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US Federal Beneficial Owner Registry: Treasury Releases Final Regulations for the Corporate Transparency Act
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What is this New Nominee Reporting Obligation under the PTP Withholding Provisions of the Proposed QI Agreement?
Amongst the unexpected and peculiar features of the proposed Qualified Intermediary (QI) Agreement–as expanded to cover withholding on payments from publicly-traded partnerships (PTPs)–the new nominee reporting requirement per §6031 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) stands apart.
Background to the Revamped Sections of the Proposed QI Agreement
In May 2022, the US Treasury Department released IRS Notice 2022-23, a proposed revision to the QI Agreement. Under the new draft sections, QIs may assume withholding and reporting obligations under §§ 1446(a) and 1446(f) of the US Treasury Regulations for payments connected to PTPs. The new provisions for PTP withholding are needed because a Non-US Person who sells an interest in a partnership that could earn income effectively connected with a US trade or business is subject to US federal income taxation per §864(c)(8) of the 2017 tax legislation. In parallel to this substantive rule, Congress added a new withholding dimension under §1446, imposing on a buyer of an interest subject to §864(c)(8) the obligation to withhold 10% of the amount realized.
For further elaboration on these concepts, please refer the MTL blogs on §§ 864(c)(8) and 1446(a) and (f), here.
The §1446(f) statutory provision, however, did not explain how that ought to work for PTPs, where the buyer and seller are typically invisible to one another. As such, the US Treasury Department promptly suspended the withholding regime for PTPs via IRS Notice 2018-02 and, via a series of subsequent notifications and the publication of the withholding regulations in late 2020, eventually, pushed the activation date to 1 January 2023. With the revamped QI Agreement, the PTP withholding regime is moving into the implementation phase. As stated in the preamble to Notice 2022-23, the objective of the new PTP sections to the QI Agreement is straightforward: To align the treatment of PTP payments with those of payments traditionally processed by non-US custodial institutions. However, rather than ensuring frictionless continuity from dividend withholding to PTP payment withholding, the proposed QI Agreement introduces a few novel aspects to the QI Regime.
Nominee Reporting Requirements under the Proposed QI Agreement for PTP Withholding
Some novel aspects of the proposed QI Agreement for PTP Withholding, such as the new official QI status of the “Disclosing QI” and strict demands for US Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs) from non-US Persons, may be disruptive of existing QI operations. Only one new feature, however, obliges parties to set up and maintain a fresh tax reporting mechanism: Nominee reporting.
Nominee reporting per §6031(c) of the IRC is not a new provision and it serves an essential role outside the QI Regime. Anytime a nominee holds a partnerships interest (of any partnership, not just a PTP), the nominee is charged with ensuring that the partnership has sufficient information on the beneficial owner to provide an accurate Schedule K-1 to the partner and analogous return to the IRS. Prior to this year’s draft QI Agreement, the §6031(c) concept of a “nominee” was commonly understood to refer to a Person holding the reportable partnership interest during the partnership’s tax year in its own name on behalf of the beneficial owner of the interest (see e.g. Treas. Regs. §1.6031(c)-1T). For this reason and because PTP and other partnership interests were previously held in non-QI accounts, nominee reporting did not concern the QI system. That has now changed.
Proposed Section 2.92 of the new draft QI Agreement adds a series of new definitions to accommodate the jargon of PTP withholding and partnership taxation, one of which is a definition of a “Nominee,” which explicitly includes Withholding QIs. Furthermore, proposed Section 8.07 widens the nominee reporting requirement to the other types of QI statuses, as follows–
While the mechanics of nominee reporting under IRC §6031 are markedly less cumbersome than some of the other reporting required of QIs, it constitutes an additional reporting function that must be set up, tested and maintained. First, the QI must be certain it can collect all mandatory information (notably, US TINs) before it opts for a strategy, which may depend upon interchanges of information with third parties, which tend to slow down or complicate tax reporting. Second, PTP interests may need to be shifted across custodial accounts in order to avert duplicative reports to the IRS. Third, if the QI decides to adopt the option under§ 1.6031(c)-1T(h) to intermediate the K-1s from the PTP to the beneficial owner partner, it will need a grasp of US partnership taxation concepts to provide a meaningful review of the information for which it is responsible. Finally, any defect with respect to nominee reporting is a material failure (Section 10.03(B)(1)) which, if left uncorrected, would lead to an event of default and the termination of the entity’s QI status.
While any of the above challenges around nominee reporting under IRC §6031 and the new PTP Withholding provisions of the proposed QI Agreement may be softened in the final version of the QI Agreement (the IRS expressly requested comments on Section 8.07 in the preamble), It is a necessary evil. Thus, nominee reporting will likely remain a new and unexpected obligation for most QIs to fulfil.
