Friday, November 22, 2013

Securities and Banking Industries Request Extension of FATCA Deadlines

The securities and banking industries have asked for an additional extension of the phased-in timeline for the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). In a letter to the Treasury and IRS, SIFMA and the American Bankers Association, as well as the  Institute of International Bankers, said that a number of significant gaps in guidance remain, as well as numerous unanswered implementation questions that must be addressed by the IRS. While banks and securities firms are working diligently to implement FATCA, noted the letter, without the Final Guidance firms cannot complete their implementation plans, finalize budgets, prepare needed written procedures, hire and train internal personnel, educate clients, and develop and test the systems changes required for compliance with FATCA.  The industry associations believe that it would be appropriate to extend further certain milestone dates in order to help ensure a smooth transition to the FATCA regime and minimize the prospects of over withholding and, more broadly, the potential for significant disruption to the financial markets.
Passed in 2010 as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE), FATCA creates a new reporting and taxing regime for foreign financial institutions with U.S. accountholders. FATCA adds a new Chapter 4 to the Internal Revenue Code, essentially requiring foreign financial institutions to identify their customers who are U.S. Persons or U.S.-owned foreign entities and then report to the IRS on all payments to, or activity in the accounts of, those persons.

The Act broadly defines foreign financial institution to comprise not only foreign banks but also any foreign entity engaged primarily in the business of investing or trading in securities, partnership interests, commodities or any derivative interests therein. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, investment vehicles such as hedge funds and private equity funds fall within this definition. Firms meeting the definition must enter into agreements with the IRS and report information annually in order to avoid a new U.S. withholding tax.

SIFMA and ABA extension requests. Specifically, SIFMA and the ABA request an additional six-month extension for withholding that is scheduled to take place beginning on July 1, 2014, so that withholding begins with payments made after December 31, 2014. In addition, the definition of a grandfathered obligation, including associated collateral, should be extended to obligations outstanding as of January 1, 2015.
Similarly, they request an additional six-month extension for withholding documentation set to expire on June 30, 2014, so that such documentation would expire on December 31, 2014. Since information reporting and withholding systems are based on the calendar year, the banking and securities industries have a strong preference for January 1 effective dates. The mid-year effective date for withholding and due diligence procedures, as well as the mid-year expiration date for Forms W-8, presents an additional and unexpected challenge for FATCA implementation teams.
Draft Form W-8BEN-E is a highly complex 8-page form that will require significant employee training on how to validate the form, said the associations. Banks and securities firms, as requesters of withholding certificates, will play an integral part in the education of their non-U.S. clients and will need time to educate clients on the completion and use of the new Form W-8 series once the forms and instructions are issued in final form. 
They also request that FATCA reporting for 2014 (via Form 8966) should apply only to accounts designated by a participating foreign financial institution as held by a U.S. citizen or resident on December 31, 2014, and identifiable via electronic search. In addition, reporting for calendar year 2014 should be delayed one year so that reporting for calendar years 2014 and 2015 would be provided by March 31, 2016. Under this approach, firms would be permitted to voluntarily report earlier in order to test the reporting systems. All other FATCA-related reporting requirements7 should be postponed to be effective for payments made beginning in calendar year 2015.
IGAs. SIFMA and the ABA also emphasized that FATCA implementation has been further impacted by the lengthy process of negotiating IGAs between Treasury and foreign governments. Not only will global financial institutions doing business in IGA jurisdictions be required to implement certain aspects of FATCA under IRS regulations, said the groups, they will also be required to comply with varying IGA requirements in the approximately 80 jurisdictions expected to enter into IGAs.

Moreover, of the ten IGAs that have been executed to date, only the United Kingdom has issued comprehensive guidance for implementation. While it is helpful that signed IGAs can be recognized as being in effect, banks and securities firms still are faced with the prospect of being required to program their systems for the FATCA regulations and then having to subsequently reprogram these systems and revise their procedures on a country-by-country basis as IGAs are implemented and local guidance is released. Therefore, the associations believe that additional time is needed for the Treasury and foreign jurisdictions to conclude the new IGAs and enable financial institutions operating in those countries to implement FATCA just once.