Our cash distributions are not guaranteed and may fluctuate.
A REIT generally is required to distribute at least 90% of its REIT taxable income to its stockholders.
Our Board of Directors, in its sole discretion, will determine on a quarterly basis the amount of cash to be distributed to our stockholders based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, our results of operations, cash flow and capital requirements, economic conditions, tax considerations, borrowing capacity and other factors, including debt covenant restrictions that may impose limitations on cash payments, future acquisitions and divestitures and any stock repurchase program. Consequently, our distribution levels may fluctuate.
Even if we remain qualified for taxation as a REIT, some of our business activities are subject to corporate level income tax and foreign taxes, which will continue to reduce our cash flows, and we will have potential deferred and contingent tax liabilities.
Even if we remain qualified for taxation as a REIT, we may be subject to some federal, state, local and foreign taxes on our income and assets, taxes on any undistributed income, and state, local or foreign income, franchise, property and transfer taxes. In addition, we could in certain circumstances be required to pay an excise or penalty tax, which could be significant in amount, in order to utilize one or more relief provisions under the Code to maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT.
A portion of our business is conducted through wholly-owned TRSs because certain of our business activities could generate nonqualifying REIT income as currently structured and operated. The income of our U.S. TRSs will continue to be subject to federal and state corporate income taxes. In addition, our international assets and operations will continue to be subject to taxation in the foreign jurisdictions where those assets are held, or those operations are conducted. Any of these taxes would decrease our earnings and our available cash.
We will also be subject to a federal corporate level income tax at the highest regular corporate income tax rate (21%, effective January 1, 2018) on gain recognized from a sale of a REIT asset where our basis in the asset is determined by reference to the basis of the asset in the hands of a C corporation (such as (i) an asset that we held as of the effective date of our REIT election, that is, January 1, 2015, or (ii) an asset that we or our QRSs hold following the liquidation or other conversion of a former TRS). This 21% tax is generally applicable to any disposition of such an asset during the five-year period after the date we first owned the asset as a REIT asset (e.g., January 1, 2015 in the case of REIT assets we held at the time of our REIT conversion), to the extent of the built-in-gain based on the fair market value of such asset on the date we first held the asset as a REIT asset.
Restrictive loan covenants could prevent us from satisfying REIT distribution requirements.
Restrictions in our credit facility and our indentures may prevent us from satisfying our REIT distribution requirements, and we could fail to remain qualified for taxation as a REIT. If these limits do not jeopardize our qualification for taxation as a REIT but nevertheless prevent us from distributing 100% of our REIT taxable income, we would be subject to federal corporate income tax, and potentially a nondeductible excise tax, on the retained amounts. See other risks described elsewhere in this Form 10-Q for further information on our restrictive loan covenants.
Complying with REIT requirements may limit our ability to hedge effectively and increase the cost of our hedging and may cause us to incur tax liabilities.
The REIT provisions of the Code limit our ability to hedge assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses. Generally, income from hedging transactions that we enter into to manage risk of interest rate changes or fluctuations with respect to borrowings made or to be made by us to acquire or carry real estate assets and income from certain currency hedging transactions related to our non-U.S. operations, as well as income from qualifying counteracting hedges, do not constitute "gross income" for purposes of the REIT gross income tests. To the extent that we enter into other types of hedging transactions, the income from those transactions is likely to be treated as nonqualifying income for purposes of the REIT gross income tests. As a result of these rules, we may need to limit our use of advantageous hedging techniques or implement those hedges through our TRSs, which we presently do. This increases the cost of our hedging activities because our TRSs are subject to tax on income or gains resulting from hedges entered into by them and may expose us to greater risks associated with changes in interest rates or exchange rates than we would otherwise want to bear. In addition, hedging losses in any of our TRSs may not provide any tax benefit, except for being carried forward for possible use against future income or gain in the TRSs.
Distributions payable by REITs generally do not qualify for preferential tax rates.
Dividends payable by U.S. corporations to noncorporate stockholders, such as individuals, trusts and estates, are generally eligible for reduced U.S. federal income tax rates applicable to "qualified dividends." Distributions paid by REITs generally are not treated as "qualified dividends" under the Code, and the reduced rates applicable to such dividends do not generally apply. However, for tax years beginning after 2017 and before 2026, REIT dividends paid to noncorporate stockholders are generally