International Tax Lawyer Lectures on US Tax Reporting of Italian Assets and Income

On February 2, 2017, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, the founder and owner of Sherayzen Law Office (an international tax law firm headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota) gave a lecture at the Italian Cultural Center in downtown Minneapolis. The topic of the lecture was an introduction to US tax reporting of Italian assets and income for individual taxpayers. The lecture was well-attended by mostly native Italians (the room was filled to capacity) and caused a great amount of interest in the audience.

US Tax Reporting of Italian Assets

US Tax Reporting of Italian Assets Introduction

US Tax Reporting of Italian Assets and Income: Worldwide Income Reporting Requirement

The lecture commenced with the discussion of the worldwide income reporting requirement. After explaining the US tax residency requirement, Mr. Sherayzen focused on the importance of reporting Italian-source income in the United States for those Italians who are considered to be US tax residents (i.e. US citizens, US permanent residents, persons who satisfied the Substantial Presence Test and the US tax residents by choice). The lawyer explained that the Italian-source income must be disclosed by these Italians even if the income is already taxed in Italy and even if it is never brought into the United States.

US Tax Reporting of Italian Assets and Income: Foreign Rental Income Must Be Reported but Real Estate itself Is Reportable Only In Certain Cases

Then, Mr. Sherayzen discussed the subject of reporting by Italians of their foreign real estate and income derived from foreign real estate. The international tax lawyer emphasized that foreign rental income and foreign capital gains must be disclosed on the taxpayers’ US tax returns.

Then, Mr. Sherayzen clarified that, in situations where real estate is owned outright by individuals (i.e. not through any entity or any other complex arrangement), the ownership of the real estate itself is not generally reportable. However, if the Italian real estate is owned through an entity, then it will need to be disclosed as part of the entity’s financial statements prepared as part of Form 5471, 8865 or 8858. The lawyer again emphasized that, even in these circumstances, the income derived from Italian real estate is still reportable on the taxpayers’ US tax returns.

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US Tax Reporting of Italian Assets and Income: FBAR and FATCA Form 8938

After discussing real estate as an exception from the general rule that foreign assets are likely to be reportable on the information returns in the United States, Mr. Sherayzen turned to the subject of reporting of foreign accounts with particular focus on FBAR and FATCA Form 8938. The discussion focused on the types of accounts that needed to disclosed, the reporting thresholds, and the penalties associated with the failure to file these forms. The international tax lawyer also discussed in more depth the history of FBAR.

This discussion caused a great number of questions related to FBAR, its thresholds and its relationship to income reporting. Fewer questions were asked with respect to Form 8938.

US Tax Reporting of Italian Assets and Income: PFICs

Despite the time limitations, Mr. Sherayzen briefly discussed Form 8621 as a hybrid form. The lawyer explained that a “hybrid form” meant that Form 8621 was used for both, income tax reporting and asset reporting, with respect to PFICs. Mr. Sherayzen explicated, in a very general manner, what assets qualified for PFIC status and what were the income tax consequences of PFICs. The Minneapolis international tax lawyer warned the audience that their Italian private pension plans and life insurance policies could contain PFICs.

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US Tax Reporting of Italian Assets and Income: Foreign Inheritance and Foreign Gifts

The lecture ended with a brief discussion of US tax reporting requirements concerning inheritance and gifts from Italian nationals and non-resident aliens (for US tax purposes). At that point, Mr. Sherayzen introduced Form 3520 and its threshold reporting requirements for foreign gifts and foreign inheritance. The lawyer also explained how Form 8938 could be applicable to a foreign inheritance.

After the lecture ended, Mr. Sherayzen continued to take questions in private for the next thirty minutes.

IRS Cracks Down on Sovereign Debit Cards linked to Offshore Accounts

On January 25, 2017, the federal court in Montana authorized the IRS to serve John Doe Summons on Michael Berg of Bozeman, Montana, seeking information about US taxpayers with offshore accounts established by Sovereign Management & Legal LTD (“Sovereign”), a Panamanian company. In particular, the IRS is interested in US taxpayers who use debit cards linked to these offshore accounts (“Sovereign Debit Cards”). Let’s explore in more detail why the IRS is pursuing John Doe summons with respect to Sovereign Debit Cards.

Sovereign Debit Cards Used to Access Secret Offshore Accounts Without Identifying the Owner of the Accounts

First of all, it is important to point out that Sovereign is already on the OVDP list of “facilitators”, which means that any US taxpayer who owns Sovereign offshore accounts and enters the OVDP will be subject to a 50% Offshore Penalty. Additionally, it means that the IRS has long been focusing on this company and what it is doing to promote US tax evasion.

