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2018 Tax Filing Season | International Tax Lawyer News

On January 4, 2018, the IRS announced that the 2018 tax filing season for the tax year 2017 will commence on January 29, 2018. This date was chosen by the IRS to make sure its software incorporates the full impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 on the 2017 tax returns.

2018 Tax Filing Season: EITC and ACTC Refunds

Despite the fact that the 2018 tax filing season will begin on January 29, the IRS warned that taxpayers who will claim Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) will not receive their refunds until at least February 27, 2018.

2018 Tax Filing Season: Processing of Paper Tax Returns

Also, it is important to note that the processing of paper returns will begin only in mid-February, because the system updates will continue until that time. The IRS, however, will begin accepting both, electronic and paper tax returns, on January 29, 2018.

This is very important for taxpayers who file US international information returns, such as Forms 926, 5471, 8621, 8865, 8938, et cetera. A lot of these returns are voluminous and cannot be e-filed due to tax software limitations; hence, they must be filed on paper.

2018 Tax Filing Season: Deadline on April 17, 2018

The filing deadline to submit 2017 tax returns will be on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Usually, the deadline would be on April 15, but, in 2018, April 15 falls on a Sunday and April 16 is a legal holiday in the District of Columbia (Emancipation Day). Under the tax law, legal holidays in the District of Columbia affect the filing deadline for federal tax returns; hence, the filing deadline moved by one more day to April 17, 2018.

US taxpayers who have to file international information returns should keep in mind that there are two categories of such returns: information reports which are filed with their 2017 tax returns and the information reports which are filed (or e-filed) separately from the 2017 tax returns. Forms 926, 5471, 8621, 8865, 8938 and other similar information returns must be filed with the original US tax returns.

On he other hand, FBARs (FinCEN Form 114) and Form 3520 should be filed separately from the taxpayers’ tax returns. The deadline for this category of returns, however, is the same as the deadline for the 2017 tax returns – April 17, 2018 (unless an extension is filed).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with Your US International Tax Compliance During this 2018 Tax Filing Season

If you have foreign income and/or foreign assets, or if you received a foreign gift or inheritance, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help in determining your US tax compliance obligations and the preparation of the required US international information returns.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Sale of Russian Real Estate by US Residents | International Tax Lawyer

Sale of Russian Real Estate by US permanent residents was the subject of a recent guidance letter from the Russian Ministry of Finance (“MOF”). Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382 (dated October 11, 2011, but released only earlier this week) provides a thorough analysis of questions concerning the sale of real estate in Russia by a US resident and, eventually, comes to conclusion such a sale should be subject to a 30% tax rate. Let’s explore this recent MOF analysis in more detail.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: What is MOF Guidance Letter?

The closest US equivalent to the Russian MOF Guidance Letter is the IRS Private Letter Ruling (“PLR”). Similarly to PLR, the MOF Guidance Letters usually address a fairly specific situation and, generally, have a suggestive rather than normative value. A Guidance Letter does not have a precedential value (again similar to PLR). Nevertheless, the MOF Guidance Letters are good indicators of how the MOF would view similar situations and have a very strong persuasive value.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Fact Pattern Addressed by Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382

Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382 specifically addresses a situation where an individual is a Russian citizen who has resided in the United States since 1996. It is not clear whether the individual actually received his green card in 1996 or he simply commenced to reside in the United States on a permanent basis in 1996. This individual wishes to dispose of (or already sold) a real property in Russia.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Is the Sale Done by a Russian Taxpayer Who Is Subject to Russian Taxation?

The MOF begins its analysis by establishing that, in accordance with Section 1 of Article 207 of the Russian Tax Code (“Tax Code”), individuals who receive Russian-source income are Russian taxpayers for the purposes of the Russian income tax irrespective of whether they are Russian tax residents or not. Since Article 208, Section 1(5) states that income earned from the sale of Russian real estate is considered to be Russian-source income, an individual selling Russian real estate is considered to be a Russian taxpayer who is subject to Russian taxation.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Is the Sale Done by a Russian tax resident?

The MOF then continued its analysis to determine whether, in the situation described in the Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382, the individual is a Russian tax resident. I believe that this was the key reason why the individual in question requested the MOF Guidance letter: he was hoping that he would be found a Russian tax resident under the Russia-US tax treaty due to the fact that he had real estate in Russia (and, hence, subject to lower tax on the proceeds from sale).

