IRS Qualified Intermediary (QI) – Know Your Client Rules

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List of Approved Know-Your-Client Rules

Revenue Procedure 2000-12 states that the IRS will not enter into a qualified intermediary (QI) withholding agreement that provides for the use of documentary evidence obtained under a country’s know-your-customer rules if it has not received the know-your-customer practices and procedures for opening accounts and responses to 18 specific questions listed in the revenue procedure.This document lists those countries that have submitted know-your-customer rules and those rules have been approved.The QI agreement contains an attachment that lists the specific types of know-your-customer documentary evidence for each country that is sufficient for purposes of the QI.  The IRS is working together with the organizations that have submitted acceptable know-your-customer rules to develop standardized attachments.  The attachments can be seen here as soon as they are available.

If a country is on the approved list, entities and branches located in that country may submit their QI applications. Once a specific attachment has been developed for a particular country, the IRS will associate the attachment with the QI agreement it sends for signature. A QI may suggest amendments to the attachment, but departures from the standardized attachment may delay processing of an application.

To determine whether the know-your-customer rules that have been submitted to the IRS cover a particular QI applicant, the applicant should look to the specific country attachment. For example, in some countries, different rules apply to banks and brokers. A QI applicant that is a bank or a broker should verify that the know-your-customer rules that have been submitted cover all the rules applicable to that applicant.

For a list of countries, follow this URL:,,id=96618,00.html

Qualified Intermediary – An IRS view

Qualified Intermediary – IRS view

A qualified intermediary (QI) is any foreign intermediary (or foreign branch of a U.S. intermediary) that has entered into a QI withholding agreement with the IRS.The QI assumes primary withholding responsibility or primary Form 1099 reporting and backup withholding responsibility for a payment – and can thus be treated as the payee.

In this situation, the QI is required to withhold the tax.

You can determine whether a QI has assumed responsibility from the Form W-8IMY provided by the QI.

QI Withholding Agreement Foreign financial institutions and foreign branches of U.S. financial institutions can enter into an agreement with the IRS to be a qualified intermediary. A QI is entitled to certain simplified withholding and reporting rules. In general, there are three major areas whereby intermediaries with QI status are afforded such simplified treatment.


A QI is not required to forward documentation obtained from foreign account holders to the U.S. withholding agent from whom the QI receives a payment of U.S. source income. The QI maintains such documentation at its location and provides the U.S. withholding agent with withholding rate pools. A withholding rate pool is a payment of a single type of income that is subject to a single rate of withholding.

A QI is required to provide the U.S. withholding agent with information regarding U.S. persons subject to Form 1099 information reporting unless the QI assumes the primary obligation to do Form 1099 reporting and backup withholding.

If a QI obtains documentary evidence under the know your customer rulesthat apply to the QI under local law, and the documentary evidence is of a type specified in an attachment to the QI agreement, the documentary evidence remains valid until there is a change in circumstances or the QI knows the information is incorrect. This indefinite validity period rule does not apply to Forms W-8 or to documentary evidence that is not of the type specified in the attachment to the agreement.

Form 1042-S Reporting A QI is permitted to report payments made to its direct foreign account holders on a pooled basis rather than reporting payments to each direct account holder specifically. Pooled basis reporting is not available for payments to certain account holders, such as a nonqualified intermediary (NQI) or a flow-through entity.

Collective Refund Procedures A QI may seek a refund on behalf of its direct account holders. The direct account holders, therefore, are not required to file returns with the IRS to obtain refunds, but rather may obtain them from the QI.

U.S. Branches of Foreign Banks and Foreign Insurance Companies Special rules apply to a U.S. branch of a foreign bank subject to Federal Reserve Board supervision or a foreign insurance company subject to state regulatory supervision. If you agree to treat the branch as a U.S. person, you may treat the branch as a U.S. payee for a payment subject to NRA withholding provided you receive a Form W-8IMY from the U.S. branch on which the agreement is evidenced. If you treat the branch as a U.S. payee, you are not required to withhold. Even though you agree to treat the branch as a U.S. person, you must report the payment on Form 1042-S.

So basically, through the “know your client” rules, the IRS provides the few perks listed above – pooled rate and reduced withholding rate, and the QI must receive valid W8’s or W9’s in order to confirm to the IRS that there are no Americans pretending to be foreign and avoid paying taxes.  For performing this duty for the IRS, you must also have performed 2 external audits and a yearly internal audit of the QI program.

If found in violation of this agreemnt, there is a fine of up to $100,000 per offense.

Make sure to keep all records in order – provide the IRS with one main contact for the QI program and have your yearly internal audits performed.  Charging extra to clients for being their QI makes sense in order to cover the costs of the external audits.

More to come…