Who is Considered a Foreign Seller?

Who is Considered a Foreign Seller?

A foreign seller, for FIRPTA purposes, includes any individual, corporation, partnership, trust, or estate that is not considered a U.S. person. The Foreign Investment In Real Property Tax Act, also known as FIRPTA is a withholding tax that Foreign Sellers are subject to. However, it is important to note that this does not include Resident Aliens. Here’s a breakdown of what constitutes a foreign seller:

Non-Resident Aliens:

A Non-Resident Alien (NRA) is an individual who is not a U.S. citizen and does not qualify as a U.S. resident for tax purposes. This classification includes individuals who neither possess a green card nor meet the requirements to pass the substantial presence test. This test requires an individual to be physically present in the U.S. for at least 31 days during the current year and 183 days over the past three years, calculated using a specific weighted formula (all day’s present in the current year, one-third of the days present in the previous year, and one-sixth of the days present two years ago).

NRAs are subject to different tax rules and obligations compared to U.S. citizens and residents, including withholding requirements on income from U.S. sources, such as wages, rental income, and capital gains from U.S. real estate transactions. They also face specific reporting regulations and potential tax treaty benefits that can affect their tax liability. Understanding the classification and tax implications for NRAs is crucial for both the individuals and the entities they interact with, ensuring compliance with U.S. tax laws and regulations.


Foreign Corporations:

A foreign corporation is a business entity that is incorporated and operates under the laws of a country other than the United States. These corporations are considered foreign if they do not elect to be treated as domestic corporations for U.S. tax purposes. Under the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA), foreign corporations can be subject to U.S. tax on the disposition of U.S. real property interests. This includes direct sales of real estate and indirect sales, such as the sale of shares in a U.S. corporation whose primary assets are real property.

When a foreign corporation sells U.S. real property, FIRPTA requires the buyer to withhold a portion of the sales price, typically 15%, and remit it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This withholding ensures that the foreign corporation pays any applicable taxes on the gain from the sale, aligning with U.S. tax policy objectives to ensure foreign investors meet their tax obligations on U.S. property transactions.

Foreign Partnerships:

A foreign partnership is a business entity formed and operating under the laws of a country other than the United States, consisting of two or more individuals, entities, or other legal persons. Unlike domestic partnerships, foreign partnerships do not have U.S. incorporation or operation status. Under the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA), foreign partnerships can be subject to U.S. tax on the sale or exchange of U.S. real property interests. This includes both direct sales of real estate and indirect interests, such as selling stakes in partnerships primarily owning U.S. real property.

When a foreign partnership disposes of a U.S. real property interest, FIRPTA mandates that the buyer withholds 15% of the gross sales price and remit it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This withholding ensures that the foreign partnership fulfills its U.S. tax obligations on any capital gains realized from the transaction, helping to enforce compliance with U.S. tax laws and ensuring fair tax treatment of foreign investors in the U.S. real estate market.

Foreign Trusts and Estates:

Foreign trusts and estates are legal arrangements established in a jurisdiction outside the grantor's or decedent's home country, often for purposes of tax efficiency, asset protection, and succession planning. These entities allow individuals to manage and distribute assets according to their wishes while potentially benefiting from favorable legal and tax regimes in foreign jurisdictions. Foreign trusts involve a grantor, trustees, and beneficiaries, where the trustees hold and manage the trust assets on behalf of the beneficiaries.

Estates, on the other hand, refer to the total property owned by an individual at the time of their death, which is subject to administration and distribution according to the laws of the jurisdiction where the estate is situated. Navigating the complexities of foreign trusts and estates requires careful consideration of cross-border tax laws, reporting requirements, and legal obligations to ensure compliance and the intended outcomes.



FIRPTA ensures that foreign sellers pay taxes on gains from U.S. real property transactions, leveling the playing field for all investors. Understanding who is considered a foreign seller and when FIRPTA applies is crucial for compliance and avoiding potential penalties. Whether you are a foreign investor or a U.S. buyer dealing with a foreign seller, staying informed about FIRPTA regulations can help facilitate smoother and compliant real estate transactions.

For more detailed information or assistance with FIRPTA compliance, feel free to contact FIRPTA Solutions. Our team of experts is here to help you navigate the complexities of FIRPTA and ensure a seamless transaction process.

FIRPTA Solutions




[Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Realtors are advised to consult with legal professionals to understand the specific implications of new state laws on their business practices.]

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