1. Introduction

On April 24, 2024, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) and the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) issued final regulations[1] on the definition of “domestically controlled” real estate investment trusts (“REITs”) (the “Final Regulations”). The Final Regulations retain

On December 28, 2022, the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) and the Treasury Department released proposed regulations (the “Proposed Regulations”) under sections 892 and 897 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”).[1] If finalized as proposed, the Proposed Regulations would prevent a non-U.S. person from investing through a wholly-owned U.S. corporation in order to cause a real estate investment trust (“REIT”) to be “domestically controlled”.  The ability of a non-U.S. person to invest through a U.S. corporation to cause a REIT to be domestically controlled had been approved in a private letter ruling, and is a structure that is widely used.  The Proposed Regulations would also apply to existing REITs that rely on a non-U.S. owned U.S. corporation for their domestically-controlled status, and suggest that the IRS could attack such a structure under current law (i.e., even if the Proposed Regulations are not finalized).

The Proposed Regulations also clarify that in determining a REIT’s domestically controlled status, a foreign partnership would be looked through and “qualified foreign pension funds” (“QFPFs”) and entities that are wholly owned by one or more QFPFs (“QCEs”) would be treated as foreign persons.  Lastly, the Proposed Regulations also provide a helpful set of rules for sovereign wealth fund investors that indirectly invest in U.S. real estate.

On November 30, 2021, the IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2021-53, which temporarily allows publicly offered RICs and REITs to make distributions that are treated as dividends of up to 90% stock and the remainder in cash. Revenue Procedure 2020-19 closely follows the format of similar guidance issued during the 2008

On Wednesday, April 28th, the White House announced the American Families Plan, the “human capital” infrastructure proposal.  The American Families Plan would spend $1.8 trillion, including $800 billion in tax cuts over ten years, offset by $1.5 billion in new taxes over the same period.  This blog

On June 24, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) and the U.S. Department of Treasury (“Treasury”) issued final regulations (the “Final Regulations”) on the application of the “passthrough deduction” under Section 199A[1] to regulated investment companies (“RICs”) that receive dividends from real estate investment trusts (“REITs”). The Final Regulations broadly allow a “conduit” approach, through which RIC shareholders who would have been able to benefit from the deduction on a dividend directly received from a REIT can take the deduction on their share of such dividend received by the RIC, so long as the shareholders meet the holding period requirements for their shares in the RIC. This confirms the approach of proposed regulations issued in February 2019 (the “Proposed Regulations”), on which RICs and their shareholders were already able to rely. Additionally, the preamble to the Final Regulations (the “Preamble”) notes that the IRS and Treasury continue to decline to extend conduit treatment to qualified publicly traded partnership (“PTP”) income otherwise eligible for the deduction. Please read the remainder of this post for background, a description of the technical provisions of the Final Regulations, and a brief discussion of policy issues discussed in the Preamble.

On May 4, 2020, the IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2020-19, which temporarily allows a publicly-offered REIT or RIC to pay as much as 90% of a distribution in its own stock (rather than cash or other property) and still have the entire amount treated as a dividend for US federal income tax purposes. As a result, the distribution will qualify for purposes of the REIT or RIC’s dividend distribution requirement and the dividend paid deduction, so long as certain requirements are satisfied.  Revenue Procedure 2020-19 closely follows the format of similar guidance issued during the 2008 financial crisis and applies to distributions declared on or after April 1, 2020, and on or before December 31, 2020.

On June 7, 2019, the U.S. Treasury Department (“Treasury”) and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) released proposed Treasury regulations under Sections 897, 1445 and 1446 (the “Proposed Regulations”) regarding the exception for qualified foreign pension funds (“QFPFs”) from taxation under the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (“FIRPTA”) provisions

On January 18, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued final regulations (the “Final Regulations”) on the “pass through” deduction under section 199A[1] of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”). Very generally, section 199A provides individuals with a deduction of up to 20% of income from a domestic “trade or business” operated as a sole proprietorship or through a partnership, S corporation, trust, or estate. The Final Regulations define trade or business as “a trade or business under section 162, other than the trade or business of performing services as an employee.”[2]

Prior to the issuance of the Final Regulations, taxpayer commenters expressed uncertainty as to whether a rental business qualified as a trade or business under section 199A—based on a long-standing uncertainty as to whether, and to what extent, a rental real estate business was a trade or business for purposes of section 162.

To provide some certainty for taxpayers potentially entitled to the pass-through deduction, the IRS released Notice 2019-07 (the “Notice”) in conjunction with the Final Regulations. The Notice proposes a safe harbor under which taxpayers (including partnerships and S corporations owned by at least one individual, estate, or trust) may treat a “rental real estate enterprise” as a trade or business solely for the purposes of the section 199A deduction. Because the Notice would provide a safe harbor—and not a substantive rule—failure to meet the tests set forth in the Notice does not necessarily mean a rental real estate business is ineligible for the section 199A deduction. If the Notice standards are not met, then the general test under section 162 would need to be met for such a business.[3] However, in certain other contexts, tax professionals and the IRS have viewed safe harbors as establishing the bounds of the substantive law; it remains to be seen whether taxpayers will claim the pass-through deduction for real estate leasing activities that fail to satisfy the safe harbor.

On September 6, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) released Revenue Procedure 2018-47 (the “RIC Rev Proc”), which provides that a repatriation deemed to have been received by a registered investment company (a “RIC”) under Section 965 (enacted as part of the 2017 tax reform act, commonly known as the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” or “TCJA”) is treated as a “specified gain.” As a result, the amount of the deemed repatriation need not be distributed by the RIC until 2018 in order for the RIC to avoid the 4 percent excise tax imposed under Section 4982(a).

On September 13, the IRS released Revenue Procedure 2018-48, which provides that “global intangible low-taxed income” (“GILTI”), Subpart F income and “passive foreign investment company” (“PFIC”) inclusions of a real estate investment trust (a “REIT”) are treated as qualifying income for purposes of the 95 percent gross income test, and that certain REIT foreign exchange gains relating to distributions of previously taxed earnings and profits (“PTI”) are not included in gross income for purposes of the 95 percent gross income test.

Read further for additional background and more detail on these developments.