When Is a Firpta Certificate Required

When Is a FIRPTA Certificate Required?

The Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) was enacted in 1980 to ensure that foreign individuals and entities pay taxes on the sale of U.S. real property. Under FIRPTA, if a foreign person sells U.S. real property, the buyer is required to withhold a certain percentage of the purchase price and remit it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a form of tax withholding.

However, in certain cases, a FIRPTA certificate may exempt the buyer from withholding any taxes on the purchase. A FIRPTA certificate is issued by the IRS and confirms that the seller is not subject to FIRPTA withholding or that the amount to be withheld is less than the standard percentage.

To determine when a FIRPTA certificate is required, several factors need to be considered:

1. Seller’s U.S. Status: If the seller is a foreign person, as defined by FIRPTA regulations, a FIRPTA certificate is typically required. A foreign person includes non-resident aliens, foreign corporations, partnerships, or trusts.

2. Type of Property: FIRPTA applies to the sale of any U.S. real property, including residential, commercial, and agricultural properties. It also includes shares of stock in U.S. corporations that primarily own U.S. real property.

3. Sale Price: If the sale price of the property exceeds $300,000 and the buyer intends to use it as a residence, a FIRPTA certificate is generally required.

4. Exemptions and Exceptions: Certain exemptions or exceptions may apply, such as if the seller qualifies for an exemption under a U.S. tax treaty or if the property is being sold as part of a non-recognition transaction, like a like-kind exchange.

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1. How can I apply for a FIRPTA certificate?
To apply for a FIRPTA certificate, the seller or their authorized representative should complete Form 8288-B, Application for Withholding Certificate for Dispositions by Foreign Persons of U.S. Real Property Interests. The completed form should be submitted to the IRS along with any supporting documentation.

2. How long does it take to obtain a FIRPTA certificate?
The processing time for a FIRPTA certificate can vary. It is recommended to apply for the certificate as early as possible, preferably before the closing of the sale. The IRS typically takes around 90 days to process the application, but it may take longer during peak periods.

3. What happens if a FIRPTA certificate is not obtained?
If a FIRPTA certificate is not obtained, the buyer is required to withhold 15% of the sale price and remit it to the IRS. The buyer may be held liable for any failure to withhold or remit the required amount.

4. Can the buyer and seller negotiate the withholding amount?
The withholding amount can be negotiated between the buyer and seller if the seller believes that the amount to be withheld is excessive. In such cases, a reduced withholding certificate (FIRPTA certificate) can be obtained from the IRS, specifying the reduced amount to be withheld.

It is crucial for buyers and sellers to consult with tax professionals and attorneys familiar with FIRPTA regulations to ensure compliance and understand the specific requirements related to their transaction.