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Presumption Rules

If you cannot reliably associate a payment with valid documentation, you must apply certain presumption rules or you may be liable for tax, interest, and penalties. If you comply with the presumption rules, you are not liable for tax, interest, and penalties even if the rate of withholding that should have been applied based on the payee's actual status is different from that presumed.

The presumption rules apply to determine the status of the person you pay as a U.S. or foreign person and other relevant characteristics, such as whether the payee is a beneficial owner or intermediary, and whether the payee is an individual, corporation, partnership, or trust. 

In the case of a withholdable payment you make to an entity, you must apply the presumption rules for chapter 4 purposes to treat the entity as a nonparticipating foreign financial institution (FFI) when you cannot reliably associate the payment with documentation permitted for chapter 4 purposes. 

You are not permitted to apply a reduced rate of chapter 3 withholding based on a payee's presumed status if documentation is required to establish a reduced rate of withholding. For example, if the payee of interest is presumed to be a foreign person, you may not apply the portfolio interest exception or a reduced rate of withholding under a tax treaty since both exceptions require documentation.

If you rely on your actual knowledge about a payee's status and withhold an amount less than that required under the presumption rules or do not report a payment that is subject to reporting under the presumption rules, you may be liable for tax, interest, and penalties. You should, however, rely on your actual knowledge if doing so results in withholding an amount greater than would apply under the presumption rules or in reporting an amount that would not have been subject to reporting under the presumption rules.

In the case of a participating FFI or registered deemed-compliant FFI that cannot report with respect to an individual account holder, the FFI must classify the account holder under the requirements (as applicable) of the FFI agreement, Treasury regulations section 1.1471-5(f), or an applicable IGA. Whether withholding applies to payments made to such account holders classified as recalcitrant account holders (including payments to intermediaries or flow-through entities allocating payments to such account holders on an applicable withholding statement) differs under these requirements.

The presumption rules, in the absence of documentation, for the subject matter are discussed in the regulation section indicated below.

Presumption Rules in the Absence of Documentation
For the presumption rules related to: See regulation section:
Payee's status - general 1.1441-1(b)(3);
1.1471-3(f) (chapter 4 payees)
Effectively connected income 1.1441-4(a)(2)
Partnership and its partners 1.1441-5(d);
Estate or trust and its beneficiaries or owner 1.1441-5(e)(6)
Foreign tax-exempt organizations (including private foundations) 1.1441-9(b)(3)

Presumption Rules for Chapter 4

If you determine that you are making a withholdable payment to an entity and cannot reliably associate the payment with a valid Form W-8 or other documentation that you are permitted to rely upon and that is sufficient to determine the chapter 4 status of the entity, you are required to treat the entity payee as a nonparticipating FFI such that withholding applies.

If you are making a withholdable payment to joint payees and cannot reliably associate the payment with valid documentation from each payee and each of the payees appears to be an individual, the payment is presumed made to an unidentified U.S. person. If any of the joint payees does not appear, by its name or other information in its account file, to be an individual, then the entire payment is treated as made to a nonparticipating FFI. However, if you receive from one of the joint payees a Form W-9, the payment shall be treated as made to that payee.

References/Related Topics

Note: This page contains one or more references to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), Treasury Regulations, court cases, or other official tax guidance. References to these legal authorities are included for the convenience of those who would like to read the technical reference material. To access the applicable IRC sections, Treasury Regulations, or other official tax guidance, visit the Tax Code, Regulations, and Official Guidance page. To access any Tax Court case opinions issued after September 24, 1995, visit the Opinions Search page of the United States Tax Court.

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 24-Nov-2015