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IRS Issues IPU on Summons of Foreign Owned US Businesses

On January 30, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released an International Practice Unit (IPU) on the use of a summons under IRC Section 6038A (IRC Section 6038A Summons) when a US corporation is 25-percent owned by a foreign shareholder.  See IPU here. The IPU describes the steps that the IRS should take when issuing an IRC Section 6038A Summons, and what to do when the US corporation does not substantially comply with the summons.

In general, IRC Section 6038A imposes reporting and recordkeeping requirements (together with certain procedural compliance requirements) on domestic corporations that are 25-percent foreign-owned, which the regulations refer to as a domestic reporting corporation (DRC).  Among other requirements, a DRC is required to keep permanent books of account or records per IRC Section 6001 that are sufficient to establish the correctness of the federal income tax return of the DRC, including information, documents, or records to the extent they may be relevant to determine the correct US tax treatment of transactions with related parties. See Treas. Reg. Section 1.6038A-3.

The IRS may issue an IRC 6038A Summons when:  (i) the taxpayer under exam is a DRC; (ii) there was a transaction between the DRC and the 25 percent foreign shareholder or any foreign person related to the DRC or to such 25 percent foreign shareholder; and (iii) the DRC is appointed to act as a limited agent with respect to any request by the IRS to examine its records or produce testimony that may be relevant to the tax treatment of any transaction between the DRC and a foreign related party.  If the DRC does not substantially comply in a timely manner with the IRC 6038A Summons, the IRS has sole discretion to determine the amount of the DRC’s deductions related to transactions with, and the cost of property purchased from (or transferred to), the foreign related party.

The IPU is particularly relevant in light of final regulations published in the Federal Register on December 13, 2016 (TD 9796) which treat a domestic disregarded entity wholly owned by a foreign person as a domestic corporation for purposes of the reporting, record maintenance and associated compliance requirements under IRC Section 6038A.  The regulations are effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2016, and ending on or after December 13, 2017.  The IPU refers to these regulations in describing the criteria which must be met before the IRS issues an IRC Section 6038A Summons.

Practice Point:  For US entities that are owned by foreign entities and file US tax returns, it is crucial to have all of the relevant information for the entity in the US. US taxpayers are required to support all of the positions claimed on a return.  For example, if there are expenditures of the US entity that are paid for by the foreign affiliate, there should be adequate documentation in the US to support those payments.

© 2019 McDermott Will & Emery


About this Author

Bradford LaBonte, McDermott Law Firm, Tax Attorney

Bradford E. LaBonte focuses his practice on US and international tax matters. He advises multinational corporations and investment funds on matters related to cross-border mergers and acquisitions, cash repatriation, controlled foreign corporation (CFC) and passive foreign investment company (PFIC) regimes, financial instrument classification, US trade or business determinations, US income tax treaty qualification and planning, and US withholding tax issues.

Andrew R. Roberson tax attorney McDermott Will. Andy handles tax cases in Federal court, United States Tax Court

Andrew R. Roberson is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Chicago office.  Andy specializes in tax controversy and litigation matters, and has been involved in over 30 matters at all levels of the Federal court system, including the United States Tax Court, several US Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court. 

Andy also represents clients, including participants in the CAP program, before the Internal Revenue Service Examination Division and Appeals Office, and has been successful in settling tax disputes through the administrative appeals and Fast Track processes.  He has extensive experience in Tax Court practice and procedure, corporate reorganizations, TEFRA, tax accounting and substance/form issues.  Andy is a frequent speaker on tax topics and has authored several articles on tax matters. 

Andy is active in the pro bono community, providing services to low-income individuals in Federal and state tax disputes on issues such as substantiation, deductions and credits, innocent spouse relief and collection matters.  He was recently named 2012 Volunteer of the Year by the Center for Economic Progress.

Kevin Spencer, McDermott Will & Emery LLP , Tax Litigation Attorney

Kevin Spencer is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm's Washington, D.C., office.  He focuses his practice on tax controversy and litigation issues. 

Kevin represents clients in complicated tax disputes in court and before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at the IRS Appeals and Examination divisions.

In addition to his tax controversy practice, Kevin has broad experience advising clients on various tax issues, including tax accounting, employment and...