What sort of tax treatment does a charitable micro-lending loan incur?

What sort of tax treatment does a charitable micro-lending loan incur?

So, a friend of mine has encouraged me to look at Kiva (http://kiva.org) which does microlending and has a big fat legal agreement that says (among other things)

1.3    Tax Deductibility. You understand that Kiva is a non-profit public benefit corporation. Kiva has received exemption with the
  Internal Revenue Service as an organization that qualifies as a public
  charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986,
  as amended from time to time. You acknowledge, however, that because
  you are making a Loan and not donating any money, you are not eligible
  to receive a tax deduction as might otherwise be available in
  connection with a charitable contribution to a tax-exempt public
  charity. You also understand that you are solely responsible for
  determining the proper tax treatment for any Loan you make through the
  Website and the Program. Kiva has not and will not provide any tax or
  legal advice to you in connection with any Loan you might make. This
  Agreement does not attempt to define the tax implications of
  participating in the Program. If you participate in the Program, you
  should consult with your own accountants, tax advisors and legal
  advisors.

So there are two kinds of tax treatment I'm curious about:

Is there any potential to have the IRS accuse you of incurring a tax liability in relation to this lending?
What sort of capital losses does the IRS allow you to deduct in the event of a charitable loan gone sour? Has there been any guidance issued on this topic?

EDIT EDIT EDIT EDIT I used the term charitable loan specifically because you cannot earn a profit from a Kiva loan.

Loans made via the Website are philanthropic in nature with no offered
  rate of return and, as such, are not intended as, and cannot be
  considered as, an investment in a financial instrument or security.

I'm aware that you can't deduct the principal of the loan as a charitable donation. I'm certainly not going to try and deduct the opportunity cost of making the loan. But it is charity, you can't make a profit off it, and you will lose out on interest on the money you could have made (and may incur principal losses as well). I am specifically interested in whether there's any background information on tax treatment of "lending money you can lose but not make interest off of", or if there's some other quirk of the tax structure which could make you liable for taxes even if you don't get paid interest.

Solutions/Answers:

Answer 1:

Lending is not a charitable contribution. Its an investment.

If the loan becomes a bad debt – you’ll have to show that it had become a bad debt. For example – bankruptcy declaration. You’ll have to show an arm’s length transaction, for example – real intention to repay (evidenced by payments of principal and interest made). Otherwise if you have an intention for the loan to never be repaid, it is in fact a gift, which is not only not deductible – its taxable.

Bottom line – be careful and talk to a EA/CPA to get a proper advice with regards to a specific transaction.


Edit to answer your revised question: you’re not going to pay taxes if you’re not going to have gains. However, if you lose the principal, in addition to the said above you would incur the loss as a personal bad debt, and not business. This is because it is not investment. The difference is in tax treatment: personal bad debt is a short-term capital loss (limited deduction), business is an ordinary loss.

Answer 2:

When lending through Kiva you are not making a “charitable contribution” it’s a loan so you cannot deduct the amount you loaned out.

If you do lose money from your loan you can write off your entire loss same as you would with any other investment. However you should be careful because in the event of a tax audit you need to have the proper documentation in order to prove that loss (I don’t know what Kiva provides).

So to answer your question, no you would not be liable for any taxes from a Kiva loan.

References

How can foreign investor (residing outside US) invest in US company stocks?

How can foreign investor (residing outside US) invest in US company stocks?

I am a small individual investor (less than $100K) and would like to invest in US stock market. My invest style is to buy-and-hold a good US's company stocks.
I checked couple discount brokers. All asked me for Social Security Number, which I do not have. So I wonder US allows the small investor like me invest in its market.

Solutions/Answers:

Answer 1:

As other people have said they should register with a broker in the country they reside in that can deal in US stocks, then fill out a W8-BEN form.

I have personally done this as I am from the Uk, it’s not a very complicated process.

I would assume that most US brokers don’t allow foreign customers due to the person having to pay tax where they reside and the US brokers don’t want to have to keep approximately 200 different tax codes in track.

Answer 2:

Instead of SSN, foreign person should get a ITIN from the IRS. Instead of W9 a foreigner should fill W8-BEN. Foreigner might also be required to file 1040NR/NR-EZ tax report, and depending on tax treaties also be liable for US taxes.

Answer 3:

(Note: out of my depth here, but in case this helps…)

While not a direct answer to your question, I’ll point out that in the inverse situation – a U.S. investor who wants to buy individual stocks of companies headquartered outside US – you would buy ADRs, which are $-denominated “wrapper” stocks. They can be listed with one or multiple brokerages.

One alternative I’d offer the person in my example would be, “Are you really sure you want to directly buy individual stocks?” One less targeted approach available in the US is to buy ETFs targeted for a given country (or region).

Maybe there’s something similar there in Asia that would eliminate the (somewhat) higher fees associated with trading foreign stocks.

References