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Form 709: Guide for foreign corporations in the US

Form 709: Guide for foreign corporations in the US

For foreign corporations operating in the United States, understanding and complying with IRS regulations is crucial. 

Among these, Form 709 stands out as a key document for certain financial transactions.

This guide aims to provide a thorough overview of Form 709, ensuring foreign entities are well-informed about their US tax obligations.

Understanding Form 709

First - let's break down what this form is, who needs to file it, and what qualifies as a taxable gift.

What is Form 709?

It's the tax form's way of saying, "I see what you did there!" - tax pro

Form 709, or the United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, is an IRS form for reporting gifts that may be subject to federal gift tax and generation-skipping transfer taxes. 

Unlike typical income tax forms, Form 709 deals with the transfer of wealth during one's lifetime, including cash or property like real estate.

This can include:

  • Cash gifts;
  • Transfers of real estate;
  • Shares or stock transfers.

It's essentially the IRS's way of monitoring substantial wealth transfers to ensure appropriate taxes are applied.

Who needs to file Form 709?

Foreign corporations might need to file Form 709 if they make gifts exceeding certain thresholds. This includes direct or indirect transfers without full consideration in return. 

"But it's just a gift!" you might say. Well, Uncle Sam thinks differently.

This requirement kicks in when gifts exceed specific thresholds, involving:

  • Direct transfers, such as outright gifts of cash or property.
  • Indirect transfers, like adding a non-U.S. person's name to a property deed without compensation.

Examples include:

  1. A foreign corporation gifting a piece of real estate in the U.S. to an individual.
  2. Transferring shares of a U.S.-based subsidiary to a non-U.S. entity without adequate compensation.

NB! Understanding the criteria for filing is crucial for compliance and avoiding potential penalties.

What qualifies as a taxable gift?

Determining what constitutes a taxable gift is essential for foreign corporations. Taxable gifts generally include:

  • Direct gifts: Any transfer where the full value is not received in return. For instance, if a corporation gifts $20,000 to an individual, the entire amount may be considered a taxable gift.
  • Indirect gifts: These are less straightforward and can include actions like forgiving a debt or transferring the benefits of an insurance policy.

NB! Not all gifts are taxable. There are exclusions and thresholds that can exempt certain transfers from being taxed. 

For example, gifts that fall under the annual exclusion limit (which varies each year) are typically not taxable. 

Exemptions and exclusions – the nuances

The good news (already mentioned above): not all gifts trigger a tax event.

Generally there are 2 types of exclusions: annual and lifetime.

These include:

  1. Gifts that are not more than the annual exclusion for the calendar year.
  2. Tuition or medical expenses you pay for someone (payments made directly to educational institutions or healthcare providers for someone else's benefit).
  3. Gifts to a political organization for its use.
  4. Gifts to your spouse.

Think of them as your get-out-of-jail-free cards, but don't get too excited – there are limits.

Special considerations for foreign corporations

Foreign entities must pay special attention to the type of property being gifted and its location. 

NOTE! The rules can vary significantly, especially for gifts involving U.S. real estate versus other types of assets.

Filing Form 709

Here's a step-by-step guide to ensure you file this form correctly and on time.

When and how to file

Form 709 is due on April 15 of the year following the gift. It's like a belated "thank you" note for that Christmas gift, but with more numbers. 

How to file:

  1. Obtain the form: First - download Form 709.
  2. Complete the form: Fill out the form with all required information. This includes details about the donor, the recipient, and the nature of the gift.
  3. Double-check for accuracy: Ensure all information is accurate and complete. Any errors can lead to processing delays or penalties.
  4. Sign and date: As the filer, you must sign and date the form.
  5. Mail the form: Mail it to the IRS at the address provided in the form instructions.

NB! Remember, it can't be filed electronically – it's old school, so you'll need to mail it. Knowing the correct filing procedures and deadlines is essential for timely compliance.

Form 709 preview



Common pitfalls and how to avoid them

Filing Form 709 can be complex, and errors can be costly. Here are some common pitfalls and tips on how to avoid them:

  1. Missing the deadline: Procrastination can be your worst enemy. Mark your calendar well in advance of the April 15 deadline.
    Pro Tip: If you're filing close to the deadline, consider using certified mail or a courier service to ensure the form is received on time.
  2. Underreporting gifts: It's easy to overlook or undervalue certain gifts, especially if they're not straightforward cash transactions.
    Example: If a foreign corporation transfers shares to an individual at a price below market value, the difference in value should be reported.
  3. Incomplete information: Leaving sections blank or not providing enough detail can lead to processing delays or audits.
    Pro Tip: Review the form thoroughly before submission. If in doubt, consult with a tax professional.
  4. Incorrect valuation of gifts: Valuing assets like real estate or shares can be complex. Incorrect valuations can lead to penalties.
    Example: For real estate gifts, it's advisable to get a professional appraisal to determine the fair market value.
  5. Not utilizing exclusions properly: There are various exclusions available, like the annual exclusion and educational/medical exclusions. Not taking advantage of these can result in unnecessary tax liabilities.
    Pro Tip: Keep abreast of the current exclusion limits and requirements, as these can change from year to year.

