Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank Rejects DOJ Settlement Offer | FATCA Tax Lawyer

On August 8, 2018, Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank (“Mizrahi-Tefahot”) informed the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that its Board of Directors rejected a settlement offer from the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”).

It appears that the DOJ offer was received by the bank on August 7, 2018. The DOJ proposed that Mizrahi-Tefahot pay $342 million to settle the DOJ investigation into whether the bank helped US taxpayers evade US federal taxes.

Mizrahi-Tefahot felt that this was an unreasonably high amount to pay. In its financial statements for the quarter that ended on March 31, 2018, the bank reserved just $46.1 million to settle the DOJ investigation.

The official and primary reason for the rejection of the DOJ offer, however, was the fact that the DOJ’s letter was not accompanied by any details of how DOJ arrived at such a high sum of money. The letter did not contain even any references to any calculation principles. Mizrahi-Tefahot’s lawyer felt that any reasonable calculation of potential settlement amount would lead to a much lower settlement offer.

The most likely reason why Mizrahi-Tefahot felt so confident in rejecting the DOJ offer was its knowledge of the settlements paid by the Swiss banks. NPB Neue Privat AG, for example, only paid $5 million. Basler Kantonalbank believes it can settle for $100 million. In other words, it appears that the negotiation process with the DOJ has matured to the point where Mizrahi-Tefahot can reasonably predict the amount for which the DOJ would agree to settle the case.

Mizrahi-Tefahot is not the only bank in Israel under the IRS investigation. Bank Leumi settled its DOJ investigation for a fine of $270 million and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. Bank Hapoalim is still in settlement negotiation with the DOJ; in fact, last May, it further increased the funds set aside for a possible DOJ settlement to a total of $365 million.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of your Mizrahi-Tefahot and Other Israeli Bank Accounts

As part of their settlement agreements, foreign banks agree to supply to the DOJ full information concerning bank accounts owned by US persons. Mizrahi-Tefahot settlement will very likely follow the same path; so will Bank Hapoalim and any other Israeli bank investigated by the DOJ.

This means that if you have undisclosed foreign bank accounts in Israel, you are at a high risk of IRS detection and potentially disastrous FBAR penalties. This is why you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with the voluntary disclosure of your Israeli bank accounts. Our law firm specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures of foreign accounts and we can help you!

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NPB Neue Privat Bank Signs Non-Prosecution Agreement | OVDP Lawyer

On July 18, 2018, the US Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) announced that it signed a Non-Prosecution Agreement with NPB Neue Privat Bank AG (“NPB”). Let’s explore in more detail the history of this case and its resolution.

Background Information: 2001 QI Agreement between NPB and the IRS

NPB is a Swiss private bank based in Zurich. In 2001, NPB entered into a Qualified Intermediary Agreement (“QI Agreement”) with the IRS, which had extensive requirements for US tax withholding and US information reporting. Among these requirements was the obligation for NPB to ask its new and existing US clients to complete IRS Forms W-9 if they engaged in US securities transactions. In such cases, NPB was required to report the relevant transactions on IRS Form 1099.

Based on the QI Agreement, NPB arrived at a paradoxical conclusion that became prevalent among Swiss banks in the early 2000s. It believed that, as long as the bank complied with its QI Agreement, it could continue to accept and service US taxpayers even if NPB knew or had reason to believe that these taxpayers engaged in tax evasion. In other words, the bank could service such clients as long as they were not trading US-based securities or the investment accounts were nominally structured in the name of a foreign-based entity. It does not appear that an opinion of a legal counsel was secured in support for this belief.

Background Information 2009: NPB Accepts Noncompliant US Taxpayers

Prior to 2009, NPB had relatively few US clients; in fact, at the close of 2008, all of the NPB accounts owned by its US clients held approximately 8 million Swiss francs in assets.

The situation changed dramatically in 2009. As a result of the UBS case and other signs of increased IRS activity with respect to undisclosed foreign accounts, major Swiss banks started closing accounts owned by US taxpayers, creating a flood of potential clients for NPB. In early 2009, certain external-asset managers asked the bank to give refuge to these taxpayers and their money. The managers told the bank that they asked their US clients to become tax compliant, but some of them still had not done so.

