Swiss Voluntary Disclosures Rise as Swiss AEOI Compliance Nears

The voluntary disclosures by Swiss taxpayers jumped dramatically in 2017. The most likely reason for the increase is the fact that the Swiss government started to collect information under its numerous Automatic Exchange of Information (“AEOI”) agreements. Let’s analyze in more detail this connection between the Swiss voluntary disclosures and the Swiss AEOI Compliance.

Swiss AEOI Compliance: Increase in Swiss Voluntary Disclosures

The increase in Swiss voluntary disclosures between 2015 and 2017 is undeniable. The Swiss said approximately 350,000 voluntary declarations were made in 2016, compared to 328,000 in 2015. While the numbers for 2017 for the entire country are not available, we can extrapolate the 2017 numbers based on the canton of Zurich.

On January 4, 2018, the canton of Zurich reported that there were almost three times as many of voluntary disclosures of unreported assets by Swiss taxpayers in 2017 than in 2016. A total of 6,150 voluntary disclosures were submitted in 2017 whereas only 2,100 voluntary disclosures were made in 2016. The disclosures brought in about 104 million Swiss francs of additional tax income in 2017; the 2016 number was only 85 million Swiss francs.

The Swiss government also stated that the 2017 voluntary disclosures concerning ownership of real estate in Italy, Portugal and Spain were especially high.

Swiss AEOI Compliance Has a Direct Impact on Swiss Voluntary Disclosures

The connection between Swiss AEOI compliance and the increase in the voluntary disclosures is obvious. In fact, the cantonal government of Zurich directly stated that it attributed the jump in voluntary disclosures to the Swiss AEOI agreements, especially those related to the EU countries.

Already in 2017, the Swiss government started collecting financial information about Swiss taxpayers in order to turn it over to its partner jurisdictions under the Swiss AEOI agreements. The exchange of information under the Swiss AEOI compliance obligations is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2018 for the calendar year 2017 and 2019 for the calendar year 2018.

The Swiss AEOI compliance obligations are very broad due to the fact that Switzerland signed AEOI agreements with 53 jurisdictions already, including the European Union. The European Union is considered to be a single jurisdiction even though it consists of twenty-eight countries. The EU-Switzerland AEOI agreement was approved by the Swiss Parliament in 2016.

The Connection Between Swiss AEOI Compliance and FATCA

As Sherayzen Law Office has repeatedly pointed out in the past, the passage of FATCA in the United States has completely changed the international tax landscape concerning international information exchange with respect to foreign accounts and other foreign assets. In fact, FATCA and the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks have completely destroyed the vaulted Swiss bank privacy laws (though, the 2008 UBS case made the first hole in this bastion of offshore privacy).

After seeing the success of FATCA with respect to US tax compliance, the rest of the world joined the party. The new Common Reporting Standard or CRS was the OECD’s response to FATCA with an ambition to force even more transparency than required by FATCA and making this transparency apply to the United States. The US government refused to join CRS, but it did not prevent the CRS into growing in as important of an international tax compliance standard as FATCA.

Additionally, the enforcement of FATCA had another side-effect: a rapid proliferation of the AEOI agreements, both bilateral and multilateral. The new web of AEOI agreements is growing larger with the passage of time forcing an ever greater international tax transparency. The recent Swiss AEOI compliance is just the latest example of this trend.

Will we ever see a reversal of this trend? It is a real possibility, but it is unlikely that it will be able to destroy the legal groundwork for greater tax transparency that has been laid out by FATCA, CRS and the AEOI agreements.

IMF Wants “Modern” Croatian Real Estate Tax | Tax Lawyer News

On January 16, 2018, the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”) released its 2017 Article IV consultation notes with respect to Croatia. Among its recommendations is the introduction of a modern Croatian Real Estate Tax.

Croatian Real Estate Tax: IMF assessment of Croatian Economy

The IMF began on the positive note stating that, in 2017, Croatia continued its third year of positive economic growth, mostly supported by tourism, private consumption, trade partner growth and improved confidence. The IMF also noted that the fiscal consolidation was progressing at a much faster pace than originally anticipated with Croatia leaving the European Union’s Excessive Deficit Procedure in June of 2017. The international organization made other positive comments, particularly stressing that Croatia was overcoming its Agrokor crisis.

Then, the IMF turned increasingly negative. It first noted that, while the balance risks has improved, it was not satisfied with the high level of Croatian public and external debt levels. Then, it stated that the full impact of the Agrokor restructuring is not yet known. The IMF was also unhappy about the pace of structural reforms since 2013 (when Croatia became a member of the EU), further stating that Croatia’s GDP per capita stood at about 60% of the EU average and Croatian business environment remained less favorable than that of its peers.