NOTE! Awareness of common mistakes and how to avoid them can save foreign corporations from unnecessary complications and penalties.

The complexities of gift tax for foreign entities

Gift tax basics

Gift tax is a bit like that distant relative who shows up uninvited to family events: often forgotten but important. It applies to transfers of property where full consideration (measured in money or money's worth) isn't received in return.

For foreign corporations, this can include transfers of U.S.-situated assets.

Generation-skipping transfer tax

This tax is like the sequel nobody asked for but got anyway.

The generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax is an additional tax on property transfers that skip a generation. It's designed to prevent avoidance of estate taxes through direct transfers to grandchildren or younger generations.

Example of gST:

Imagine a foreign corporation with significant investments in the U.S. decides to transfer $1 million in assets directly to the grandchildren of the majority shareholder, bypassing the children.

This transfer would typically trigger the GST tax because it skips a generation – the children of the shareholder.

In this scenario, the GST tax would apply in addition to any regular gift or estate taxes, ensuring that wealth transfers to non-immediate generations are taxed appropriately.

Advanced strategies and pro insights

Effective tax planning is crucial for managing potential liabilities, especially when it comes to gift taxes.

Strategic planning for gift tax

"Fail to plan, plan to fail," is a well-known adage in the tax world, and it holds particularly true when dealing with gift taxes.

Advanced planning can help minimize your tax liabilities. It's like chess – think several moves ahead.


Consider a foreign corporation that plans to transfer a significant amount of assets to a U.S. subsidiary over several years. Instead of making a large one-time transfer, the corporation could strategically spread the transfers over multiple years.

a) Scenario: The corporation intends to transfer assets worth $5 million to a U.S. subsidiary. Instead of transferring the entire amount in one year, which could result in a substantial gift tax, the corporation plans to distribute the assets over a period of five years.

b) Strategy:

  1. Annual Exclusion Utilization: Each year, the corporation takes advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion, which allows a certain amount to be gifted without incurring gift tax.
  2. Valuation Planning: The corporation ensures that the valuation of assets transferred each year is done accurately and in compliance with IRS guidelines.
  3. Documentation and Reporting: Proper documentation of each transfer and timely filing of Form 709 for any amount exceeding the annual exclusion limit.

By spreading the transfers over multiple years and utilizing the annual exclusion, the corporation can significantly reduce its overall gift tax liability.

This approach demonstrates the importance of strategic planning and understanding the nuances of gift tax regulations.

Seeking professional help

When in doubt, seek pro assistance. Tax laws can be as clear as mud, and professional advice can be invaluable. 

It's like asking for directions in a foreign city – it can save you a lot of time and trouble.

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Bottom line

While Form 709 may appear daunting, proper understanding and preparation make it manageable.

For foreign corporations, staying informed and seeking professional advice when necessary are the best strategies for navigating U.S. tax obligations.


1. Do I pay tax on gift money from parents?

No, as the recipient, you do not pay tax on gift money received from your parents. The responsibility to report the gift and potentially pay any gift tax lies with the giver, not the recipient.

However, if the gift exceeds the annual exclusion limit, your parents may need to file Form 709.

2. What happens if I don't fill out Form 709?

Failing to file Form 709 when required can result in penalties and interest charges. The IRS may impose a penalty of up to 5% per month on the unpaid tax, up to a maximum of 25%.

It's important to file the form if you've made gifts that exceed the annual exclusion limit or fall under other filing requirements.

3. Where to mail Form 709?

Form 709 should be mailed to the Internal Revenue Service Center.

Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service Center,
Kansas City, MO 64999, USA.

4. How much money can a married couple receive as a gift without being taxed?

A married couple can receive double the annual exclusion amount without being taxed. For 2023, the annual exclusion amount is $16,000 per person.

Therefore, a married couple can jointly receive $32,000 from a single donor without the donor incurring any gift tax liability.

This is because each spouse is considered a separate recipient for gift tax purposes.

Ines Zemelman, EA
Founder of TFX