On March 9, 2009, the NPB’s board of directors unanimously voted to allow US taxpayers to open accounts with the bank, even for those clients who fled other Swiss banks. As a result, by the end of 2009, NPB accumulated close to 450 million Swiss francs in accounts owned or beneficially owned by US taxpayers. The DOJ estimated that only 69% of these assets were reported to the US government at that time.

It appears that the bank’s executives had hoped that their US clients would eventually come into full compliance with US tax laws, but no written or formal policy to encourage or mandate such compliance was ever created.

Years 2010-2012: NPB Stops Accepting US Clients and Implements Some Procedures to Encourage US Tax Compliance

In August of 2010, as a result of the fact that US tax enforcement made the environment for Swiss banks which accepted noncompliant US taxpayers more and more dangerous, NPB decided not to open any new accounts for US clients who were noncompliant with US tax laws.

This decision (which was not reduced to writing) did not stop the bank from continuing to service its already existing noncompliant US taxpayers. Moreover there were at least 89 US-related accounts, both declared and undeclared, held in the name of offshore structures, such as trusts or corporations. These offshore structures were domiciled in countries such as Panama, Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, and Belize. All of these structures, however, were set up before the clients were accepted by the bank.

Starting August of 2010, NPB finally started to require new US clients to provide Forms W-9. The existing clients were required to submit Form W-9 only starting in the summer of 2011. The bank started to require evidence of tax compliance from its external asset managers only in August of 2011.

Swiss Bank Program: NPB is a Category 1 Bank

On August 29, 2013, the DOJ announced the Swiss Bank Program, but it declared NPB as a Category 1 bank ineligible to participate in the Program. By that time, the DOJ already started its investigation of the bank and its activities with respect to noncompliant US taxpayers.

Non-Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ

NPB cooperated throughout the DOJ investigation. In fact, the bank turned over the identities of US account holders and beneficial owners of more than 88% of the US-held assets.

The parties finally reached the agreement on July 18, 2018, when they signed the Non-Prosecution Agreement. Under the Agreement, the DOJ promised not to prosecute NPB. In return, the bank agreed to pay a penalty of $5 million. The bank further agreed to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings as well as demonstrate that it implemented the necessary procedure to stop misconduct involving undeclared US-related accounts.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Accounts

The NPB-DOJ Non-Prosecution Agreement demonstrates the continued IRS focus on US international tax enforcement. The IRS has devoted considerable resources to this area and all noncompliant US taxpayers around the world are at a significant risk of discovery, not just taxpayers with undisclosed Swiss bank accounts.

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options. Time is of the essence: the IRS flagship Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) will close on September 28, 2018.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

US Taxpayers with Lombard Odier Bank Accounts At Risk | OVDP News

On July 31, 2018, the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that it signed an Addendum to a non-prosecution agreement with Bank Lombard Odier & Co., Ltd. (“Lombard Odier). The Addendum requires Lombard Odier to disclose additional 88 accounts; in other words, US taxpayers who own these additional Lombard Odier bank accounts are now at a high risk of a criminal prosecution by the IRS.

Lombard Odier Bank Accounts: Background Information on the Swiss Bank Program and Original Non-Prosecution Agreement

The new Addendum to the non-prosecution agreement was signed by Lombard Odier as part of the Swiss Bank Program that was created by the DOJ on August 29, 2013. The Swiss Bank Program is basically a voluntary disclosure program for Swiss banks, which allows the banks to avoid potential criminal prosecution for helping US taxpayers evade US tax laws (the so-called Category 2 banks). As part of their voluntary disclosure, the participating banks were required, among other things, to provide all of the required information concerning bank accounts owned (directly or indirectly) by US taxpayers. The information was provided on an account-by-account basis, rather than per taxpayer.

