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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!

New Irish Software to Combat Offshore Tax Evasion | Tax Lawyer News

The Irish Revenue is expanding its tax enforcement capabilities through new Irish software. This new Irish software will provide the Irish Revenue with a unique type of a multilateral analysis of a taxpayer in order to combat offshore tax evasion. This is definitely a new development in international tax enforcement and it is the one likely to be followed by other nations, including the United States.

New Irish Software Allows a Brand-New Versatile Analysis of a Taxpayer’s Life

The unique feature of the new Irish software is its multilateral analysis of a taxpayer. First of all, the software will match the data provided by taxpayer (or by other national institutions) with the data collected from other jurisdictions under the automatic information exchange agreements. So far, this is similar to the IRS FATCA software.

However, the new Irish software goes further: it will analyze the taxpayer’s social media accounts, statements, pictures and so on to see if the taxpayer’s posts about his lifestyle match the information provided by the taxpayer to the Irish Revenue. It appears that there are other features of the software which are not even disclosed to the public that also go beyond the traditional analysis of tax and financial documents.

In other words, the new software will do the data analysis that will allow the Irish Revenue to build a complete profile of Irish taxpayers and their activities. This is a very bold and creative approach to tax enforcement, but, as discussed below, it is completely within the logic of the recent trends in international tax enforcement.

The New Irish Software Comes After the Closure of the Irish Voluntary Disclosure Program

The new Irish software is being introduced by the Irish Revenue just about six months after the closure of the Irish voluntary disclosure program. The Irish Revenue received 2,734 disclosures with a declared value of almost 84 million before the program’s deadline for offshore disclosures on May 4, 2017.

Since the voluntary disclosure program is closed, the noncompliant taxpayers who will be identified by the new Irish software are likely to face substantially higher penalties.

Lessons to be Drawn from the New Irish Software With Respect to Future US Tax Enforcement

This latest development in Irish tax enforcement is indicative of the trend of using comprehensive data analytics through smarter, more aggressive software with elements of Artificial Intelligence to identify noncompliant taxpayers. This is the trend that will undoubtedly influence US tax enforcement. In fact, the IRS already has an advanced tax software to analyze FATCA data (which, right now, is filled with errors and not very effective). Moreover, the IRS has also stated that it will develop its own AI software to identify US international tax noncompliance.

Furthermore, it seems that there is a worldwide trend toward harsher international tax enforcement in lieu of continuation of the existing voluntary disclosure programs. The fact that the Irish Revenue unveiled new software after the closure of the voluntary disclosure program is also not an accident, but a planned course of events.

We can already observe the same trend here in the United States. The IRS is stepping up FBAR audits while the DOJ (US Department of Justice) is dramatically increasing its FBAR-related litigation. Additionally, the IRS has recently announced its intentions to seriously modify and even close its own voluntary disclosure programs.

The combination of all of these trends means that noncompliant US taxpayers are at an extremely high risk of detection at the time when most of their voluntary disclosure options are being closed or significantly modified. This is why this is the critically-important time for these taxpayers to explore their voluntary disclosure options while they are still available. Failure to do so now may lead to extremely unfavorable tax consequences, including the imposition of substantially higher IRS penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

If you have undisclosed foreign assets (including foreign bank and financial accounts) or foreign income, please contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our international tax law firm has successfully helped hundred of US taxpayers with their offshore voluntary disclosures. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

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!

Hapoalim Prepares for Settlement with DOJ | FATCA Tax Attorney

On October 6, 2016, Israeli bank Hapoalim Ltd. announced that, in order to cover the costs of a future settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), it will add a $70 million charge to an existing $50 million provision in its third-quarter results. The expected settlement will cover Hapoalim’s role in helping US tax residents to evade their US tax obligations.

In its news release, Hapoalim stated that its representatives held an initial discussion with the DOJ on September 30, 2016, to discuss the future settlement. The bank did not indicate whether $120 million in charges that it booked to date is the actual amount that Hapoalim will pay under its settlement with the DOJ. Rather, the news release emphasizes the uncertainty that still exists with respect to the actual amount.

The issue of the DOJ investigation dates back to the year 2011. In its recent (June 30, 2016) financial statements Hapoalim confirmed that its Swiss subsidiary Bank Hapoalim (Switzerland) Ltd. had been notified by Swiss authorities in 2011 that it was being investigated by the US government as a result of the DOJ’s suspicions that the bank had assisted US clients in evading federal taxes. The Swiss subsidiary could not resolve this issue in 2013 in the DOJ’s Swiss Bank Program due to the fact that it could not be classified as a Category 2 bank.

It is important to remember that the DOJ is not the only institution that is going after Hapoalim. The State of New York is conducting its own review. In its news release, Hapoalim indicated that the $120 million charge is not related to the New York investigation.

While all of this legal uncertainty makes it difficult for Hapoalim to assess its future liability under any deferred prosecution agreement, one can compare its situation with Bank Leumi. In 2014, Bank Leumi Group entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ under which it paid $270 million ($157 million of this penalty was allocated to Bank Leumi’s Swiss accounts held by US taxpayers).

If we rely on this precedent, it appears that Hapoalim is greatly underestimating its penalty, because Bank Leumi and Hapoalim are fairly similar in size as well as their actions in soliciting US clients. One also must not forget about the possible future indictments of Hapoalim’s employees (at least in the United States) by the DOJ.