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2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Egyptian Law 174 of 2018 announced the 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty program that commenced on August 15, 2018. Egypt is no stranger to tax amnesties; in fact, the very first documented tax amnesty program in the world is believed to be the one announced by Ptolemy V Epiphanes in 197 B.C.

The 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty program is a continuation of the worldwide trend to fight tax noncompliance with amnesty programs. If they are structured well (such as the US OVDP) and combined with effective tax administration, these amnesty programs can be highly effective, generating large revenue streams for national governments. There are, however, numerous examples of failed amnesty programs (like the ones in Pakistan) due to either poor structuring or other factors. Let’s acquaint ourselves with the 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty program.

2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty: Term

The 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty program will last a total 180 days starting August 15, 2018.

2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty: Taxes and Penalties Covered

The 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty program will cover stamp duty, personal income tax, corporate income tax, general sales tax, and VAT liabilities that matured before August 15, 2018.

The interest and penalties on the outstanding tax liabilities related to the listed taxes will be reduced according to a fairly rigid schedule which benefits most taxpayers who go through the program within 90 days after the Program opens on August 15, 2018. These taxpayers can expect a whopping 90% reduction in penalties and interest!

If a taxpayer misses the 90-day deadline, but settles his outstanding tax debts within 45 days after the deadline, he will be entitled to a waiver of 70% of the tax debt and interest.

If a taxpayer misses both, the 90-day deadline and the 45-day deadline, but settles his outstanding tax debts within 45 days after the 70%-waiver deadline (i.e. 135 days after August 15, 2018), he can still benefit from a 50% reduction in tax penalties and interest.

US Tax Amnesty & 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty

US taxpayers who participate in the Egyptian Tax Amnesty should also consider pursuing a voluntary disclosure option in the United States with respect to their unreported Egyptian income and Egyptian assets. There is a risk that the information disclosed in the Egyptian Tax Amnesty may be turned over to the IRS, which may lead to an IRS investigation of undisclosed Egyptian assets and income for US tax purposes.

While the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program closes on September 28, 2018, there is still a little time left to utilize this option. Additionally, US taxpayers should consider other relevant voluntary disclosure options, such as Streamlined Offshore Compliance Procedures.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Offshore Voluntary Disclosure of Egyptian Assets in the United States

If you have undisclosed Egyptian assets and/or Egyptian income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to successfully settle their US tax noncompliance, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

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.

IRS Prioritizes Combating Offshore Tax Cheating | Offshore Tax Lawyer

On March 20, 2018, the IRS announced that offshore tax cheating – i.e. hiding money and other assets in unreported foreign accounts – remains on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for the year 2018.

Offshore Tax Cheating: What is the “Dirty Dozen” List?

The IRS uses the “Dirty Dozen” list to describe various scams that a taxpayer may encounter and which form the focus of the IRS enforcement efforts. Some of these schemes peak during the tax filing season.

Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and even possible criminal prosecution. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division works closely with the Department of Justice to shut down scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

What is Offshore Tax Cheating?

In its most basic form, offshore tax cheating is a long-running scheme that uses foreign accounts to hide money in order to avoid paying US taxes. The taxpayers then use debit cards, credit cards or wire transfers to access the hidden accounts. More complex schemes include the usage of foreign corporations, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities, insurance plans and other third-parties to conceal the real US owner of foreign accounts.

The most modern offshore tax cheating scheme has involved cryptocurrencies traded overseas and exchanged into a foreign currency by using an offshore account. The IRS has already begun addressing tax evasion based on virtual currencies, but we have not yet seen a fully-developed IRS enforcement in this area.

Offshore Tax Cheating is the Long-Standing Focus of the IRS

The IRS warns that taxpayers should be wary of these schemes, especially given the continuing focus on this issue by the IRS and the Justice Department.

In fact, since mid-2000s, offshore tax cheating has been one of the primary targets of the IRS. The IRS already conducted thousands of offshore-related civil audits that resulted in the payment of tens of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes. The IRS has also pursued criminal charges leading to billions of dollars in criminal fines and restitutions.