Overall, the DOJ executed non-prosecution agreements with 80 banks between March of 2015 and January of 2016, collecting $1.36 billion in penalties. Lombard Odier signed the original non-prosecution agreement on December 31, 2015, and paid $99 million in penalties.

Addendum to the Original Agreement Concerning Additional 88 Lombard Odier Bank Accounts

It appears that, when the original non-prosecution agreement was signed, Lombard Odier failed to account for certain additional accounts owned by US persons. The bank later realized its mistake and disclosed it to the DOJ.

As a result of this disclosure, the July 31, 2018 Addendum to the original non-prosecution agreement was signed. Under the Addendum, Lombard Odier will pay the additional sum of $5,300,000 and disclose 88 additional Lombard Odier bank accounts owned by US persons.

Impact of the Addendum on US Taxpayers With Undisclosed Lombard Odier Bank Accounts

The Addendum means that the IRS now has knowledge of additional 88 Lombard Odier bank accounts that were not previously disclosed. US owners of these accounts are now at a risk of willful FBAR penalties and potential criminal prosecution if they have not yet entered into an IRS voluntary disclosure program. A quiet disclosure of these accounts will not suffice to protect these taxpayers against the IRS criminal prosecution.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With the Disclosure of Your Lombard Odier Bank Accounts and Any Other Foreign Bank Accounts

If you are the owner of any of the 88 Lombard Odier bank account or if you have other undisclosed foreign bank accounts, contact the experienced legal team of Sherayzen Law Office. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their undisclosed foreign assets, including foreign bank and financial accounts, into full compliance with the US tax laws. We can help You!

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FBAR Noncompliance & Taxpayer’s Options | FBAR Lawyer & Attorney

FBAR noncompliance is the worst nightmare for US taxpayers due to enormous FBAR penalties even for non-willful taxpayers. US Taxpayers who are not facing an IRS examination or a DOJ (US Department of Justice) lawsuit have three options with respect to their FBAR noncompliance: (1) do nothing with respect to correcting their prior FBAR noncompliance, close the accounts and hope that the IRS will never discover them; (2) do a quiet disclosure; and (3) come forward and voluntarily disclose their unfiled FBARs.

I already explored the highly-risky strategy of a quiet disclosure in another article. In this article, I will focus on option #1 – doing nothing about prior FBAR noncompliance. In the next article, I will discuss the option of Offshore Voluntary Disclosure as a way to deal with prior FBAR noncompliance.

This article does not constitute legal advice, but merely provides information for educational purposes.

Advantages of Doing Nothing With Respect to Prior FBAR Noncompliance

Doing nothing with respect to FBAR noncompliance is a position that some taxpayers prefer, because it requires no action, no immediate legal expenses and no immediate payment of IRS penalties.

In other words, if a taxpayer chooses to do nothing with respect to his late unfiled FBARs and his strategy is successful, he stands to gain in two aspects: (1) he spends no effort, time or money on correcting his past FBAR noncompliance; and (2) if (and this is big “if”) the IRS never finds out about his past FBAR noncompliance, he will not pay any penalties. This whole strategy is based on the hope that the IRS will not find out about their FBAR noncompliance.

Disadvantages of Doing Nothing With Respect to Prior FBAR Noncompliance Even If the Strategy Is Successful

From legal perspective, this strategy of doing nothing can be classified as very risky. If unsuccessful, a noncompliant taxpayer who chooses to do nothing stands to lose a lot more than he could ever gain if his strategy works.

Let’s analyze the disadvantages of doing nothing based on two scenarios: the strategy is successful and the strategy is unsuccessful.

Even if the strategy is ultimately successful and the IRS does not find out about FBAR noncompliance, there is still a heavy psychological price to pay for this success, because the taxpayer will not find out about the success of his strategy until the FBAR statute of limitations expires. In other words, for six long years, the taxpayer will not have any peace of mind and will constantly worry about his potential FBAR penalty exposure. If the taxpayer does not close his foreign accounts, the waiting period could be extended even further.

