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 buyer/transferee is the withholding agent. If you are the buyer/transferee 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.
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.