Every investigation yields important information that is used to learn about noncompliance patterns and commence other investigations. Some of these investigations may focus on bankers and financial advisors who helped set up a scheme that led to offshore tax cheating.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure as a Way to Settle Prior Tax Noncompliance

If a taxpayer participated in scheme that the IRS may characterize as offshore tax cheating, he should consider doing a voluntary disclosure as soon as possible. It is very likely that the IRS will consider tax noncompliance associated with such a scheme as willful. Hence, the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) may be the primary choice for such taxpayers.

In fact, according to the IRS, more than 56,400 disclosures were made through various versions of OVDP since 2009. The IRS collected more than $11.1 billion from the OVDP during that time period.

Additionally, more than 65,000 taxpayers who claimed that they were non-willful in their prior tax noncompliance participated in the Streamlined Compliance Procedures. As I stated above, however, a taxpayer should be very careful about participating in the Streamlined Compliance Procedures if he participated in a scheme that the IRS may classify as offshore tax cheating.

OVDP Will Close on September 28, 2018

Taxpayers who wish to participate in the OVDP should consult Sherayzen Law Office as soon possible. The IRS recently announced that the OVDP will close on September 28, 2018.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Wish to do an Offshore Voluntary Disclosure That Involves a Scheme Classified as Offshore Tax Cheating

If you participated in a scheme that the IRS may classify as offshore tax cheating, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office to explore your voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leading international tax law firm that specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures, including OVDP and Streamlined Compliance Procedures. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Cyprus Tax Amnesty Extended | FATCA Lawyer & Attorney

For the second time now, the Cyprus Tax Amnesty has been extended. Let’s discuss in more detail the new deadline and the terms of the Cyprus Tax Amnesty.

Cyprus Tax Amnesty: Deadline Extensions

The original deadline for the Scheme for the Settlement of Overdue Taxes (the official name of the Cyprus Tax Amnesty) was October 3, 2017. The deadline, however, was extended for the first time to January 3, 2018. In early January of 2018, the deadline was further extended to the current deadline of July 3, 2018. Thus, the more recent extension gives Cyprus taxpayers another six months to bring their tax affairs in full compliance with Cyprus tax law.

Main Terms of the Cyprus Tax Amnesty

The Cyprus Tax Amnesty allows “qualifying applicants” to pay off their tax liabilities for prior years with up to 95% reduction in the interest and penalties that otherwise would have been or have already been imposed by the Cyprus tax authorities. The precise percentage of the reduction of interest and penalties depends on the number of monthly installment payments chosen by the taxpayer (i.e. if you pay off everything in full immediately, you get the full benefit of the 95% reduction in interest and penalties).

The Cyprus Tax Amnesty encompasses all outstanding tax liabilities that were incurred in the tax years up to and including 2015. The Amnesty also covers a great variety of taxes: income tax, capital gains tax, VAT, property tax, stamp duties, inheritance tax and certain special fees.

Cyprus Tax Amnesty: Qualifying Taxpayers

Since the main purpose of the Amnesty is to bring Cyprus taxpayers into full and ongoing compliance with Cyprus tax law, the emphasis is placed on assuring current compliance. This is done through the definition of “qualifying taxpayers” who are the only taxpayers eligible to participate in the Cyprus Tax Amnesty.

Qualifying taxpayers are defined as taxpayers who have been in full tax compliance from the tax year 2016 onwards – i.e. these taxpayers must have filed all of their Cyprus tax returns and paid all of their Cyprus tax liabilities for the tax year 2016 and all of the following tax years.

Cyprus Tax Amnesty is Part of a Trend Amplified by the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program

The Cyprus Tax Amnesty is just one more example of the tax amnesty programs which have proliferated around the world in the recent years. This trend was greatly strengthened and really amplified to its current status by the establishment of the 2009 IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“2009 OVDP”). The 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI and 2012/2014 OVDPs together with enactment of FATCA have drawn the attention around the world and many countries began to imitate the successes of these US initiatives.

