On January 17, 2013 the IRS issued final regulations providing rules on information reporting by foreign financial institutions (FFIs) and withholding on certain payments to FFIs and other foreign entities.
Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009 (FATCA), enacted as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act of 2010, P.L. 111-147, U.S. withholding agents are required to withhold tax on certain payments to foreign financial institutions (FFIs) that do not agree to report certain information to the IRS regarding their U.S. accounts and on certain payments to certain nonfinancial foreign entities (NFFEs) that do not provide information on their substantial U.S. owners to withholding agents.
The regulations finalize the proposed rules issued last February, making a number of changes in response to comments. As a result, the 389-page proposed regulations have become 544-page final rules, with a lengthy discussion of which comments prompted changes from the proposed regulations.
One area of simplification in the final regulations is the integration of model intergovernmental agreements into the reporting requirements of the regulations. There are two types of intergovernmental agreements: reciprocal agreements and nonreciprocal agreements, which are called Model 1 IGAs and Model 2 IGAs. A jurisdiction signing a Model 1 IGA agrees to adopt rules to identify and report information to the IRS that meets the standards in the Model 1 IGA. FFIs that are in Model 1 IGA jurisdictions report the information about U.S. accounts required by FATCA to their respective governments, which then exchange this information with the IRS. FFIs in Model 2 IGA jurisdictions must comply with the FATCA regulations except to the extent the relevant IGA provides otherwise.
The IRS announced that, to date, seven countries have entered into model agreements with the United States: Norway, Spain, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, and Switzerland. Discussions with more than 50 countries are ongoing, and more agreements are expected to be signed in the near future.
In recognition of the burden that complying with FATCA entails, the final regulations, among many other things:
- Phase in over an extended transition period the timelines for withholding, due diligence, and reporting and align them with the IGAs.
- Expand and clarify the types of payments subject to withholding, particularly for certain grandfathered obligations that are not subject to the rules and certain payments made by NFFEs.
- Expand and clarify the treatment of certain low-risk institutions, such as government entities and retirement funds, provide that certain investment entities may be subject to being reported on by FFIs with which they hold accounts rather than being required to register as FFIs with the IRS, and clarify the type of passive investment entity that financial institutions must identify and report.
- Streamline the compliance and registration requirements for groups of financial institutions, including commonly managed investment funds.
The regulations have become effective when published in the Federal Register (scheduled for Jan. 28, 2013).