On January 29 and 30, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service’s Large Business and International (LB&I) division released new Practice Units on Permanent Establishments, which can be found here and here. Permanent Establishments create taxing nexus for foreign businesses doing business in the United States and for those who have “effectively connected income.” The Practice Units provide the IRS’s LB&I audit teams with a general guide on the tax concepts related to permanent establishments. The Practice Units provide examples of the analysis necessary to determine whether a foreign company has a permanent establishment, for example, as a result of its agent concluding contracts on its behalf in the United States. Additionally, the Practice Unit on treaty exemptions describes whether an activity has a preparatory or auxiliary character for purposes of determining whether a foreign enterprise has a US permanent establishment. LB&I auditors will use the Practice Units as tools to help analyze whether a US permanent establishment exists and an income tax adjustment is necessary.

Practice Point: If you have potential PE issues, it is a good idea to look at what your auditors are looking at. The Practice Units are helpful to understand the perspective of IRS auditors on these issues, the types of questions they are likely to ask and the information that they will request.

On May 21, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International Division (LB&I) announced the identification and selection of six new campaigns. These new campaigns follow the initial 13 campaigns announced on January 31, 2017, followed by 11 campaigns announced on November 3, 2017, and 5 campaigns announced on March 13, 2018. Continue Reading LB&I Announces Six New Campaigns

On January 20, 2016, the Large Business and International (LB&I) Division released a Practice Unit entitled Overview of Exchange Information Programs and Types of EOI Exchanges, defining and describing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Exchange of Information (EOI) programs. These EOI Practice Units specify what types of exchanges are covered by EOI programs and what types of information the IRS can seek through each type of EOI exchange.

The IRS breaks down the avenues for international information exchange into several categories:

  • Specific Requests involve requests for information pertaining to a specific taxpayer under examination or investigation for a specific period.
  • Spontaneous Exchanges involve the transmission of taxpayer information by one member of an EOI agreement that is deemed potentially of interest to a foreign partner even though no specific requests have been initiated by the foreign partner.
  • Automatic Exchanges involve the transmission of taxpayer information that foreign partners have agreed to exchange on a regular and systematic basis without individualized specific requests. The most common example includes information relating to dividends, interest, rents, royalties, salaries and annuities earned in one partner country by residents of the other partner country.
  • Industry-Wide Exchanges involve the sharing of trends, policies and operating practices in a particular industry or economic sector and do not implicate specific taxpayer information.
  • The Simultaneous Examination Program coordinates strategies and the development of technical issues between the United States and a foreign partner if it is determined a common interest exists between the respective taxing authorities. These discussions are intended to facilitate the exchange of relevant taxpayer information with the foreign partner in furtherance of the separate independent examinations of a taxpayer by each jurisdiction.
  • Joint Audits take place when the United States and one or more of its foreign partners collaborate to conduct a single examination of a taxpayer or a related taxpayer within their jurisdictions.
  • The Simultaneous Criminal Investigation Program operates through the EOI provisions of bilateral tax agreements and fosters the coordination of separate criminal investigations conducted concurrently by the United States and the foreign partner.
  • The Mutual Legal Assistance Program relates to an agreement that authorizes a partner country to secure evidence for use by the requesting country in criminal judicial proceedings of the taxpayer.
  • The Mutual Collection Assistance Request Program is intended to utilize the collection assistance provisions of tax treaties, enabling one partner state to collect taxes covered by the treaty on behalf of the other contracting state. These collection provisions appear in a limited number of current United States treaties.

The Practice Units provide a short general overview of each method and—of particular usefulness—describe what government office or department is responsible for executing requests in each category. Thus, the Practice Units may be a good “first line of defense” for information-gathering when you believe the IRS is pursuing or has received an international EOI request related to your client.

In future posts, we will discuss how these tools are utilized in practice, including how the IRS handles foreign-initiated Specific Requests.