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NPB Neue Privat Bank Signs Non-Prosecution Agreement | OVDP Lawyer

On July 18, 2018, the US Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) announced that it signed a Non-Prosecution Agreement with NPB Neue Privat Bank AG (“NPB”). Let’s explore in more detail the history of this case and its resolution.

Background Information: 2001 QI Agreement between NPB and the IRS

NPB is a Swiss private bank based in Zurich. In 2001, NPB entered into a Qualified Intermediary Agreement (“QI Agreement”) with the IRS, which had extensive requirements for US tax withholding and US information reporting. Among these requirements was the obligation for NPB to ask its new and existing US clients to complete IRS Forms W-9 if they engaged in US securities transactions. In such cases, NPB was required to report the relevant transactions on IRS Form 1099.

Based on the QI Agreement, NPB arrived at a paradoxical conclusion that became prevalent among Swiss banks in the early 2000s. It believed that, as long as the bank complied with its QI Agreement, it could continue to accept and service US taxpayers even if NPB knew or had reason to believe that these taxpayers engaged in tax evasion. In other words, the bank could service such clients as long as they were not trading US-based securities or the investment accounts were nominally structured in the name of a foreign-based entity. It does not appear that an opinion of a legal counsel was secured in support for this belief.

Background Information 2009: NPB Accepts Noncompliant US Taxpayers

Prior to 2009, NPB had relatively few US clients; in fact, at the close of 2008, all of the NPB accounts owned by its US clients held approximately 8 million Swiss francs in assets.

The situation changed dramatically in 2009. As a result of the UBS case and other signs of increased IRS activity with respect to undisclosed foreign accounts, major Swiss banks started closing accounts owned by US taxpayers, creating a flood of potential clients for NPB. In early 2009, certain external-asset managers asked the bank to give refuge to these taxpayers and their money. The managers told the bank that they asked their US clients to become tax compliant, but some of them still had not done so.

On March 9, 2009, the NPB’s board of directors unanimously voted to allow US taxpayers to open accounts with the bank, even for those clients who fled other Swiss banks. As a result, by the end of 2009, NPB accumulated close to 450 million Swiss francs in accounts owned or beneficially owned by US taxpayers. The DOJ estimated that only 69% of these assets were reported to the US government at that time.

It appears that the bank’s executives had hoped that their US clients would eventually come into full compliance with US tax laws, but no written or formal policy to encourage or mandate such compliance was ever created.

Years 2010-2012: NPB Stops Accepting US Clients and Implements Some Procedures to Encourage US Tax Compliance

In August of 2010, as a result of the fact that US tax enforcement made the environment for Swiss banks which accepted noncompliant US taxpayers more and more dangerous, NPB decided not to open any new accounts for US clients who were noncompliant with US tax laws.

This decision (which was not reduced to writing) did not stop the bank from continuing to service its already existing noncompliant US taxpayers. Moreover there were at least 89 US-related accounts, both declared and undeclared, held in the name of offshore structures, such as trusts or corporations. These offshore structures were domiciled in countries such as Panama, Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, and Belize. All of these structures, however, were set up before the clients were accepted by the bank.

Starting August of 2010, NPB finally started to require new US clients to provide Forms W-9. The existing clients were required to submit Form W-9 only starting in the summer of 2011. The bank started to require evidence of tax compliance from its external asset managers only in August of 2011.

Swiss Bank Program: NPB is a Category 1 Bank

On August 29, 2013, the DOJ announced the Swiss Bank Program, but it declared NPB as a Category 1 bank ineligible to participate in the Program. By that time, the DOJ already started its investigation of the bank and its activities with respect to noncompliant US taxpayers.

Non-Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ

NPB cooperated throughout the DOJ investigation. In fact, the bank turned over the identities of US account holders and beneficial owners of more than 88% of the US-held assets.

The parties finally reached the agreement on July 18, 2018, when they signed the Non-Prosecution Agreement. Under the Agreement, the DOJ promised not to prosecute NPB. In return, the bank agreed to pay a penalty of $5 million. The bank further agreed to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings as well as demonstrate that it implemented the necessary procedure to stop misconduct involving undeclared US-related accounts.

