INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS A FOREIGN TRUST?
A trust is a relationship (generally a written agreement) created at the direction of an individual (the settlor), in which one or more persons (the trustees) hold the individual's property, subject to certain duties, to use and protect it for the benefit of others (the beneficiaries). In general, the term “trust” as used in the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) refers to an arrangement created either by a will or by an inter vivos declaration whereby trustees take title to property for the purpose of protecting or conserving it for the beneficiaries under the ordinary rules applied in chancery or probate courts.
Trusts can be characterized as grantor trusts or ordinary trusts. Ordinary trusts can be characterized as simple trusts or complex trusts; U.S. tax laws have special definitions for these concepts. A simple trust is a trust that is required to distribute all of its annual income to the beneficiaries. Beneficiaries cannot be charitable. A complex trust is an ordinary trust which is not a simple trust, i.e., a trust that may accumulate income, distribute corpus, or have charitable beneficiaries. Ordinary trusts are “hybrid” entities, serving as a conduit for distributions of distributable net income (“D.N.I.”), a concept defined in the Code,52 to beneficiaries and receiving a deduction for D.N.I. distributions, while being taxed on other income (e.g., accumulated income, income allocated to corpus).
A trust can be domestic or foreign. This article will focus on the U.S. tax consequences with respect to “foreign grantor trusts” (“F.G.T.”) and “foreign nongrantor trusts” (“F.N.G.T.”).