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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!

Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters

As FATCA continues its triumphant march across the globe, banks from more and more countries continue to send out FATCA letters to their US customers. Recently, the banks in the Kingdom of Jordan sent out additional FATCA letters (hereinafter, “Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters”). Jordanian Bank FATCA letters caught many U.S. taxpayers by surprise; some even refuse to believe that they are obligated to provide this type of information to their banks. Yet, noncompliance with the requests of Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters may have grave consequences for US taxpayers.

FATCA Background

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enacted in 2010 to target tax noncompliance of U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts. Since its enaction, this law established a new global standard for tax information exchange. More than 110 jurisdictions today operate under the worldwide reach of FATCA.

In essence, FATCA is used by U.S. authorities to obtain information regarding foreign accounts held by U.S. persons directly from foreign financial institutions by forcing these institutions to collect and send to the IRS information required by FATCA. Hence, FATCA effectively turns all FATCA-compliant foreign banks into IRS informants.

Additionally, FATCA requires U.S. taxpayers to report “Specified Foreign Assets” (this is a term of art in international tax law) on Forms 8938. Forms 8938 should be attached to the taxpayers’ U.S. tax returns and filed with the IRS.

Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters

FATCA is implemented worldwide through a network of bilateral treaties, which are divided in to Model 1 and Model 2 treaties. However, individual banks can also comply with FATCA without Model 1 and Model 2 treaties. A minority of countries follow this path, and the Kingdom of Jordan is one of them.

This means that Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters are sent out by Jordan banks not due to any Model 1 or Model 2 treaties between the United States and Jordan, but, rather, through direct FATCA compliance (i.e. Jordanian banks register with the IRS and provide the required information directly to the IRS).

The purpose of the Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters are similar to all other FATCA Letters – obtain the information required to be reported under FATCA by foreign financial institutions to the IRS. In particular, this includes information relevant to the account owner’s U.S. tax residency.

Impact of Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters on U.S. taxpayers with Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters may have very important impact on U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts. In this article I want to emphasize the timing aspects of such letters.

By requesting FATCA information, Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters create a timetable for timely voluntary disclosure of the concerned U.S. taxpayers. First of all, the taxpayers who receive Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters have a deadline (ranging usually between 30-45 days, and, occasionally, 90 days) to file the letter with the bank. Since the bank sends the information supplied by U.S. taxpayers to the IRS, these U.S. taxpayers have a limited window of opportunity to timely disclose their foreign accounts. If a taxpayer refuses to provide the required information, the bank may still report him to the IRS as a “recalcitrant taxpayer” and even close his accounts.

Additionally, there is a more subtle impact of Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters on U.S. taxpayers – a notice of existence of FATCA and other U.S. tax reporting requirements. A lot of U.S. taxpayers are able to utilize Streamlined Procedures due to the fact that they did not know about the U.S. tax reporting requirements with respect to foreign accounts and foreign income. However, once U.S. taxpayers receive Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters, they can only claim their lack of knowledge with respect to prior years. It will be very difficult to sustain this argument with respect to current and future tax years.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Received a FATCA Letter (from Jordan or from Any Other Country)

If you received a FATCA Letter from a foreign bank, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our experienced legal team will thoroughly analyze your situation, propose the best strategy with respect to responding to the FATCA Letter, review your voluntary disclosure options and prepare all legal and tax documents to complete your voluntary disclosure.

Call Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FATCA Tax Lawyers Update: FATCA Financial Institution Definition

One of the key concepts in FATCA compliance is a “financial institution”. The definition of a financial institution (“FATCA Financial Institution”) is contained in the FATCA Model IGAs. In this article, I will explore some of the general concepts central to defining a FATCA Financial Institution.

Four Types of FATCA Financial Institutions

The concept of FATCA Financial Institution is defined in the Model IGA Agreements. Both Model 1 and Model 2 IGAs agree on the definition of FATCA Financial Institution: “The term ‘Financial Institution’ means a Custodial Institution, a Depository Institution, an Investment Entity, or a Specified Insurance Company.” Let’s go over each concept in more detail.

Definition of a FATCA Financial Institution: Custodial Institution

FATCA Model Agreements provide a fairly straightforward definition of a Custodial Institution: “The term ‘Custodial Institution’ means any entity that holds, as a substantial portion of its business, financial assets for the account of others.” In this context “substantial” means that, during the specified period of time, twenty percent or more of the entity’s gross income is derived from holding of financial assets and related financial services.

The specified period of time is defined in Model 1 IGA as “the shorter of: (i) the three-year period that ends on the December 31 (or the final day of a non-calendar year accounting period) prior to the year in which the determination is being made; or (ii) the period during which the entity has been in existence.”

Definition of a FATCA Financial Institution: Depository Institution

According to FATCA Model IGAs, “The term ‘Depository Institution’ means any Entity that accepts deposits in the ordinary course of a banking or similar business.”

This definition is fairly self-explanatory, but it should be noted that interest-paying client money accounts operated by insurance companies are included within the definition of a depository institution.

Definition of a FATCA Financial Institution: Specified Insurance Company

According to FATCA Model IGAs, “the term ‘Specified Insurance Company’ means any entity that is an insurance company (or the holding company of an insurance company) that issues, or is obligated to make payments with respect to, a Financial Account.” This definition basically applies to all insurance companies that issue or must make payments with respect to an Insurance Cash-Surrender Value Contract or Annuity contract (which is similar to an FBAR).

