On December 19, 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that the United States has signed bilateral agreements with six additional jurisdictions to implement the information reporting and withholding tax provisions commonly known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). The six jurisdictions are: Malta, the Netherlands, The Islands of Bermuda, and three UK Crown Dependencies – Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.
Enacted by Congress in 2010, these provisions target non-compliance by U.S. taxpayers using foreign accounts. With these most recent agreements, the United States has signed 18 FATCA intergovernmental agreements (IGAs), has 11 agreements in substance, and is engaged in related discussions with many other jurisdictions.
In general, FATCA seeks to obtain information on accounts held by U.S. taxpayers in other countries. It requires U.S. financial institutions to withhold a portion of certain payments made to foreign financial institutions (FFIs) who do not agree to identify and report information on U.S. account holders. Governments have the option of permitting their FFIs to enter into agreements directly with the IRS to comply with FATCA under U.S. Treasury Regulations or to implement FATCA by entering into one of two alternative Model IGAs with the United States.
FATCA Tax Lawyers: Model 1 IGAs Signed by Fix Jurisdictions
Malta, the Netherlands, Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man signed Model 1 IGAs. Under these agreements, FFIs will report the information required under FATCA about U.S. accounts to their home governments, which in turn will report the information to the IRS. These agreements are reciprocal, meaning that the United States will also provide similar tax information to these governments regarding individuals and entities from their jurisdictions with accounts in the United States.
In addition to these FATCA agreements, protocols to the existing tax information exchange agreements with Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man were also signed.
FATCA Tax Lawyers: Bermuda Signs Model 2 IGA
Unlike the other jurisdictions, Bermuda signed Model 2 IGA meaning that Bermuda will direct and legally enable FFIs in Bermuda to register with the IRS and report the information required by FATCA about consenting U.S. accounts directly to the IRS. This requirement is supplemented by government-to-government exchange of information regarding certain pre-existing non-consenting accounts on request.
FATCA Tax Lawyers: Tax Shelters Are No Longer Information Shelters
The fact that Bermuda, Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man (all of which are considered to be offshore havens) signed FATCA is a fact that is indicative of a general trend that I have emphasized since the appearance of FATCA – there are no reasonable safe havens for non-compliant U.S. taxpayers outside of few important jurisdictions, such as China. Even Russia has declared its intention to sign FATCA. More importantly, the jurisdictions that are generally regarded as tax shelter or low-tax jurisdictions are likely to allow the IRS to impose its will on their banks.
“FATCA continues to gather momentum as we work with partners worldwide to combat offshore tax evasion,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Tax Affairs Robert B. Stack. “This large number of signings in one week alone sends a strong signal to tax evaders everywhere: international support for FATCA is growing.”
FATCA Tax Lawyers: Implications of Recent Agreements for Non-Compliant US Taxpayers
These developments continue to support the argument that non-compliant U.S. taxpayers worldwide need to urgently consider their options with respect to the voluntary disclosure of their foreign financial accounts and other foreign assets. Each new jurisdiction that signs FATCA is going to turn over the information about the non-compliant accounts to the IRS in one way or another. In such circumstances, procrastination with a voluntary disclosure may result in a dramatic reduction of available disclosure options and increase the chances of a criminal prosecution by the IRS.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with Your Voluntary Disclosure of Offshore Assets
If you have undisclosed foreign financial accounts or any other assets subject to U.S. reporting, please contact Sherayzen Law Office NOW. Our experienced international tax law firm will thoroughly analyze your case, review the available options and implement a customized plan of your voluntary disclosure (including the preparation of any required legal documents and tax forms).