Moreover, if FBAR noncompliance is combined with income noncompliance and failure to file other US international information returns, the statute of limitations on the tax returns might be open for an indefinite period of time (especially if the IRS can assert a fraud claim against the noncompliant taxpayer).

I have personally seen the psychological effects of such pressure on some of my clients. It was simply destroying their lives. Eventually, they could not live like this and came to me to do offshore voluntary disclosure to resolve their prior FBAR noncompliance.

Disadvantages of Doing Nothing With Respect to Prior FBAR Noncompliance Where the Strategy Fails

If the success of this strategy exhorts such a heavy price, its failure may potentially result in disastrous consequences. Let’s explore the main two reasons why the strategy of doing nothing is so disfavored among international tax lawyers.

First, as described above, the current international tax enforcement structure severely undermines the entire basis for the strategy – i.e. hope that the IRS will not find out about FBAR noncompliance is simply too risky in the contemporary world dominated by FATCA, CRS and a widely-spread web of bilateral and multilateral automatic information exchange treaties. It is still possible that the IRS will not find out about a US person’s foreign accounts, but it is becoming less and less likely.

Second, since the strategy of doing nothing implies a taxpayer’s conscious choice not to comply with the FBAR requirements, it may turn a relatively simple and non-willful situation into a complex and willful one. In other words, under these circumstances, if the IRS is able to find out about prior FBAR noncompliance, the IRS may pursue willful and, in extreme circumstances, even criminal FBAR penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Resolving FBAR Noncompliance Issues

If you never filed your required FBARs and other US tax forms, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our legal team is headed by one of the most experienced international tax lawyers in this area – Mr. Eugene Sherayzen. He has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to successfully resolve their prior FBAR noncompliance, and He can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Understand How IRS Amnesty Works Before Entering 2014 OVDP

Less than two months are left before the 2014 IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“2014 OVDP”) closes on September 28, 2018. 2014 OVDP may offer great benefits to taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts, such as the possibility of avoiding criminal penalties and greatly reducing FBAR civil penalties. Yet, entering 2014 OVDP also implies a great variety of obligations and complications that many taxpayers will find overly invasive and burdensome. Moreover, non-willful taxpayers may resent not only the amount of paperwork, but also the 27.5% to 50% OVDP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty.

Furthermore, 2014 OVDP has its own eligibility requirements which may simply prevent a taxpayer from being able to participate in the program. Unfortunately, the taxpayer may only find out about it after he submits his OVDP application, thereby exposing himself to potential IRS investigation and penalties.

In sum, entering 2014 OVDP is an important and highly complex decision that requires a detailed evaluation of the taxpayers’ facts. 2014 OVDP is not the best solution for everyone, but it may be a critical opportunity to settle past tax noncompliance for some taxpayers (especially taxpayers whose noncompliance is likely to be considered “willful” by the IRS) – an opportunity that should not be wasted.

Such legal analysis should only be done by a skilled international tax attorney who specializes in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures. The stakes are simply too high to entrust a matter of such importance to anyone else.

Experienced International Tax Attorney Sherayzen Can Help You With Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

Mr. Eugene Sherayzen is an international tax attorney who specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures. In fact, this speciality occupies more than 80% of his entire practice. Mr. Sherayzen has helped his clients with respect to every major IRS voluntary disclosure program, including 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI, 2012 OVDP, 2014 OVDP, Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures and Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures.

Additionally, Mr. Sherayzen has conducted a great number of statutory voluntary disclosures based on Reasonable Cause exception or so called “Noisy Disclosures” (they were very popular prior to 2009 as well as between 2009 OVDP and the creation of the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures).

Furthermore, Mr. Sherayzen represented his clients during the IRS audits of offshore voluntary disclosures, has extensive experience with IRS appeals and federal court litigation.

Contact Attorney Sherayzen Before Entering 2014 OVDP

Such an extensive work with offshore voluntary disclosures makes Mr. Sherayzen one of the most experienced offshore voluntary disclosure lawyers whose opinion should be obtained before entering 2014 OVDP.

Contact Mr. Sherayzen Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!