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Using a §897(i) Non-Discrimination Election to Avoid F.I.R.P.T.A.

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Mistakes happen. Often nonresident alien individuals buy U.S. real property, often personal use property, in their individual names. This can be a costly mistake. With certain exceptions, if such an individual were to die while owning the property, a U.S. estate tax of approximately 40% of the value of the property could be imposed.

There is one method to restructure this investment in the case of a foreign individual, or an entity owned by a foreign individual, if such a person is eligible to claim the benefit of an income tax treaty with the United States and the treaty contains a so-called “Nondiscrimination Clause.” These clauses provide that a resident of a treaty state will not be treated any less favorably than a U.S. resident carrying on the same activities. This article will look at how a Nondiscrimination Clause can be used to avoid onerous F.I.R.P.T.A. provisions when a foreign person invests in U.S. real property.

The technique described in this article essentially permits a nonresident alien individual to transfer U.S. real property on a tax-free basis to a foreign entity, which will be treated as a domestic entity for income tax purposes and as a foreign (non-taxable) entity for U.S. estate tax purposes.