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A Foreign Taxpayer’s Refund or Credit Could Be Limited by Upcoming Regulations

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In Notice 2015-10 (the “Notice”), issued on April 28, 2015, the I.R.S. stated that it was concerned about cases in which persons subject to withholding under Code §§1441-1443 (“Chapter 3”) or Code §§1471 and 1472 (“Chapter 4”) are making or will make claims for refunds or credits in circumstances where a withholding agent failed to deposit the amounts required to be withheld under §6302.

If a withholding agent fails to deposit an amount withheld under Chapters 3 or 4, or reported as withheld on Form 1042-S, and the I.R.S. issues a refund or credit for the amount, the I.R.S. may not be able to recover that amount because the claimant, and in some cases the relevant withholding agent, may be outside the United States. The new regulations aim to reduce the risk that the I.R.S. may issue improper refunds or credits for fictitious withholding or amounts that have not been deposited and are difficult to collect.

As will be seen below, the new regulations would limit a foreign taxpayer’s refund or credit to the amount deposited by the withholding agent. Though collecting undeposited amounts from withholding agents located outside the United States may be difficult for the I.R.S., one wonders about the fairness of limiting a foreign taxpayer’s refund or credit when the I.R.S. could use its greater resources to collect against the withholding agent.