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November 16, 2011


Investments in foreign stocks, investment companies, foreign corporations that hold investements, etc.  from a U.S. tax point of view a could be for a U.S. individual, pension fund, or trust a paperwork nightmare .  If you are thinking of investing in Foreign stocks, please remember your friends at the IRS.  Any investment gains you make will be offset by IRS penalties if you do not do the proper paperwork.  To comply with the rules and keep the the US taxes down you should be filing form 8621 each year with your tax return.

Do not buy foreign mutual funds (funds not sold in the US).  These are PFICs (“Passive Foreign Investment Companies”) and they create a metric ton of complexity and accounting expense for your U.S. income tax returns.  (This, by the way, is one of the U.S. government’s little non-tariff trade barriers, designed to discourage U.S. capital being deployed into foreign capital markets).
Remember your FBAR.  The account you open that will buy the stock will need to be reported on Form TD F 90-22.1.

Remember Form 8938.  This is the new reporting form for foreign financial assets, largely duplicating the FBAR reporting requirements.

Foreign tax credit.  Undoubtedly a tax of some kind will be imposed for the foreign country where the investment is located. This will end up on an individual return on Form 1116.   This form will allow you to take a foreign tax  credit against your US income tax paid on the investment income.

What if you die while owning foreign investments? Be sure you have a plan for simple transfer of your accounts to your heirs if you die.  The cost of probate procedures in many foreign countries  could eliminate any stock market profits you make.  If you set up a foreign trust to try to reduce those foreign estate costs, you will then have to file forms 3520 and 3520A each year to report that trust.

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