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Guilty Pleas for Secret Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts | FATCA Lawyer

On January 18, 2017, three US taxpayers pleaded guilty for hiding millions of dollars in their secret Swiss and Israeli bank accounts (hereinafter “Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts”) and failing to report these Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts on their FBARs.

Facts of the Case Involving Secret Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts

All three defendants are relatives – Mr. Dan Farhad Kalili and Mr. David Ramin Kalili are brothers while Mr. David Shahrokh Azarian is their brother-in-law. They are all residents of Newport Coast, California.

According to the documents filed with the court and statements made in connection with the defendants’ guilty pleas, between May 1996 and 2009, Mr. Dan Kalili opened and maintained several undeclared offshore bank accounts at Credit Suisse and UBS in Switzerland. Similarly, Mr. David Kalili opened and maintained several undeclared accounts at Credit Suisse from February 1999 through at least 2009. He also owned several undeclared accounts at UBS from October 1993 through at least 2008. The brothers also maintained joint undeclared Swiss bank accounts at both UBS and Credit Suisse beginning in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

At the same time, Mr. Azarian opened and maintained several undeclared accounts at Credit Suisse from May 1994 through at least 2009. He also owned several accounts at UBS in Switzerland from April 1997 through at least 2008.

In 2006, we had the appearance of the now famous Ms. Beda Singenberger, a Swiss citizen who owned and operated a financial advisory firm called Sinco Truehand AG. She was indicted in New York on July 21, 2011. The charges were: conspiring to defraud the United States, evade U.S. income taxes, and file false U.S. tax returns. Ms. Singenberger remains a fugitive as of the time of this writing.

In July of 2006, Mr. Dan Kalili, with the assistance of Ms. Singenberger, opened an undeclared account at UBS in the name of the Colsa Foundation, a Liechtenstein entity. As of May 2008, the Colsa Foundation account at UBS held approximately $4,927,500 in assets.

In light of the increased IRS tax enforcement and the UBS case, all three defendants attempted to partially hide their prior ownership of Swiss accounts by moving the assets from one account to another. At the same time, they also tried to legitimize partial ownership of their assets.

Mr. Dan Kalili opened an undeclared account at Swiss Bank A in the name of the Colsa Foundation and in May 2008 and transferred his assets from the UBS Colsa Foundation account to Swiss Bank A. He then made partial disclosure of the Swiss Bank A Colsa account on his individual income tax returns. In 2009, Mr. Dan Kalili opened undeclared accounts at Israeli Bank A and at Bank Leumi, both in Israel. He then closed his joint (with his brother) Credit Suisse account and his own undeclared account and transferred all funds to Israel.

At that time of its closure, the undeclared joint account of Dan and David Kalili at Credit Suisse held approximately $2,561,508 in assets. As of December 2009, Dan Kalili’s undeclared account at Israeli Bank A had the approximate value of $1,569,973 and his undeclared account at Bank Leumi was valued at approximately $2,497,931.

Mr. David Kalili followed almost the same pattern. In August of 2008, he opened an account at Israeli Bank A in Israel and transferred to this account all of his funds from his UBS accounts. He later partially declared the Israeli Bank A account on his individual income tax returns. As of August 2009, Mr. David Kalili’s undeclared account at Israeli Bank A held assets valued at approximately $1,369,489.

Finally, Mr. Azarian also opened an account at Israeli Bank A in Israel in August of 2008. In May of 2009, he closed his Credit Suisse account and transferred all funds to his Israeli account. At the time of its closure, Mr. Azarian’s undeclared account at Credit Suisse held assets valued at approximately $1,903,214.

Neither of the three defendants ever filed an FBAR for their secret Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts on their FBARs during any of the years 2006-2009.

Criminal and Civil Penalties Imposed For Failure to Declare Foreign Income and Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts

According to the plea agreements, the criminal and civil penalties were severe. Mr. Dan Kalili, Mr. David Kalili and Mr. Azarian each face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison, a period of supervised release and restitution for 2003-2009 tax loss and monetary penalties. The defendants also admitted to committing civil fraud, which exposes them to additional civil fraud penalty.

