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Specified Domestic Entity: Closely-Held Test | 8938 Lawyer & Attorney

In a previous article, I introduced the key term of the Specified Domestic Entity (“SDE”) Definition for corporations and partnerships that may be required to file FATCA Form 8938: “formed or availed of”. At that point, I stated that this term required that a business entity satisfies two legal tests. One of these tests is a Closely-Held Test.

Closely-Held Test: Background Information

Starting tax year 2016, certain business entities and trusts that are classified as SDEs may be required to file Form 8938 with their US tax returns. Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(a) states that “a specified domestic entity is a domestic corporation, a domestic partnership, or a trust described in IRC Section 7701(a)(30)(E), if such corporation, partnership, or trust is formed or availed of for purposes of holding, directly or indirectly, specified foreign financial assets.”

In a previous article, I discussed the fact that “formed or availed of” is a term of art which has no relationship to the actual finding of intent. Rather, in the context of corporations and partnerships, the “formed or availed of” requirement is satisfied if two legal tests are met. One of these tests is a Closely-Held Test, which is the subject of this article.

Closely-Held Test: General Requirements

In order to meet the closely-held test, a corporation or partnership must be closely held by a specified individual. There are two separate parts of this test that need to be analyzed: (a) who is considered to be a specified individual, and (b) what percentage of ownership meets the “closely held” requirement.

Closely-Held Test: Specified Individual

In another article, I already defined the concept of a Specified Individual. It is, however, worth re-stating the definition here again for convenience purposes. Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-1(a)(2) defines Specified individual as anyone who is: (I) US citizen; (ii) resident alien of the United States for any portion of the taxable year; (iii) nonresident alien for whom an election under 26 U.S.C. §6013(g) or (h) is in effect; or (iv) nonresident alien who is a bona fide resident of Puerto Rico or a section 931 possession.

Closely-Held Test: Ownership Percentage for Corporations and Partnerships

The ownership requirement of the Closely-Held Test is explained in Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(b)(2) with respect to both, corporations and partnerships. A domestic corporation is considered to be “closely held” if “at least 80 percent of the total combined voting power of all classes of stock of the corporation entitled to vote, or at least 80 percent of the total value of the stock of the corporation, is owned, directly, indirectly, or constructively, by a specified individual on the last day of the corporation’s taxable year.” Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(b)(2)(I).

A domestic partnership is “closely held” if “at least 80 percent of the capital or profits interest in the partnership is held, directly, indirectly, or constructively, by a specified individual on the last day of the partnership’s taxable year.” Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(b)(2)(ii).

It is important to emphasize that the 80% threshold is met not only through direct ownership, but also through indirect and constructive ownership. So, one must closely look at the attribution rules of 26 U.S.C. §267 to determine whether the Closely-Held Test is met. Moreover, the constructive ownership rules for the purposes of the Closely-Held Test also contain an additional provision for the addition of spouses of individual family members.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Experienced Help with US International Tax Compliance Requirements for Corporations and Partnerships

If you are a minority or a majority owner of a corporation or partnership that either operates outside of the United States or has foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with US international tax compliance requirements. Our firm is specializes in the are of US international tax law. We can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Guam & American Samoa Are Non-Cooperative Tax Jurisdictions | News

On December 5, 2017, the European Union (the EU) Council published its list of the non-EU non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. The list included American Samoa and Guam unleashing strenuous objections from the United States.

Full List of Non-Cooperative Tax Jurisdictions

A total of seventeen countries made it to the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions: American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, Korea (Republic of), Macao SAR, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates.

Criteria for Inclusion in the List of Non-Cooperative Tax Jurisdictions

The list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions was formed out of tax jurisdictions that failed to meet three criteria at the same time: transparency, fair taxation and the implementation of anti-base-erosion and profit-shifting measures.

The EU Reasoning for Including American Samoa and Guam on the List of Non-Cooperative Tax Jurisdictions

The EU reasoning for including American Samoa and Guam on the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions is a peculiar one because it does not seem to care about the fact that both jurisdictions are only US territories with no authority to separately sign international tax commitments (i.e. everything is done through the United States).

