IRS Provides Tax Relief to Certain Non-Residents During the COVID-19 Pandemic

June 2020

Summary

On June 12, 2020, the IRS updated its FAQs for Nonresident Alien Individuals and Foreign Businesses with Employees or Agents Impacted by COVID-19 Emergency Travel Disruptions.
 
The FAQ provides that a nonresident alien, foreign corporation, or a partnership in which either is a partner (Affected Person) may choose an uninterrupted period of up to 60 calendar days, beginning on or after February 1, 2020, and on or before April 1, 2020 (the COVID-19 Emergency Period), during which services or other activities conducted in the United States will not be taken into account in determining whether the nonresident alien or foreign corporation is engaged in a U.S. trade or business (USTB), provided that such activities were performed by one or more individuals temporarily present in the United States[1] and would not have been performed in the United States but for COVID-19 Emergency Travel Disruptions (e.g., canceled flights and disruptions in other forms of transportation, shelter-in-place orders, quarantines, and border closures, or they may feel unsafe traveling during the COVID-19 Emergency due to recommendations to implement social distancing and limit exposure to public spaces).
 
The FAQs also provide that during an Affected Person's COVID-19 Emergency Period, services or other activities performed by one or more individuals temporarily present in the United States will not be taken into account to determine whether the nonresident or foreign corporation has a permanent establishment (PE), provided that the services or other activities of these individuals would not have occurred in the United States but for COVID-19 Emergency Travel Disruptions.
 
In addition, the FAQs are updated to provide that an Affected Person's income earned during the COVID-19 Emergency Period will not be subject to the 30% gross basis tax imposed under section 871(a) or section 881(a) solely because the Affected Person is not treated as having a USTB or PE under the FAQs.
 
In all events, the Affected Person should retain contemporaneous documentation to establish the period chosen as the COVID-19 Emergency Period and that the relevant business activities conducted by individuals temporarily present in the United States during the COVID-19 Emergency Period would not have been undertaken in the United States but for COVID-19 Emergency Travel Disruptions. The Affected Person should be prepared to provide that documentation upon request by the IRS.
 
Lastly, the FAQs provide Nonresident aliens and foreign corporations (including those that are partners in partnerships) may make protective filings of their annual U.S. tax returns, even if they believe they are not required to file for the 2020 taxable year because they were not engaged in a USTB, to avail themselves of the benefits and protections that arise from such filings (such as those relating to deductions, statutes of limitations, and claiming tax treaty-based relief).
 


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[1] For purposes of the FAQs, an "individual temporarily present in the United States" means an individual who is present in the United States on or after February 1, 2020, and on or before April 1, 2020, and is a nonresident alien, or a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who had a tax home as defined in section 911(d)(3) outside the United States in 2019 and reasonably expects to have a tax home outside the United States in 2020. In addition, to determine the nonresident status of an alien, the relief provided in Rev. Proc. 2020-20 is applicable.