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

The NPB-DOJ Non-Prosecution Agreement demonstrates the continued IRS focus on US international tax enforcement. The IRS has devoted considerable resources to this area and all noncompliant US taxpayers around the world are at a significant risk of discovery, not just taxpayers with undisclosed Swiss bank accounts.

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options. Time is of the essence: the IRS flagship Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) will close on September 28, 2018.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty Ratified | International Tax Lawyer News

On December 29, 2017, the President of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev signed the law for the ratification of the Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income.

History of the Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty

The Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty was originally signed in Astana on April 26, 2017. Ireland already ratified the treaty through Statutory Instrument 479 on November 10, 2017. By ratifying the treaty on December 29, 2017, Kazakhstan completed the process for the treaty ratification on the part of Kazakhstan.

The Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty will enter into force once the ratification instruments are exchanged. The provisions of the Treaty will apply from January 1 of the year following its entry into force. The Treaty is the first tax treaty between Ireland and Kazakhstan.

Taxes Covered by the Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty

The Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty will apply to the following taxes. With respect to Ireland, the Treaty will apply to the income tax, the universal social charge, the corporation tax and the capital gains tax. For Kazakhstan, it will apply to the corporate income tax and the individual income tax. Identical or substantially similar taxes imposed by either state after the Treaty was signed are also covered by the Treaty.

Main Provisions of the Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty

Here is an overview of the most important provisions. Obviously, this is a very general description for educational purposes only, and it cannot be relied upon as a legal advice; you should contact a licensed attorney in Ireland or Kazakhstan for legal advice.

Article 4 of the Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty defines the meaning of the term “resident”. It should be noted that the Treaty applies only to Irish and Kazakh residents (see Article 2 of the Treaty).

Article 5 defines the term Permanent Establishment.

Article 6 states that income from the “immovable” property (i.e. real estate) is subject to taxation in a country where it is located. This includes business real estate. This provision, of course, does not exempt the owner of the real estate from the obligation to also pay taxes in his home country.

Article 7 deals with business profits. It states that “the profits of an enterprise of a Contracting State shall be taxable only in that Contracting State unless that enterprise carries on business in the other Contracting State through a permanent establishment situated therein.” In the latter case, “the profits of the enterprise may be taxed in the other Contracting State but only so much of them as is attributable to that permanent establishment.”

Article 8 states that “profits of an enterprise of a Contracting State from the operation of ships or aircraft in international traffic shall be taxable only in that Contracting State.”

Article 9 deals with Associated Enterprises.

Article 10 establishes the maximum tax rates for dividends. In general, dividends should be taxed at a maximum rate of 5% if the beneficial owner is a company (other than a partnership) that directly holds at least 25 percent of the capital of the payer company; in all other cases, the tax rate should be no more than 15%.

Articles 11 and 12 establish the maximum tax withholding rate of 10% for interest and royalties respectively.

Articles 13 – 22, 24 and 25 deal with capital gains, employment income, director fees and certain special cases.

Article 23 establishes the usage of foreign tax credit to eliminate double-taxation under the Treaty.

Information Exchange and Tax Enforcement under the Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty

The Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty contains fairly strong provisions on the information exchange and tax enforcement. Article 26 provides for exchange of relevant tax information described in the Treaty. Article 27 obligates the signatory states to lend assistance for the purposes of collection of taxes.

Information Exchange under the Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty and FATCA Compliance

Article 26 of the Ireland-Kazakhstan Tax Treaty could be dangerous to US citizens who are also either Kazakh residents or citizens. The reason for it is FATCA which would obligate Ireland to turn over the information it receives under the Treaty directly to the IRS in cases where this information concerns noncompliant US tax residents. This may lead to an IRS investigation and the imposition of FBAR and other penalties on these US taxpayers.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Have Unreported Foreign Accounts in Ireland or Kazakhstan

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts and/or foreign income in Ireland and Kazakhstan, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our firm specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures and has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to deal with this issue. We can help You!