In addition, each defendant agreed to pay a willful FBAR civil penalty in the amount of 50% of the highest balances of their undeclared Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts. Mr. Dan Kalili agreed to pay the FBAR penalty of $2,674,329, Mr. David Kalili agreed to pay the FBAR penalty of $1,325,121 and Mr. Azarian agreed to pay the FBAR penalty of $951,607.

Lessons to Be Learned from the Defendants’ Handling of Their Undeclared Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts

This case is a classical example of what not to do if one wishes to avoid criminal prosecution. Let’s point out five main mistakes which exposed the taxpayers to the IRS criminal prosecution.

The first mistake is obvious – the defendants willfully failed to declare their Swiss-Israeli bank accounts on their FBARs and the income generated by these accounts on their US tax returns.

The deleterious impact of the first mistake was magnified by the usage of an offshore shell corporation to hide the ownership of the Swiss-Israeli bank accounts (while the entity was concerned mostly with Swiss accounts, it was also used to hide the source of funds on the defendants’ Israeli bank accounts).

Third, the defendants engaged in the evasive pattern of opening and closing foreign accounts in various banks in order to hide them from the IRS. The defendants obviously underestimated the IRS ability to track these accounts and ended up giving the IRS additional powerful indirect evidence of intent to evade taxes and the willfulness of their failures to file FBARs.

Fourth, the taxpayers engaged in partial voluntary disclosure outside of any actual voluntary disclosure program. By doing partial disclosure, the taxpayers provided additional evidence to the IRS of their knowledge of the requirement to report foreign income and properly complete Schedule B. At the same time, the fact that their disclosure was only partial further emphasized the willfulness of their prior failure to disclosure foreign income and foreign assets. The readers should remember that a voluntary disclosure must always be accurate and complete; otherwise, the taxpayers simply give the IRS more evidence of willfulness of their tax noncompliance.

Finally, it does not appear that the taxpayers ever considered doing a true voluntary disclosure which could have limited their penalties and prevented the IRS criminal prosecution. One of the first thing that the taxpayers should always consider once they find out about their noncompliance or the possibility of the IRS detection of such noncompliance is to retain an international tax lawyer to review their voluntary disclosure options. The taxpayers failed to do so in this case and paid a very high price.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Income and Foreign Assets, including Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign income and foreign assets, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Our international tax law firm has successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US laws and we can help you!

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Swiss Bank Program Summary | Offshore Accounts Lawyer

On December 29, 2016, the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the IRS announced that they have reached final resolutions with Swiss banks that have met the requirements of the Swiss Bank Program. In this article, I would like to provide the Swiss Bank Program summary and explain the importance of the Program to the overall US international tax enforcement efforts.

Swiss Bank Program Summary: History of the Swiss Bank Program

The Swiss Bank Program was a groundbreaking initiative of the DOJ and the IRS. It was the very first time when the tax authorities of one country (United States) conducted a voluntary disclosure program for banks in a different country (Switzerland) as if it were not an independent sovereign territory.

At the core of the Swiss Bank Program was the promise of the DOJ not to prosecute Swiss banks that would come forward and participate in the Swiss Bank Program. The banks were divided into four categories.

Category 1 banks were not eligible to participate because they were already under the DOJ investigation.

Category 2 banks had to pay a penalty and consisted of banks for which was a reason to believe that they committed tax-related criminal offenses with respect to undisclosed foreign accounts owned by US persons. In addition to paying a penalty, Category 2 banks also had to disclose all of their cross-border activities and provide detailed information with respect to US-owned accounts to the DOJ and the IRS.

Category 3 consisted of banks that established, with the assistance of an independent internal investigation of their cross-border business, that they did not commit tax or monetary transaction-related offenses and had an effective compliance program in place. These banks did not pay any penalties.

Finally, category 4 was reserved for Swiss banks that were able to demonstrate that they met certain criteria for deemed-compliance under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). They also did not pay any penalties.

