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Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank Rejects DOJ Settlement Offer | FATCA Tax Lawyer

On August 8, 2018, Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank (“Mizrahi-Tefahot”) informed the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that its Board of Directors rejected a settlement offer from the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”).

It appears that the DOJ offer was received by the bank on August 7, 2018. The DOJ proposed that Mizrahi-Tefahot pay $342 million to settle the DOJ investigation into whether the bank helped US taxpayers evade US federal taxes.

Mizrahi-Tefahot felt that this was an unreasonably high amount to pay. In its financial statements for the quarter that ended on March 31, 2018, the bank reserved just $46.1 million to settle the DOJ investigation.

The official and primary reason for the rejection of the DOJ offer, however, was the fact that the DOJ’s letter was not accompanied by any details of how DOJ arrived at such a high sum of money. The letter did not contain even any references to any calculation principles. Mizrahi-Tefahot’s lawyer felt that any reasonable calculation of potential settlement amount would lead to a much lower settlement offer.

The most likely reason why Mizrahi-Tefahot felt so confident in rejecting the DOJ offer was its knowledge of the settlements paid by the Swiss banks. NPB Neue Privat AG, for example, only paid $5 million. Basler Kantonalbank believes it can settle for $100 million. In other words, it appears that the negotiation process with the DOJ has matured to the point where Mizrahi-Tefahot can reasonably predict the amount for which the DOJ would agree to settle the case.

Mizrahi-Tefahot is not the only bank in Israel under the IRS investigation. Bank Leumi settled its DOJ investigation for a fine of $270 million and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. Bank Hapoalim is still in settlement negotiation with the DOJ; in fact, last May, it further increased the funds set aside for a possible DOJ settlement to a total of $365 million.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of your Mizrahi-Tefahot and Other Israeli Bank Accounts

As part of their settlement agreements, foreign banks agree to supply to the DOJ full information concerning bank accounts owned by US persons. Mizrahi-Tefahot settlement will very likely follow the same path; so will Bank Hapoalim and any other Israeli bank investigated by the DOJ.

This means that if you have undisclosed foreign bank accounts in Israel, you are at a high risk of IRS detection and potentially disastrous FBAR penalties. This is why you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with the voluntary disclosure of your Israeli bank accounts. Our law firm specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures of foreign accounts 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!

BCGE FATCA Letter

In a previous article, I started the discussion of various FATCA letters issued by banks around the world by concentrating on the HSBC FATCA letter. In this article, I would like to shift focus to a different part of the world and discuss the Swiss format with BCGE FATCA Letter.

BCGE FATCA Letter: General Format

BCGE (Banque Cantonale de Geneve) is determined to comply with FATCA. For this purpose, it developed its own format of a FATCA letter which closely follows the format adopted by most Swiss banks.

BCGE FATCA Letter follows what I call “comprehensive format” (as opposed to the “reference format” followed by HSBC). This means that BCGE FATCA Letter contains all of the main questions within the body of the letter and references only supplementary US forms (like W8BEN and W9). Thus, BCGE FATCA Letter allows BCGE to collect all of the information necessary for its own FATCA compliance in one place and without the need to create any other specialized forms.

It should be noted that the description of the format so far concentrated on the most common BCGE FATCA Letter for individuals, but there are variations in the form for trusts and corporations. Furthermore, there is a variation for the form for certain other circumstances. Since most US account holders who receive a BCGE FATCA are individuals, I will concentrate on the most common format only.

Let’s review each part of the common BCGE FATCA Letter.

BCGE FATCA Letter: Personal Information

The BCGE FATCA Letter commences with the confirmation of the identity and personal information (including place of residence) of the account holder. This section also commences the examination of the account holder’s US tax status by requiring the account holder to list all of his nationalities and the country of birth.

BCGE FATCA Letter: “Per Se” US Status

This is the most critical part of BCGE FATCA Letter because it focuses on the main designations of US person. In particular, this part of BCGE FATCA Letter asks whether the account holder has US national, is a US tax resident (which is asked in two different ways which mean the same thing – lawful permanent resident and the “green card” test), and whether the substantial presence test is satisfied. Definition for the later is provided in a footnote.

