FATCA Tax Attorney

Specified Foreign Financial Assets | Form 8938 International Tax Lawyers

Specified Foreign Financial Assets is one of the most important terms in contemporary US international tax law. In this article, I will explore what these Specified Foreign Financial Assets are and why they play such an important role in modern US international tax compliance.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets and FATCA

In order to understand the significance of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets, we must turn to one of the most important US tax laws called Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act or FATCA.

FATCA was signed into law in 2010 and it immediately became the most important development in international taxation since at least 1970s, if not all the way to the end of the Second World War. There are three parts of FATCA that made it such a revolutionary development in international tax law. The first part of FATCA requires all foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to report to the IRS, directly or indirectly, Specified Foreign Financial Assets (be careful, this concept can be modified by a FATCA implementation treaty to include and exclude various foreign assets) owned by US persons. In essence, it meant that the world financial community would now serve as an IRS informer, providing the third-party reporting of financial assets owned by US persons.

In order to enforce this “obligation”, the second part of FATCA imposed a 30% penalty on the gross amount of a transaction whenever the transaction is related to an institution that is not compliant with FATCA. Such a huge penalty was meant to force all FFIs to become FATCA-compliant and, to a large extent, this goal has been attained.

With the third-party reporting secured by the first two parts of FATCA, the third part of FATCA imposed a new reporting requirement, Form 8938, on certain categories of US taxpayers who would fall within the categories of Specified Individuals and (starting 2016) Specified Domestic Entities. FATCA Form 8938 forced these Specified Persons to directly report their Specified Foreign Financial Assets with their US tax returns.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets: General Definition

In general, Specified Foreign Financial Assets include: foreign financial accounts and assets that are held for investment and not held in an account maintained by a financial institution. The concept of “assets held for investment and not held in an account” covers stocks or securities issued by anyone who is not a US person, any interest in a foreign entity, any financial instrument or contract that has an issuer or counterparty that is other than a US person, stock issued by a foreign corporation, an interest in a foreign trust or foreign estate and a capital or profits interest in a foreign partnership.

In other words, definition of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets is so broad that it applies to virtually any financial instrument or security one can imagine as long as one of the counterparties and/or issuers is a foreign person. It also includes pretty much any ownership interest in a foreign business entity as well as a beneficiary interest in a foreign trust. Therefore, it is always prudent to contact an international tax attorney to confirm whether your particular investment is covered by the definition of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets: Additional Non-Exclusive Lists of Assets

Additionally, the instructions to Form 8938 specifically state that Specified Foreign Financial Assets encompass an interest rate swap, currency swap, basis swap, interest rate cap, interest rate floor, commodity swap, equity swap, equity index swap, credit default swap, or similar agreement with a foreign counterparty. Specified Foreign Financial Assets also include a note, bond, debenture, or other form of indebtedness issued by a foreign person. Finally, options and other derivative instructions with a foreign counterparty or issuer are also included in the definition of Specified Foreign Financial Assets.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets: Influence of FATCA Implementation Treaties

Despite the broad general definition of Specified Foreign Financial Assets and despite the “laundry” list of assets specifically identified above, one should always look at a specific FATCA implementation treaty in order to verify whether an asset is considered to fall within the definition of Specified Foreign Financial Assets. In particular, one must have extra care with foreign retirement accounts. During the negotiation of FATCA Implementation Treaties, countries often insisted that particular types of retirement accounts should be excluded from FATCA reporting (the United Kingdom was particularly successful in this respect).

A word of caution: even if an asset is excluded from FATCA reporting, it does not automatically mean that it would also be excluded from FBAR reporting. It is possible to have a financial asset reportable exclusively on FBAR, but not Form 8938.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Reporting of Specified Foreign Financial Assets on Form 8938

If you have any of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets listed above, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. In addition to annual tax compliance, our firm can help you with the offshore voluntary disclosure with respect to any delinquent Forms 8938 which you have not timely filed in any of the prior years.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement Authorized for Signature

On November 9, 2016, the Ukrainian government authorized the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement for signature. Let’s explore this new development in more depth.

