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FIRPTA withholding to increase next week

If you work with foreign nationals in your real estate business, be advised that the FIRPTA withholding rate on home sales exceeding $1 million will increase to 15% on February 16.

Also known as the Foreign Investment in Real Estate Property Tax Act, FIRPTA requires foreign persons to pay U.S. income tax on gains made from the sale of real estate in the United States. Home sales that do not exceed the $1 million dollar threshold are subject to a 10% withholding.

There is an exception to the FIRPTA withholding rule. If the sales price is below $300,000 AND the new buyer intends to use the property as a principal residence, then the home sale is not subject to FIRPTA withholding.

The duty of collecting the FIRPTA tax, owed by a foreign national seller, is imposed on the U.S. national buyer The amount that must be withheld can be lowered pursuant to the seller obtaining a withholding certificate from the IRS prior to closing.

In most instances, the settlement agent will actually collect the withholding from the foreign national seller and remit the funds to the IRS on behalf of the buyer. However, the buyer is held legally responsible for the proper withholding and, under the law, the buyer could be liable for any additional withholding tax, penalty and interest if ever challenged by the IRS.

To help you determine when FIRPTA withholding is required, and the rate to withhold, we created a simple flowchart that contains four easy questions. You can view it on our website and download a copy to share with your clients and colleagues.

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