Most of the time, this blog addresses subjects of general interest to most small business owners. But this week, I want to talk about the Section 965 Transition Tax and about how tax accountants can use the IRS Pub 5292 worksheets to develop the information taxpayers need to report on their 2017 tax return.
We are, in other words, way out into the weeds.
Before I supply the link to the Excel workbook that makes the IRS Pub 5292 calculations along with some brief instructions, let me provide some background information.
Section 965 Transition Tax Background
A CPA friend of ours, Moses Mann, did a great guest blog post about key features of the new international tax stuff, including the Section 965 transition tax. If you’re still getting up to speed on how any of this works, refer to that post: International Tax Reform: Key Changes from Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
To give you a birds-eye view, however, U.S. taxpayers who own what’s called a “deferred foreign income corporation” (aka a “DFIC”) need to recognize as 2017 income the cumulative undistributed earnings of the foreign corporation on which U.S. income tax has been, up until now, deferred.
If you’re surprised by this—say because you own an interest in a controlled foreign corporation—know you’re not alone. In the past, a small business or an individual who owned an interest in a controlled foreign corporation usually wouldn’t need to pay U.S. income taxes on the foreign corporation’s income until that income was distributed.
Note: A controlled foreign corporation is a foreign corporation where U.S. shareholders who each own more than 10% ownership interests collectively own at least 50% of the stock in the foreign corporation.
The new Section 965 transition tax says different, however. It says, “Hey, um, you know those retained earnings that have accumulated in that foreign corporation you own a slice of?… Yeah, well, we’re just going to pretend, or ‘deem,’ your share of those earnings was repatriated in 2017. And then we will make you pay a repatriation tax.”
This stuff, if you own an interest in a controlled foreign corporation or any other type of DFIC, should have been dealt with on your 2017 tax return.
But quite possibly it wasn’t.
The Section 965 Transition Tax Conundrum
The problem here? The actual tax law was enacted much too late to make this something the Internal Revenue Service, tax accountants and their clients could deal with during the 2017 tax season.
Accordingly, neither the tax software companies nor the Internal Revenue Service were able to provide rich guidance or robust tools to make the calculations.
The Internal Revenue Service, for example, published its guide, IRS Pub 5292, on April 6th, 2018. And it originally published these FAQs in March 2018, but has been updating them since, with some parts added as recently as June.
Even as I write this, the U.S. Treasury’s eftps.gov system can’t at this point accept payments of the Section 965 transition tax—which tells you something (see Question 10 of the IRS FAQs linked above).
The proposed regulations for Sec. 965 only came out today (August 1, 2018).
And, big surprise, tax software preparation companies haven’t had time to add to their products all functionalities that really deal with the Section 965 transition tax.
To be honest, it’s a little bit of a goat rodeo.
Excel Versions of Pub 5292 Worksheets
Accordingly, what many tax practitioners have had to resort to is constructing Excel workbooks that mimic the worksheets from IRS Pub 5292. Only then can they can calculate the stuff that needs to be reported in order to (a) comply with the Section 965 transition tax reporting and (b) to calculate the Section 965 transition tax.
We supply our firm’s version of this Excel workbook via the link below:
Please treat this like you would “beta software.” In other words, we’ve tested it (as we continue to test it). But be careful. And a request? If you have questions or spot issues, for heaven’s sake, post a comment here. We thank you in advance for that. And so will all of your professional brothers and sisters.
And three quick notes to close: First, the worksheet cells that show in orange accept the input values.
Second, you want to have the IRS Pub 5292 in your hand (or on your screen) as you work through the calculations. That publication provides the instructions for “filling in the blanks.”
Third, Pub 5292 does contain rather obvious errors. Watch for those as you read. And remember the attorneys and accountants at the Internal Revenue Service were just trying to do the best job they could… at the last minute… with a confusing, probably incorrectly written bit of tax law.