At the MARPA Conference, Kevin Cox of LarsenAllen mentioned IC-DISCs as a way to minimize federal taxes on profits from exports. After his presentation, I asked if his organization could provide us with more information, because this seemed like a useful structure for MARPA members performing significant exports. In response, his colleague Steve Roark wrote us the following article describing the IC-DISC and the way that a US exporter can use an IC-DISC to reduce its tax obligation. Contact information for LarsenAllen is at the bottom of the article.
Manufacturers and distributors work hard to provide products and services competitive in the global economy. Now more than ever, generating foreign sales is a necessary component to growth. Competition for export sales is burdened by many factors including foreign competition, tariffs, fees, foreign taxes and so forth. Wouldn’t it be great if companies could get a break from this burden? The rallying cry by many companies is that Congress needs to act now to allow U.S. manufacturers to be more competitive in the global market. Well, Congress did act – they just acted about 30 years ago. Years ago, congress recognized the growing disparity in global competition and provided a way to help compete on a level footing in the face of these burdensome requirements. The vehicle to do this is through the tax strategy called an IC-DISC.
Organizations that have export sales can significantly reduce their Federal tax by creating an Interest Charge-Domestic International Sales Corporation (IC-DISC). It’s a long name, but the concept is quite simple. By creating a separate entity, a domestic organization with international sales can defer and/or reduce their overall tax burden related to the income on these international sales.
The IC-DISC reduces U.S. taxation on exports of property originating in the United States for direct use outside the U.S. There are two types of sales that qualify. The first is for products shipped directly outside of the U.S. The second is for products sold in the U.S. that ultimately are added to a product that is shipped internationally. Many contract manufacturers and distributors are part of a supply chain that serves large OEM’s whose products end up outside the U.S. Parts shipped domestically to these OEM’s may also qualify for this tax advantaged status, even though on the surface they aren’t what you think of as foreign sales.
An IC-DISC can be used in a number of ways. Some of the advantages and benefits provided by an IC-DISC include:
• Permanent tax savings on export sales. Although an IC-DISC is a tax exempt entity, any cash distributed out of an IC-DISC is taxed to the shareholders at the capital gains rate of 15 percent. This results in up to a 20% savings on Federal taxes on the income associated with foreign sales.
• Tax deferral on export sales. An IC-DISC also allows a company to defer up to $10 million dollars of taxable income to the future. This can be a significant benefit if cash flow is tight, or if you are a proponent of deferring the payment of tax to Uncle Sam.
• Means to facilitate succession planning. An IC-DISC offers a number of capabilities for executing a succession plan. An important feature of the IC-DISC is that shareholders can be corporations, retirement accounts, individuals or a combination thereof. This can result in an effective means to distribute cash to beneficiaries in a tax-advantaged manner.
It doesn’t take much for a company to benefit from an IC-DISC. Companies with as little as $500,000 of export sales have shown savings from establishing an IC-DISC. In addition, the set-up and recurring maintenance of this strategy is relatively minimal compared to the savings.
IC-DISC’s have been around for close to 30 years, yet they are not widely used in small to mid-sized organizations – why is that?
One reason is the misconception that they are too complicated or administratively burdensome. An IC-DISC strategy does require a company to establish a separate entity to report these international sales. The IC-DISC is a “paper” entity created to make the company more competitive. It does not require corporate substance or form, office space, employees, or tangible assets. It simply serves as a conduit for export tax savings. Customers do not need to know about the IC-DISC, and contracts remain as they are today. In addition, the transactions required to be reported in the IC-DISC can be summarized and reported once a year.
Another reason is that in the past this structure didn’t provide much benefit. There were other provisions in the tax code that provided deductions for international sales. These provisions expired a number of years ago resulting in the IC-DISC strategy once again becoming more advantageous.
If you think this strategy may be an option for your company, it is important to act quickly. An IC-DISC is only allowed to provide benefit beginning on the date the IC-DISC is formed (benefits are not available retroactively). The sooner a taxpayer creates an IC-DISC entity the greater their benefits will be.
To maximize savings and ensure proper IC-DISC formation and administration, businesses that wish to create an IC-DISC should seek assistance from a qualified tax advisor. While the concept and administration are relatively simple, it is important that the initial set-up is done properly to maximize and protect this tax advantage status.
About the Author: Steve Roark is a Manager in the Manufacturing and Distribution group of LarsonAllen. Steve can be reached at 888.529.2648 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about LarsonAllen, visit www.larsonallen.com.