A rather stunning near–catastrophe almost occurred in the art world recently, and only dumb luck – namely, a casual off-hand remark with a savvy tax adviser – saved the art owner from a huge, self-inflicted tax bill from the Internal Revenue Service. A non-U.S. taxpayer (meaning a non-resident alien in tax parlance) had an extremely valuable painting being displayed in a U.S. museum or gallery and, for a variety of reasons, he wanted to transfer the painting to his spouse, who is also a non-resident alien. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the painting was worth $50 million. Because the gift was from a non-resident alien to his non-citizen spouse, and the property was tangible property located or situated within the United States at the time of the transfer, this transfer would have been subject to tax the U.S. gift tax regime, at a tax rate of up to 40%. WHAAAAATTTTT???!!!
The Treasury no doubt felt that it could chalk one up in the win column early in April 2016 when, following its release of a veritable carpet bombing of new regulations designed to blow up inversion transactions, the primary target, Pfizer Inc., chose to wave the white flag and cancel—at least for the time being—its efforts to merge with Allergan PLC.
Once upon a time, the United States federal income tax laws were largely about determining your federal taxable income and then calculating and paying the appropriate amount of income tax. How quaintly old-fashioned that era seems today.
Increasingly, the IRS is interested in much more than just your income taxes (although you still need to pay your taxes, too). These days, the IRS is also busy chasing a wide range of information, which is required to be reported timely on a remarkable – and often redundant – array of IRS returns. Typically, these returns demand stunningly detailed information covering a broad array of business and personal activities and assets.