS) (“CAA’s”) were no longer permitted to certify the passports of non-US sellers of US real estate. This became a huge problem for foreign sellers of US real estate, who need ITIN’s to obtain refunds of their IRS and withholding taxes.

What is the 8288-B Process?

By Michael W. Brooks

Non- US sellers of US real estate are subject to a withholding tax at time of sale (either 15% or 10% of the gross sales price). The withholding tax isn’t really a tax, it’s better thought of as a security deposit to ensure the real tax eventually is paid by the non-US person (so the IRS doesn’t have to trust the foreign seller to mail in a check from their home in Shanghai). In 98 or 99 out of 100 instances , the withholding tax amount of 15% or 10% of the sales price will exceed (and maybe greatly exceed) the actual federal income tax owed by the foreign seller (for a rough estimate of the income tax due- simply multiply the seller’s gain made on the sale x 15%). But note the normal refund process (of the withholding tax minus the real tax) requires the foreign seller to wait until January of the next calendar year to simply file a tax return to obtain the refund, and the refund itself will take a few months to arrive after the filing. So the foreign seller must sometimes wait up to a year and a half after the sale to obtain this sizable refund. The IRS Form 8288-B withholding certificate application (via an experienced tax professional because this work is tricky) offers an alternative to this absurdly long wait.

Congress just enacted a significant change to the required withholding tax on sales of US real estate by non-US persons, effective on real estate sales closing on or after February 17, 2016. On December 18, 2015, Congress enacted the “Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (the “New Tax Law”).

Here’s all an escrow officer really needs to know about the New Tax Law…

What Was the Withholding Tax Law on Real Estate Sales By Non-US Persons (prior to the February

Starting in 2016, US individual taxpayer ID numbers (“ITINs”) not used in the prior 5 years on a US tax return will be deactivated by the IRS.  So, staring in 2016, if a foreign person hasn’t sold US real estate since (at the latest) 2010 (which should have led to them doing a tax return in 2011), the ITIN they are giving to their escrow officer is very likely no longer valid. In my experience as a tax attorney and the President of a tax firm which works daily with foreign sellers of US real estate, the use of an invalid ITIN can be one of the biggest headaches the foreign seller will ever encounter in their dealings with the IRS.  And you can bet a foreign seller not receiving a proper IRS refund will be none too shy about letting their escrow officer know all about the problem.  As the age old saying goes: happy foreign seller, happy escrow officer (or something like that).

Why is a Valid ITIN So important to the Foreign Seller?

The stakes for the foreign seller are simple- he or she will need a valid ITIN to obtain a (very possibly large) refund of the federal taxes sent into the IRS by escrow (and maybe the California state taxes too).  The federal taxes are the big one.  Recall the Internal Revenue Code generally requires the buyer (really the escrow company on the buyer’s behalf in California) to “withhold” 10% of the gross sales price from the foreign seller, and transmit the 10% withholding tax to the IRS at the time of sale (or at least keep the withholding tax in a client trust account while the IRS reviews the seller’s 8288-B withholding certificate application, if applicable).  But the 10% withholding tax is almost surely more than the seller really owes in federal income taxes on the sale.  For example, if a foreign person bought a Los Angeles vacation home a few years ago for $800,000, and then sold the house for $1,000,000, the escrow company would be required to withhold $100,000 ($1,000,000 x 10%) at the time of sale.  The escrow company then sends the $100,000 into the IRS at close (assuming the seller does not file an IRS Form 8288-B with the escrow company holding the withholding tax in a trust account).  But while the IRS holds onto $100,000 of the $1,000,000 sale’s proceeds, the foreign seller’s real income tax bill on the sale would likely be closer to $30,000 ($200,000 appreciation x 15% capital gains rate= $30,000).  So in this example the IRS is holding onto an extra $70,000 of our foreign seller’s proceeds, and our seller will undoubtedly be quite eager to receive the $70,000 back.  But our foreign seller could be in for quite a wait if the escrow company sent in the $100,000 withholding tax with an invalid ITIN.  Let’s see why….

As you know, procuring ITIN’s for non-US citizen/residents is essential when these individuals sell (or rent) US/California real estate.  Starting in 2015, the IRS has made an already challenging process even more cumbersome.  In 2016, the IRS plans to add yet another layer of complexity.
2015 Change- Form 8288’s Now Really Must be Included in ITIN Applications
If you’ve ever read through the W-7 Instructions (Application for ITIN’s), where a foreign person needs an ITIN due to 3rd party withholding on a disposition of US real estate, you’ll note there has always been a requirement that an IRS Form 8288 be included (showing the amount withheld at the close).  But prior to 2015 at DIRECTS we were able to routinely obtain ITIN’s for our clients without submitting the Form 8288’s.  This was a real advantage since the other requirements of the W-7 (the certified passport (we are permitted by the IRS to certify foreign passports at DIRECTS), the estimated closing statement, the sales contract) all could be sent into the IRS at the beginning of escrow.  This meant there was a good chance we could get our client the ITIN (assigned by the IRS) before the closing date. This allowed the foreign seller to avail him or herself of the reduced California withholding if applicable (the 12.3% x the appreciation or no withholding for a loss sale…either usually better than the default of 3.3% x the gross sales price requirement), since the seller must have an ID number in place at close to take advantage of those options).  In addition,  some escrow companies want the ITIN in place as of the close date for the purposes of the IRS Form 1099.  But under the new interpretation of the rule (requiring an 8288 with the W-7), it would really be impossible to have an ITIN by the close since the 8288 is not completed typically until right at the close.