Newly issued temporary regulations limit the application of the Code Sec. 245A participation dividends received deduction (the participation DRD) and the Code Sec. 954(c)(6) exception in certain situations that present an opportunity for tax avoidance. The temporary regulations also provide related information reporting rules under Code Sec. 6038.
Participation Exemption Regime
The transition to the participation exemption system introduced by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, P.L. 115-97 (the Act) is effected through several interlocking provisions – Code Secs. 245A, 951A, and 965. All three provisions have different effective dates so there are periods in which some but not all of them apply. The participation exemption system operates alongside the subpart F regime.
Code Sec. 245A generally allows a domestic corporation a 100-percent dividends received deduction (a participation DRD) for the foreign-source portion of a dividend received after December 31, 2017, from a specified 10 percent-owned foreign corporation (an SFC). Generally, only earnings that are not taxed under the subpart F or the global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) regime can, upon distribution, give rise to a dividend eligible for the participation DRD. Distribution of earnings and profits that is taxed under the subpart F or GILTI regime is a distribution of previously taxed earnings and profits (PTEP) that is not treated as a dividend and cannot qualify for the participation DRD. The participation DRD applies to distributions made after December 31, 2017.
The participation DRD does not apply to untaxed earnings of U.S. shareholders as of December 31, 2017. Instead, such earnings are subject to a transition tax under Code Sec. 965. For fiscal year CFCs, there is a gap period during which certain of their earnings may escape taxation.
Code Sec. 951A (the GILTI regime) taxes a U.S. shareholder on its global intangible low-taxed income, or GILTI, with respect to its CFCs at a reduced rate. The GILTI regime applies in the first tax year of a CFC beginning after December 31, 2017.
Code Sec. 954 generally provides that a dividend received by a CFC is included in the CFC’s foreign personal holding company income (FPHCI). Under Code Sec. 954(c)(6), however, a dividend received by a CFC from a related CFC is not included in the CFC’s FPHCI if certain requirements are satisfied (the section 954(c)(6) exception).
Scope of the Temporary Regulations
The temporary regulations limit the availability of the participation DRD and the section 954(c)(6) exception in specific and narrow cases where the deduction or exception, respectively, effectively eliminates subpart F income or GILTI from the U.S. tax system. Specifically, the temporary regulations address transactions that have the effect of avoiding tax under Code Sec. 965, 951A, or 951by inappropriately converting income that should have been subject to U.S. tax into nontaxed income. The temporary regulations also include information reporting rules under Code Sec. 6038 to facilitate administration of certain rules in the temporary regulations. The temporary regulations do not include general rules relating to dividends eligible for the participation DRD since those rules will be included in separate guidance.
Overview of the Temporary Regulations
Code Secs. 245A, 951A, and 965 generally act to tax foreign source income equivalently across taxpayers and sources so long as a U.S. shareholder owns the same amount of stock of a calendar year CFC throughout the CFC’s entire tax year. However, deviations from this condition potentially allow taxpayers to avoid tax by claiming a participation DRD in situations where otherwise identical income would be subject to U.S. tax. The following two situations may present such an opportunity for tax avoidance: (1) a U.S. corporation is the shareholder of a fiscal year CFC during 2018, or (2) a CFC pays a dividend and experiences a direct or indirect change in ownership during a tax year. The temporary regulations limit the application of the participation DRD in these situations.
With respect to the first situation, described above, as a result of a gap in the effective dates of these related international tax provisions, the difference between calendar year and fiscal year CFCs is significant and presents the potential for substantial tax avoidance when utilized to artificially generate earnings and profits in non-ordinary course transactions between related parties.
The temporary regulations refer to the portion of a dividend attributable to earnings and profits arising from such a transaction during this period as an “extraordinary disposition amount.” An extraordinary disposition amount consists of certain earnings and profits resulting from transactions between related parties during the disqualified period. Although the period during which extraordinary dispositions may have occurred has passed, the regulations will potentially apply to any distributions of the associated earnings and profits after 2017.
In the second situation, described above, the participation DRD could facilitate the avoidance of the subpart F and GILTI regimes by allowing a U.S. shareholder to transfer, before the end of a CFC’s tax year, stock of the CFC to a new shareholder who will not be taxed on the CFC’s subpart F income or tested income.
The earnings and profits representing the portion of a dividend of a CFC attributable to subpart F income or tested income that, absent a transfer of the CFC stock pursuant to an extraordinary reduction, would have been subject to the subpart F or GILTI regimes are referred to as an “extraordinary reduction amount” in the temporary regulations. An extraordinary reduction amount consists of certain earnings and profits generated during a CFC’s tax year beginning after 2017 in which a domestic corporate U.S. shareholder reduces its ownership of the CFC by certain threshold amounts (e.g., a decrease in ownership of more than 10 percent). For this purpose, “certain earnings and profits” refers to income generally subject to inclusion under the subpart F or GILTI regimes.
Results similar to the ones described in the context of extraordinary disposition amounts and extraordinary reduction amounts can be achieved using the exemption from subpart F income under Code Sec. 954(c)(6) and lower-tier CFC dividends to upper-tier CFCs. Thus, the temporary regulations limit the application of the section 954(c)(6) exception in order to prevent similar results in circumstances in which a lower-tier CFC pays a dividend to another CFC, instead of directly to a U.S. shareholder.
Operation of the Temporary Rules
The temporary regulations do not permit the participation DRD for the portions of dividends made by CFCs that are attributable to ineligible amounts, which comprise extraordinary reduction amounts and 50 percent of any extraordinary disposition amounts.
To accomplish this, the temporary regulations disallow a deduction for transactions that have the effect of avoiding tax under Code Sec. 965, 951A, or 951. The extraordinary disposition rules accomplish this by denying the participation DRD for a narrowly and objectively defined class of earnings and profits generated by transactions undertaken in the disqualified period in circumstances that raise abuse concerns.
The extraordinary reduction rules accomplish this by denying the participation DRD for certain earnings distributed in the same year as reductions in ownership of CFC stock by a controlling Code Sec. 245A shareholder. The temporary regulations contain similar rules with respect to the section 954(c)(6) exception.
Information Reporting under Code Sec. 6038
Ineligible amounts, tiered extraordinary disposition amounts, and tiered extraordinary reduction amounts must be reported on the appropriate information reporting form in accordance with Code Sec. 6038. A transition rule mandates that taxpayers report the required information on the first return filed following the issuance of revised forms, instructions, or other guidance with respect to reporting such information. The transition rule also requires a corporation to report the information with respect to a predecessor corporation.
The rules in the temporary regulations relating to eligibility of distributions for the participation DRD apply to distributions occurring after December 31, 2017. The rules in the temporary regulations relating to the eligibility of dividends for the section 954(c)(6) exception also apply to distributions occurring after December 31, 2017, subject to a transition rule.