In particular, the EU Council specifically criticized American Samoa and Guam for three failures. First, American Samoa and Guam did not implement the automatic information exchange of financial information. Second, both jurisdictions did not sign the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. Finally, neither American Samoa nor Guam followed the EU’s BEPS minimum standards.

US Objections to the Inclusion of Its Territories on the List of Non-Cooperative Tax Jurisdictions

In his letter to the Council of the European Union, the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin strenuously objected to the inclusion of American Samoa and Guam on the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. The Treasury Secretary set forth the following reasons.

First, he objected to the publication of the list per se as being “duplicative” of the efforts at the G-20 and OECD level.

Second and most important, Mr. Mnuchin stated that the EU reasoning does not make sense, because American Samoa and Guam “participate in the international community through the United States”. The fact that the United States agreed to implement BEPS minimum standards and the tax transparency standards should be considered as the agreement of American Samoa and Guam to do the same. In other words, he argued that American Samoa, Guam and the Untied States should be considered as one whole legal framework.

Based on this reasoning, Mr. Mnuchin urged the EU to immediately remove American Samoa and Guam from its list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. It should be noted that several other jurisdictions also rejected their inclusion on the list.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to watch for any new developments with respect to this issue.

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement Signed | FATCA Lawyer

On December 23, 2016, Argentina and the United States signed a Tax Informational Exchange Agreement (“Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement” or “Argentinian TIEA”) in Buenos Aires. Let’s explore the main points of the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement.

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Information to Be Exchanged

The information to be exchanged under the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement is described in its very first article. Article 1 states that the parties will provide information to each other that is “foreseeably relevant to the administration and enforcement of the domestic laws of the Contracting Parties concerning taxes covered by this Agreement”.

Article 1 then specifies that such information includes everything “foreseeably relevant to the determination, assessment and collection of such taxes, the recovery and enforcement of tax claims, or the investigation or prosecution of tax matters”.

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Taxes

What are these “taxes” mentioned in Article 1? Article 3 of the Argentinian TIEA explains that the focus is on information related to US federal taxes and all national taxes administered by the Federal Administration of Public Revenue. Obviously, the Argentinian TIEA will apply to any identical or substantially similar taxes that are imposed after the Agreement is signed in addition to, or in place of, the existing taxes. Both parties, Argentina and the United States, agreed to notify each other of any significant changes that have been made in their taxation laws or other laws that relate to the application of the Argentinian TIEA.

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Automatic Exchange, Spontaneous Exchange and Exchange Upon Request

The Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement prescribes three modes of exchange of information. First, Article 6 of the Argentinian TIEA provides for automatic exchange of certain information.

Second, Article 7 allows Argentina and the United States to spontaneously transmit to each other’s respective tax authorities any relevant information that has come to the attention of the either Party’s tax authorities. For example, if Argentinian tax authorities obtain information that points to US tax noncompliance of a dual citizen of Argentina and the United States, Argentina can provide this information to the IRS.

Finally, Article 5 allows Argentina and the United States to request relevant information from each other. There is an interesting clause in Article 5 that removes potential limitations on the exchange of information upon request: “such information shall be exchanged without regard to whether the requested Party needs such information for its own tax purposes or whether the conduct being investigated would constitute a crime under the laws of the requested Party if such conduct occurred in the requested Party.”

Article 5 of the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement is remarkable in another aspect. It states that, if the information possessed by the “requested Party (i.e. the country that received the request from another country) is insufficient to enable it to comply with the request for information, the requested Party needs to engage in information gathering measures in order to provide the other Party will the requested information. The requested Party needs to do these investigations even if it does not regularly collect this information or need it.

Under Article 5(3), the requested Party, if specially requested so by the applicant Party, has to provide the information in the form of depositions of witnesses and authenticated copies of original records.