Finally, the IMF expressed its concerns over the fact that the output did not recover from its pre-recessing level and stated that, in the medium-term, the Croatia’s economic growth is expected to decelerate. Hence, the IMF emphasized that Croatia needed to do more to improve its economic prospects.

Croatian Real Estate Tax: IMF Recommendations

What precisely does Croatia need to do in the IMF opinion? Mainly reduction of public debt.

How does the IMF recommend that Croatia accomplish this task? The IMF made a number of proposals that can be consolidated into five courses of action. First, enhance the efficiency of public services by streamlining public services. Second, keep the wages low and reform the welfare state policies (here, it probably means either slashing the state benefits or privatizing them). Third, relaxing the labor regulations, particularly in the areas of hiring and temporary employment. Fourth, enhancement of legal and property rights. Finally, improvement of the structure of revenue and expenditure.

This last enigmatic phrase is the keyword for reducing the expenses and the introduction of new taxes. In particular, the IMF wants to see an introduction of a modern Croatian real estate tax.

What is a “Modern” Croatian Real Estate Tax According to IMF

The IMF defined a “modern” Croatian real estate tax as a “real estate tax that is based on objective criteria” and the one that “would be more equitable and would yield more revenue than the existing communal fees.” The idea is that “a modern more equitable property tax could allow for a reduction of less growth-friendly taxes.” In fact, the additional revenue derived from this tax “could compensate for a further reduction in the income tax burden, the parafiscal fees, or even VAT.”

It should be noted that the Croatian government already listened to the IMF and tried to impose a Croatian real property tax starting January of 2018, but the implementation of the law was suspended in light of strong public opposition.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to monitor the situation.

Form 8938 Filing Thresholds | FATCA Tax Lawyer and Attorney Update

Form 8938 is one of the most important US international tax forms with its own sophisticated penalty structure. Hence, taxpayers should strive to understand when they are required to file the form. In this context, I would like focus in this essay on the Form 8938 Filing Thresholds.

General Relevant Criteria in the Determination of the Form 8938 Filing Thresholds

There are three most relevant criteria for determining the Form 8938 filing threshold that may apply to a taxpayer: (1) whether the taxpayer is a Specified Individual or a Specified Domestic Entity; (2) the taxpayer’s tax return filing status; and (3) whether the taxpayer resides in the United States or outside of the United States.

I have already described in other articles the criteria for determining whether a taxpayer is a Specified Individual or a Specified Domestic Entity. Hence, for the purposes of this essay, I will assume that the taxpayer satisfies the requirements of one of these categories. Therefore, I will focus solely on the Form 8938 filing thresholds based the filing status and the place of residence.

Form 8938 Filing Thresholds for Unmarried Taxpayers

If a taxpayer files his US tax returns with an unmarried filing status (i.e. “single” or “head of household”) and resides in the United States, he will satisfy the Form 8938 reporting threshold if the total value of the taxpayer’s Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”) is more than $50,000 on the last day of the tax year or more than $75,000 at any time during the tax year.

If the unmarried taxpayer resides outside of the United States, then the values would go up to more than $200,000 on the last day of the tax year or more than $300,000 at any time during the tax year.

Form 8938 Filing Thresholds for Taxpayers Whose Filing Status is “Married Filing Jointly”

If a taxpayer files his US tax returns as “married filing jointly” and resides in the United States, he will satisfy the Form 8938 reporting threshold if the total value of his SFFA exceeds $100,000 on the last day of the tax year or more than $150,000 at any time during the tax year. If this taxpayer resides outside of the United States, then the Form 8938 reporting thresholds will increase to more than $400,000 on the last day of the tax year or more than $600,000 at any time during the tax year.

Form 8938 Filing Thresholds for Taxpayers Whose Filing Status is “Married Filing Separately”

If a taxpayer files his US tax returns as “married filing separately”, then his Form 8938 reporting thresholds are going to be the same as those of an unmarried taxpayer.

Form 8938 Filing Thresholds for Specified Domestic Entities

Finally, a Specified Domestic Entity has the same Form 8938 Filing Thresholds as those of an unmarried taxpayer who resides in the United States – i.e. SFFA value must be more than $50,000 on the last day of the tax year or more than $75,000 at any time during the tax year.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Form 8938

If you were required to file Forms 8938 in the previous years and you have not done so, you may be subject to Form 8938 penalties. In order to avoid or mitigate your Form 8938 penalties, you need to explore your offshore voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible.

