Avoiding a Partnership Tax Return Filing Requirement

According to the IRS, a partnership is a "relationship between two or more persons who join to carry on a trade or business..."  No formal agreement is required; in fact, a partnership can be formed inadvertently, in which case an IRS Form 1065 partnership tax return must be filed.  However, there are a few situations where two or more persons can carry on a trade or business without creating a partnership tax-filing requirement.

If two or more persons have a business relationship that, for tax purposes, constitutes a corporation or trust, obviously such an arrangement is not a partnership. However, a venture that is not a corporation or trust avoids partnership classification if the parties are merely sharing expenses. In addition, a married couple has the option of not filing a partnership tax return if they "materially participate as the only members of a jointly owned and operated business" and file a joint tax return.

Such an arrangement is known as a "qualified joint venture" and cannot be operated through a state-law entity. However, a husband and wife in a community property state may own and operate a business through a state law entity other than a corporation, such as an LLC, and elect to have that LLC disregarded for federal income tax purposes. The business entity must be owned as community property and have no other owners; if so, no partnership tax return is required. These rules are contained in Rev. Proc. 2002-69.

A final example of partnership-type arrangement that does not give rise to a partnership tax return requirement is co-ownership of real property, other than mineral property, but including rental property. Each co-owner must be a tenant-in-common, and title to the property as a whole may not be vested in a state-law entity. However, each tenant may own their interest in the property through an entity that is disregarded for tax purposes. A number of other requirements are set forth in Rev. Proc. 2002-22 which, if satisfied, will result in no partnership filing requirement.

In summary, a partnership can automatically arise for federal tax purposes even where no entity exists under local law. An arrangement of this kind includes a "syndicate, group, pool, joint venture, or other unincorporated organization through or by means of which any business, financial operation, or venture is carried on..." However, arrangements like those described above avoid partnership classification.


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