Thursday, 02 January 2020 23:02

Effectively Connected Income (ECI)

TAXATION OF FOREIGN REAL ESTATE INVESTORS IN THE U.S.

30% FLAT TAX ON RENTAL PROPERTY

The article was prepared for educational purposes only. The article is neither legal nor tax advice, nor is it to be construed as such. Each individual’s circumstances are different; you should seek legal and/or tax advice to address any specific question you may have.

RENTAL INCOME: FDAP

 

U.S. “Fixed, Determinable, Annual or Periodic” (FDAP) Income Tax for Nonresident Alien

Under U.S. Title 26, IRS section code § 871(a)(1), FDAP income includes rental real estate income received on rental property as passive income. FDAP rental income is taxed at a flat tax rate of 30% of the “Gross Rental Income” for the calendar year. The tax applies to foreign persons earning rental income in the U.S. or the lower tax rates under a tax treaty between the investor’s country of residence and the U.S. 

In a tax examination, the IRS determines taxable income (FDAP income) as the total rental income collected during the taxable year. All expenses are foregone and non-deductible. No deductions for management fees, property taxes, mortgage interest expenses, depreciation, repairs and maintenance, and other rental costs on the IRS Form Schedule-E “Supplemental Income and Loss” are allowed. FDAP disallows all rental deductions unless the Effectively Connected Income (ECI) is filed.

 

Example: Mathis and Carol Dubois are Argentinian citizens living in Argentina, and in December 2016, they purchased a rental property at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda. In 2017, the couple contracted a local rental management company to rent out a two-bedroom condo with two baths and a living space of 1,291 square feet for $3,000.00 monthly, a bargain in the area.

The property was rented in 2017 for the entire year. The total annual rental gross income was $36,000.00, and it had $37,257 in qualified rental expenses. The rental LOSS was ($1,257), and the couple’s nontaxable cash-flow for the year was $10,970.00. The benefit of rental property is the deprecation deduction allowed for rental real estate. For the Dubois, the rental property depreciation for 2017 was $12,197.00, and the same amount is to be deducted for the next 27.5 years. During the period, the Dubois nontaxable cash-flow is estimated to be $301,675.00. Not a bad deal for investing in the U.S.

Without knowing about the tax implications of FDAP, the couple engages a local tax preparer to help file the 2017 Form 1040NR “U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return” and reports the ($1,257) loss on their Schedule-E.

The Dubois are excited with the zero tax liability for the next 27.5 years and consider buying a second investment property in October 2019. In May 2019, the couple calls their friend Rachel, a Maryland licensed real estate agent, about making an investment in a new property. Rachel was involved in the previous acquisition, and the Dubois regard her as the couple's real estate guru.

Rachel is excited about getting a call from the Dubois and equally enthusiastic that her international investor ledger is growing. The plan is set for October 2019, and Rachel puts on her real estate guru hat and searches properties for the Dubois to evaluate. The Dubois’ investment goals are as follows; two bedrooms, two baths, 1,300 square feet, Fair Market Value of $700,000, with a $140,000 down payment plus closing cost.

In September 2019, The IRS audited the Dubois’ 2017 tax return and disallowed the $37,257 rental expenses under the FDAP regulations. The IRS assesses a tax liability of $10,800.00 plus a 75% civil fraud penalty (Section 6663(a)), plus failure to deposit penalty, plus failure to pay penalty and interest. Total tax assessment for 2017 is $20,000+. Further, $10,800 is the yearly estimated tax for each year the property is rented. According to this annual number, the couple will pay an estimated $297,000 in taxes for the next 27.5 years under FDAP ($10,800.00 x 27.5 years).

The new investment property deal is off the table after the bad news from the IRS. Rachel is fired on the spot, and she is blamed for not providing them with tax advice. Rachel is not responsible for the tax problems, but in the real world, real estate agents are to blame for all matters. Rachel loses the Dubois and the opportunity to grow her international ledger.

 

All this could have been prevented if Rachel and the Dubois knew about the Effectively Connected Income (ECI) tax incentive, which allows Nonresident Alien Investors to file an IRS tax election in order to be taxed at the “NET BASIS” or the ($1,257) loss in the Dubois’ case. The tax election could have allowed the zero tax result for Dubois’ just the same as US Citizens and resident aliens.

 

SOLUTIONS:

A foreign investor will need to contact a real estate tax accountant and amend three years of tax returns before an IRS examination. The “key” is before the IRS examination. The investor will need to amend 2018, 2017, and 2016 Form 1040NR and include the ECI election with each amended tax return. Under IRS 6501 and IRS Internal Revenue Manual IRM-25.6.1.6.4 “Statute of Limitations on Assessment,” the IRS has three years to audit and access additional taxes from the due date of the return, or three years after the date the return was filed, whichever is later.

Real estate agents and management companies may have clients at risk for the FDAP regulations and IRS examination. Inform your clients of the risk of FDAP and give us a call for assistance.

 

EFFECTIVELY CONNECTED INCOME

 

RENTAL INCOME: ECI

Under U.S Title 26, IRS 871 (d) “net basis” election, the IRS code allows an Effectively Connected Income (ECI) election “to treat real property income as income connected with United States business. In general, a nonresident alien individual who during the taxable year derives any income - from real property held for the production of income and located in the United States” can deduct qualified rental expenses.

The ECI regulations are good news for foreign investors and real estate agents. In the Dubois’ case, the election would have allowed $37,257 in real estate expenses and zeroed out their tax liability. Rachel would have kept the Dubois as clients and grown her international investor ledger.

To qualify for ECI benefits, the investor must;

  • Obtain an ITIN or EIN number from the IRS,
  • Under IRS 871(d), treat the rental income as EIC,
  • Make annual EIC elections for each year the property is rented on Form 1040NR, and
  • Provide the correct W-8 form to the management company.

The Dubois represents the typical foreign investor we represent in our Bethesda office nationwide. As a tax firm, we can provide the following services to foreign investors.

Our services include:

  • IRS ITIN or EIN investors numbers,
  • File annual “Effectively Connected Income” elections with the IRS,
  • Prepare and provide management company an annual signed Form W-8ECI,
  • File IRS Form 1040NR annually for investors,
  • Report Income and Expenses on Schedule E,
  • If applicable, represent investors in the IRS examination, audits and tax resolution matters.

 

You need the right tax team working with you. Consider us, Mendoza, Silva & Company for all of your tax services. Consult with an enrolled agent, CPA, or Tax Attorney to assist with foreign investors buying rental property in the United States.

Call us for a complimentary evaluation at 301-962-1700. Mendoza, Silva & Company is located in Bethesda, Maryland, and Miami, Florida.

Published in Tax Tips

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