If you wish to discuss the above analysis or any other aspects of the QI Regime in greater detail, please contact us at email@example.com to arrange a conversation.
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On 23 August, the IRS released Notice 2022-37, extending the current lite version of the §871(m) regime, which has been in effect since the issuance of Notice 2016-76 (and was further prolonged via Notices 2018-72 and 2020-2). Per the terms of the new Notice, the “§871(m) Lite” regime shall remain in effect for at least another two years.
The lite version of §871(m) relaxes the following key elements of the §871(m) regime, each of which was prolonged per the new Notice–
Undoubtedly, the extension is welcome news. Few affected parties were ready to revamp their withholding mechanisms and other system’s requirements by 1 January 2023 in time to fulfill their duties under a new §871(m) regime or under a reversion to the 2015 §871(m) Treasury Regulations. Thanks to Notice 2022-37, all affected parties will enjoy another full two-year period to implement any changes to the §871(m) regime. The problem now is not knowing what those changes are.
The latest §871(m) extension provided scant indication of how or when the IRS intends to revise the regime as set out in the 2015 §871(m) Treasury Regulations. We can reasonably draw two conclusions about the future of §871(m): It will neither remain in its Lite form nor revert to the regime described in the 2015 Treasury Regulations. If either of those outcomes were its permanent destiny, then presumably the IRS would have said so by now. Instead, we must wait and wonder what regime change will come.
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Q1. What is the Corporate Transparency Act?
A1. At the end of 2020, the US Congress enacted the Corporate Transparency Act, mandating that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the Department of the Treasury establish and operate a federal beneficial owner registry.
Q2. How does the Corporate Transparency Act function?
A2. The Corporate Transparency Act compels entities qualifying as “Reporting Companies” to disclose all US and non-US Person beneficial owners of the Reporting Company.
Q3. What counts as a Reporting Company pursuant to the Corporate Transparency Act?
A3. The Reporting Companies includes all US corporations, US limited liability companies (LLCs) and other similar enterprises that are created by the filing of a document with a secretary of state or similar state office.
For more on Reporting Companies please refer to:
Q4. Are any US entities not Reporting Companies under the Corporate Transparency Act?
A4. Yes, entities that do not need to register with or submit a form to a secretary of state or similar state office in order to be set up do not qualify as Reporting Companies. Examples vary by state, as each state sets its own requirements, but generally the omitted entities include simple partnerships and trusts.
For more on trusts under the Corporate Transparency Act, please refer to:
Q5. So only a US entity can qualify as a Reporting Company per the Corporate Transparency Act?
A5. No, but a non-US entity will not qualify unless it actively registered to do business in a US State.
Q6. Who counts as a “Beneficial Owner” for purposes of the Corporate Transparency Act?
A6. The definition of Beneficial Owners refers to “any individual who, directly or indirectly, through any contract, arrangement, understanding, relationship, or otherwise—(i) exercises substantial control over the entity; or (ii) owns or controls not less than 25% of the ownership interests of the entity.”
Q7. What counts as substantial control under the Corporate Transparency Act?
A7. There is no definition of substantial control provided, but three of the indicators of substantial control specified are (1) service as a senior officer; (2) authority over the appointment or removal of any senior officer or dominant majority of the board of directors; and (3) direction, determination, or decision of, or substantial influence over, important matters of the Reporting Company.
Q8. Does indirect ownership by a Beneficial Owner refer to ownership stakes held through other entities?
A8. Yes, and there are no blockers.
Q9. Will the Reporting Company need to apply ownership aggregation rules in order to calculate ownership percentages?
A9. Yes, almost surely, but hopefully milder versions than the ones set out in the US tax code.
For more on Beneficial Owners please refer to:
Q10. Are the Beneficial Owners the only reportable parties under the Corporate Transparency Act?
A10. No, a Reporting Company must also disclose its Company Applicant, who is the person who signed or authorized the Reporting Company’s registration or application for establishment with the relevant secretary of state or similar state office.
Q11. What information needs to be disclosed under the Corporate Transparency Act?
A11. The Reporting Company must disclose the following “Beneficial Owner Information” (or “BOI”) for each of its natural persons qualifying as reportable–
Q12. Is the information reported under the Corporate Transparency Act confidential?
A12. The registry is non-public, but the information is not completely off-limits. The registry information will be made available to other federal agencies for purposes of law enforcement and, in limited circumstances, to other governments pursuant to a valid request
Q13. How many times must a Reporting Company disclose its Beneficial Owner?
A13. Just one time is mandatory, but the Reporting Company must update the disclosure within one year of a change in circumstance to the beneficial ownership information originally submitted.