For the purposes of this essay, I am not going to engage in the discussion of a Financial Account definition (this is an issue that I addressed in another article); suffice it to say that the definition of a Financial Account under FATCA closely follows the FBAR definition of the same concept.

Definition of a FATCA Financial Institution: Investment Entity

Finally, FATCA Model IGAs provide a detailed definition of what constitutes an “Investment Entity”. This concept includes any entity that conducts as a business one or more of the following activities or operations for or on behalf of a customer:
“(1) trading in money market instruments (cheques, bills, certificates of deposit, derivatives, etc.); foreign exchange; exchange, interest rate and index instruments; transferable securities; or commodity futures trading;
(2) individual and collective portfolio management; or
(3) otherwise investing, administering, or managing funds or money on behalf of other persons. This subparagraph 1(j) shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with similar language set forth in the definition of “financial institution” in the Financial Action Task Force Recommendations.”

Notice that this definition encompasses any entity that is managed by an Investment Entity. Further note that the definition of an Investment Entity should be interpreted in a manner consistent with the definition of a “financial institution” in the Financial Action Task Force Recommendations.

Implications if FATCA Financial Institution Definition on Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

The broad definition of a FATCA Financial Institution has a profound impact on US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts. The chief reason for this conclusion is the fact that as soon as an entity is classified as a FATCA Financial Institution, the entity must be FATCA compliant (unless it falls within a FATCA exemption) and should report all of its accounts owned (directly or indirectly) by US taxpayers.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

The consequences of the IRS discovery of an undisclosed foreign account can be disastrous for the US owner of this account, including extremely high monetary willful civil penalties as well as criminal penalties.

This is why, if you have an undisclosed foreign account, please contact Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an experienced international tax attorney of Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our team is well versed in FATCA compliance, FBARs and other foreign reporting issues. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe and we can help you.

So, Contact Us Now to Schedule Your Initial Consultation!

FATCA Compliance Presents Challenges for Hedge Funds

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) created a worldwide international tax compliance regime that has influenced more industries than simply foreign financial institutions. FATCA compliance presents a formidable challenge even to hedge funds.

FATCA Compliance Challenges for Hedge Funds

The challenges that FATCA compliance poses to hedge funds is best understood by analyzing what FATCA compliance requires of hedge funds – a multi-group coordination effort from various divisions within a business enterprise: business, operations, technology, finance and compliance.

The compliance department, most likely with the cooperation of the in-house counsel (and outside counsel who specializes in FATCA compliance, if in-house counsel lacks such knowledge) should lay out the FATCA compliance goals and make sure that the FATCA compliance process complies with these goals. The operations division should create the framework for the FATCA compliance process, including how this process should be controlled and managed for tax reporting and tax withholding purposes. The technology division needs to build the IT infrastructure to address the technological challenges of FATCA goals in a cost-effective way. The members of the business division (which incorporates the actual customer intake) should be thoroughly educated in the FATCA compliance process as well as the company’s specific IT solutions.

When this FATCA compliance process is applied to the hedge fund industry, one can clearly see the numerous challenges that the hedge funds face in the implementation of their FATCA compliance. The hedge funds need to register their funds for FATCA on the IRS portal, gather various investor data with respect to numerous (and often changing) customers, review and assess such data, and properly report customer data to the IRS.

Another challenge for hedge funds is the required tax withholding. Unlike previous attempts at international tax legislation, FATCA has very effective enforcement mechanisms which forces all US banks, brokers and financial institutions to essentially work for the IRS, including withholding taxes. In fact, the hedge funds that deal in US dollars are likely to be subject to the withholding tax requirement at an increasing rate in the near future.

However, the tax withholding challenge for hedge funds goes far beyond the more straightforward fact that it will need to withhold tax. Rather, the biggest headache for hedge funds is the identification of the beneficial owners and controlling persons of their clients. A lot of investors in hedge funds operate through unregulated legal vehicles or individual agents; this fact makes the FATCA data collection process a much more difficult challenge for hedge funds.

Finally, the variations in IGAs to implement FATCA present an additional challenge. While this problem is not specific to hedge funds, it is the one that they still have to manage.

Impact of FATCA Compliance By Hedge Funds On US Taxpayers

Despite these challenges, many hedge funds are successfully addressing FATCA compliance issues and are incorporating advanced software solutions to make their look-through process more efficient.

These successes of hedge funds in their FATCA compliance make it difficult for US persons investing in mutual funds through foreign entities to conceal their ownership of these entities. This means that one can expect an increase of the IRS discovery of such investors.

If these investors are not in full compliance with their US tax obligations – particularly with respect to FBAR, Form 8938, foreign business ownership reporting, foreign trust ownership and foreign income disclosure – they may be facing catastrophic US tax consequences, including draconian FBAR willful penalties as well as potential imprisonment.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Undisclosed Foreign Assets and Income

If you have undisclosed foreign assets or foreign income, please contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. After reviewing the facts of your case and analyzing the available voluntary disclosure options, our team of tax professionals will conduct your voluntary disclosure process from the beginning through the end, including the preparation all of the required legal documents and tax forms.

Contact Us to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation Now!