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University Professor Sentenced to Prison with $100 Million FBAR Penalty

On February 10, 2017, the IRS scored yet another victory in its fight against secret offshore accounts with the imposition of a $100 Million FBAR Penalty. Mr . Dan Horsky, a 71-year old retired university professor (he used to teach at a business school), was a spectacularly successful investor and a very unsuccessful tax evader. After making a fortune, he decided to conceal his earnings through secret offshore accounts in Switzerland. Now, not only will this university professor pay an enormous $100 Million FBAR penalty, but he will also go to prison.

Facts of the Case: From University Professor to a $100 Million FBAR Penalty

Let’s first explore how did a simple professor ended up paying a $100 Million FBAR penalty.

According to court documents and statements made during the sentencing hearing, Mr. Horsky is a citizen of the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. For over 30 years, he worked as a professor of business administration at a university located in New York. Around 1995, this university professor invested in numerous start-up companies. All of them but one failed; however, the one that succeeded (“Company A”) was spectacularly profitable.

In 2000, Mr. Horsky consolidated all of his investments into a nominee account in the name of a shell entity, Horsky Holdings. The account was opened at a Swiss bank in Zurich in order to conceal his financial transactions and accounts from the IRS and the US Treasury Department (the “DOJ”).

In 2008, Mr. Horsky received approximately $80 million in proceeds from selling Company A’s stock. However, he filed a fraudulent 2008 tax return, under-reporting his income by more than $40 million and disclosing only approximately $7 million of his gain from the sale. Then, the Swiss Bank opened multiple accounts for the university professor to assist him in concealing his assets. The university professor decided to trick the IRS and opened one small account for which Horsky admitted that he was a US citizen and another much larger account for which he claimed he was an Israeli citizen and resident.

As a university professor who loved business, Mr. Horsky could not stay away from temptation of further investments. He re-invested some of his gains from selling Company A’s stock into Company B’s stocks. Again, the university professor was enormously successful – by 2015, his secret offshore holdings exceeded $220 million.

In 2012, after learning about the IRS efforts to fight offshore tax evasion, Mr. Horsky engaged in a new scheme. He arranged for an individual (“Person A”) to take nominal control over his accounts at the Swiss Bank because the bank was closing accounts controlled by US persons. Interestingly, the Swiss Bank went so far as to help Person A relinquish his US citizenship. In 2014, Person A filed a false Form 8854 (Initial Annual Expatriation Statement) with the IRS that failed to disclose his net worth on the date of expatriation, failed to disclose his ownership of foreign assets, and falsely certified under penalties of perjury that he was in compliance with his tax obligations for the five preceding tax years.

By 2015, however, the IRS already conducted an investigation (probably triggered by information received as a result of the Swiss Bank Program) and identified Mr. Horsky’s tax evasion scheme. The IRS special agents actually raided Mr. Horsky’s home and confronted him about his concealment of his foreign financial accounts.

The IRS estimated that, during this entire 15-year old tax evasion scheme, Mr. Horsky evaded more than $18 million in income and gift taxes.

Punishment: $100 Million FBAR Penalty, Imprisonment and Other Penalties

Mr. Horsky faced a large array of penalties for filing fraudulent federal income tax returns, failure to disclosure his beneficial interest in and control over his foreign financial accounts on FBARs through the year 2011, and filing of fraudulent 2012 and 2013 FBARs.

The court sentenced Mr. Horsky to seven months in prison, one year of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. As part of his plea agreement, Mr. Horsky also paid over $13,000,000 in taxes owed to the IRS and a $100,000,000 FBAR penalty.

Lessons to be Learned from this $100 Million FBAR Penalty Case

So, how did this become a $100 Million FBAR Penalty Case? What qualified this case for criminal prosecution?

First, the very sophisticated nature of the tax evasion scheme made it very easy for the IRS to pursue criminal penalties in this case. Mr. Horsky went from one tax evasion trick to another, believing that he could avoid IRS detection. Using a shell corporation to hide his identity was definitely a big factor here. However, other strategies (like the use of a nominee who gave up his US citizenship) employed by him also made it an easy target for criminal prosecution.

Second, the amounts involved. With over $200 million in assets, Mr. Horsky should have known that he would be a valuable target for the IRS criminal prosecution.

Third, income evasion was done here on a grand scale. Not only did Mr. Horsky conceal the income from his accounts, but he also tried to evade the taxation of his very large capital gains. Every time that there is a combination of FBAR violation with a large-scale income tax violation, the chances of a criminal prosecution increase exponentially.

Finally, the willfulness of Mr. Horsky’s entire behavior was particularly made evident with the filing of fraudulent tax returns. A partial disclosure is one of the most dangerous patterns of tax behavior, because it discloses the knowledge of a tax obligation on the part of the taxpayer and points to the willfulness of the violation with respect to the noncompliant part of the obligation.

In fact, looking at this case, one can say that Mr. Horsky’s $100 Million FBAR penalty was definitely not the worse outcome. It is probably thanks to the skillful work of his criminal tax attorneys that the worst was avoided.