Sherayzen Law Office has helped clients deal with each of these major IRS voluntary disclosure programs as well as other voluntary disclosure options (like the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and the Reasonable Cause Disclosures). A voluntary disclosure program presents wonderful opportunities to taxpayers to settle their past tax noncompliance. This is why we sympathize with the Cyprus Tax Amnesty and see it as a positive development in the international tax law.

Swiss Voluntary Disclosures Rise as Swiss AEOI Compliance Nears

The voluntary disclosures by Swiss taxpayers jumped dramatically in 2017. The most likely reason for the increase is the fact that the Swiss government started to collect information under its numerous Automatic Exchange of Information (“AEOI”) agreements. Let’s analyze in more detail this connection between the Swiss voluntary disclosures and the Swiss AEOI Compliance.

Swiss AEOI Compliance: Increase in Swiss Voluntary Disclosures

The increase in Swiss voluntary disclosures between 2015 and 2017 is undeniable. The Swiss said approximately 350,000 voluntary declarations were made in 2016, compared to 328,000 in 2015. While the numbers for 2017 for the entire country are not available, we can extrapolate the 2017 numbers based on the canton of Zurich.

On January 4, 2018, the canton of Zurich reported that there were almost three times as many of voluntary disclosures of unreported assets by Swiss taxpayers in 2017 than in 2016. A total of 6,150 voluntary disclosures were submitted in 2017 whereas only 2,100 voluntary disclosures were made in 2016. The disclosures brought in about 104 million Swiss francs of additional tax income in 2017; the 2016 number was only 85 million Swiss francs.

The Swiss government also stated that the 2017 voluntary disclosures concerning ownership of real estate in Italy, Portugal and Spain were especially high.

Swiss AEOI Compliance Has a Direct Impact on Swiss Voluntary Disclosures

The connection between Swiss AEOI compliance and the increase in the voluntary disclosures is obvious. In fact, the cantonal government of Zurich directly stated that it attributed the jump in voluntary disclosures to the Swiss AEOI agreements, especially those related to the EU countries.

Already in 2017, the Swiss government started collecting financial information about Swiss taxpayers in order to turn it over to its partner jurisdictions under the Swiss AEOI agreements. The exchange of information under the Swiss AEOI compliance obligations is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2018 for the calendar year 2017 and 2019 for the calendar year 2018.

The Swiss AEOI compliance obligations are very broad due to the fact that Switzerland signed AEOI agreements with 53 jurisdictions already, including the European Union. The European Union is considered to be a single jurisdiction even though it consists of twenty-eight countries. The EU-Switzerland AEOI agreement was approved by the Swiss Parliament in 2016.

The Connection Between Swiss AEOI Compliance and FATCA

As Sherayzen Law Office has repeatedly pointed out in the past, the passage of FATCA in the United States has completely changed the international tax landscape concerning international information exchange with respect to foreign accounts and other foreign assets. In fact, FATCA and the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks have completely destroyed the vaulted Swiss bank privacy laws (though, the 2008 UBS case made the first hole in this bastion of offshore privacy).

After seeing the success of FATCA with respect to US tax compliance, the rest of the world joined the party. The new Common Reporting Standard or CRS was the OECD’s response to FATCA with an ambition to force even more transparency than required by FATCA and making this transparency apply to the United States. The US government refused to join CRS, but it did not prevent the CRS into growing in as important of an international tax compliance standard as FATCA.

Additionally, the enforcement of FATCA had another side-effect: a rapid proliferation of the AEOI agreements, both bilateral and multilateral. The new web of AEOI agreements is growing larger with the passage of time forcing an ever greater international tax transparency. The recent Swiss AEOI compliance is just the latest example of this trend.

Will we ever see a reversal of this trend? It is a real possibility, but it is unlikely that it will be able to destroy the legal groundwork for greater tax transparency that has been laid out by FATCA, CRS and the AEOI agreements.