The MOF analysis involved two steps: the determination of tax residency under the tax treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation (because the individual in question has resided permanently in the United States since 1996) and, then, the determination of tax residency under the domestic Russian tax laws.

First, the MOF stated that, pursuant to paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the Russia-US Tax Treaty, a person should be recognized as a permanent resident of a contracting state in accordance with the provisions of the national law of that state. In other words, the determination of who is a tax resident of the Russian Federation should be done under the Russian domestic tax law.

Here, the MOF also addressed the critical part of this Guidance Letter – does the ownership of Russian real estate matter for the purposes of establishing the Russian tax residency under the Treaty. The MOF determined that the factor of ownership of real estate matters only in cases where the owner of real estate is recognized as a resident of both contracting states in accordance with the national legislation of both, the United States and Russia. This is the most important part of the MOR Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382.

Having made this determination, the MOF went into the second half of its analysis – who is considered to be a Russian tax resident under the Russian laws. According to Section 2 of Article 207 of the Tax Code, individuals are considered Russian tax residents if they are physically present in Russia for at least 183 calendar days within a period of 12 consecutive months. Since the individual in question did not satisfy the residency requirement of Article 207, the MOF determined that he was not a tax resident of the Russian Federation.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Can Russia Tax the Proceeds from the Sale under the Russia-US Tax Treaty?

Having determined that the owner of the Russian Real Estate was not a Russian tax resident, the next issue was whether Russia can still tax the proceeds from the sale. The MOF stated that, under paragraph 3 of Article 19 of the Treaty, the gains from the sales of real estate located in one contracting state received by a permanent resident of the other contracting state can be taxed in accordance with the domestic tax legislation of the state where the property is located. Hence, Russia can tax the sale of Russian Real Estate made by a US permanent resident.

As a side note, Russia can also tax a disposition of shares or other rights of participation in the profits of a company in which Russian real estate makes up at least 50 percent of the assets.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: What is the Applicable Tax Rate?

The final point addressed by the MOF was the applicable tax rate for the sale of Russian real estate by a US permanent resident and a nonresident of Russia. Pursuant to Section 3 of Article 224 fo the Tax Code, the MOF decided that tax rate in this situation should be 30 percent.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional International Tax Help

If you are looking for a professional advice concerning US international tax law, contact Sherayzen Law Office. Our legal team, headed by attorney Eugene Sherayzen, is highly experienced in US international tax law, including international tax compliance filing requirements, international tax planning and offshore voluntary disclosures.

Contact Us Today To Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

UK Tax Haven May Be the Result of Brexit | US International Tax Attorney

In her January 17, 2017 speech, the British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that the United Kingdom (“UK”) will leave the European Union (“EU”) and seek a free trade deal with the EU. The Prime Minister also appears to have made the threat of creating a UK Tax Haven if the deal is not struck.

UK Tax Haven: UK is Leaving the EU

Since the ground-breaking referendum vote to leave the EU in June of 2016, many analysts have predicted that the UK will not leave and seek some sort of a partial participation in the EU.

On January 17, 2017, the Prime Minister’s response to these doubters was clear: “No, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.” She also stated: “We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave.”

She also outlined the procedural roadmap to how the UK will leave the EU. In particular, the Prime Minister stated that the government would bring the final withdrawal agreement to the Parliament for a vote before the Agreement comes into force. Furthermore, the UK government will repeal the European Communities Act. Surprisingly, the Prime Minister further said that the existing body of the EU law will be converted into British law.

UK Tax Haven: The Freedom to Set Competitive Tax Rates

The Prime Minister’s speech also contained something of great interest to international tax lawyers. She stated that, once the UK leaves the EU, it will “have the freedom to set the competitive tax rates and embrace the policies that would attract the world’s best companies and biggest investors to Britain.”

Not surprisingly, the reporters, the opposition and some foreign leaders had interpreted this statement as a threat of converting the UK into a major tax haven for the European companies. It appears that the UK government plans to materializes this threat of the UK tax haven only if the UK is excluded from the EU single economic market as a result of a punitive EU action.

This threat of creating a major UK tax haven echos a similar threat made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond. In his interview with a German newspaper “Welt am Sonntag”, Mr. Hammond stated that, if the UK is excluded from the EU market, the government will try to contain the damage of such a move by switching away from the European model of taxation.

Is the UK Tax Haven Likely to Become a Reality?

