International Tax Attorney Minnesota Minneapolis

FBAR: Aggregate Value Requirement

FBAR filing is required only if the aggregate balances of a U.S. person’s foreign financial accounts exceed $10,000.

Despite appearances, the requirement that the aggregate value of all of the foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during a calendar year is not without complications. In order to figure out the account value in a calendar year, one needs to look first at the largest amount of currency and/or monetary instruments that appear on any quarterly or more frequently issued account statement for the relevant year. If the financial institution which manages the account does not issue any periodic account statements, then the maximum account value is the largest amount of currency and/or monetary instruments in the account at any time during the applicable year. If the account consists of stocks or other non-monetary assets, then one only needs to consider fair market value at the end of the relevant year. If, however, the non-monetary assets were withdrawn before the end of the calendar year, then the account value is determined to be the fair market value of the withdrawn assets at the time of the withdrawal.

The maximum value of a foreign financial account must be reported in U.S. dollars on the FBAR. Therefore, a taxpayer needs to convert foreign currency into the corresponding amount of U.S. dollars using the official exchange rate at the end of the relevant calendar year.

A final word of caution on the topic of the account balance. Notice the word “aggregate” – it means that the balances of all of the filer’s foreign financial accounts should be tallied to determine whether the $10,000 threshold is exceeded. For example, if the filer has one foreign bank account of $6,000 and another of $5,000, then he still needs to file the FBAR with the DOT, because the aggregate value of both accounts exceeds the required $10,000.

Deciding whether you are required to file the FBAR is a complicated process. Sherayzen Law Office can help you!

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Minneapolis Minnesota International Tax Lawyers: Fee Agreement Arrangements

In this article, I will discuss five most important issues that you need to know before you sign a fee agreement with international tax lawyers in Minneapolis.

* How is the international tax lawyer’s fee paid? There are three main models of payment that lawyers use: hourly fee, contingency fee, and flat fee. The hourly fee is the most common form of a Minneapolis international tax lawyer compensation and it is fairly simple – the international tax attorney is paid only based on the time he spends on the case. If you’re paying your international tax lawyer by the hour, the agreement should set out the hourly rates of the tax attorney and anyone else in this attorney’s office who might work on the case. The contingency fee arrangement, where the international tax attorney takes a percentage of the amount the client wins at the end of the case, is almost never used by international tax lawyers in Minneapolis. In the unlikely case that this latter type of fee arrangement is used, the most important issue to understand is whether the international tax lawyer deducts the costs and expenses from the amount won before or after you pay the lawyer’s percentage. Obviously, you will pay more in attorney fees if your international tax lawyer deducts the litigation costs based on the latter scenario (i.e. after you pay the lawyer’s fee). Finally, in a flat fee arrangement, you pay an agreed-upon amount of money for a project. For example, you pay $3,000 to your tax attorney to file delinquent FBARs (Reports on Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) for the past five years. While a flat fee arrangement is possible in a small project, it is generally disliked by international tax lawyers in Minneapolis because it often lacks the necessary flexibility to account for the client’s individual legal situation. Usually, some sort of an additional payment arrangement is built into such fee agreements to make sure that the balance between the client’s legal needs and the tax attorney’s fees is maintained. Remember, usually, you will have to pay out-of-pocket expenses (e.g. long-distance calls, mailing costs, photocopying fees, lodging, etc.) and litigation costs (such as court filing fees) in addition to your lawyer’s fees.

* Does the agreement include the amount of the retainer? Most international tax lawyers in Minneapolis require their client to pay a retainer. Retainer can mean two different fee arrangements. First, retainer may be the amount of money a client pays to guarantee a tax attorney’s commitment to the case. Under this arrangement, the retainer is not a form of an advance payment for future work, but a non-refundable deposit to secure the lawyer’s availability. Second, a retainer is simply the amount of money an international tax attorney asks his client to pay in advance. In this scenario, the international tax lawyer usually deposits the retainer in a client trust account and withdraws money from it for the work completed according to the fee agreement. The fee agreement should specify the amount of the retainer and when the lawyer can withdraw money form the client trust account (usually, on a monthly basis).