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Foreign Bank and Beneficial Ownership Information in Focus

Article 5(4) also clarifies what is at the heart of the exchange of information upon request. First, information “held by banks, other financial institutions, and any person acting in an agency or fiduciary capacity including nominees and trustees.”

Second, the beneficial ownership information of “companies, partnerships, trusts, foundations, “Anstalten” and other persons”. This information should also include all persons in the ownership chain. In the case of trust, “information on settlors, trustees and beneficiaries”. In the case of foundations, “information on founders, members of the foundation council and beneficiaries”. Publicly-traded companies and public collective investment funds are excluded (unless the information can be obtained without giving rise to “disproportionate difficulties” to the requested Party).

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Tax Examinations Abroad

Article 8 of the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement grants each Party the right to conduct tax examinations abroad. Obviously, the written consent of the persons to be interviewed has to be secured first. However, once both Parties agree to the examination, “all decisions with respect to the conduct of the tax examination shall be made by the Party conducting the examination.”

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Entry Into Force

According to Article 14, the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement shall enter into force “one month from the date of receipt of Argentina’s written notification to the United States that Argentina has completed its necessary internal procedures for entry into force of this Agreement.”

Once the Argentinian TIEA is in force, its provisions will apply for requests “made on or after the date of entry into force, concerning information for taxes relating to taxable periods beginning on or after January 1 of the calendar year next following the year in which this Agreement enters into force or, where there is no taxable period, for all charges to tax arising on or after January 1 of the calendar year next following the year in which this Agreement enters into force.”

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Impact on US Taxpayers

The Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement will have a profound impact on US taxpayers with undisclosed Argentinian income and Argentinian assets. First, the combination of three different disclosure modes – automatic, spontaneous and upon request – greatly increases the risk of the IRS detection of undisclosed Argentinian assets and unreported Argentinian income. The spontaneous exchange of information may be especially dangerous because it increases the probability of indirect (and unpredictable) detection. For example, if information about US tax noncompliance is obtain through an audit of an Argentinian tax return, such information may be turned over to the IRS.

Second, the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement allows the IRS to obtain witness depositions and other evidence against noncompliant US taxpayers at a relatively low cost. Furthermore, the Argentinian TIEA grants the IRS the ability to conduct examinations in Argentina, greatly enhancing the IRS reach in that country. In other words, the chances of successful imposition of civil penalties and even criminal prosecution by the IRS of noncompliant US taxpayers is substantially increased by the Argentinian TIEA.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Have Undisclosed Foreign Assets and Foreign Income in Argentina

If you have undisclosed Argentinian assets and income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Once the IRS detects your noncompliance or even just commences an investigation to verify whether you were not tax compliant, then you may lose all of your voluntary disclosure options.

Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures of undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws while reducing their penalties and, in many cases, even their tax liabilities. We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

First Conviction of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions For Tax Evasion Conspiracy

On March 9, 2016, the IRS announced the first conviction of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions for tax evasion conspiracy. At Sherayzen Law Office, we have been predicting now for years that the IRS would expand its prosecution of financial institutions far beyond the Swiss borders, specifically pointing to tax shelters such as Cayman Islands. Now that our strategic analysis has been confirmed, it is important to analyze this first conviction of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions and its impact on U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts.

Factual Background of the First Conviction of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions

The first conviction of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions concerned two Cayman Island Financial Institutions, Cayman National Securities Ltd. (CNS) and Cayman National Trust Co. Ltd. (CNT). CNS and CNT were Cayman Island affiliates of Cayman National Corporation, which provided investment brokerage and trust management services to individuals and entities within and outside the Cayman Islands, including citizens and residents of the United States (U.S. taxpayers).

