Florida Tax Review


This article argues, as others have before, that the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (or “FIRPTA”), or at least the provisions of FIRPTA relating to “United States real property holding corporations,” should be repealed. Their enactment in 1980 was misguided and in any event changes in the Internal Revenue Code since then have made the provisions obsolete. But if FIRPTA is repealed, in whole or in part, the article argues that the lack of parity between foreign investment in real property that is made directly or through a partnership, on the one hand, and foreign investment in a real estate investment trust (or a regulated investment company that invests in shares of real estate investment trusts) should be dealt with. Otherwise, repeal will exacerbate existing distortions (which were already pushed further by FIRPTA) resulting from the choice of the entity used to make an investment in US real property. The article also suggests that repeal of FIRPTA would provide an opportunity to look at the taxation of foreign investment in the United States more broadly and in particular the rules that tax income from U.S. real property. The tax treatment of inward investment is a generally neglected subject. The article concludes by arguing against legislation that would keep the FIRPTA rules and simply expand provisions of present law that favor foreign investment through real estate investment trusts, such as the Real Estate Jobs and Investment Act of 2011.