It seems that there is a particular scheme linked to Sovereign debit cards that bothers the IRS. In its press release, the IRS and the DOJ stated that Sovereign advertised various products that allow US taxpayers to hide their offshore assets. In particular, the IRS emphasized one “package” where a corporation owned by another entity (including a fake charitable foundation) is officially governed by nominee officers provided by Sovereign. Then, Sovereign would open bank accounts for these entities and provide Sovereign debit cards (issued in the name of a nominee) to the taxpayer. By using Sovereign debit cards, taxpayers were able to access their offshore funds without revealing their identities.

In essence, the main issue here is the use of pre-paid debit cards for tax evasion purposes.

The Information that the IRS Seeks Regarding Sovereign Debit Cards

The John Doe summons issued by the IRS seek the records of US taxpayers who received Sovereign debit cards, specifically “Sovereign Gold Cards”. The IRS wishes to obtain the records for eleven years – 2005 through 2016.

This is the Second Time the IRS Seeks Regarding Sovereign Debit Cards

The current summons represent just a part of the case against the Sovereign . The IRS and the DOJ already previously obtained a similar order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which authorized the issuance of eight separate John Doe summonses on bank and other entities for information related to Sovereign and its US customers. The evidence submitted in the request to issue the current Montana John Doe summons was built in part on the information provided in response to the earlier summons.

Impact of Sovereign Debit Cards John Doe Summons on US Taxpayers

The new Sovereign Debit Cards John Doe Summons should be of grave concern to US taxpayers who own Sovereign Debit Cards as well as other noncompliant US taxpayers. Let’s discuss two most important aspects of these John Doe Summons with respect to noncompliant US taxpayers.

First of all, all noncompliant US taxpayers related to Sovereign in one way or another are in grave risk of the IRS detection. As long as their names appear in Sovereign’s internal records, these taxpayers are likely to be discovered and prosecuted by the IRS.

Second, what is especially disconcerting is the time frame for the new John Doe summons – years 2005 through 2016. The IRS is seeking records of even pre-UBS case tax noncompliance. This trend to going back that far should worry not only the US taxpayers with Sovereign debit cards, but also any US taxpayers who did quiet disclosure or just closed their accounts a long time ago and believe that they are safe from the IRS prosecution because of the passage of time. The willingness of the IRS to go back that far shows that all of these taxpayers are at risk.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with Your Voluntary Disclosure Concerning Sovereign Debit Cards and/or Any Other Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

As the IRS correctly pointed out, “the time to come forward and come into compliance is running short, and those who continue to violate U.S. tax and reporting laws will pay a heavy price.” The “heavy price” might be the criminal tax evasion penalties and willful and criminal FBAR penalties – a situation where a taxpayer might owe in penalties more than he ever had on his offshore accounts and he will also be put in prison for potentially as many as ten years.

This is why it is very important for noncompliant US taxpayers to contact Sherayzen Law Office to discuss their offshore voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible. The situation is particularly critical for US taxpayers with Sovereign debit cards.

We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers avoid criminal penalties and achieve civil case resolutions with the IRS. We can Help You!

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Israeli IT Tax Breaks | Minnesota International Tax Lawyer and Attorney

Israel continues to solidify its leading positions in the IT market by using tax policy. On January 1, 2017, Amendment 73 to the Law for the Encouragement of Capital Investments of 1959 entered into force. The main goal of the Amendment is to clarify, extend and improve the Israeli tax breaks for IT companies operating in Israel. Let’s review some of the most important of these Israeli IT tax breaks.

Israeli IT Tax Breaks: Preferred Technological Taxable Income Tax Rates

Starting year 2017, Israel will have three levels of taxation of what is termed as “preferred technological taxable income” (PTTI) of certain companies, referred to as “preferred enterprises” (PE). The tax rates will be as follows: 12% default rate, $7.5% development area A (special Israeli designation for certain areas) and just 6% in the case of a special preferred technological enterprise (SPTE). All of these rates compare favorably to the standard business tax rate in Israel of 24% (which was also lowered as of January 1, 2017 from 25%).

There is an important exception – R&D centers will not be entitled to a reduced corporate tax rate if the controlling shareholders or the beneficiaries are Israeli residents. Control here can be direct or indirect and it is defined as an entitlement to 25% or more of the income or profits of the R&D center.

Israeli IT Tax Breaks: IT Company Owners Dividend Tax Rates

The owners of IT companies get another tax break in the form of dividend withholding rates. Generally, the tax withholding rate for dividends paid to an owner of an IT company will be 20% (subject to any applicable tax treaty). However, the rate goes down to a mere 4% if the dividend is distributed to at least a 90% foreign resident corporate shareholder.

Again, these rate are below the general tax withholding rate of 30-33% for dividends paid out to shareholders who own at least 10% of the company.

