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Final and Proposed Regulations Address Foreign Tax Credit


Wayne Naegele

Final and Proposed Regulations Address Foreign Tax Credit

The IRS has issued highly anticipated final regulations on the significant changes made to the foreign tax credit rules by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) ( P.L. 115-97). The final regulations retain the basic approach and structure of the 2018 proposed regulations ( NPRM REG-105600-18). The final regulations also eliminate deadwood, reflect statutory amendments made prior to TCJA, and update expense allocation rules not updated since 1988.

Also adopted are proposed regulations on overall foreign losses, published on June 25, 2012 ( NPRM REG-134935-11), and a U.S. taxpayer’s obligation to notify the IRS of a foreign tax redetermination, published on November 7, 2007 ( NPRM REG-209020-86).

A separate set of 2019 proposed regulations were also issued ( NPRM REG-105495-19).

Final Regulations

The final regulations make extensive changes to the rules on the determination of the foreign tax credit. Many of these changes were required to implement the TCJA, including the items discussed, below.

The final regulations provide details on how income is assigned and expenses are apportioned to the Code Sec. 951A global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) and foreign branch foreign tax credit separate limitation categories added by TCJA.

The regulations provide that, for purposes of applying the expense allocation and apportionment rules, the portion of gross income related to foreign derived intangible income (FDII) or a GILTI inclusion that is offset by a Code Sec. 250 deduction is treated as exempt income. This means that fewer expenses will be allocated to the GILTI category, resulting in a higher foreign source taxable income, a higher foreign tax credit limitation, and a larger foreign tax credit offset with respect to GILTI income.

The regulations also address how the balance of foreign tax credit carryovers prior to the TCJA are allocated across new and existing separate categories. Under a default rule, foreign tax credit carryovers remain in the general category going forward. A taxpayer can elect to reconstruct the carryover regarding a foreign branch. The final regulations provide a simplified rule under which taxpayers can assign foreign tax credits to the foreign branch category proportionately, according to the ratio of foreign taxes paid or accrued by the taxpayer’s branches to total foreign taxes paid or accrued by the taxpayer in that year.

The regulations modify the proposed rule for determining foreign branch income based on the U.S. tax-adjusted books and records of the foreign branch. The proposed regulations disregarded transfers of intellectual property (IP) between a foreign branch and its owner if the transfer would result in a deemed payment that reallocates income between the foreign branch category and the general branch category. The final regulations limit the rule to transactions that occurred after the date of the proposed regulations and include an exception for transitory ownership.

The regulations provide rules for the treatment of GILTI for purposes of the interest allocation rules. In general, a controlled foreign corporation (CFC) must allocate and apportion its interest expense among groups of income for purposes of determining tested income, subpart F income and other types of net foreign source income. A U.S. taxpayer must characterize the value of its CFC for allocating and apportioning its own interest expense. A CFC allocates and apportions its interest expense using either the modified gross income (MGI) method or the asset method. The U.S. taxpayer uses the same method to characterize the stock of its CFC. The regulations take into account gross tested income from a lower-tier CFC with respect to an upper-tier CFC for allocating the upper-tier CFC’s interest expense when applying the MGI method.

Dividends, interest, rents and royalties (look-through payments) paid to a U.S. shareholder by a CFC were generally allocated to general category income to the extent that they were not treated as passive category income. Because this type of payment made directly by a U.S. shareholder is not included in the GILTI category, the regulations provide that the look-through payments are assigned either to the general category or the foreign branch category. The payments cannot be assigned to the GILTI category.

The final regulations also address certain potentially abusive borrowing arrangements involving loans by U.S. persons to foreign partnerships that artificially increase foreign source income and the foreign tax credit limitation without affecting U.S. taxable income. Under the regulations, the interest income attributable to borrowing through a partnership is allocated across the foreign tax credit separate limitation categories in the same manner as the associated interest expense.

Applicability of Final Regs

The final regulations related to statutory amendments made by the TCJA apply to tax years beginning after December 31, 2017. Regulations that contain both rules that relate to the TCJA and rules that do not relate to the TCJA generally apply to tax years that both (1) begin after December 31, 2017, and (2) end on or after December 4, 2018.

The regulations on the deemed paid credit under Code Sec. 960 apply to tax years that both begin after December 31, 2017, and end on or after December 4, 2018. The final OFL regulations apply to tax years on or after the date the regulations are filed in the Federal Register. The final foreign tax redetermination regulations apply to foreign tax redeterminations occurring in tax years ending on or after the date the regulations are filed in the Federal Register.

Proposed Regulations

Proposed foreign tax credit regulations address changes made by the TCJA, and also respond to issues raised in the 2018 proposed regulations on the foreign tax credit ( NPRM REG-105600-18). The proposed regulations address:

  • the allocation and apportionment of deductions under Code Sec. 861 through Code Sec. 865;
  • the definition of “financial services income” under Code Sec. 904(d)(2)(D);
  • the allocation and apportionment of creditable foreign taxes;
  • the interaction of branch loss and dual consolidated loss recapture rules under Code Sec. 904(f) and Code Sec. 904(g);
  • the effect of Code Sec. 905(c) foreign tax redeterminations of foreign corporations on the high-tax exception in Code Sec. 954(b)(4) and the required notification and penalty provisions;
  • the definition of “personal holding company income” under Code Sec. 954; and
  • the application of the foreign tax credit limitation rule to consolidated groups.

