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Home General News Title Insurance Industry Articles FIRPTA WITHHOLDING 101

What is FIRPTA Withholding and How Does it Work? 

Withholding of Tax on Dispositions of United States Real Property Interests

The disposition of a U.S. real property interest by a foreign person (the transferor) is subject to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA) income tax withholding. FIRPTA authorized the United States to tax foreign persons on dispositions of U.S. real property interests. A disposition means “disposition” for any purpose of the Internal Revenue Code.  This includes but is not limited to a sale or exchange, liquidation, redemption, gift, transfers, etc.  A U.S. real property interest includes sales of interests in parcels of real property as well as sales of shares in certain U.S. corporations that are considered U.S. real property holding corporations. Persons purchasing U.S. real property interests (transferee) from foreign persons, certain purchasers' agents, and settlement officers are required to withhold 10 percent of the amount realized (special rules for foreign corporations) Withholding is intended to ensure U.S. taxation of gains realized on disposition of such interests. The transferee/buyer is the withholding agent. If you are the transferee/buyer you must find out if the transferor is a foreign person. If the transferor is a foreign person and you fail to withhold, you may be held liable for the tax.

The amount that must be withheld from the disposition of a U.S. real property interest can be adjusted pursuant to a withholding certificate issued by the IRS.

  • A disposition includes the sale of any U.S. real property interests in the United States or U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Generally speaking, in reference to the disposition of a U.S. real property interest, the foreign person disposing of the US real property interest is referred to as the transferor.
  • The purchaser of the U.S. real property interest is referred to as the transferee.
  • Generally, the amount realized is the purchase/sales price of the U.S. real property interest but can also include any property received by the transferor and any liability relieved of by the transferor.
  • Generally, the buyer/transferee must determine if the seller is a foreign person. If so, the buyer/transferee is responsible for the withholding taxes.
  • The buyer/transfer  may be held liable for the tax that should have been withheld on the purchase.Image Courtesy of Google Images

One of the most common exceptions to FIRPTA withholding is that the buyer/transferee is not required to withhold tax in a situation in which the buyer/transferee purchases real estate for use as his personal residence and the purchase price is not more than $300,000.


For additional information on the withholding rules that apply to corporations, trusts, estates, and REITs, refer to section 1445 of the Internal Revenue Code and the related regulations. For additional information on the withholding rules that apply to partnerships, refer to discussion under partnership withholding. Also consult IRSPublication 515, Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Entities, section U.S. Real Property Interest.

Additional information may be obtained from:

Internal Revenue Service Center
P.O. Box 409101
Ogden, UT 84409.

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.