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Tax 101: Form 5471 - How to Complete the Form in Light of Recent Changes

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As part of the obligation to file income tax returns, U.S. persons owning 10% or more of the stock of a foreign corporation – measured by voting power or value of the stock that is owned – are obligated to provide information on the foreign corporation. Ownership is determined by reference to stock directly held, indirectly held through foreign entities, and deemed held through attribution from others. The scope and detail of the information to be reported is dependent on the percentage of ownership maintained by the U.S. taxpayer. As the degree of ownership increases, the amount of information increases. The reporting vehicle is Form 5471 (Information Return of U.S. Persons with Respect to Certain Foreign Corporations). For returns that report on tax year 2013, this form also reports on the net investment income tax (“N.I.I.T.”) arising through a controlled foreign corporation (“C.F.C.”).

Great emphasis is put on international tax compliance, and from 2009, the I.R.S. systematically assesses penalties for late filing of Form 5471. In addition, the 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“F.A.T.C.A.”) extended the statute of limitations for the I.R.S. to examine a tax return if certain information returns, including Forms 5471, were not timely or properly filed. The statute of limitations will remain open on the entire tax return and not only on Form 5471 if Form 5471 is not timely filed. Once the form is filed the statute of limitation will begin to run. To assist the I.R.S. to spot inconsistencies, beginning in tax year 2012, the I.R.S. assigned a unique reference identification number to each foreign entity, which allows the I.R.S. to compare forms filed with respect to a certain company over several years.