Sherayzen Law Office can help You! We are an international tax law firm that specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures of unreported foreign assets and foreign income. We have successfully helped clients from close to 70 countries. You can be next!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2018 Government Shutdown is the IRS Nightmare | IRS Lawyer & Attorney

A government shutdown is always bad for the normal functioning of federal agencies, but the 2018 government shutdown spells disaster for the IRS, especially if it lasts for a significant amount of time.

2018 Government Shutdown Comes at the Worst Time for the IRS

What makes the current 2018 government shutdown so bad is the timing. The shutdown comes just nine days before the tax season begins. For the IRS, the tax season is always the busiest time of the year.

Moreover, this year, the shutdown also comes right after a huge tax reform passed. Many of the provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 still need to be implemented, the IRS software needs to be adjusted and the employees at the Call Centers need to be prepared to answer the questions of millions of Americans about the new tax laws.

2018 Government Shutdown Comes After Years of Budget Cuts

The 2018 government shutdown also comes after many years of the IRS budget cuts. Since 2010, the IRS lost more than $900 million in funding, eliminated 18,000 full-time positions and had to implement hiring freezes. Moreover, many IRS veterans are now retiring without being able to train proper replacement. This means that the IRS is gradually losing its best, highly-knowledgeable and experienced cadres – professionals who know how to enforce tax laws in an equitable manner. This unfortunate circumstance will inevitably have a profound impact on IRS ability to properly implement US tax laws in the future.

It is not only the professionals that the IRS is losing. The long years of budget cuts dramatically reduced the IRS ability to staff its call centers. Even before the shutdown, the IRS projected that, with its current budget, it will only be able to answer at best four calls out of every ten – i.e. the IRS said that it could answer only 40% of the calls, leaving 60% of Americans without any assistance.

Furthermore, the budget cuts came at a time when there was an unprecedented explosion of new tax laws, domestic and international, which have created an enormous demand for more IRS employees. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is just the latest example of these new laws.

So far, the IRS has been able to more or less survive by cutting everything it could in the non-essential areas and relying on new technology to save costs. However, it does not appear that this is a sustainable situation in the future.

2018 Government Shutdown: Immediate Impact

The most immediate impact of the 2018 government shutdown will be the fact that only 43.5% of IRS employees will be coming to work on next week. 56.5% of the IRS workforce will be forced to stay at home.

While the IRS will continue to do “excepted activities” such as processing 2017 tax returns (this is a matter of life and death for the federal government), a number of its functions will be suspended.

Here is the list of the most common examples of the suspended activities: issuing refunds, processing of amended tax returns (Forms 1040X), conducting any audits or examinations, processing of non-electronic tax returns that do not include remittances, non-automated collections, legal counsel, planning, research, training, all development activities, most information systems functions, headquarters and administrative functions not related to the safety of life and protection of property, service center processing after the point of batching (i.e. Code & Edit, data transcription, error resolution, un-postables) and other activities. With respect to offshore voluntary disclosures, they are not likely to be processed while the government shutdown continues.

At this point, we can only wish that the government shutdown be over as soon as possible to minimize the negative impact it may have on the IRS, our nation and our fellow citizens.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to monitor the situation.

Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 Filing Threshold | FATCA Lawyer

The Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 filing threshold is likely to be very easily satisfied by the majority of Specified Domestic Entities. With the major tax return filing deadlines just two or three months away (depending on whether an entity is a corporation, a partnership or a trust), every Specified Domestic Entity must assess whether it is required to file FATCA Form 8938. Failure to do so may result in imposition of Form 8938 penalties by the IRS.

Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 Filing Threshold

For tax years beginning after December 31, 2015, a Specified Domestic Entity must file Form 8938 if the total value of its Specified Foreign Financial Assets exceeds $50,000 on the last day of the tax year or $75,000 at any time during the tax year. This is an incredibly low Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 filing threshold that pretty much means that virtually all Specified Domestic Entities will have to file a Form 8938.

Transition Years Are Most Dangerous

Transition tax years 2016, 2017 and 2018 are likely to be the most dangerous for Specified Domestic Entities. Since the Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 filing threshold is very low and the awareness of the Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 filing obligation is limited to a small number of specialized tax professionals, there can be no doubt that many Specified Domestic Entities will fail to comply with their Form 8938 filing obligations and may face steep Form 8938 penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with the Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 Filing Obligations

If your business or a trust is classified as a Specified Domestic Entity and your entity failed to file FATCA Form 8938, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our international tax law firm specializes in helping business and individuals with their US international tax compliance requirements, including Form 8938, and with their offshore voluntary disclosures involving a Form 8938.

Contact Us today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!