There is one more lesson that needs to be learned from this case. It appears that Mr. Horsky had plenty of opportunities to enter into any of the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure programs to avoid his $100 Million FBAR penalty and a prison sentence. He could have entered the 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI, 2012 OVDP and probably even 2014 OVDP.

If he would have entered into any of these programs, Mr. Horsky could have avoided the $100 Million FBAR penalty, saved tens of millions of dollars in potential penalties and eliminated any serious chance of a criminal prosecution.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts outside of the United States, you are in grave danger of IRS detection and the imposition of draconian FBAR penalties, including incarceration. This is why you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options.

Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers to avoid or reduce draconian FBAR penalties and bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Remember to File Your 2015 FBARs | FBAR Tax Attorney

On June 17, 2016, the IRS again reminded U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts to file their 2015 FBARs by Thursday, June 30, 2016. U.S. taxpayers have to file 2015 FBARs if they had financial interest in or signatory authority (or other authority) over foreign accounts with values which, in the aggregate (i.e. all accounts added together), exceeded $10,000 at any time during the calendar year 2015. The taxpayers who satisfied the FBAR threshhold, should e-file their 2015 FBARs through the BSA E-Filing System website.

It is important to note that the number of FBAR filings has grown exponentially. According to FinCEN data, on average, there has been a seventeen percent increase per year during the last five years. In fact, in 2015, FinCEN received a record high 1,163,229 of 2014 FBARs. We can reasonably expect that the number of 2015 FBARs will beat last year’s record.

The growth in the number of FBARs is mainly caused by two factors. First, the greater awareness of the FBAR requirement is due to a series of IRS legal victories against foreign banks and offshore jurisdictions, starting with 2008 UBS case through a complete destruction of the Swiss bank secrecy in the Swiss Bank Program and even more recent criminal conviction of two Caymanian banks.

Second and probably the most important reason is the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) which requires foreign financial institutions to report foreign accounts owned by U.S. persons. Additionally, FATCA created a new filing requirement, IRS Form 8938. Unlike the FBAR, Form 8938 has to be filed with U.S. individual tax returns (the implementation of Form 8938 for business returns still has not occurred). This new requirement created a much greater awareness of the FBAR among the accountants who generally do not file FBARs for their clients due to the fact that FBARs carry criminal penalties.

Both of these factors will continue to play a great role in 2016 when the 2015 FBARs have to filed. Additionally, by June 30, a much greater of foreign banks will have delivered FATCA letters, further promoting FBAR awareness among U.S. persons who have to file 2015 FBARs.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for FBAR Help

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts for which delinquent FBARs have to be filed or you need help with determining what needs to be filed for 2015 FBAR, contact the experienced international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office. Our talented team of tax professionals, headed by a highly-experienced FBAR tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, has helped hundreds of U.S. taxpayers around the world and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR Penalties

In this essay, I would like to discuss some of the penalties that may be imposed as a result of the failure to file the FBAR even though you were required to do so. In particular, I will focus on three general scenarios describing specific penalties commonly attributed to each of them. The first scenario is where you willfully failed to file the FBAR, or destroyed or otherwise failed to maintain proper records of account, and the IRS learned about it when it launched an investigation. This is the worst type of scenario which carries substantial penalties. The IRS may impose civil penalties of up to the greater of $100,000, or 50 percent of the value of the account at the time of the violation, as well as criminal penalties of up to $500,000, or 10 years of imprisonment, or both.

Another scenario is where you negligently and non-willfully failed to file the FBAR, and the IRS learned about it during an investigation. Unlike the first scenario, there are no criminal penalties for non-willful failure to file the FBAR; only civil penalties of up to $10,000 per each violation (unless there is a pattern of negligence which carries additional civil penalties of no more than $50,000 per any violation). In this situation, you are likely to fare much better, and you may even be able to obtain lower penalties by showing of reasonable cause for the failure to file.

The third scenario is where you non-willfully fail to file the FBAR, accidentally discover your mistake, and come to an attorney to file a delinquent FBAR before the IRS commences its investigation of your finances. This is the most favorable of all scenarios due to the fact that you may qualify for the benefits of a voluntary disclosure program, despite the fact that the position of the IRS regarding civil penalties for voluntarily filed but delinquent FBARs is uncertain following the October 15, 2009 voluntary disclosure deadline. The best strategy for addressing delinquent FBARs, however, varies depending on the facts and circumstances of the particular case.

A word of caution: this discussion focuses solely on the penalties associated with the failure to file the FBAR. This essay does not address the various strategies that may be employed in dealing with the delinquent FBAR filings in the post-October 15, 2009 world, including qualification for the voluntary disclosure program. In certain situations, there may also be other relevant significant tax issues outside of the FBAR realm – the most important of which is non-payment of taxes on undisclosed income by the U.S. taxpayers – which may significantly alter the amount of penalties, interest, and taxes due to the IRS.