Foreign companies that perform offshore services for the oil and gas industry on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico are now on the IRS radar screen, and so are the U.S. companies that hire them. The IRS is taking the position that these foreign companies and their foreign workers have “U.S. source income” and may be engaged in a U.S. trade or business.

Therefore, the IRS contends the companies and their workers must file U.S. tax returns and pay U.S. taxes due on amounts earned from these offshore services. In addition, the IRS is likely to contend that the U.S. companies that hired the foreign companies should have withheld and remitted to the IRS 30% of the amounts they paid to the foreign companies.

The IRS has also made clear that, in addition to taxes and interest due, it intends to assert various penalties against both the foreign and the U.S. companies, as well as the foreign workers. The red flags recently raised on this issue were the IRS’s designation of Foreign Withholding as a Tier One Compliance Issue and the issuance of an Industry Directive dated October 28, 2009, which specifically targets activities on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. Tier One Compliance Issues generally have the IRS’s highest priority and are subject to the greatest scrutiny by IRS auditors.

What Is U.S. source income? What are the broad definitions? Why are foreign-vessel owners are hearing from the IRS? Preparation Is essential. Find the full 1,200-word report by clicking below.

--Andrius R. Kontrimas and Nancy T. Bowen

About the Authors: Andrius R. Kontrimas and Nancy T. Bowen are partners with law firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP. They can be reached at and

Click for Kontrimas and Bowen’s full report, IRS Focuses on Foreign Companies and Offshore Services:”irsfocusonforeigncompaniesfulbrightjaworski