PASSIVE FOREIGN INVESTMENT COMPANY: RELAXATION OF RULES APPLICABLE TO TAX-EXEMPT SHAREHOLDERS
The passive foreign investment company (“P.F.I.C.”) rules can have an adverse impact on any U.S. person that may invest in a foreign company classified as a P.F.I.C. A P.F.I.C. can include an investment in an offshore investment company that owns investment assets such as stocks and securities. While ownership by a taxable U.S. investor can produce adverse tax results, ownership by a U.S. taxexempt entity, such as a retirement plan or an individual retirement account (“I.R.A.”), usually will not result in adverse tax results. This situation is helpful since many tax-exempt entities invest in offshore investment companies. The one exception is if the U.S. tax-exempt investor borrows money to make its investment in the P.F.I.C. then the U.S. tax exempt may recognize unrelated business taxable income (“U.B.T.I.”) from this investment. Despite its tax-exempt status, U.B.T.I. is taxable to a U.S. tax-exempt investor under Code §511.
The P.F.I.C. rules, as do many tax rules, include extensive constructive ownership rules whose purpose is to make sure that the statutory purpose behind the rules are not undercut by use of intermediate holding companies or other means. One lurking issue was whether these constructive ownership rules could possibly apply where a beneficiary of a retirement plan or I.R.A. or a shareholder of a tax-exempt entity gets a distribution from the entity that is attributed to its investment in a P.F.I.C. The I.R.S. recently issued Notice 2014-28 that alleviated this concern. As a result, a shareholder of a tax-exempt organization or a beneficiary of a tax exempt retirement plan or I.R.A. is not subject to the P.F.I.C. rules. This notice alleviates not only possible adverse tax results, but also the need to file any relevant P.F.I.C. tax forms such as Form 8621, Information Return for a shareholder of a P.F.I.C.