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2018 FSI Ranks United States as Second Largest Secrecy Haven | FATCA

Paradoxically, while demanding that other countries comply with FATCA, the United States itself has become the second largest secrecy haven in the world according to the Financial Secrecy Index (“FSI”) released by the Tax Justice Network (“TJN”) at the end of January of 2018. Let’s explore why the 2018 FSI considers the United States a Tax Haven.

What is 2018 FSI?

The TJN’s FSI is considered to be one of the most comprehensive assessments of secrecy of financial centers. It is published every two years using independently verifiable data. Its methodology is based on the European Commission’s Joint Research Center. The 2018 FSI, however, is not considered to be influenced by any political considerations.

The FSI is based on various criteria which is updated with each publication. The assessment of a country’s financial secrecy includes such consideration as: requirement to identify beneficial owners of companies, trusts and foundations; whether annual registries are made available to the public in an online format; the extent to which the countries’ financial secrecy rules are forced to comply with the anti-money laundering standards, and so on.

In order to create the index, a secrecy score is combined with a figure representing the size of the offshore financial services industry in each country. This is expressed as a percentage of global exports of financial services. The responsibility for bigger transparency increases with the size of the financial services industry of a country.

In 2018, new indicators where added to what are now considered 20 Key Financial Secrecy Indicators “KFSI”. The 2018 FSI new factors ask whether a jurisdiction in question provides for public register of ownership and annual accounts of limited partnerships; public register of ownership of real estate; public register of users of freeports for the storage of high value assets; protection against prison for banking whistleblowers; harmful tax residency and citizenship rules; and other factors.

2018 FSI Placed United States as Second Largest Secrecy Haven Among the Top 10 Countries

Based on the consideration of all of these factors, including KFSI, the 2018 FSI placed United States as the second largest secrecy haven among the top ten countries. Here is the full list of top ten countries:

1. Switzerland
2. United States
3. Cayman
4. Hong Kong
5. Singapore
6. Luxembourg
7. Germany
8. Taiwan
9. UAE
10. Guernsey

What this means is that the United States is now the country that, with the exception of Switzerland, most contributes to financial secrecy in the world.

Reasons Behind the US Rise in the 2018 FSI Ranking

The second rank of the United States was assigned due to its growing share of the offshore financial services industry. According to 2018 FSI, the US market share of the offshore financial services industry is 22.3%. It was 19.6% in 2015. In fact, in order to occupy the second place in the 2018 FSI, the United States displaced such a notorious offshore haven as the Cayman Islands.

There are other objective reasons and comparative reasons for the US rise to the second place of the 2018 FSI. The main comparative reason is the European Union’s lead in the transparency initiatives. The EU is now the definite leader in combating financial secrecy.

The objective reasons are various. The United States does not have any beneficial ownership registries. It also lacks the country-by-country reporting of corporate profits (although, this may change). Finally, the United States continues to refuse to join the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (“CRS”).

The Second Place in the 2018 FSI Points to Dubious Cost-Benefit Analysis

The second place in the 2018 FSI is not accidental. Rather, there is a cold, though morally dubious, cost-benefit calculation behind it. On the one hand, the United States was the country that really propelled the global fight against bank secrecy in the years 2008-2014. It trampled all over the vaulted Swiss Bank Secrecy laws when it came to its pursuit of US tax evaders, enacted the revolutionary FATCA legislation, forced the vast majority of foreign financial institutions to share information (including beneficial ownership information) with the IRS concerning US owners of foreign accounts, and engaged in a number of other activities to increase the worldwide financial transparency with respect to US taxpayers.

On the other hand, all of the US efforts to combat bank secrecy were not a fight for transparency ipso facto. Rather, the US government was only interested in fighting bank secrecy in so far as it concerned US taxpayers. With respect to its own bank secrecy laws concerning foreigners who wish to invest in the United States, the US government is on par and even exceeds some of the most secretive tax havens.

In other words, when it comes to fighting US tax evasion, the US government is an innovative champion. With respect to attracting investment in the United States, the same US government seems to do everything possible to turn the United States into a tax haven. This is precisely why it never joined the CRS.

While the US government seems to be acting in the name of the national self-interest, there is one huge problem that this policy creates. Currently, the elites of the most corrupt regimes, mafias and cartels of all stripes, narcotics dealers and other criminals can see the advantage of using the United States as a haven for illicit financial flows, including money laundering and funding of terrorism. There is also an increased danger that the corruption created by one part of the US financial policy may spread to other aspects of our society.

In other words, the current US bank secrecy policy seems to be in contradiction with other stated policies which attempt to specifically target the aforementioned criminal activities. This contradiction is an easy target for critics of the US financial policy and may contribute in the future to potential reversals of the current gains in international financial transparency.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue the monitor the developments in the US bank secrecy laws.

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement Authorized for Signature

On November 9, 2016, the Ukrainian government authorized the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement for signature. Let’s explore this new development in more depth.

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement and FATCA Background

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is one of the many bilateral FATCA implementation agreements signed by the great majority of jurisdictions around the world. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enacted into law in 2010 and quickly became the new standard for international tax information exchange.

FATCA is extremely complex, but its core purpose is very clear – increased US international tax compliance (with higher revenue collection) by imposing new reporting requirements on US taxpayers and especially foreign financial institutions (FFIs). Since FFIs are not US taxpayers, the United States has been working with foreign governments to enforce FATCA through negotiation and implementation of FATCA treaties. The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is just one more example of these bilateral treaties.

