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EU Tax Harmonization Initiative Stalled by Ireland and Hungary | Tax News

The EU Tax Harmonization initiative faced a joint opposition of Ireland and Hungary in early January of 2018. Both countries are vehemently opposed to any effort that would “tie their hands” in terms of their corporate tax policies.

The EU Tax Harmonization Initiative

Tax Harmonization is basically a policy that aims to adjust the tax systems of various jurisdictions in order to achieve one tax goal. The adjustment usually implies equalization of tax treatment.

In the past, the EU tax harmonization efforts were mostly limited to Value-Added Tax (“VAT”) and certain parent-subsidiary taxation issues. Since at least 2016, however, the EU Tax Harmonization policy seeks to regulate corporate income taxes among its members in order to limit intra-EU tax competition.

In 2016, the European Commission released two proposed directives addressing the issues of a common corporate tax base and a common consolidated corporate tax base. Neither directive establishes a minimum corporate tax rate. Neither directive passed the internal EU opposition.

Irish and Hungarian Opposition to the EU Tax Harmonization of Corporate Taxation

Today, the EU internal opposition to the EU tax harmonization initiatives consists of Ireland and Hungary. Both Hungary and Ireland have very low (by EU standards) corporate tax rates. The Irish corporate tax rate is 12.5% and the Hungarian corporate tax rate is only 9% (the EU average corporate tax rate is about 22%).

In early January of 2018, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar both stated that their countries have the right to set their corporate tax policies and that this area should not be subject to the EU tax harmonization efforts. “Taxation is an important component of competition. We would not like to see any regulation in the EU, which would bind Hungary’s hands in terms of tax policy, be it corporate tax, or any other tax,” Mr. Orbán said. He further added that “we do not consider tax harmonization a desired direction.”

Both countries view the aforementioned proposed 2016 European Commission directives as a threat, because harmonizing of the tax base could lead to corporate income tax rate harmonization.

Impact of Brexit on the EU Tax Harmonization Initiatives

The United Kingdom used to be in the same opposition camp as Ireland and Hungary. Given the size of its economy and its political influence, the United Kingdom was an almost insurmountable barrier to the proponents of greater EU unity (mainly France and Germany). In essence, the UK was enough of a counterweight to keep the balance of power within the European Union from tilting in favor of the EU unity proponents.

Everything has changed with Brexit. The exit of the United Kingdom from the EU automatically led to the shift of the balance of power in favor of Germany. Brexit also means that Ireland and Hungary are now alone in their resistance against the Franco-German efforts to achieve greater EU unity. The political pressure of these outliers is now enormous.

In fact, it appears that, rather than suspending the unanimity requirement by invoking the so-called “passerelle clauses” (which would be a highly controversial step), the proponents of the EU Tax Harmonization initiative will simply wait until this political pressure forces Ireland and Hungary to modify their positions on this issue.

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.

Happy New Year 2017! | International Tax Attorney Minneapolis

Sherayzen Law Office, PLLC wishes a very Happy New Year 2017 to all of our clients and readers of our blog! We wish you great health, happiness and prosperity in this New Year 2017! And, to stay in full compliance with US tax laws!

Twin Cities international tax lawyer

The New Year 2017 is going to be a complicated one when it comes to international tax compliance. Let us focus today on two primary updates.

The first notable novelty of the New Year 2017 is the shift in the FBAR deadline; from now on, the FBAR is going to be due on April 15. At this point, the IRS guidance is that this deadline is set for April 15 irrespective of whether it falls on a Saturday, Sunday or a holiday. Hence, it is important to remember that the 2016 FBAR will be due on April 15, 2017, even though US tax returns will be due on April 18, 2017. Please, look for additional articles on this issue in January of 2017.

Second, for the first time ever, FATCA Form 8938 will apply to domestic corporations, partnerships and trusts that hold specified foreign financial assets if the total value of those assets exceeds $50,000 on the last day of the tax year or $75,000 at any time during the tax year. The IRS has been threatening this expansion of the application of Form 8938 since 2011. Now, in the New Year 2017, US domestic entities will need to comply with these new requirements on their 2016 US tax returns. Sherayzen Law Office will be providing additional updates on this issue throughout this year’s tax season.

There are many New Year 2017 updates made to various forms by the IRS. Some of these updates are fairly specific to certain classes of taxpayers, whereas other updates are more general in nature. Our professional legal and tax team at Sherayzen Law Office closely follows these IRS updates and developments to make sure that we provide our clients with the highest quality of service.

As in prior years, if you are a client of Sherayzen Law Office in this New Year 2017, you can rest assured that your US tax compliance is in good hands and you have an intelligent advocate of your interests on your side.

Hence, enjoy the New Year 2017 celebrations and contact Sherayzen Law Office during this year’s tax season for the high-quality professional legal and tax help!

IRS seeks Bitcoin Accountholder Data from Largest US Bitcoin Exchanger

On November 17, 2016, the IRS and the US Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) opened a new front against offshore tax evasion – bitcoin accountholder data. On that day, the DOJ filed a petition (accompanied by the IRS memorandum) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeking permission to serve a John Doe Summons on bitcoin exchanger, Coinbase Inc. (“Coinbase”), in order to obtain bitcoin transaction records and bitcoin accountholder identities. Coinbase already indicated in its blog post that it will oppose the petition for the bitcoin account holder data in court based on the issues related to its customers’ privacy.