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement and FATCA Background

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is one of the many bilateral FATCA implementation agreements signed by the great majority of jurisdictions around the world. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enacted into law in 2010 and quickly became the new standard for international tax information exchange.

FATCA is extremely complex, but its core purpose is very clear – increased US international tax compliance (with higher revenue collection) by imposing new reporting requirements on US taxpayers and especially foreign financial institutions (FFIs). Since FFIs are not US taxpayers, the United States has been working with foreign governments to enforce FATCA through negotiation and implementation of FATCA treaties. The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is just one more example of these bilateral treaties.

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is a Model 1 FATCA Agreement

There are two types of FATCA treaties – Model 1 and Model 2. Model 2 FATCA treaty requires FFIs to individually enter into a FFI Agreement with the IRS to report the required FATCA information directly to the IRS (for example, Switzerland signed a Model 2 treaty).

On the other hand, Model 1 treaty requires FFIs in the “partner country” (i.e. the country that signed a Model 1 FATCA agreement) to report the required FATCA information regarding US accounts to the local tax authorities. Then, the tax authorities of the partner country share this information with the IRS.

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is a Model 1 FATCA Agreement.

When will the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement Enter into Force?

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement will enter into force once Ukraine notifies the US government that it has completed all of the necessary internal procedures for the ratification of the Agreement.

What is the Impact of Ukranian FATCA Agreement on Noncompliant US Taxpayers?

The implementation of the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement will mean that the Ukrainian government will force its FFIs to identify all of the FATCA information regarding their US accountholders and share this information with US government.

This further means that any US taxpayers who are currently noncompliant with the US tax reporting requirements (such as FBAR, Form 8938, foreign income reporting, et cetera) are now at an ever increasing risk of detection by the IRS and the imposition of draconian IRS penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With US Tax Compliance in light of the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement

If you have undisclosed Ukrainian assets (including Ukrainian bank accounts) and Ukrainian foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for help as soon as possible. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe (including Ukrainians) to bring their US tax affairs in order and we can help you!

FATCA PFIC Reporting | International Tax Attorney

FATCA PFIC Reporting is an important feature in today’s U.S. tax compliance. In this article, I will focus on the explanation of the FATCA PFIC Reporting requirement for U.S. shareholders of a PFIC.

FATCA PFIC Reporting: FATCA Background

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) is contained in Chapters 1471–1474 of the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) as enacted into law by section 501(a) of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employments (HIRE) Act 2010. FATCA was enacted specifically to combat offshore tax evasion by US persons with secret foreign accounts.

There are two large parts of FATCA. The first part concerns only foreign financial institutions (FFIs). Under FATCA, the FFIs are now required to identify US accountholders and report their accounts to the IRS. The second part of FATCA requires US taxpayers to report their foreign assets and foreign income on Form 8938, which is filed with the taxpayers’ US tax return.

This article is mostly concerned with the FATCA PFIC reporting on Form 8938.

FATCA PFIC Reporting: PFIC Background

A Passive Foreign Investment Company, commonly known as PFIC, is one of the most complex tax designations in the United States. The annual tax compliance for PFICs (especially default Section 1291 PFICs) can be tremendously burdensome. Furthermore, distributions and capital gains from PFICs may be subject to a much higher PFIC income tax (and PFIC interest on the PFIC tax).

A PFIC is any foreign corporation that falls within the definition of IRC Section 1297(a), which states that a foreign corporation is a PFIC if: “(1) 75 percent or more of the gross income of such corporation for the taxable year is passive income, or (2) the average percentage of assets (as determined in accordance with subsection (e)) held by such corporation during the taxable year which produce passive income or which are held for the production of passive income is at least 50 percent.” Foreign mutual funds is one of the most common examples of PFICs; however, other companies may also fall within the scope of the IRC Section 1297(a).

