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A Basic Guide to GILTI 

A Basic Guide to GILTI 

By Anthony Diosdi

For years, tax planning for international outbound taxation remained the same, mitigation of Subpart F income, maximization of foreign tax credits, and transfer pricing. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has broken the monotony associated with international tax planning for outbound transactions and added a new category for tax planning. In addition to the anti-deferral regime built into Subpart F, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has introduced a new anti-deferral category known as the Global Intangible Low-Tax Income (“GILTI”).

GILTI is a provision that can be found in Internal Revenue Code Section 951A. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act requires a U.S. shareholder of a controlled foreign corporation (“CFC”) to include in income its global intangible low-taxed income or GILTI. The GILTI tax is meant to discourage businesses from avoiding federal taxes by holding intangible assets such as software patents or other intellectual property outside the United States in tax haven countries. GILTI creates no additional marginal tax rates. Instead, GILTI expands the definition of what items of offshore income are taxable. Think about it like this, Subpart F of the Internal Revenue Code subjects passive income earned outside the United States to taxation. The new GILTI provisions do the same. However, instead of taxing foreign passive income, GILTI subjects certain items of income known as “intangible income” to tax. However, unlike the Subpart F provisions of the Internal Revenue Code which assess a very punitive tax rate and offer little opportunity for planning, there are a number of ways to lower a GILTI liability.

What should be understood of the GILTI regime is that it ends the tax deferral treatment of “intangible income” and subjects “U.S. shareholders” of CFCs, defined as U.S. persons owning at least 10 percent of the vote or value of a specific foreign corporation. A U.S. shareholder’s GILTI is calculated as the shareholder’s “net CFC tested income” less “net deemed tangible income return” determined for the tax year. Because of the way GILTI is computed, it will likely hit tech companies and service providers the hardest. That’s because these types of businesses have the most intangible income producing assets and have benefited the most from creative international tax planning in the past. Many companies in these industries successfully transferred offshore “intangible property” to tax haven countries for tax planning purposes. A number of these tax haven countries completely exempted corporate income tax royalties derived from patents on inventions, regardless of where the patent was patented or where the underlying research and development was carried out. GILTI is designed to curb the tax benefits of transferring “intangible property” offshore. Even though GILTI was designed to only tax “intangible income,” the way GILTI is computed, it has a much broader reach. The broad reach of GILTI is demonstrated in the example discussed below.    

Who is Subject to GILTI?

GILTI is assessed on a “United States shareholder” of any controlled foreign corporation or (“CFC”) for any taxable year of such United States shareholder that receives intangible low-taxed income for such year. See IRC Section 951A(a). A CFC is defined as a foreign corporation in which 50 percent of: 1) the total combined voting power of all classes of stock of such corporation entitled to vote, or 2) the total value of the stock of such corporation is owned (within the meaning of Section 958(a), or is considered as owned by applying the rules of ownership of Section 958(b) during any day of the taxable year of such foreign corporation. See IRC Section 957(a).

A “United States shareholder” can be defined as a “U.S. person” (Section 7701(a)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code defines a “U.S. person” to include an individual, trust, estate, partnership, or corporation) who owns (within the meaning of Section 958(a)), or is considered as owning by applying the rules of ownership of Section 958(b), 10 percent or more of the total combined voting stock entitled to vote of such foreign corporation, or 10 percent or more of the total value of shares of all classes of stock of such foreign corporation. See IRC Section 951(b).

Calculating the GILTI Taxable Amount

So how is GILTI computed? As a general rule, GILTI is determined by first calculating a deemed return on the CFC’s tangible assets. The first part of the GILTI formula is a calculation called the net CFC tested income. The net CFC tested income is the excess of the aggregate of a tested income of each CFC held by a U.S. shareholder (The tested gross income of a CFC excludes Subpart F income, effectively connected income, income excluded from foreign base company income or insurance income by reason of high-tax exception, dividends received from a related person, and foreign gas and oil income less deductions allocable to such gross income). This amount is taken over the aggregate of the shareholder’s pro rata share of a tested loss of each CFC (The tested loss is the excess of deductions allocable to the CFCs’ disregarding tested income exceptions over the amount of gross income). 