So, is the UK Tax Haven a certainty at this point? Probably not. I view this threat more as a negotiation tool rather than the certainty of enacting a certain plan. The UK economy is one of the most important and complex economies in the world; it is very unlikely that the British government will be even able to pursue a course of action of turning the UK into a full tax haven.

On the other hand, it is obvious that the British government will take advantage of the situation and seek to improve the country’s competitiveness through enaction of certain tax strategies. There is a high likelihood that the corporate tax rate may be lowered to a level where it is better than in most other EU countries, but cannot yet be considered as that of a tax haven.

Furthermore, it is possible that the UK tax haven will materialize only with respect to certain classes of taxpayers from certain countries. For example, the United States can be readily considered as a tax shelter for foreign individuals. The UK may be tempted to adopt a similar approach.

Finally, it is important to remember that the UK is already an attractive country from tax perspective. Its corporate rate is not high (it can even be called relatively low), there is no dividend withholding tax, favorable rules for expats, wide treaty network, and so on. Furthermore, the UK did not enact certain beneficial ownership transparency rules that other European countries already have in place.

Most likely, the UK just wishes to keep its options open for now and there is not going to be a UK tax haven in a traditional sense of this word, despite its threats to do so. International tax lawyers, however, should closely follow the UK developments for any tax opportunities that may become available to their clients.

Ordinary Business Care and Prudence Standard | International Tax Lawyer

Ordinary Business Care and Prudence Standard is a requirement that is present, explicitly or implicitly, in all reasonable cause defenses. In this article, I would like to explain what Ordinary Business Care and Prudence Standard means and what are the main factors for analyzing whether a taxpayer met the burden of proof required under the Ordinary Business Care and Prudence Standard.

Ordinary Business Care and Prudence Standard: General Requirements

The ordinary business care and prudence standard is an objective standard. There is no precise definition of this standard, because its application is fact-dependent. Nevertheless, the standard is generally satisfied as long as the taxpayer acted prudently, reasonably and in good faith (taking that degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise) and still could not comply with the relevant tax requirement. IRM 20.1.1.3.2.2 (02-22-2008) adds that “ordinary business care and prudence includes making provisions for business obligations to be met when reasonably foreseeable events occur”.

Ordinary Business Care and Prudence Standard: Common Factors

While the determination under the ordinary business care and prudence standard is highly fact-dependent, there are certain common factors that the IRS will take into account. IRM 20.1.1.3.2.2 (02-22-2008) specifically lists four factors that must be reviewed by the IRS, but states that all available information should be considered. Let’s explore these common factors:

1. Compliance History

The main issue here is to see if this is the first failure to comply with US tax laws by the taxpayer or whether he already violated in the past the tax law provision in question IRM 20.1.1.3.2.2 (02-22-2008) states that “the same penalty, previously assessed or abated, may indicate that the taxpayer is not exercising ordinary business care”. The IRM urges the IRS agents to check at least three preceding tax years for payment patterns and the taxpayer’s overall compliance history.

If the violation was the first time a taxpayer exhibited noncompliant behavior, this will be a positive factor that will be considered with other reasons the taxpayer provided for reasonable cause. While a first-time noncompliance does not by itself establish reasonable cause, taxpayers who violated the same provision more than once will find it more difficult to establish that their behavior satisfied the ordinary business care and prudence standard.

2. Length of Time

At issue here is the time between the event cited as the reason for the initial tax noncompliance and subsequent compliance actions. IRM 20.1.1.3.2.2 (02-22-2008) requires the IRS agents to consider: “(1) when the act was required by law, (2) the period of time during which the taxpayer was unable to comply with the law due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control, and (3) when the taxpayer complied with the law.”

Obviously, if the taxpayer did not discover his noncompliance until one year later and immediately tried to remedy the situation, it will add significant force to his argument that his behavior satisfied the ordinary business care and prudence standard. On the other hand, an unexplained delay between the time the taxpayer discovered his noncompliance and the time he attempted to remedy it will have a negative impact on the overall taxpayer’s argument.

Another highly important factor that plays a crucial role in offshore voluntary disclosures is whether, after discovering his prior noncompliance, the taxpayer voluntarily complied prior to being contacted by the IRS. In a voluntary disclosure context, if the IRS initiates an examination and contacts the taxpayer first, his voluntary disclosure options may be entirely foreclosed. On the other hand, the fact that a taxpayer voluntarily contacted the IRS with his amended tax return that corrected his prior tax noncompliance may play a highly positive role in convincing the IRS that the taxpayer’s prior behavior was consistent with the ordinary business care and prudence standard.