* How often will you be billed? Most international tax attorneys in Minneapolis bill their clients on a monthly basis. Sometimes, however, when the project is not large, the fee agreement will specify that you will be billed upon completion of the case. In a flat-fee scenario, it is likely that the client will be obligated to pay either a half or even the whole amount immediately as a retainer. It is wise for a client to insist in paying some part of the fee upon completion of the case to retain a degree of control over the case completion.

* What is the scope of the tax attorney’s representation? Most international tax lawyers in Minneapolis will insist on defining their obligations in the fee agreement. The most important issue here is to state what the international tax attorney is hired for, without defining it either too narrowly or too broadly. Usually, a fee agreement should specify that a new contract should be signed if you decide to hire this international tax lawyer to handle other legal matters.

If you are hiring a large or a mid-size law firm, beware that the partners in a law firm often delegate some or all of their obligations to their associates or even their staff. While the partners retain full responsibility for the case, there is a danger that important parts of it may be delegated to far less experienced associates. Besides the potential quality issues, there is also a concern that you would be paying a large hourly fee for a first-year associate’s work. It is important to insist that the fee agreement specifies what, if any, type of work is being delegated to the associates, the corresponding billing rate of each associate involved, and who carries the responsibility for the whole case.

* Who controls what decisions? Whether this information should be included in the fee agreement really depends on a case and on an attorney. Generally, international tax attorneys in Minneapolis let their clients make the important decisions that affect the outcome of the case (such as: acceptance or rejection of the IRS settlement offer, commencement of a lawsuit, business decisions, et cetera). All of the decisions with respect to the legal issues (such as: where to file a lawsuit, what motions should be filed, what negotiation tactics should be employed, how to structure a business transaction from a tax perspective, etc.) are usually taken by the international tax lawyers. If there are any changes to this arrangement (for example, you want your lawyer to make certain decisions with the respect to the outcome of the case), you should insist that these modifications be reflected in the fee agreement.

Generally, before you sign the fee agreement, international tax lawyers in Minneapolis will discuss with you many more topics than what is covered in this article. The five issues explained here, however, are crucial to your understanding of how the tax relationship with your tax attorney will work. Before you sign the fee agreement with your international tax lawyer, you should ask at least these five questions and make sure that the answers are complete and to your satisfaction.

FBAR (Report on Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) is due on June 30, 2010

Pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act, 31 U.S.C. §5311 et seq., the Department of Treasury (the “DOT”) has established certain recordkeeping and filing requirements for United States persons with financial interests in or signature authority (and other comparable authority) over financial accounts maintained with financial institutions in foreign countries. If the aggregate balances of such foreign accounts exceed $10,000 at any time during the relevant year, FinCEN Form 114 formerly Form TD F 90-22.1 (the FBAR) must be filed with the DOT.

The FBAR must be filed by June 30 of each relevant year, including this year (2010).

Reporting Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) Income to the IRS

U.S. citizens and resident aliens (for U.S. tax purposes) who have financial interest in Canadian Registered Retirements Savings Plans RRSPs)and/or Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) must report their RRSP and RRIF income to the IRS by using Form 8891. The taxpayers (even if resident aliens from Canada) must comply with this reporting requirement even if their earnings from these retirement plans are not considered as taxable income in Canada.

Prior to year 2003, the IRS maintained that RRSPs and RRIFs are foreign trusts and the annuitants and beneficiaries of these plans must annually file Form 3520 with the IRS. See IRS Announcement 2003-25. IRS was authorized to impose heavy penalties for failure to file Form 3520. 26 U.S.C. §6677.