According to the IRS and documents filed in Manhattan federal court, from at least 2001 through 2011, CNS and CNT assisted certain U.S. taxpayers in evading their U.S. tax obligations to the IRS and otherwise hiding accounts held at CNS and CNT from the IRS (hereinafter, undeclared accounts). CNS and CNT did so by knowingly opening and maintaining undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers at CNS and CNT. Specifically, and among other things, CNS and CNT opened and encouraged many U.S. taxpayer-clients to open accounts held in the name of sham Caymanian companies and trusts (collectively, structures), thereby helping U.S. taxpayers conceal their beneficial ownership of the accounts. Furthermore, CNS and CNT treated these sham Caymanian structures as the account holders and allowed the U.S. beneficial owners of the accounts to trade in U.S. securities without ever requiring these U.S. persons to submit Form W-9. CNS failed to disclose to the IRS the identities of the U.S. beneficial owners who were trading in U.S. securities, in contravention of CNS’s obligations under its Qualified Intermediary Agreement (QIA) with the IRS.

At their high-water mark in 2009, these two Non-Swiss Financial Institutions (CNS and CNT) had approximately $137 million in assets under management relating to undeclared accounts held by U.S. taxpayer-clients. From 2001 through 2011, CNS and CNT earned more than $3.4 million in gross revenues from the undeclared U.S. taxpayer accounts that they maintained.

In 2008, after learning about the investigation of Swiss bank UBS AG (UBS) for assisting U.S. taxpayers to evade their U.S. tax obligations, these two Non-Swiss Financial Institutions (i.e. CNS and CNT) continued to knowingly maintain undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayer-clients and did not begin to engage in any significant remedial efforts with respect to those accounts until 2011 and 2012.

In or about June 2011, CNT hired a new president, who spearheaded a review of CNT’s files. In the course of that review, not a single file was found to be complete and without tax or other issues. Moreover, with respect to the structures that had U.S. beneficial owners, CNT’s files contained little, if any, evidence of tax compliance.

Guilty Pleas of these Two Non-Swiss Financial Institutions

On March 9, 2016, both Non-Swiss Financial Institutions, CNS and CNT pleaded guilty to a criminal Information charging them with conspiring with many of their U.S. taxpayer-clients to hide more than $130 million in offshore accounts from the IRS and to evade U.S. taxes on the income earned in those accounts. CNS and CNT entered their guilty pleas pursuant to plea agreements.

As part of their plea agreements, CNS and CNT have agreed to cooperate fully with the IRS investigation of the companies’ criminal conduct. The IRS states that, to date, CNS and CNT have already made substantial efforts to cooperate with that investigation, including by: (1) facilitating interviews of CNS and CNT employees, including top level executives; (2) voluntarily producing documents in response to the IRS requests; (3) providing, in response to a treaty request, unredacted client files for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. taxpayer-clients who maintained accounts at CNS and CNT; and (4) committing to assist in responding to a treaty request that is expected to result in the production of unredacted client files for approximately 90 to 95 percent of the U.S. taxpayer-clients who maintained accounts at CNS and CNT.

In connection with their guilty pleas, CNS and CNT have also agreed to pay the United States a total of $6 million, which consists of the forfeiture of gross proceeds of their illegal conduct, restitution of the outstanding unpaid taxes from U.S. taxpayers who held undeclared accounts at CNS and CNT, and a fine.

Impact of the Guilty Pleas of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions on U.S. Taxpayers with Undeclared Foreign Accounts

The impact of the guilty pleas of these two Cayman Island Non-Swiss Financial Institutions is difficult to overstate. First, it becomes clear that the IRS feels confident that it can replicate its success in Switzerland in every offshore jurisdiction and there is no limit to their ability to uncover undeclared foreign accounts of U.S. taxpayers.

“Today’s convictions make clear that our focus is not on any one bank, insurance company or asset management firm, or even any one country,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “The Department and IRS are following the money across the globe – there are no safe havens for U.S. citizens engaged in tax evasion or those actively assisting them.”

Second, it is evident that the IRS strategy is to first force Non-Swiss Financial Institutions to reveal information about their U.S. clients and, then, using the information provided by these institutions, pursue noncompliant U.S. taxpayers. As part of their guilty pleas, CNS and CNT are required to turn over extensive materials about their U.S. clients and these noncompliant U.S. taxpayers should be preparing to face the full wrath of the IRS.