Contact Us Today for Your Confidential Consultation!

Undeclared Accounts in Singapore Are Under IRS Investigation | FBAR Attorney

For several years now, Sherayzen Law Office has been warning U.S. taxpayers about the ever-increasing IRS interest in undeclared accounts in Singapore. On June 22, 2016, the IRS announced that UBS AG has complied with the IRS summons for bank records held in its Singapore office. This news come after repeated initiatives by the IRS to follow the money that was flowing out of what used to be secret Swiss bank accounts into the undeclared accounts in Singapore.

Facts Surrounding the IRS Summons Regarding UBS Undeclared Accounts in Singapore

The IRS served an administrative summons on UBS for records pertaining to accounts held by Ching-Ye “Henry” Hsiaw. According to the petition, the IRS needed the records in order to determine Hsiaw’s federal income tax liabilities for the years 2006 through 2011. Hsiaw transferred funds from a Switzerland-based account with UBS to the UBS Singapore branch in 2002, according to the declaration of a revenue agent filed at the same time as the petition. UBS refused to produce the records, and the United States filed its petition to enforce the summons.

“The Department of Justice and the IRS are committed to making sure that offshore tax evasion is detected and dealt with appropriately,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Tax Division. “One critical component of that effort is making sure that the IRS has all of the information it needs to audit taxpayers with offshore assets. In this case, we filed a petition to enforce a summons for offshore documents, but that’s only one of the tools we have available for gathering information. Taxpayers with offshore assets who underreported their income should come forward before we come looking for them.”

Lessons to be Learned from the Recent Summons of UBS Undeclared Accounts in Singapore

The recent IRS summons of UBS undeclared accounts in Singapore and the startling ease with which the IRS obtained the necessary information, confirm three earlier predictions that Sherayzen Law Office made after the announcing of the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks. First, the IRS takes a keen interest in the undeclared accounts in Singapore and it will not satisfy itself simply with destroying the Swiss bank secrecy laws with respect to U.S. taxpayers. The IRS is actively expanding its investigations beyond Switzerland and Singapore is definitely one of its top targets.

Second, the IRS will continue to utilize in its investigations the information that it obtained from the Swiss Bank Program, the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure programs and the IRS compliance procedures. The IRS has obtained mountains of information from these programs regarding not only the “favorite” countries for opening and maintaining undeclared accounts, but also the main patterns of U.S. tax noncompliance. In fact, the IRS now has evidence at its disposal to prosecute foreign banks far beyond Switzerland (a fact confirmed by recent criminal prosecutions of two Cayman Islands financial institutions). Hence, the undeclared accounts in Singapore and the foreign banks which are holding them are under increased IRS scrutiny today.

Finally, the implementation of FATCA combined with the two trends described above makes the discovery of undeclared accounts in Singapore (and most other countries) increasingly likely. Furthermore, it seems that the IRS also feels more and more confident to ask the courts for harsher penalties against noncomplying U.S. taxpayers.

What Should U.S. Taxpayers with Undeclared Accounts in Singapore Do?

U.S. taxpayers with undeclared accounts in Singapore now face a very unpleasant scenario where their discovery by the IRS can occur at any point with the imposition of draconian penalties and even potential prison time. Furthermore, it appears that such a discovery by the IRS is not only possible, but very likely.

Given the high probability of the discovery of their undeclared accounts in Singapore, the noncompliant U.S. taxpayers should retain as soon as possible an experienced international tax firm to explore their voluntary disclosure options. One of the best international tax law firms that provides these services is Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Undeclared Accounts in Singapore

If you have undeclared accounts in Singapore (or any other country), you should immediately contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that is highly experienced in offshore voluntary disclosures, including IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program and Streamlined Compliance Procedures (both Domestic and Foreign). You can rely on us with confidence that your case will be handled in an efficient, speedy and professional manner. We will strive for the best result for you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!