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Disclosure of Swiss Bank Staff Details to the IRS Blocked by Swiss Court

On January 3, 2018, a decision of the Swiss Federal Court (the nation’s highest court) dated December 18, 2017, was published, prohibiting automatic disclosure of the Swiss bank staff details to the IRS and the US DOJ. Let’s analyze this decision in more detail.

Disclosure of Swiss Bank Staff Details: History of the Case

The lawsuit decided in 2017 is not the first time that the Swiss Federal Court is placing limits on the IRS ability to obtain information from Switzerland with respect to Swiss citizens. Already in 2016, the Court ruled that a Swiss bank could not disclose to the US authorities the names of financial advisers who helped US taxpayers set up secret Swiss bank accounts (“facilitators”). The reasoning was based on the inadequate level of data protection in the United States which is far below the Swiss Data Protection Act.

It should be emphasized, however, that in the same opinion, the Court also said that the names of facilitators could be disclosed to the US government despite the data protection concerns if the failure to do so would deepen the legal dispute between Switzerland and a the United States and harm the Swiss reputation as a financial center.

The lawsuit with respect to disclosure of Swiss bank staff details was initiated by an unnamed US taxpayer who lived in Switzerland. He filed a lawsuit to prevent the Swiss equivalent of the IRS, the Federal Tax Administration (“FTA”) from disclosing to the US government the name of third parties who were involved or might have been involved with his financial affairs. The lower Swiss court agreed with the taxpayer.

Automatic Disclosure of Swiss Bank Staff Details to the IRS Prohibited

The Swiss Federal Court also partially agreed with the unnamed US taxpayer, stating that FTA could not automatically turn over to the US government the names of Swiss bankers and others who might have helped US tax residents in evading their US tax reporting obligations. The reasoning behind the decision was based on relevance.

Basically, the Could stated that the Swiss bank staff details in this particular case were not necessary to the US government to prove its tax evasion case against the unnamed US account holder. “What is needed . . . is information about the existence and intervention of these third parties, not their identities,” the Court said.

The Court basically stated that administrative assistance requests should not be used for indirect purposes. In other words, the IRS cannot use such requests “in order to obtain information about the identities of alleged accomplices of the taxpayer . . . that could be subject to criminal prosecution if this information is not relevant to elucidate the tax situation of the same taxpayer.”

Obviously, this reasoning does not offer any decisive protection for Swiss bank staff details. It appears that, if the information would have been necessary for the US tax authorities to prove its tax evasion case, the transfer of Swiss Bank Staff details would have been permitted. Additionally, the decision might have come in a bit late as hundreds of documents with the Swiss bankers’ names have already been turned over to the IRS.

Swiss Bank Staff Case Offers No Protection to US Taxpayer’s Data Transfer

Moreover, the Court’s decision offered no hope for blocking the transfer of US taxpayers’ information. While the Court blocked the transfer of the Swiss bank staff details, it still allowed the FTA to provide to the US government the US account holder’s information. This means that the transfer of data concerning US tax residents from Switzerland to the United States will continue unimpeded.

Swiss Bank Staff Case Offers Insight Into IRS’ Next Target in Switzerland

This case also offers a good insight into the current IRS strategy concerning Switzerland. It appears that the IRS is compiling statistics concerning Swiss bank staff who might have helped US taxpayers evade their US tax reporting obligations. Most likely, the focus is on the bankers who provided this help regularly to a large amount of US taxpayers.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to observe the IRS latest moves in Switzerland.

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!

Minneapolis MN FATCA Tax Lawyer Update: FATCA-Related Forms

As a Minneapolis MN FATCA Tax Lawyer, I often receive questions about what US tax forms precisely are affected by the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Here is a list of the tax forms most affected by FATCA:

1. Minneapolis MN FATCA Tax Lawyer: IRS Form 1042 and 1042-S

Form 1042 is used as an annual withholding tax return for US-source income of non-US persons. Form 1042-S is used to report income that is considered to be “Amounts Subject to Reporting on Form 1042-S” (basically US-source income paid to foreign persons such as FDAP (fixed or determinable annual or periodical) income; certain gains from the disposal of timber, coal or domestic iron; and gains related to contingent payments received from the sale or exchange of intangible property (such as intellectual property rights), amounts withheld under Chapters 3 and 4 of the Internal Revenue Code, distributions of effectively connected income by a publicly traded partnership (or nominee), and certain federal procurement payments paid to foreign persons who are subject to withholding under Section 5000C.

2. Minneapolis MN FATCA Tax Lawyer: IRS Form 8966

For a Minneapolis MN FATCA Tax Lawyer, IRS Form 8966 is highly important. The main reason is because Form 8966 is an actual FATCA Report that needs to be filed by foreign financial institutions (FFIs) and their variations (PFFI, Us Branch of a PFFI treated as non-US person, RDC FFI, Limited Branch or Limited FFI, and Reporting Model 2 FFI), QI (qualified intermediary), WP (withholding foreign partnership), WT (withholding foreign trust) , direct reporting NFFE, and a Sponsoring Entity.

The purpose of this form is to allow these filers to report the required FATCA information with respect to mainly foreign accounts held (directly or indirectly) by US persons.

3. Minneapolis MN FATCA Tax Lawyer: IRS Forms W-8 Series

The full list of these forms include: Form W-8BEN, Form W-8BEN-E, W-8ECI, Form W-8EXP, and W-8IMY. The full discussion of these forms is beyond the scope of this article; suffice it to state that all of these forms play a critical part in FATCA and tax withholding compliance of various FFIs and NFFEs.

4. Minneapolis MN FATCA Tax Lawyer: IRS Form 8938

As a Minneapolis MN FATCA Tax Lawyer, I believe that IRS Form 8938 is one of the most important developments that came out of FATCA. Unlike the other forms listed in this article, this form needs to be prepared directly by the US taxpayers and filed with their US tax returns. The importance of this form cannot be overstated, because Form 8938 is a “catch-all” form which steps-in with its own reporting requirements when other international tax forms are not required. It also incorporates by reference some of the most important international tax compliance requirements even when other international tax forms contain detailed information.

Minneapolis MN FATCA Tax Lawyer: Other Forms

The four categories of forms above describe the US tax forms that have been impacted by FATCA in a direct and profound way. There are other forms that have been affected by implementation of FATCA, but this impact is a rather indirect one (by reference or implication).