“The guilty pleas of these two Cayman Island companies today represent the first convictions of financial institutions outside Switzerland for conspiring with U.S. taxpayers to evade their lawful and legitimate taxes,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “The plea agreements require these Cayman entities to provide this office with the client files, because we are committed to finding and prosecuting not only banks that help U.S. taxpayers evade taxes, but also individual taxpayers who find criminal ways not to pay their fair share. We will follow them no matter how far they go to hide their accounts, whether it is Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, or some other tax haven.”

In essence, between FATCA and the constant IRS pressure on Non-Swiss Financial Institutions, the noncompliant U.S. taxpayers are in the constant danger of discovery, which now becomes more of a question of “when”, rather than “if”.

What Should U.S. Taxpayers With Undeclared Foreign Accounts Do?

In light of this development, U.S. taxpayers with undeclared foreign accounts in Non-Swiss Financial Institutions should explore their voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible. For this purpose, they should contact an experienced international tax law firm that specializes in this field.

Contact the Experienced International Tax Law Firm of Sherayzen Law Office, PLLC for Professional Help With Your Undeclared Accounts

If you have undeclared foreign accounts, foreign income or foreign business entities, you are encouraged to contact the international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our team of experienced tax professionals specializes in this area of law, including the preparation of all necessary legal documents and tax forms. We have helped hundreds of U.S. taxpayers around the world and we can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

UK FATCA Letters

While the United Kingdom signed its FATCA implementation treaty in 2014, UK FATCA letters (i.e. FATCA letters from UK financial institutions) continue to pour into the mailboxes of U.S. taxpayers. In this article, I would like to discuss the purpose and impact of UK FATCA Letters.

UK FATCA Letters

UK FATCA Letters play an integral role in the FATCA Compliance of UK financial institutions. Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the UK foreign institutions are obligated to collect certain information regarding U.S. owners of UK bank and financial accounts and provide this information to the IRS. The collected information must include the name, address and social security number (or, EIN number) of U.S. accountholders.

In order to collect the required information and identify who among their clients is a US person for FATCA purposes, the UK financial institutions send UK FATCA Letters to their clients, asking them to provide the information by the required date. If there is no response within the required period of time (which may be extended), the UK financial institutions report the account to the IRS with the classification as a “recalcitrant account”.

UK FATCA Letters and Undisclosed UK Bank and Financial Accounts

While UK FATCA Letters are important to FATCA compliance of UK financial institutions, they also may have important impact on U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank and financial accounts in the United Kingdom, particularly on the ability of such U.S. taxpayers to timely disclose their foreign accounts.

Once a U.S. taxpayer receives UK FATCA Letters, he should be aware that the clock has started on his ability to do any type of voluntary disclosure. This is the case because UK FATCA Letters demand a response within certain limited period of time. Then, the UK financial institutions will report the account to the IRS, which may prompt IRS examination which, in turn, may deprive the taxpayer of the ability to take advantage of any type of a voluntary disclosure option.

Furthermore, UK FATCA Letters start the clock for the taxpayers to do their voluntary disclosure in an indirect way. If the taxpayers do not complete their voluntary disclosure within reasonable period of time (which may differ depending on circumstances) after they receive the letters, the IRS may proceed based on the assumption that prior noncompliance with U.S. tax requirements by the still noncompliant taxpayers was willful.

Finally, UK FATCA Letters may impact a U.S. taxpayer’s legal position with respect to current and future tax compliance, because UK FATCA Letters can be used by the IRS as evidence to prove awareness of U.S. tax requirements on the part of noncompliant U.S. taxpayers. This is particularly relevant for taxpayers who receive these letters right before the tax return and FBAR filing deadlines.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Received UK FATCA Letters

If you received one or more UK FATCA Letters from foreign financial institutions, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Attorney Eugene Sherayzen is one of the world’s leading professionals in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures and he will personally analyze your case and create the appropriate voluntary disclosure strategy. Then, under his close supervision, his legal team will implement this strategy, including the preparation of all required tax forms.

Call Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!