Israeli IT Tax Breaks: Certain Capital Gains

The Israeli IT tax breaks also expand to capital gains in certain limited situations. Israeli IT companies that sell IP to a related foreign company will qualify for a reduced 6% capital gains tax rate, but only if the Israeli company developed or acquired the IP from a foreign company after January 1, 2017. Such sales are subject to the approval of the National Authority for Technological Innovation.

A Combined Effort of US and Israeli Lawyers Needed to Properly Plan A US Company’s Expansion to Israel

All of the tax law changes that I mentioned above are described here in a very general manner. There are very specific qualifications that need to be satisfied by a company in order to qualify for the Israeli IT Tax Breaks. This is why a US company will need to contact a specialized Israeli tax attorney to properly plan the expansion of its IT business to Israel.

At the same time, however, the work of the Israeli tax attorney should be coordinated with proper US tax planning, because US companies are taxed on their worldwide income and may potentially even be taxed on the income of their foreign subsidiaries. Therefore, the tax planning efforts of an Israeli tax attorney should be combined with those of a US tax attorney in order to produce a tax plan that will function properly in both jurisdictions at the same time.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Business Tax Planning

If you wish to expand your business overseas, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional US business tax planning. Additionally, we can also help you with your US annual compliance with respect to your foreign assets and foreign income.

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University Professor Sentenced to Prison with $100 Million FBAR Penalty

On February 10, 2017, the IRS scored yet another victory in its fight against secret offshore accounts with the imposition of a $100 Million FBAR Penalty. Mr . Dan Horsky, a 71-year old retired university professor (he used to teach at a business school), was a spectacularly successful investor and a very unsuccessful tax evader. After making a fortune, he decided to conceal his earnings through secret offshore accounts in Switzerland. Now, not only will this university professor pay an enormous $100 Million FBAR penalty, but he will also go to prison.

Facts of the Case: From University Professor to a $100 Million FBAR Penalty

Let’s first explore how did a simple professor ended up paying a $100 Million FBAR penalty.

According to court documents and statements made during the sentencing hearing, Mr. Horsky is a citizen of the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. For over 30 years, he worked as a professor of business administration at a university located in New York. Around 1995, this university professor invested in numerous start-up companies. All of them but one failed; however, the one that succeeded (“Company A”) was spectacularly profitable.

In 2000, Mr. Horsky consolidated all of his investments into a nominee account in the name of a shell entity, Horsky Holdings. The account was opened at a Swiss bank in Zurich in order to conceal his financial transactions and accounts from the IRS and the US Treasury Department (the “DOJ”).

In 2008, Mr. Horsky received approximately $80 million in proceeds from selling Company A’s stock. However, he filed a fraudulent 2008 tax return, under-reporting his income by more than $40 million and disclosing only approximately $7 million of his gain from the sale. Then, the Swiss Bank opened multiple accounts for the university professor to assist him in concealing his assets. The university professor decided to trick the IRS and opened one small account for which Horsky admitted that he was a US citizen and another much larger account for which he claimed he was an Israeli citizen and resident.

As a university professor who loved business, Mr. Horsky could not stay away from temptation of further investments. He re-invested some of his gains from selling Company A’s stock into Company B’s stocks. Again, the university professor was enormously successful – by 2015, his secret offshore holdings exceeded $220 million.

In 2012, after learning about the IRS efforts to fight offshore tax evasion, Mr. Horsky engaged in a new scheme. He arranged for an individual (“Person A”) to take nominal control over his accounts at the Swiss Bank because the bank was closing accounts controlled by US persons. Interestingly, the Swiss Bank went so far as to help Person A relinquish his US citizenship. In 2014, Person A filed a false Form 8854 (Initial Annual Expatriation Statement) with the IRS that failed to disclose his net worth on the date of expatriation, failed to disclose his ownership of foreign assets, and falsely certified under penalties of perjury that he was in compliance with his tax obligations for the five preceding tax years.

By 2015, however, the IRS already conducted an investigation (probably triggered by information received as a result of the Swiss Bank Program) and identified Mr. Horsky’s tax evasion scheme. The IRS special agents actually raided Mr. Horsky’s home and confronted him about his concealment of his foreign financial accounts.

The IRS estimated that, during this entire 15-year old tax evasion scheme, Mr. Horsky evaded more than $18 million in income and gift taxes.

Punishment: $100 Million FBAR Penalty, Imprisonment and Other Penalties

Mr. Horsky faced a large array of penalties for filing fraudulent federal income tax returns, failure to disclosure his beneficial interest in and control over his foreign financial accounts on FBARs through the year 2011, and filing of fraudulent 2012 and 2013 FBARs.