Allocation and Apportionment

Under the general rule, a taxpayer may allocate research and experimentation (R&E) expenses to the foreign tax credit separate limitation categories under the sales method or the gross income method. The proposed regulations revise the sales method to provide that R&E expenses are only allocated to income that represents return on intellectual property. When applying these rules, gross intangible income does not include dividends or amounts included under subpart F, GILTI or Code Sec. 1293. As a result, none of a U.S. taxpayer’s R&E expenses are allocated to the GILTI category. The proposed regulations eliminate the gross income method for purposes of allocating R&E expenses.

Stewardship expenses are related and allocable to dividends received or to be received from related corporations. The proposed regulations provide that stewardship expenses are allocated to subpart F and GILTI inclusions, to Code Sec. 78 dividends and all amounts included under the passive foreign investment company (PFIC) provisions.

Under the Code Sec. 818(f) allocation rules that apply to life insurance companies, expenses are generally apportioned ratably across all gross income. Under a new rule, the proposed regulations allocate expenses in a life-nonlife consolidated group solely among items of the insurance company that has reserves (separate entity method).

The final foreign tax credit limitations provide a matching rule for a U.S. partner that makes loans to a foreign partnership. Under the rule, the partner’s gross interest income is apportioned between U.S. and foreign sources in each separate foreign tax credit limitation category based on the partner’s interest expense apportionment ratios. The proposed regulations provide the same rule for loans from partnerships to U.S. partners (upstream partnership loans).

Redeterminations

Portions of the 2007 temporary regulations on foreign tax redeterminations ( T.D. 9362) are reproposed so that taxpayers can provide comments on the rules in light of the changes made by the TCJA. The proposed regulations address foreign tax redeterminations that affect the deemed paid credit under Code Sec. 960; procedural notification rules; and penalties for failure to notify the IRS of a foreign tax redetermination.

The proposed regulations require taxpayers to account for foreign tax redeterminations of foreign subsidiaries on an amended return that reflects the revised foreign taxes deemed paid under Code Sec. 960 and any changes to the taxpayer’s U.S. tax liability. This reflects the repeal of the pooling mechanism to account for redeterminations of foreign taxes.

A transition rule provides that post-2017 redeterminations of pre-2018 foreign income taxes must be made by adjusting the foreign corporation’s taxable income and earnings and profits and post-1986 undistributed earnings and income taxes in the pre-2018 year to which the redetermined foreign taxes relate. The proposed regulations also provide that the foreign tax redetermination rules cover situations in which the foreign tax redetermination affects whether or not the CFC qualifies for the high-tax exceptions under GILTI and subpart F.

Additional Rules

Additional provisions in the proposed regulations:

  • modify the definition of a “financial services entity” by adopting a definition of “predominately engaged in the active conduct of a banking, insurance, finance, or similar business” and “income derived in the active conduct of a banking, insurance, finance, or similar business” that is generally consistent with Code Secs. 954(h), 1297(b)(2)(B), and 953(e);
  • provide more detailed guidance on the allocation and apportionment of foreign income taxes, and generalize the rules to apply to statutory and residual groupings;
  • provide a new ordering rule for overall foreign loss recapture that addresses additional income recognition under the branch loss recapture and dual consolidated loss recapture rules: the amounts are not taken into account for purposes of the ordering rules until Code Sec. 904(f)(3) amounts are determined;
  • clarify the rules that apply to jurisdictions that do not impose corporate income tax on CFCs until earnings are distributed. or where foreign tax is contingent on a future distributions, for purposes of the high-tax exception in Code Sec. 954(b)(4);
  • apply the principles for allocating and apportioning foreign income taxes for purposes of Code Sec. 965(g); and
  • update the Code Sec. 1502 regulations relating to the computation of the consolidated foreign tax credit to reflect changes in the law, and add new rules for the determining the source and separate category of the a consolidated NOL, as well as the portion of a consolidated net operating loss (CNOL) that is apportioned to a separate return year of a member.

Applicability of Proposed Regs

The proposed regulations are generally proposed to apply to tax years that end on or after the date the proposed regulations are filed in the Federal Register, with exceptions. For example, the rules for R&E expenses are proposed to apply to tax years beginning after December 31, 2019. However taxpayers on the sales method for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2020, may rely on the proposed regulations if the rules are applied consistently. Thus, a taxpayer on the sales method for its tax year beginning in 2018 may rely on the proposed regulation, but must also apply the sales method (relying on the proposed regulation) for its tax year beginning in 2019.

Practitioner’s Observations

WK: Were you surprised by anything in the final regs?

Martin Milner: The final regulations are generally consistent with the proposed regulations and do not include any major surprises. The changes and clarifications that are in the final regulations are largely helpful. As would be expected, most of the new provisions are in the proposed portion of the package.

WK: With the proposed regs are there areas that you can see may result in pushback? If so why?

Martin Milner: The business community is likely to comment on the proposal to apportion stewardship expenses to dividends, subpart F income and GILTI (including IRC Section 78 gross-ups) because many had hoped that stewardship expenses would not be apportioned to GILTI.

WK: How did you feel about the R&E Expense Apportionment changes?

Martin Milner: The mandatory sales-based apportionment of R&E expenses to all gross intangible income related to the relevant product SIC code will be complicated in practice. However, it is helpful that the proposed rules specifically exclude dividends, subpart F income and GILTI.