If a U.S. taxpayer has PFICs, he is required to file Form 8621 “Information Return by a Shareholder of a Passive Foreign Investment Company or Qualified Electing Fund”. A separate form 8621 should be filed for each PFIC (often, it is more convenient to file a separate Form 8621 for various blocks of the same PFIC; however, one needs to make sure that the same identification number is provided on each Form 8621 filed for the same PFIC).

FATCA PFIC Reporting: Relationship Between Form 8938 and Form 8621

In general, the FATCA foreign financial asset reporting on Form 8938 overlaps with the PFIC reporting obligation on Form 8621, but the relationship between the two forms is fairly clear. If forms 8621 must be filed (and, since 2013, this is pretty much always the case for PFICs), then the PFICs do not need to be reported on Form 8938. The number of forms 8621 must still be specified on Form 8938.

It is also important to remember that PFICs must still be disclosed on FBARs even if they are reported on Forms 8621 and 8938.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with FATCA PFIC Reporting

PFIC calculations themselves are some of the most complex requirements in the IRC. FATCA PFIC reporting further complicates the already difficult issues surrounding PFICs. It is very easy to make mistakes which result in the imposition of high IRS penalties. The correction of these mistakes will also likely result in additional legal fees.

This is why you need to secure the help of an experienced international tax law firm as early as possible and Sherayzen Law Office is the perfect fit. We have helped numerous US taxpayers around the world with their FATCA PFIC matters and we can help you.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Reporting | FATCA Lawyers

FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Policy reporting is one of the most obscure US tax requirements with which many US taxpayers fail to comply. In this article, I would like to explore FATCA Form 8938 foreign life insurance policy reporting.

FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Reporting: Types of Foreign Life Insurance Policies

In a previous article, I already described the three main types of foreign life insurance policies: traditional policies, cash-surrender non-investment policies and investment policies. The traditional policies refer to straightforward life insurance policies with no cash-surrender value; in essence, this is the traditional understanding of what a life insurance policy should be – a sum of money paid out at death to a policy beneficiary.

The cash-surrender non-investment policies are foreign life insurance policies that have cash-surrender value which, usually, can be obtained at any point prior to the maturity of the policy. There is usually no income associated with a policy, but this is not always the case. The cash-surrender value grows over time mostly through premiums, automatic increases in value and a system of bonuses.

Finally, the investment policies are foreign life insurance policies with a cash-surrender value which largely depends on the growth in investments which underlie the policy. While there might be a death benefit to the policy, the investment life insurance policies are usually simply investment accounts wrapped into a life insurance format. Assurance Vie policies in France is a typical example of such a foreign life insurance policy.

FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Reporting: What is Form 8938

FATCA Form 8938 is a relatively recent addition to the already large list of the U.S. international tax forms; yet, it is already the most comprehensive form in the IRS arsenal. FATCA Form 8938 was born out of the feared Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and it was first due with the 2011 tax return.

FATCA Form 8938 basically requires the reporting of three types of assets. First, it almost duplicates FBAR with respect to reporting foreign bank and financial accounts (with important exceptions, such as signatory authority accounts); more information with respect to these accounts, however, must be supplied by the reporting taxpayer. Second, FATCA Form 8938 introduces the requirement to disclose the ownership of a whole new class of assets which normally would not be reported on any tax form (e.g. paper stock certificates). These are so-called “Other Specified Foreign Assets”. Finally, FATCA Form 8938 requires the taxpayer to report whether he disclosed any assets on Forms 5471, 8865, 8621, 3520 and 3520-A.

FATCA Form 8938 has its own set of independent penalties associated with Form 8938 noncompliance.

FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Policy Reporting Requirements

FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Policy reporting is very similar to the FBAR Foreign Life Insurance Policy reporting. In general, the traditional life insurance policies with no cash-surrender values are ordinarily not reportable (although, there are exceptions). On the other hand, cash-surrender non-investment policies and investment policies should be reported on FATCA Form 8938.

