Foreign Investment in U.S. Real Estate

PPVA vs. a “Blocker” Corp. Structure 

A sizable portion of the $350-500U.S. billion foreign inbound investment in the U.S. annually is placed in real estate. A Private Placement Variable Annuity (PPVA) can greatly reduce taxation and reporting requirements on these investments. The PPVA structure outlined in this blog is superior to the usual blocker corporation structure.

For the main points in this blog, we are indebted to Gerald Nowotny, a U.S. attorney, who writes frequently on Private Placement Life Insurance (PPLI) and PPVA topics. Mr. Nowotny’s recent article on PPVAs,“It Do Me Good!”  is our source.

According to Mr. Nowotny, the PPVA structure accomplishes several important tax and non-tax objectives:

  • “Avoidance of the need on the part of the foreign investor to file a U.S. income tax return and falling under the scrutiny and jurisdiction of the IRS.

 

  • Recharacterization of income that would be otherwise subject to taxation at the top corporate rates into interest and dividend income that is subject to lower tax rates under applicable tax treaties with the U.S.

 

 

  • Minimization of corporate taxation on the “blocker” corporation structure frequently used as part of this planning.”

Our blog is usually about the uses of PPLI structures for wealthy international families.  At times the use of a PPVA structure makes more sense, so we give you an example from Mr. Nowotny’s article to illustrate this point.

We have changed the example used in Mr. Nowotny’s article slightly, because we favor using offshore companies,who in this case, have made a 953(d) election. We have found that this results in more streamlined compliance reporting.

PPVA Structuring Example

Acme Investment Management is a real estate investment management organization investing in several different U.S. real estate markets. Acme creates an insurance dedicated fund (IDF) with the life insurance company, Corona Life, that will issue the annuity. We quote from the full article:

“Based upon the total premium (investment) commitment, Corona charges the policyholders 25 basis points per annum. The total cost per year is $250,000 per year. Over the course of the twenty year life of the fund-the total projected PPVA costs are $5 million. The total cost of the PPVA is roughly equal to the investor’s tax liabilities using the blocker corporation in the first 2-3 years.

The PPVA will not have any withholding for FIRPTA. Under the treaty, annuity income is not subject to U.S. income and withholding taxes. Therefore, neither Acme nor Corona will be required to withhold anything on its distribution.

Assume the same facts as the description above except for the fact, that the PPVA structure has no tax leakage. Corona does not have any withholding tax obligation on the income distributions of  any of the annuity payments or at liquidation of the investments. Corona is not subject to withholding under FIRPTA on the sale of the real estate.”

Please let us know how a PPVA structure can assist you in planning for the U.S. real estate investments of non-U.S. persons. We welcome your questions and comments.

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 by Michael Malloy, CLU TEP, @ Advanced Financial Solutions, Inc

 

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