Swiss Bank Program Summary: Results

Let’s discuss the results of the Program in our Swiss Bank Program summary. The Swiss Bank Program was announced on August 29, 2013 and it was in operation until December 29, 2016. During that time the DOJ executed non-prosecution agreements with 80 Category 2 banks and collected more than $1.36 billion in penalties. The Department also signed a non-prosecution agreement with Finacor, a Swiss asset management firm. Between July and December 2016, four banks and one bank cooperative satisfied the requirements of Category 3, making them eligible for Non-Target Letters. No banks qualified under Category 4 of the Program.

Swiss Bank Program Summary: Legacy

No Swiss Bank Program summary would be complete without a discussion of the legacy of the Program. In our Swiss Bank Program summary, let’s divide the impact of the Program into four parts: impact on Switzerland as a bank secrecy fortress, impact on other tax havens, impact on US tax compliance and the precedent for the future.

The most immediate impact was felt in Switzerland itself. The Swiss Bank Program has in effect completely destroyed the vaunted Swiss bank secrecy laws with respect to US taxpayers and gave the green light to other European countries to conduct similar interventions. In essence, the Swiss Bank Program has completely destroyed the main fortress of bank secrecy that had existed for centuries.

The destruction of the Swiss bank secrecy laws also influenced the other tax havens. Fearing a similar DOJ intervention, the rest of the world’s tax havens have significantly softened their own bank secrecy laws and have agreed to an automatic exchange of information regarding their account owners with the IRS. There can be no doubt that the Swiss Bank Program has greatly facilitated the implementation of FATCA on the global scale.

The combined effect of the Swiss Bank Program, the softening of the bank secrecy laws in tax havens and the implementation of FATCA was acutely felt by noncompliant US taxpayers. Tens of thousands of US taxpayers participated in the IRS voluntary disclosure programs (often, they were urged by the Swiss banks to enter the OVDP, because this is how the banks mitigated their own penalties under the Program). Many more tens of thousands of taxpayers became tax compliant through a noisy or quiet disclosure. The greater awareness of US international tax laws among the tax preparers has greatly improved US annual tax compliance, bringing huge amounts of additional revenue to the US treasury.

Finally, no Swiss Bank Program summary would be complete without mentioning the potential for repetition of the Swiss Bank Program in another country. It may not necessarily come in the same format, but it is very likely that a version of the Program will be implemented elsewhere, especially since the IRS commitment to offshore tax compliance will remain a priority in the immediate future.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts or other foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our legal team will thoroughly analyze your case, explore your voluntary disclosure options, prepare all of the necessary legal documents and tax forms, and defend your case against the IRS.

We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to bring their tax affairs into full compliance and we can help you! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Offshore Voluntary Compliance Draws 100,000 Taxpayers and $10 Billion

On October 21, 2016, the IRS announced that more than 100,000 US taxpayers participated in its Offshore Voluntary Compliance programs paying a total of more than $10 billion. Let’s explore these Offshore Voluntary Compliance numbers in more depth.

OVDP is Still the King of Offshore Voluntary Compliance but Its Impact is More Targeted

The IRS flagship Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) is still the most profitable program for the IRS in terms of actual amount of dollars paid by the taxpayers. More than 55,800 taxpayers have come into the OVDP to resolve their past US tax noncompliance. They paid a total of more than $9.9 billion in taxes, interest and penalties since 2009.

These numbers are very impressive, but they also point to a more targeted influence of the OVDP compared to its past. In October of 2015, the IRS reported that more than 54,000 taxpayers entered into the OVDP and paid more than $8 billion. In other words, in the past year (November 2015 – October 2016), about 1,400 taxpayers entered into the OVDP and paid an additional $1.8 billion.

What this means is that the IRS was highly successful in properly addressing the basic original injustice of the OVDP program which was equally painful to small taxpayers and large taxpayers as well as non-willful taxpayers and willful taxpayers. The OVDP now draws a more limited number of people with substantial foreign assets who pay a higher penalty for their prior noncompliance.

The only danger that still remains is the issue of incompetent tax advisors who might be entering their wealthier clients into the OVDP irrespective of their willfulness or non-willfulness.