If there is at least one affirmative answer to these first four questions, BCGE will automatically classify the account holder as a US person subject to FATCA reporting. Once this determination is made, BCGE FATCA Letter requires the account holder to submit Form W-9 and a special BCGE Form 6387 “Consent to the disclosure of data according to FATCA”. Failure to complete Form 6387 may result in the BCGE designation of the account under FATCA as belonging to a “recalcitrant account holder”.

Please, note that once a status of US person is established, BCGE is very likely to close any securities accounts of a US account holder.

BCGE FATCA Letter Questions 1.5-1.8 on Potential US Status

If the account holder negatively answered the first four questions, the next part of the BCGE FATCA Letter asks a series of questions to see if the account holder if a US person in some other way. Most of these questions also require a submission of Form W-8BEN (with a non-US passport) or W-9.

BCGE FATCA Letter usually contains the following questions. First, whether the account holder was born in the USA or in a US territory (a definition is provided for this term). If the answer is “yes”, but the account holder believes that he is still not a US person, then he must submit Form W-8BEN, a non-US passport or a similar document, and a copy of the certificate of loss of US nationality. If the certificate cannot be produced, BCGE FATCA Letter automatically classifies the account holder as a US person and requires him to submit Form W-9 and a Consent to the disclosure of data under FATCA.

Second, BCGE FATCA Letter asks whether the account holder is a US taxpayer for any other reason – this a “catch all” question to make sure that BCGE does not miss a potential FATCA requirement. BCGE FATCA Letter lists a number of possibilities of how one becomes a US person : joint tax status with a US spouse, in the process of renouncing US nationality or green card, effectively connected income and owner of a US property. Again, supporting documentation or Form W-9 with the Disclosure Consent under FATCA are required.

Finally, BCGE FATCA Letter addresses the remaining potential for the account holder to be a US taxpayer such as US mailing address, care-of address, postbox, and fixed or mobile telephone number. If the account holder has any of these items, then BCGE FATCA Letter asks him to provide Form W-8BEN with a non-US passport (or similar documentation).

BCGE FATCA letter: Confirmation of Beneficial Ownership Status

By signing BCGE FATCA Letter, the account holder affirms that he is the beneficial owner of the bank account.

BCGE FATCA Letter: Treaty Relief Considerations

If it is established that the account holder is NOT a US person, BCGE FATCA Letter contains a fairly unique aspect – discussion of the possibility of claiming a favorable tax status with respect to investments into US Securities. Most other banks usually discuss this important issue in a separate letter, but BCGE FATCA Letter actually incorporates this issue within its body. Form W-8BEN is required to proceed.

BCGE FATCA Letter: Notice and Reimbursement Requirements Imposed on Account Holder

Finally, a BCGE FATCA Letter usually contains another interesting topic – the shift of risk to the account holder through imposition of notice requirements. Since this is a tactic which is adopted increasingly by foreign banks, it is useful to explore this requirement with specificity.

BCGE FATCA Letter states that, by signing the Letter, the account holder “undertakes to inform the Bank of any changes in circumstances resulting in a change of tax status, as the one indicated below and transmit the necessary documents or forms within 30 days after the change in circumstances.” BCGE FATCA Letter sets forth three such changes: change of residence, change of nationality and amendment of the account holder’s tax status (such as receipt of green card, substantial presence in the United States, et cetera).

BCGE FATCA Letter goes on to state that if the declarations made by the account holder in the Letter become invalid for some reason (such as belated discovery of U.S. status), the account holder must transmit to BCGE a new declaration of status with a Form W-9 and FATCA waiver.

The key phrase, however, is with respect to what happens if the information submitted by the account holder within the BCGE FATCA Letter turns out to be incorrect or incomplete. In such a case, the account holder “undertakes to indemnify the Bank for all damages it may suffer” as a result of relying on the incorrect declarations made in the BCGE FATCA Letter. It is unclear whether failure to comply with the Notice requirement is equally subject to this reimbursement requirements, but it seems to be the case.

Thus, it appears that BCGE FATCA Letter decisively shifts all risk of an incorrect declaration (even if non-willful due to belated discovery) from BCGE to the account holder. This is why it is important for the account holder’s attorney to carefully review this document and negotiate the necessary changes.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With FATCA Compliance

If you received a FATCA letter regarding an undisclosed personal or business account, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our team of international experts will thoroughly review your case, analyze your current FBAR and FATCA exposure, recommend the proper voluntary disclosure plan and help you implement it (including preparation of all necessary legal documents and tax forms).

Contact Us to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation Now!