The IRS considers the transferee/buyer to be responsible for ensuring that FIRPTA is handled in a transaction where the transferor/seller is a non-resident. In order to ensure a smooth transition on your eventual sale you must ensure that you retain proof that FIRPTA was satisfied on your original purchase.
If you purchase property from a non-resident seller and an exception to FIRPTA withholding does not apply then you must ensure that FIRPTA is satisfied as part of the closing. Check your settlement statement prior to closing where you should see 15% of the sales price withheld on the seller’s side of the settlement statement.
Request a copy of the withholding certificate from the closing agent and, if withholding was calculated, request a copy of forms 8288, 8288-A and front and back of canceled check.
Retain these documents in a safe place along with your settlement statement and other closing documents.
If you intend to use the property you are purchasing as a principle residence and the purchase price is less than $1 million then an exemption to FIRPTA applies if you are willing to sign an affidavit that you will use the property as your principal residence. The exemption allows no withholding on purchases up to $300,000 and a reduced rate of 10% on sales between $300,001 and $1,000,000.
You should be aware that if you sign the affidavit and the exemption applies the IRS will still hold you responsible for any unpaid taxes by the seller if the seller does not file a tax return, report the sale and pay their tax liability.