When a foreign business contemplates operating in the U.S. through a U.S. subsidiary corporation, it must take into account the options available for funding the subsidiary. As a practical matter, a foreign-owned subsidiary may encounter difficulty in obtaining external financing on its own, and thus, internal financing is often considered. It is a common practice for a foreign parent corporation to fund its subsidiary through a combination of equity and debt.
Using loans in the mixture of the capital structure is often advisable from a tax point of view. Subject to the general limitations under the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), financing the operations with debt will result in a U.S. interest expense deduction, often with a meaningful reduction of the overall tax rate applicable to the operation. (It should be noted that the U.S. has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.) Additionally, repayment of invested capital (in the form of debt principal) will be free of U.S. withholding tax if the investment qualifies as a debt instrument for U.S. tax purposes. If the lender is a resident of a treaty jurisdiction and eligible for treaty benefits, the interest payments will be subject to a reduced rate of taxation – or a complete elimination of taxation – under the treaty. Another reason multinational entities use debt to finance their subsidiaries is the possibility for tax arbitrage resulting from the differing treatment in various countries of debt and equity.