Proposed regulations provide rules on the attribution of ownership of stock or other interests for determining whether a person is a related person with respect to a controlled foreign corporation (CFC) under the foreign base company sales income rules.

The proposed regulations also provide rules to determine whether a CFC receives rents in the active conduct of a trade or business, for determining the exception from foreign personal holding company income.

Ownership Attribution

The proposed regulations provide specific rules for applying principles similar to those in the Code Sec. 958(b) constructive ownership rules when determining related person status under the foreign base company sales rules. Determining related person status is relevant for many purposes, including whether certain types of income can be characterized as subpart F foreign base company sales or service income.

A person is a related person with respect to a CFC if the person is:

  • an individual who controls the CFC;
  • an entity that controls or is controlled by the CFC; or
  • an entity that is controlled by the same person that controls the CFC.

Under current Reg. §1.954-1(f), the Code Sec. 318(a)(3) downward attribution rules, which attribute ownership downward from the owner of an entity to an entity, apply by reference to the Code Sec. 958stock ownership rules. These rules are applied regardless of the size of the ownership interest in a partnership, estate or trust, but are applied to corporations based on a 50-percent or more ownership interest.

Based on concern that the downward attribution rules could produce inappropriate results, the proposed regulations provide that the downward attribution rule of Code Sec. 318(a)(3) and Reg. §1.958-2(d) will not apply for purposes of determining related person status under the foreign base company sales income rules.

This change does not preclude a corporation, partnership, trust, or estate from being treated as controlled by the same person or persons that control the CFC under other rules that remain applicable for the related person rules.

Additionally, an anti-abuse rule is provided with respect to the option attribution rule in Code Sec. 318(a)(4). The option attribution rule will not be applied to treat a person with an option as owning the stock or equity interest for purposes of the related person rule if the principal purpose of using the option was to cause a person to be treated as a related person.

The proposed regulations also incorporate a similar rule issued in Notice 2007-9, 2007-1 CB 401. The rule applies if the principal purpose for the use of an option is to qualify dividends, interest, rents or royalties paid by a foreign corporation for the Code Sec. 954(c)(6) CFC look-through exception from foreign personal holding company income. The rule is proposed to apply for tax years of CFCs beginning after December 31, 2006, and ending before the date that final regulation are published in the Federal Register, and for tax year of U.S. shareholders in which or with which such tax years end.

Foreign Personal Holding Company Rules

The proposed regulations modify the foreign personal holding company rules on amounts paid or incurred by a CFC in connection with the CFC’s rental income and the active rents exception. Rents are excluded from foreign personal holding company income if they are:

  • received from a person other than a related person; and
  • from the active conduct of a trade or business.

If rents are from leasing property as a result of marketing activities, there must be a substantial marketing organization in order to meet the active trade or business test. Under a safe harbor, an organization is substantial if active leasing expenses equal or exceed 25 percent of adjusted leasing profit. If the CFC receives rents from property it does not own, the substantiality of the organization is determined net of those rent payments.

The propose regulations extend the rule to apply to royalties, in addition to rents. As a result, the substantiality of the organization is determined under the safe harbor, net of the rents or royalties paid or incurred by the lessor CFC, for the right to use the property (or a component part of the property) that generated the rental income.

Applicability Date

The proposed regulations are generally proposed to apply to tax years of CFCs ending on or after the date the final regulations are published in the Federal Register, and for tax year of U.S. shareholders in which or with which such tax years end.