This is just the general guidance. The determination of whether your specific foreign life insurance policies should be reported on FATCA From 8938 must be left to an international tax attorney; I strongly discourage any attempt by US taxpayers to make this determination without professional legal assistance.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Policy Reporting

You should contact the experienced international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office for any legal help with your FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Policy reporting. Foreign life insurance policies can be extremely complex and the US reporting requirements associated with them vary from country to country. Sherayzen Law Office has accumulated tremendous experience in dealing with foreign life insurance policies from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Europe and Asia.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters

As FATCA continues its triumphant march across the globe, banks from more and more countries continue to send out FATCA letters to their US customers. Recently, the banks in the Kingdom of Jordan sent out additional FATCA letters (hereinafter, “Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters”). Jordanian Bank FATCA letters caught many U.S. taxpayers by surprise; some even refuse to believe that they are obligated to provide this type of information to their banks. Yet, noncompliance with the requests of Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters may have grave consequences for US taxpayers.

FATCA Background

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enacted in 2010 to target tax noncompliance of U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts. Since its enaction, this law established a new global standard for tax information exchange. More than 110 jurisdictions today operate under the worldwide reach of FATCA.

In essence, FATCA is used by U.S. authorities to obtain information regarding foreign accounts held by U.S. persons directly from foreign financial institutions by forcing these institutions to collect and send to the IRS information required by FATCA. Hence, FATCA effectively turns all FATCA-compliant foreign banks into IRS informants.

Additionally, FATCA requires U.S. taxpayers to report “Specified Foreign Assets” (this is a term of art in international tax law) on Forms 8938. Forms 8938 should be attached to the taxpayers’ U.S. tax returns and filed with the IRS.

Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters

FATCA is implemented worldwide through a network of bilateral treaties, which are divided in to Model 1 and Model 2 treaties. However, individual banks can also comply with FATCA without Model 1 and Model 2 treaties. A minority of countries follow this path, and the Kingdom of Jordan is one of them.

This means that Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters are sent out by Jordan banks not due to any Model 1 or Model 2 treaties between the United States and Jordan, but, rather, through direct FATCA compliance (i.e. Jordanian banks register with the IRS and provide the required information directly to the IRS).

The purpose of the Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters are similar to all other FATCA Letters – obtain the information required to be reported under FATCA by foreign financial institutions to the IRS. In particular, this includes information relevant to the account owner’s U.S. tax residency.

Impact of Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters on U.S. taxpayers with Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters may have very important impact on U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts. In this article I want to emphasize the timing aspects of such letters.

By requesting FATCA information, Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters create a timetable for timely voluntary disclosure of the concerned U.S. taxpayers. First of all, the taxpayers who receive Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters have a deadline (ranging usually between 30-45 days, and, occasionally, 90 days) to file the letter with the bank. Since the bank sends the information supplied by U.S. taxpayers to the IRS, these U.S. taxpayers have a limited window of opportunity to timely disclose their foreign accounts. If a taxpayer refuses to provide the required information, the bank may still report him to the IRS as a “recalcitrant taxpayer” and even close his accounts.

Additionally, there is a more subtle impact of Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters on U.S. taxpayers – a notice of existence of FATCA and other U.S. tax reporting requirements. A lot of U.S. taxpayers are able to utilize Streamlined Procedures due to the fact that they did not know about the U.S. tax reporting requirements with respect to foreign accounts and foreign income. However, once U.S. taxpayers receive Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters, they can only claim their lack of knowledge with respect to prior years. It will be very difficult to sustain this argument with respect to current and future tax years.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Received a FATCA Letter (from Jordan or from Any Other Country)

If you received a FATCA Letter from a foreign bank, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our experienced legal team will thoroughly analyze your situation, propose the best strategy with respect to responding to the FATCA Letter, review your voluntary disclosure options and prepare all legal and tax documents to complete your voluntary disclosure.

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