Hence, it is highly important for the taxpayer to explain what happened during the time between his prior noncompliance and his current effort to remedy the situation.

3. Circumstances Beyond the Taxpayer’s Control

The crucial issue here is whether the taxpayer could have anticipated the event that caused the noncompliance. If he could have done it, then his case might be materially weakened. On the other hand, if the taxpayer could not have anticipated the event, then, it might play a very important role in convincing the IRS that his behavior satisfied the ordinary business care and prudence standard.

A lot of sub-factors play a very important role here: the taxpayer’s education, his tax advisors, whether he has been previously subjected to the tax at issue, whether he has filed the tax forms in question before, whether there were any changes to the tax forms or tax law (which the taxpayer could not reasonably be expected to know), and so on. The level of complexity of the issue in question is also an important additional sub-factor.

The “circumstances beyond control” factor is necessarily tied to the “length of time” factor described above, because a taxpayer’s obligation to meet the tax law requirements is ongoing. Ordinary business care and prudence standard generally requires that the taxpayer continue to meet the requirements, even if is he late.

4. Taxpayer’s Reason for Prior Noncompliance

The taxpayer must provide and the IRS agent must consider an actual reason for the prior tax noncompliance whatever it may be and this reason must address the specific penalty imposed. It is the combination of this taxpayer’s reason together with other factors, including the common factors described above, that will form the basis for the taxpayer’s argument that his behavior satisfied the ordinary business care and prudence standard.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office to Contest IRS Penalties based on Reasonable Cause and Ordinary Business Care and Prudence Standard

Since 2005, Sherayzen Law Office has saved its clients millions of dollars in potential IRS penalties. If you wish to challenge the imposition of IRS penalties on your prior US domestic and/or international tax noncompliance, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We will thoroughly review the facts of your case, determine the available defense strategies to reduce or eliminate IRS penalties (including the determination of whether your case satisfied the ordinary business care and prudence standard), implement these strategies and defend your case against the IRS.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Expatriation Tax: “Covered Expatriates” under Notice 2009-85

As an international tax attorney who constantly deals with expatriates, I am often contacted by individuals who are thinking about renouncing their U.S. citizenship. If you are consideration going down this path, you should understand the very serious legal and tax implications of this strategy. On the tax side, you should be especially aware of the current expatriation tax rules under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Sections 877A and 2801, IRS Notice 2009-85 and other relevant IRC sections and regulations.

Statutory Background

The new IRC Section 877A (and corresponding changes to other relevant IRC sections) was added pursuant to Section 301 of the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act (HEART) of 2008. HEART also added important IRC Section 2801, which imposes transfer tax on U.S. persons who receive gifts or bequests on or after June 17, 2008; this article does not address Section 2801 provisions. In response to HEART, on November 9, 2009, the IRS issued Notice 2009-85 which explains the application and implementation of Section 877A provisions.

This article will cover some of the fundamental rules under IRS Notice 2009-85 (note that other expatriation tax rules will apply depending upon when a U.S. citizen relinquished his or her citizenship, or when an individual ceased to be a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.). Notice 2009-85 is a highly complex and broad IRS regulation; therefore this article will focus its attention solely on the definition of a “covered expatriate”.

This article is not intended to constitute tax or legal advice. Expatriation can involve many complex tax and legal issues, so you are advised to seek an experienced expatriate international tax attorney in these matters.

Definition of “Expatriate” Under IRS Notice 2009-85

It is important to understand that the expatriation tax regime imposed by Section 877A applies only to individuals who fall under the definition of “covered expatriates”. Understanding this terms requires definition of each of its part – “expatriate” and “covered”.

IRC Section 877A(g)(2) provides that the term “expatriate” means (1) any U.S. citizen who relinquishes his or her citizenship and (2) any long-term resident of the United States who ceases to be a lawful permanent resident of the United States (within the meaning of section 7701(b)(6), as amended).

Note that “long-term resident” is not equivalent to “permanent resident” and has its own definition. Pursuant to section 877A(g)(5), a long-term resident is an individual who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States in at least 8 taxable years during the period of 15 taxable years ending with the taxable year that includes the expatriation date. Expatriation date is separately defined by Section 877A(g)(3) as the date an individual relinquishes U.S. citizenship or, in the case of a long-term resident of the United States, the date on which the individual ceases to be a lawful permanent resident of the United States within the meaning of section 7701(b)(6).

