Previously, I already discussed the high exposure of the US-owned undisclosed bank accounts in Panama and Costa Rica. Last week, the IRS gave a perfect example (thought with an unusual set of facts) of such exposure of bank accounts in Panama and Costa Rica. On May 23, 2014, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that a federal grand jury in Anchorage, Alaska, returned a superseding indictment charging Michael D. Brandner, an Anchorage physician specializing in plastic surgery, on three counts of tax evasion.
Facts of the Case
The unusual aspect of this case is that one of the major motivations for opening the accounts in Panama and Costa Rica was the divorce that Dr. Bradner was going through.
According to court documents, Dr. Brandner engaged in a scheme to hide and conceal millions of dollars of assets from the Alaska courts and from his wife of 28 years who was divorcing him. Shortly after the divorce was filed, Dr. Brandner left Alaska and drove to Central America after converting assets into five cashier’s checks worth over $3,000,000.
Then, in 2008, after the Alaska court ordered Dr. Bradner to give up the $1.26 million self-directed IRA, he moved all of that money to his Panama account. Later, he moved another $200,000 to Panama.
In 2011, Dr. Bradner’s tax advisor in Panama (who was an informant cooperating with the IRS) advised Dr. Bradner about the tax treaty signed by Panama in 2010 on the disclosure of foreign accounts. He was able to convince Dr. Bradner to create a foreign corporation which opened a bank account in the United States. This account was supposed to hold the funds from Central America to avoid their disclosure to the IRS, but the Department of Homeland Security seized the funds when Dr. Bradner attempted to wire-transfer them to his corporation’s U.S. account.
According to the superseding indictment, Dr. Brandner attempted to evade his taxes, including making false and misleading statement to IRS special agents and filing false tax returns for 2008, 2009 and 2010. In the three false returns, Dr. Brandner failed to report the existence of financial accounts in Panama and Costa Rica over which he had signature authority, and also failed to report foreign interest income of more than $9,000 for 2008, more than $150,000 for 2009, and more than $150,000 for 2010. The indictment also alleges that Dr. Brandner attempted to evade more than $600,000 in federal income taxes over the three years.
The last interesting fact of this case is that (in a secretly-taped conversation) the Panamanian advisor specifically stated to Dr. Bradner and advised him about the FBAR form – a statement which was allegedly acknowledged by the doctor.
IRS Focus Expands to Undisclosed Bank Accounts in Panama and Costa Rica
There are some very interesting facts about this case. Some facts, like the conceded knowledge of the FBAR and the use of foreign corporation to conceal unreported assets and income, will undoubtedly greatly complicate Dr. Bradner’s legal position. They also correspond to the general pattern of facts for cases which are chosen by the IRS for criminal prosecution.
The most interesting side of this case, however, is that this case testifies to the ever expanding scope of IRS investigation of undisclosed foreign accounts, with the particular focus on the bank accounts in Panama and Costa Rica. About two years ago, I predicted that there will be more criminal prosecutions coming out of Central America once the IRS gradually expands its focus beyond Switzerland and Israel.
While there are other prominent candidates, the bank accounts in Panama and Costa Rica offer special rewards to the IRS: there is a large concentration of retired Americans (and Israeli-Americans) in Central America, the Panamanian tax cooperation and exchange agreement signed in 2010 (i.e. almost two years after the UBS case, allowing the IRS to pursue more cases down the road without any major statute of limitations hassles), and there has certainly been a certain amount of abuse committed by tax professionals in Central America in cooperation with Swiss tax advisors (shockingly, a lot of tax attorneys in Central America are still oblivious to important U.S. tax requirements, including FBARs).
This is why the investigations of the undisclosed bank accounts in Panama and Costa Rica will only grow in prominence in the coming years as IRS will seek to deepen U.S. tax compliance in this region.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Voluntary Disclosure of Bank Accounts in Panama and Costa Rica
If you have undisclosed bank accounts in Panama and Costa Rica, you may face severe FBAR penalties. This is why you need to contact the experienced international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. We can guide you through your voluntary disclosure options, create and help you implement the voluntary disclosure plan, and defend your interests against the IRS.