One of the foreign investor’s favorite investments is U.S. real estate. However, from a tax planning perspective there are other asset categories to consider.
In the U.S. the “estate tax” refers to taxation upon death. The “gift tax” means transfer tax, and applies to gifts made while alive.
From a gift tax perspective, intangible assets such as U.S. stocks and bonds are a preferred asset.
In the U.S. the gift tax only applies to real property and tangible property. It does not apply to intangible property.
The advantage for a Non-Resident Alien (“NRA”) acquiring stocks and bonds is that it can be gifted to anyone, including other NRAs, family, or U.S. residents, all without incurring any U.S. tax liability. There may however still be a tax reporting requirement.
There is also an opportunity to avoid U.S. estate (“death”) taxation for the NRA. As long as the NRA investor holding the intangible property has advance notice and awareness of his or her failing health, he or she can gift the asset to the preferred recipient.
The NRA can also take precaution for a sudden or unexpected death. The most common solutions include life insurance and an Estate Plan, such as a Trust.