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Final Regulations Address Withholding on U.S. Source Income

The Treasury and IRS have issued final regulations on the due diligence and reporting rules for persons making certain U.S. source payments to foreign persons. Guidance is also provided on reporting by foreign financial institutions on U.S. accounts. The regulations are effective on the date the regulations are published in the Federal Register.

Obtaining a Foreign TIN and Date of Birth

Temporary regulations provided that beginning January 1, 2017, a beneficial withholding certificate provided to document an account maintained at a U.S. branch or office of a financial institution was required to include a foreign taxpayer identification number (TIN) and the date of birth for an individual, in order to treat the certificate as valid. In response to comments regarding the difficulty of the requirements, the Treasury and IRS issued Notice 2017-46.

The notice provided a one-year delay in the implementation of the requirements for payments made on or after January 1, 2018, and transitional rules to phase in the foreign TIN requirement for certificates provided before January 1, 2018. The transitional rules allow an otherwise valid certificate to remain good until January 1, 2020. For payments made after January 1, 2020, a withholding agent may treat a pre-2018 certificate or payment as valid if the foreign TIN is obtained on a written statement or is in the withholding agent’s files. In Notice 2018-20, the IRS stated that it intended to expand its list of jurisdictions that do not issue foreign TINs to their residents to include jurisdictions that requested to be on the list, even if they issue foreign TINs.

The final regulations incorporate the temporary regulations and Notices with minor changes, by:

  • providing, with respect to withholding certificates signed on or after January 1, 2018, that a separate written statement is an acceptable way to collect a foreign TIN, if the written statement contains an acknowledgment that the statement is part of the withholding certificate;
  • clarifying the exception to the foreign TIN requirement for an account holder that is a government, international organization, foreign central bank or resident of a U.S. territory; and
  • clarifying that a withholding agent may rely on the date of birth on a withholding certificate, unless it knows or has reason to know that the date of birth is incorrect.

Nonqualified Intermediaries

A nonqualified intermediary is generally required to provide a withholding agent a Form W-8IMY, a withholding statement, and documentation for each payee for which the intermediary receives a payment. The final regulations clarify that the general standards of knowledge that apply to withholding agents apply to a nonqualified intermediary for reliance on payee documentation, for making the representation that the information on the certificate is not inconsistent with other account information from the nonqualified intermediary.

A nonqualified intermediary may provide a withholding statement that does not include a chapter 4 recipient code for one or more payees if the withholding agent can determine the appropriate code based on other information included on or associated with the withholding statement, or contained in the withholding agent’s records.

Electronic Signatures

A withholding agent can accept an electronically signed withholding certificate if the certificate reasonably demonstrates to the withholding agent that it has been electronically signed by the recipient identified on the form or authorized by the recipient to sign the form.

The final regulations allow the withholding agent to also consider documentation or other information that the withholding agent has that supports that the withholding certificate was electronically signed, absent actual knowledge that the information or documentation is incorrect.

Additional Changes

The final regulations also make clarifications with respect to withholding certificates and statements furnished through a third-party repository.

Regarding the claim of a reduced rate of withholding under a treaty, the final regulations modify the general standard of knowledge by providing that:

  • the withholding agent has reason to know that a claim of reduced rate under a treaty is unreliable or incorrect when it can check a list on the IRS website regarding the existence of the treaty, and
  • a withholding agent can rely on a beneficial owner’s claim regarding a limitation of benefits (LOB) provision, absent actual knowledge that the claim is unreliable or incorrect.

The final regulations also extend the time for withholding agents to obtain treaty statements, with respect to specific LOB provisions for preexisting accounts, to January 1, 2020.

For more information about this article, please contact our tax professionals at or toll free at 844.4WINDES (844.494.6337).
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