Streamlined Procedures is the Favorite Offshore Voluntary Compliance Option for “Smaller” Taxpayers

The IRS data also reflects the tremendous popularity of the Streamlined Procedures among the middle-class taxpayers with limited international asset exposure. According to the IRS, as of October of 2016, 48,000 taxpayers have made use of various Streamlined Procedures (SDOP and SFOP) to resolve their prior non-willful US international tax noncompliance. These taxpayers paid a total of about $450 million in taxes, interest and penalties.

In the prior report (October of 2015), the IRS stated that only 30,000 taxpayers used the Streamlined Procedures; 20,000 of them after June of 2014. This means that the Streamlined Procedures continues to attract the great majority of the taxpayers with smaller foreign assets.

Offshore Voluntary Compliance is One of he Key Strategies to Resolve Prior US International Tax Noncompliance

Undoubtedly, Offshore Voluntary Compliance options offer the key strategies to resolve prior US international tax noncompliance. The other options, such as Reasonable Cause Disclosure and Quiet Disclosure, are much more limited in scope and application. In fact, in the case of a Quiet Disclosure, this option may put the taxpayers into a position more dangerous than they were in before their quiet disclosure due to the increased danger of detection without any protection offered by the Offshore Voluntary Compliance options.

Doing nothing is also not a good option for noncompliant taxpayers, because of the increased risk that their prior noncompliance will be deemed willful once the IRS discovers their noncompliance.

The risk of the IRS detection of prior tax noncompliance is very high in today’s world. This detection may come not just from the IRS investigations of a specific taxpayer, the massive disclosures by the banks already being investigated by the IRS or even from the banks that provided information as a result of the Department of Justice’s Swiss Bank Program. Today, the primary danger of detection comes from the third-party reporting under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the network of inter-governmental agreements (IGAs) between the U.S. and partner jurisdictions.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office to Secure Professional Help With Your Offshore Voluntary Compliance Case

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts or any other foreign assets, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible for professional help with your voluntary disclosure.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leader in offshore voluntary disclosures which will help you with your entire case, including: the original determination of the best Offshore Voluntary Compliance option; the implementation of this option, including the preparation of all relevant legal documents and tax forms; the filing of the voluntary disclosure package; and the defense of your voluntary disclosure positions against the IRS.

We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance in the least painful and most beneficial way, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Initial Consultation!

Hapoalim Prepares for Settlement with DOJ | FATCA Tax Attorney

On October 6, 2016, Israeli bank Hapoalim Ltd. announced that, in order to cover the costs of a future settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), it will add a $70 million charge to an existing $50 million provision in its third-quarter results. The expected settlement will cover Hapoalim’s role in helping US tax residents to evade their US tax obligations.

In its news release, Hapoalim stated that its representatives held an initial discussion with the DOJ on September 30, 2016, to discuss the future settlement. The bank did not indicate whether $120 million in charges that it booked to date is the actual amount that Hapoalim will pay under its settlement with the DOJ. Rather, the news release emphasizes the uncertainty that still exists with respect to the actual amount.

The issue of the DOJ investigation dates back to the year 2011. In its recent (June 30, 2016) financial statements Hapoalim confirmed that its Swiss subsidiary Bank Hapoalim (Switzerland) Ltd. had been notified by Swiss authorities in 2011 that it was being investigated by the US government as a result of the DOJ’s suspicions that the bank had assisted US clients in evading federal taxes. The Swiss subsidiary could not resolve this issue in 2013 in the DOJ’s Swiss Bank Program due to the fact that it could not be classified as a Category 2 bank.

It is important to remember that the DOJ is not the only institution that is going after Hapoalim. The State of New York is conducting its own review. In its news release, Hapoalim indicated that the $120 million charge is not related to the New York investigation.

While all of this legal uncertainty makes it difficult for Hapoalim to assess its future liability under any deferred prosecution agreement, one can compare its situation with Bank Leumi. In 2014, Bank Leumi Group entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ under which it paid $270 million ($157 million of this penalty was allocated to Bank Leumi’s Swiss accounts held by US taxpayers).

If we rely on this precedent, it appears that Hapoalim is greatly underestimating its penalty, because Bank Leumi and Hapoalim are fairly similar in size as well as their actions in soliciting US clients. One also must not forget about the possible future indictments of Hapoalim’s employees (at least in the United States) by the DOJ.