Next, the net deemed tangible investment income must be determined. The net deemed tangible investment income is 10 percent of a shareholder’s pro rata share of the Qualified Business Asset Investment Income or (“QBAI”) for each CFC, less the amount of interest expense taken into consideration of the CFC tested income. The QBAI is the adjusted basis of a CFC’s depreciable assets used to generate GILTI. To determine QBAI, “specified tangible property” must be identified that produced the tested income of a CFC. These assets must be depreciable. See IRC Section 951A(d)(1)(B). The adjusted basis for each asset must be computed, quarterly and averaged annually. See IRC Section 951A(d)(1). Once the QBAI is determined, specified interest expenses are subtracted from QBAI. See Treas. Reg. Section 1.951A-1(c)(3)(ii).

Below, please find an Illustration as to how GILTI is computed.

The first part of the formula is to determine the tested income. In order to determine how the tested income is computed, let’s assume hypothetical U.S. C-corporation solely holds CFC 1 and CFC 2. These CFCs have annual gross income of $5,000,000 and $4,250,000. The CFCs have deductions of $3,000,000 and $5,000,000 each. The income and expenses of the CFCs result in net tested income of $1,250,000 ($5,000,000 – $3,000,000 plus $4,250,000 – $5,000,000).

The second part of determining GILTI is to calculate the net deemed tangible income. In our hypothetical, CFC 1 and CFC 2 had a quarterly average specific tangible property of $5,000,000 and $6,000,000 respectively. Applying the 10 percent QBAI test, 10 percent of  $5,000,000 and $6,000,000 would be $500,000 and $600,000 (10% of $5,000,000 = $500,000 and 10% of $6,000,000 = $600,000). This results in a net deemed tangible income return of $1,100,000 ($500,000 + $600,000 = $1,100,000). 

Applying part one and part two of the GILTI formula determines the GILTI income. In this case, the net CFC tested income exceeds the deemed tangible income return by $150,000 ($1,250,000 – $1,100,000 = $150,000). Therefore, the GILTI income in our hypothetical is $150,000. (It should be noted that the GILTI computation in this hypothetical is relatively simple. It is easy to envision significantly more complex scenarios).  

How the $150,000 GILTI income is taxed depends on the classification of the U.S. shareholder. If the U.S. shareholder is an individual taxpayer or S-corporation, the $150,000 of GILTI income would be taxed at the shareholder’s (after the applicable flow-through for subchapter S purposes) marginal tax rates. On the other hand, if the shareholder is taxed as a C-corporation (or an individual making a Section 962 election), the $150,000 GILTI income is taxed at the corporation’s marginal tax rate. However, the impact of the GILTI income can be reduced by foreign tax credits (up to 80 percent of foreign taxes paid) and special GILTI deduction under Section 250 of the Internal Revenue Code. The special GILTI deduction allows a reduction in the sum equal to 50 percent. (This deduction will be reduced to 37.5 percent after December 31, 2025).


This article provides a very simple overview as to how GILTI is computed. The computation of GILTI can be an incredibly difficult exercise and in certain cases the application of GILTI can be punitive. If you or your business is receiving foreign source income, you should consult with an international tax attorney.

Anthony Diosdi is an international tax attorney at Diosdi & Liu, LLP. Anthony focuses his practice on providing tax planning domestic and international tax planning for multinational companies, closely held businesses, and individuals. In addition to providing tax planning advice, Anthony Diosdi frequently represents taxpayers nationally in controversies before the Internal Revenue Service, United States Tax Court, United States Court of Federal Claims, Federal District Courts, and the Circuit Courts of Appeal. In addition, Anthony Diosdi has written numerous articles on international tax planning and frequently provides continuing educational programs to tax professionals. Anthony Diosdi is a member of the California and Florida bars. He can be reached at 415-318-3990 or adiosdi@sftaxcounsel.com.

This article is not legal or tax advice. If you are in need of legal or tax advice, you should immediately consult a licensed attorney.