In 2003, however, the IRS adopted a new simplified reporting regime which is still the current law. Under the new rules, U.S. citizens and resident aliens who hold interests in RRSPs and RRIFs only need to file the new Form 8891 in lieu of the burdensome Form 3520 required earlier. See IRS Announcement 2003-75. Moreover, in the new form, the filers are able to make the election under Article XVIII(7) of the U.S.-Canada income tax convention to defer U.S. income taxation of income accrued in the RRSP or RRIF. Id. The filers are still required to maintain supporting documentation relating to information required by Form 8891 (such as Canadian Forms T4RSP, T4RIF, or NR4, and periodic or annual statements issued by the custodian of the RRSP or RRIF). Id. Nevertheless, the new simplified reporting regime substantially reduces the reporting burden of taxpayers who hold interests in RRSPs and RRIFs.

If you have any questions with respect to your RRSP and/or RRIF income, or if you failed to disclose this income during the prior years, CALL Sherayzen Law Office to discuss your case NOW!

Definition of “U.S. person” for FBAR (Report on Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) Purposes

Since October of 2008, the definition of a “U.S. person” has been going through a turbulent phase of uncertainty with periodic expansions and retractions. The pre-2008 FBAR instructions (dating back to July of 2000 version) defined the “U.S. person” broadly as: “(1) a citizen or resident of the United States, (2) a domestic partnership, (3) a domestic corporation, or (4) a domestic estate or trust.” See IRS Announcement 2010-16.

Two important features of this definition stand out. First, the term “person” is defined to include not only individuals, but also virtually any type of business entity, estate or trust. 31 C.F.R. §103.11(z) Even a single-member LLC, which is generally disregarded for tax purposes, may be classified as a U.S. person because it has a separate juridical existence from its owner. A partnership or a corporation created or organized in the United States is considered to “domestic” under 26 U.S.C. §7701(a)(4). Second, the definition of who should be considered as a U.S. resident is interpreted under 26 U.S.C. §7701. Under 26 U.S.C. §7701(b), an individual is a U.S. resident if he meets any of the three bright-line tests: (1) lawful admission for permanent residence to the United States (“green card”); (2) substantial presence in the U.S.: the sum of the number of days on which such individual was present in the United States during the current year and the 2 preceding calendar years (when multiplied by the applicable multiplier determined under the following table) equals or exceeds 183 days; (3) and first-year election to be treated as a resident under 26 U.S.C. §7701(b)(4). Thus, the definition of a U.S. resident under the tax rules is much broader than the one used in immigration law.

In October of 2008, the IRS revised the FBAR instructions and further expanded the definition of a “U.S. person” by including the persons “in and doing business in the United States.” This revision caused a widespread confusion among tax professionals. The outburst of comments and questions prompted the IRS to issue Announcements 2009-51 and 2010-16, suspending FBAR filing requirement through June of 2010 (i.e. for calendar years 2008 and 2009) for persons who are not U.S. citizens, U.S. residents, and domestic entities. Instead, the tax professionals were referred back to July of 2000 FBAR definition of a “U.S. person.”

In the meantime, in February of 2010, the IRS published new Proposed FBAR regulations under 31 C.F.R. §103. The proposed rules modify the definition of a “U.S. person” as follows: “a citizen or resident of the United States, or an entity, including but not limited to a corporation, partnership, trust or limited liability company, created, organized, or formed under the laws of the United States, any state, the District of Columbia, the Territories, and Insular Possessions of the United States or the Indian Tribes.” 75 Fed. Reg. 8845 (proposed February 23, 2010) (to be codified as 31 C.F.R. 103.24(b)). This definition applies even if an entity elected to be disregarded for tax purposes. Id. The determination of a U.S. resident status is to be done according to 26 U.S.C. §7701(b) and regulations there under, except the meaning of the “United States”(which is to be defined by 31 U.S.C. 103.11(nn)). Id.

Thus, if the proposed regulations will ultimately be codified in their current form, the definition of the “U.S. person” will be slightly broader than that of the July of 2000, but will represent a major regression from October 2008 definition. Nevertheless, based on even existing (July of 2000) definition of the “U.S. person,” the IRS has been able to cast a wide net over U.S. taxpayers, trying to force disclosure of as many foreign financial accounts as possible.