The court sentenced Mr. Horsky to seven months in prison, one year of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. As part of his plea agreement, Mr. Horsky also paid over $13,000,000 in taxes owed to the IRS and a $100,000,000 FBAR penalty.

Lessons to be Learned from this $100 Million FBAR Penalty Case

So, how did this become a $100 Million FBAR Penalty Case? What qualified this case for criminal prosecution?

First, the very sophisticated nature of the tax evasion scheme made it very easy for the IRS to pursue criminal penalties in this case. Mr. Horsky went from one tax evasion trick to another, believing that he could avoid IRS detection. Using a shell corporation to hide his identity was definitely a big factor here. However, other strategies (like the use of a nominee who gave up his US citizenship) employed by him also made it an easy target for criminal prosecution.

Second, the amounts involved. With over $200 million in assets, Mr. Horsky should have known that he would be a valuable target for the IRS criminal prosecution.

Third, income evasion was done here on a grand scale. Not only did Mr. Horsky conceal the income from his accounts, but he also tried to evade the taxation of his very large capital gains. Every time that there is a combination of FBAR violation with a large-scale income tax violation, the chances of a criminal prosecution increase exponentially.

Finally, the willfulness of Mr. Horsky’s entire behavior was particularly made evident with the filing of fraudulent tax returns. A partial disclosure is one of the most dangerous patterns of tax behavior, because it discloses the knowledge of a tax obligation on the part of the taxpayer and points to the willfulness of the violation with respect to the noncompliant part of the obligation.

In fact, looking at this case, one can say that Mr. Horsky’s $100 Million FBAR penalty was definitely not the worse outcome. It is probably thanks to the skillful work of his criminal tax attorneys that the worst was avoided.

There is one more lesson that needs to be learned from this case. It appears that Mr. Horsky had plenty of opportunities to enter into any of the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure programs to avoid his $100 Million FBAR penalty and a prison sentence. He could have entered the 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI, 2012 OVDP and probably even 2014 OVDP.

If he would have entered into any of these programs, Mr. Horsky could have avoided the $100 Million FBAR penalty, saved tens of millions of dollars in potential penalties and eliminated any serious chance of a criminal prosecution.

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

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts outside of the United States, you are in grave danger of IRS detection and the imposition of draconian FBAR penalties, including incarceration. This is why you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options.

Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers to avoid or reduce draconian FBAR penalties and bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws. We can help You!

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Importance of Outbound Business Tax Planning | International Tax Attorney

Outbound business tax planning should form part of every outbound business transaction, whether it is in technology transfers, export of goods or an investment overseas. In this article, I would like to discuss the main goal of the outbound business tax planning and identify the overall “global” (i.e. looking at the entire genre of outbound transactions) strategies which are utilized to achieve this goal.

The Main Purpose of the Outbound Business Tax Planning

The main goal of the outbound business tax planning is not difficult to discern – legal reduction of tax burden and, thereby, maximization of profits. What is important to understand is that the outbound business tax planning seeks to optimize the after-tax financial return from a transaction by reducing the taxes paid. It is not concerned so much with the pre-tax business details of the outbound transaction (although, these details may play a very important role in tax planning, but as a strategy and not a goal).

In other words, instead of treating taxes as just another cost of doing business, a business can significantly increase its real return from an outbound transaction through careful business tax planning.

Three Global Strategies to Achieve the Main Goal of the Outbound Business Tax Planning

How can the goal of after-tax financial return be achieved? There are three main strategies that can be utilized by an international tax attorney. The first strategy is to avoid the existence of any taxing jurisdiction in the destination country (i.e. the foreign country that is the object of the outbound business transaction). In other words, the transaction is structured in such a way as to avoid (or, at least, significantly reduce) the taxation of profits overseas.

The second strategy is to postpone for a significant period of time the US taxation of foreign profits until these profits are repatriated into the United States. Since US businesses are taxed on their worldwide income, the focus of this strategy is on deferral of US income tax, rather than its complete avoidance. The economic benefits of such deferral can be very significant, because the profits can be either reinvested tax-free, accumulate interest (also tax-free) or serve as a collateral for borrowing in the United States.

What happens if the income taxation in the destination country cannot be avoided? Does the outbound business tax planning have anything to offer in this case?

The answer is yes – the prevention of significant double-taxation of foreign income in the United States. This is the third main strategy of the outbound business tax planning. A prominent example of such strategy is the utilization of foreign tax credit to offset US tax liability.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with Your Outbound Business Tax Planning

If you are planning to expand your business overseas, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We will thoroughly analyze your planned business transaction, create a tax plan for you and implement it. Moreover, our firm will also provide you with the annual US tax compliance support with respect to US tax compliance requirements that may arise as a result of the tax plan (such as Form 5471 or 8865 compliance).

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