Bitcoin Background Information

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and a payment system; its unique nature is in the fact that it is the first decentralized cryptocurrency. It is also the largest virtual currency on the market and the one that has been recognized by users and merchants in many countries (though others have banned it).

The Anonymity of the Bitcoin Accountholder Data Poses a Problem for the IRS

The IRS sees a big problem with bitcoins. While all of the bitcoin transactions are publicly recorded, the actual identity of a bitcoin owner is completely anonymous. The IRS memorandum in support of the John Doe Summons petition is expressly stating the IRS concerns regarding US taxpayers who do not report taxable income from bitcoin transactions and bitcoin trading. Additionally, the IRS (in its aforementioned memorandum) pointed out that bitcoins can be used for creation of non-existing deductions to reduce taxable income.

Offshore Tax Compliance is at the Heart of the IRS Attack on the Bitcoin Accountholder Data

Furthermore, it is no accident that the IRS memorandum that accompanied the DOJ petition was written by Mr. David Utzke, a senior revenue agent with the IRS’s offshore compliance initiatives program. This demonstrates that the IRS views the anonymity of the bitcoin accountholder data not merely a domestic, but also an offshore tax compliance issue. Mr. Utzke expressly states his concerns that bitcoin transactions now replace the more traditional abusive offshore tax schemes.

We also should remember that, in its Notice 2014-21, the IRS treats convertible virtual currency as property for federal tax purposes. This first means that a taxpayer must report any capital gains and losses on his tax returns even if the bitcoin sales occur overseas.

Moreover, this potentially means (though the IRS has not yet expressly stated so) that bitcoins purchased overseas are reportable foreign assets subject to potentially FATCA and FBAR requirements (depending on how they are held – bitcoin wallets can potentially be treated as foreign accounts). The other side of this conclusion is that a bitcoin held overseas may draw FBAR and Form 8938 penalties if it is not timely and properly disclosed. This is indirectly confirmed by Notice 2014-21 which specifically singles out penalties associated with the failure to file an information return under IRC Sections 6721 and 6722.

Sherayzen Law Office Can Help You With Your Bitcoin US Tax Compliance Issues

If you own bitcoins overseas and you have unreported bitcoin income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office to help you with your US tax compliance as soon as possible. Time is of the essence; if your identity is disclosed to the IRS and the IRS commences an investigation, you may be precluded from conducting a voluntary disclosure with respect to your bitcoins. In this case, the IRS may impose its draconian tax penalties on unreported income and assets.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Russian Taxation of Gifts to Nonresidents: Recent Changes

The Russian Ministry of Finance (“MOF”) recently issued Guidance Letter 03-04-06/64102 (dated October 31) regarding the taxation of gifts from Russian legal entities to nonresidents (i.e. the Russian taxation of gifts to nonresidents). This Letter will have a direct impact on the tax planning for Russians who are tax residents of the United States.

Russian Taxation of Gifts to Nonresidents: Russian-Source Gifts are Taxable

In the letter, the MOF stated that, under the Russian Tax Code Article 209, Section 2, the Russian-source income of individuals who are not tax residents of the Russian Federation is subject to the Russian income tax (the Russian tax residents are taxed on their worldwide income – i.e Russian-source and foreign-source income).

Furthermore, the MOF determined that gifts received by nonresidents from a Russian legal entity are considered to be Russian-source income. This means that these gifts are taxable beyond the exemption amount. According to Tax Code Article 217, section 28, the exemption amount is 4,000 Russian roubles per tax year. Hence, a gift from a Russian legal entity to a non-resident of Russia will be subject to the Russian individual income tax if it exceeds 4,000 rubles.

Russian Taxation of Gifts to Nonresidents: the Place of Gift Does Not Matter

It is important to emphasize that, in this situation, the sourcing of the gift is determined by the giftor – i.e. if the giftor is a Russian legal entity, the gift is considered as Russian-source income irrespective of the actual location of the place where the gift took place. For example, if a Russian legal entity gifts 10,000 rubles in Switzerland, the gift is still considered to be Russian-source income.

Russian Taxation of Gifts to Nonresidents: Tax Withholding Rules

The general rule is that the Russian legal entity who makes the gift to a nonresident is considered to be the withholding agent who is required to withhold from the gift and remit to the MOF the individual income tax due. However, the MOF specified that, if a gift is a non-monetary one or of such a nature that a tax cannot be withheld, then the entity must notify the Russian Federal Tax Service that it could not and did not withhold the tax (with the amount of the tax due). The nonresident would be responsible for the payment of the tax due in this case.

Impact of the Changes in the Russian Taxable of Gifts to Nonresidents on US Tax Residents

The Guidance Letter 03-04-06/64102 will have an important impact on the Russian tax and estate planning strategies with respect to US tax residents. One of the most common strategies for business succession and estate planning in Russia has been gifting of assets to children who were non-residents of Russia and US tax residents. The guidance letter directly impacts this strategy forcing the re-evaluation of the desirability of this entire course of action.