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is a Model 1 FATCA Agreement

There are two types of FATCA treaties – Model 1 and Model 2. Model 2 FATCA treaty requires FFIs to individually enter into a FFI Agreement with the IRS to report the required FATCA information directly to the IRS (for example, Switzerland signed a Model 2 treaty).

On the other hand, Model 1 treaty requires FFIs in the “partner country” (i.e. the country that signed a Model 1 FATCA agreement) to report the required FATCA information regarding US accounts to the local tax authorities. Then, the tax authorities of the partner country share this information with the IRS.

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is a Model 1 FATCA Agreement.

When will the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement Enter into Force?

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement will enter into force once Ukraine notifies the US government that it has completed all of the necessary internal procedures for the ratification of the Agreement.

What is the Impact of Ukranian FATCA Agreement on Noncompliant US Taxpayers?

The implementation of the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement will mean that the Ukrainian government will force its FFIs to identify all of the FATCA information regarding their US accountholders and share this information with US government.

This further means that any US taxpayers who are currently noncompliant with the US tax reporting requirements (such as FBAR, Form 8938, foreign income reporting, et cetera) are now at an ever increasing risk of detection by the IRS and the imposition of draconian IRS penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With US Tax Compliance in light of the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement

If you have undisclosed Ukrainian assets (including Ukrainian bank accounts) and Ukrainian foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for help as soon as possible. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe (including Ukrainians) to bring their US tax affairs in order and we can help you!

Final Regulations and Guidance Issued on Reporting Interest Paid to Nonresident Aliens under FATCA

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), was enacted in 2010 as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, and mandates new reporting requirements, and amends existing IRC Sections.  Recently, the IRS issued final regulations and guidance regarding the reporting interest paid to nonresident aliens by certain financial institutions, as well as revenue procedure specifying foreign countries with which the U.S. has a information exchange agreement.  Nonresident aliens should be especially aware of these new rules, as many individuals will likely be affected by these rules.

TD 9584 (Guidance on Reporting Interest Paid to Nonresident Aliens), effective April 19, 2012, has the final regulations concerning the reporting requirements for commercial banks, savings institutions, credit unions, securities brokerages, and insurance companies that pay interest on deposits.

In general, beginning with interest payments made on, or after, January 1, 2013, covered financial institutions will be required to report deposit interest paid to certain nonresident alien individuals.  The IRS may then exchange information relating to tax enforcement with the officials of foreign countries.  Under the new Treas. Reg. §§ 1.6049-4(b)(5) and 1.6049-8(a), interest paid to nonresident aliens must be reported if the amount in aggregate is $10 or more.

The IRS views this ability to share such information as important to its goal of gathering information from other jurisdictions about US taxpayers who may be evading US tax by hiding assets offshore.  Additionally, the IRS enacted the new reporting requirements to limit US taxpayers with US deposit accounts from falsely claiming to be nonresident aliens in order to avoid paying US taxes on interest they receive from deposits.

FATCA: Increased Foreign Asset Disclosure Requirements for U.S. Persons

The Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enacted as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act of 2010 (“HIRE Act” or “Act”). In addition to specific requirements and a withholding tax, FATCA imposed a new foreign asset disclosure requirements on U.S. persons.

This article will give a general summary about FATCA disclosure requirements, penalties and its statute of limitations

Disclosure Requirements

In general, under IRC section 6038D, disclosure is required if the aggregate value of all “specified foreign financial assets” as defined in the statute, exceeds $50,000 (compare this threshold to the FBAR requirement of $10,000). This information must be attached to the current year tax returns. The provision of FATCA is effective as of tax year 2011.

Covered individuals or entities must disclose the maximum value of the asset(s) during the year, as well as other pertinent information regarding the account, stock, financial instrument, contract, interest, or related items. It should be noted that FATCA disclosure is likely to be broader than the reporting requirements under the FBAR.

Penalties

IRC section 6038D imposes a penalty of $10,000 on U.S. persons (i.e., individuals, corporations, partnerships, trusts or LLC’s) who do not meet the required disclosure requirement. If the required disclosure information is not provided within 90 days of notice and demand by the IRS, penalties will increase by $10,000 each 30 days following the notification, up to a maximum penalty of $50,000. A reasonable cause exception to the penalty may apply in certain circumstances. An international tax attorney should determine whether exception applies to your particular situation.

Furthermore, FATCA amended IRC section 6662 (substantial understatement penalty provision) to double the penalty on any underpayment attributable to an undisclosed foreign financial asset (which means any asset that should have been reported under IRC sections 6038, 6038B, 6038D, 6046A, or 6048) to a draconian 40% penalty. This provision is effective for tax years beginning after the enactment of the Act on March 18, 2010 – i.e. tax year 2011.

State of Limitations Provisions

In addition to other provisions expanding the powers of the IRS under FATCA, the Act also has an increased statute of limitations for an IRS audit. Under Section 513 of the Act, the statute of limitations is extended to six years after a return is filed when a taxpayer makes an omission of income attributable to one or more assets required to be reported under section 6038D in excess of $5,000. This is an extension of the general statute of limitations of three years from the filing of a return.

The Section 513 statute of limitations applies to returns filed after March 18, 2010. The extended statute of limitations may also apply to returns filed on or before this date if the general statute of limitation period (under IRC section 6501) has not yet expired.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office to Help You

Do you have questions relating to FATCA reporting issues, or concerns that you may be neglecting to report information that can lead to substantial penalties? Sherayzen Law Office is here to assist you with all of your U.S. tax compliance tax issues. Call now at (612) 790-7024 to discuss your tax situation with an experienced international tax lawyer.