Let’s deal with each of these events separately. Section 877A(g)(4) foresees four different possibilities of relinquishing U.S. citizenship (whichever is the earliest date will be treated as the date an individual relinquishes his U.S. citizenship):

a) the date the individual renounces his or her U.S. nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States pursuant to paragraph (5) of section 349(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(5)), provided the renunciation is subsequently approved by the issuance to the individual of a certificate of loss of nationality by the United States Department of State;

b) the date the individual furnishes to the United States Department of State a signed statement of voluntary relinquishment of U.S. nationality confirming the performance of an act of expatriation specified in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), or (4) of section 349(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(1)-(4)), provided the voluntary relinquishment is subsequently approved by the issuance to the individual of a certificate of loss of nationality by the United States Department of State;

c) the date the United States Department of State issues to the individual a certificate of loss of nationality;

d) the date a court of the United States cancels a naturalized citizen’s certificate of naturalization.

Definition of “cessation of lawful permanent residency” is even more complex (as many expatriate international tax attorneys and immigration attorneys will readily affirm) and primarily driven by immigration law, in particular Section 7701(b)(6). Pursuant to this section, a long-term resident ceases to be a lawful permanent resident if (A) the individual’s status of having been lawfully accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with immigration laws has been revoked or has been administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned, or if (B) the individual (1) commences to be treated as a resident of a foreign country under the provisions of a tax treaty between the United States and the foreign country, (2) does not waive the benefits of the treaty applicable to residents of the foreign country, and (3) notifies the Secretary of such treatment on Forms 8833 and 8854. Again, it is a strong recommendation to contact an expatriate international tax attorney to determine whether your situation fits under the legal definitions provided above.

“Covered Expatriates” Under IRC Section 877A

We have finally come to the final destination of this article – understanding who is considered to be a “covered expatriate”. Generally, expatriate international tax attorneys would turn to IRC Section 877A(g)(1)(A), which defines three categories of “covered expatriate”. Under this section, the term “covered expatriate” means an expatriate who:

(1) has an average annual net income tax liability for the five preceding taxable years ending before the expatriation date that exceeds a specified amount that is adjusted for inflation ($145,000 in 2009) (the “tax liability test”);

(2) has a net worth of $2 million or more as of the expatriation date (the “net worth test”); or

(3) fails to certify, under penalties of perjury, compliance with all U.S. Federal tax obligations for the five taxable years preceding the taxable year that includes the expatriation date, including, but not limited to, obligations to file income tax, employment tax, gift tax, and information returns, if applicable, and obligations to pay all relevant tax liabilities, interest, and penalties (the “certification test”).

For the purposes of the certification test, this certification must be made on Form 8854 and must be filed by the due date of the taxpayer’s Federal income tax return for the taxable year that includes the day before the expatriation date. See a separate article on www.sherayzenlaw.com for information concerning Form 8854.

Note that the determination as to whether an individual is a covered expatriate is made as of the expatriation date (see above for the definition).

Definition of “Covered Expatriate” is Complex; Two Major Exceptions Listed

As expected, there are serious complications with respect to determining eligibility under the “tax liability” and “net worth” tests (generally, Section III of IRS Notice 97-19 should be consulted) – you will need to discuss your particular situation with an expatriate international tax attorney to determine whether you fall under any of the three categories.

I will solely  point out the most glaring exceptions to the tax liability test and net worth test. IRC Section 877A(g)(1)(B) provides that an expatriate will not be treated as meeting the tax liability test or the net worth test of section 877(a)(2)(A) or (B) if:

(1) the expatriate became at birth a U.S. citizen and a citizen of another country and, as of the expatriation date, continues to be a citizen of, and is taxed as a resident of, such other country, and has been a U.S. resident for not more than 10 taxable years during the 15 taxable year period ending with the taxable year during which the expatriation date occurs; or

(2) the expatriate relinquishes U.S. citizenship before the age of 18.5 (eighteen and a half) and has been a U.S. resident for not more than 10 taxable years before the date of relinquishment.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help with Expatriation Issues

If you are considering expatriation as a tax strategy, you need to be aware of the very complex legal and tax issues related to expatriation. This why you need to contact Eugene Sherayzen, an experienced international tax attorney at Sherayzen Law Office; our international tax firm will thoroughly analyze the expatriation option for you, explain to you the consequences of taking such a step, and (if you still wish to proceed with the strategy) guide you through the entire process of expatriation, including completing all necessary tax and legal forms.