Q14. By when must a Reporting Company disclose its Beneficial Owners and Company Applicant?
A14. The Corporate Transparency Act’s mandatory disclosures must be made at the time of formation for Reporting Companies established on or after the effective date of the forthcoming final regulations. Reporting Companies already in existence at that time must submit the disclosure within two years from the effective date of the final regulations.
For more on the reporting mechanics and confidentiality safeguards under the Corporate Transparency Act, please refer to:
Q15. Can any of this change before the Corporate Transparency Act comes into force?
A15. Yes, but it is most unlikely. On 7 December 2021, FinCEN released the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for FinCEN Rule 6403, setting forth the pending regulations for the Corporate Transparency Act after having digested the comments submitted from interested parties. The final regulations are expected in a few months and are unlikely to contain material revisions.
If you wish to learn more about the Corporate Transparency Act, please select one of the following topics–
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As dissected in an earlier blog - The Corporate Transparency Act – Who must file, the term “Reporting Company” under the Corporate Transparency Act is defined to include: (1) a US corporation; (2) a US limited liability company (LLC) or (3) any other US entity that is created by the filing of a document with state authorities (plus any non-US entity that registers to do business in a US state). The third prong is subject to interpretation, but envisaged to include limited liability partnerships, limited liability limited partnerships, business trusts (a/k/a statutory trusts or Massachusetts trusts), and most limited partnerships. Critically for trustees and other fiduciaries, the definition seems to exclude most trusts because few such trusts must file a document with a secretary of state or similar office of a jurisdiction within the United States for their establishment.
On this basis, trustees will not need to disclose Beneficial Owner Information (or “BOI”) of any US trusts they administered unless the trust owns underlying companies that qualify as Reporting Companies, for example US LLCs. In that admittedly common circumstance, the trustee must review the Beneficial Owners of any Reporting Company it administers and disclose their Beneficial Owner Information. There is also a requirement to disclose the “Company Applicant”, generally referring to the person who signed the document registering the Reporting Company. The Corporate Transparency Act roughly aligns the definition of a Beneficial Owner for a Reporting Company with the one set out in the Financial Action Task Force’s 2012 recommendations (known as the “FATF Recommendations”). Accordingly, a Beneficial Owner is any natural person–
Crucially for trustees, any qualifying Beneficial Owner interests held through a trust are attributable as indirect holdings of the trust to one or more parties to the trust. Furthermore, throughout the NPRM, FinCEN appears inclined towards a maximalist approach that treats any Persons connected with the trust with the authority to demands distributions for themselves–as a mandatory beneficiary or as the sole discretionary beneficiary–or to mandate them for others–such as settlors, trustees or other parties vested with powers of appointment–as potential BOs (Prop. Reg. 31 CFR 1010.380(d)(3)(ii)(C)). But the scope of the term indirect beneficial ownership as applied to interests held through trusts is in not-yet fully settled.
As set out in the preamble to the NPRM, FinCEN is calling for comments in advance of the final regulations as to which parties to a trust will be indirectly attributed the holdings of the trust. The two familiar methods for assigning indirect ownership of trust assets are the IRS one and the FATF one. The IRS method ascribes tax ownership to settlors of grantor trusts and beneficiaries of non-grantor trust under a facts and circumstances test that is rife with subjectivity. FinCEN may prefer the blunter–but more easily administered–FATF method. Under FATF definitions (imported into the FATCA IGAs and CRS), certain parties are classified as Beneficial Owners (i.e. “Controlling Persons”) of the trust based on their title. As FinCEN is seeking a binary answer–reportable or not–and does not calculate a tax on a portion of the trust’s income, the FATF method is probably the more attractive one.
As such, it seems likely that trust companies may need to conduct a non-trivial amount of reporting on their clients, as well as on their own trustees and other personnel. Therefore, every US and non-US trust company administering US holdings for its clients, should prepare for such an outcome and assess the compliance resources necessary to satisfy the reporting for the LLCs and other Reporting Companies it administers.
That is not the end though. If a non-US trustee administers a structure that holds US assets (even where no component entity of that structures is itself US), clients may be reportable by Reporting Companies not administered by the trustee. Most prominently, such reporting will involve US private equity and real estate investments, which often involve US LLCs or LLPs. These holding structures often divide and allocate income streams for US income tax profiles. Due to these apportionments, a fund investor with a non-major share in the overall fund may in fact own controlling portions of certain US entities embedded within the structure. As a client service, trustees may opt to analyze these scenarios in advance and ready its clients for the consequences (for example, reportable parties may apply for a “FinCEN identifier” to maintain anonymity towards third-party Reporting Companies).
If you wish to learn more about the Corporate Transparency Act, please select one of the following topics–