Posts

Guilty Pleas for Secret Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts | FATCA Lawyer

On January 18, 2017, three US taxpayers pleaded guilty for hiding millions of dollars in their secret Swiss and Israeli bank accounts (hereinafter “Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts”) and failing to report these Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts on their FBARs.

Facts of the Case Involving Secret Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts

All three defendants are relatives – Mr. Dan Farhad Kalili and Mr. David Ramin Kalili are brothers while Mr. David Shahrokh Azarian is their brother-in-law. They are all residents of Newport Coast, California.

According to the documents filed with the court and statements made in connection with the defendants’ guilty pleas, between May 1996 and 2009, Mr. Dan Kalili opened and maintained several undeclared offshore bank accounts at Credit Suisse and UBS in Switzerland. Similarly, Mr. David Kalili opened and maintained several undeclared accounts at Credit Suisse from February 1999 through at least 2009. He also owned several undeclared accounts at UBS from October 1993 through at least 2008. The brothers also maintained joint undeclared Swiss bank accounts at both UBS and Credit Suisse beginning in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

At the same time, Mr. Azarian opened and maintained several undeclared accounts at Credit Suisse from May 1994 through at least 2009. He also owned several accounts at UBS in Switzerland from April 1997 through at least 2008.

In 2006, we had the appearance of the now famous Ms. Beda Singenberger, a Swiss citizen who owned and operated a financial advisory firm called Sinco Truehand AG. She was indicted in New York on July 21, 2011. The charges were: conspiring to defraud the United States, evade U.S. income taxes, and file false U.S. tax returns. Ms. Singenberger remains a fugitive as of the time of this writing.

In July of 2006, Mr. Dan Kalili, with the assistance of Ms. Singenberger, opened an undeclared account at UBS in the name of the Colsa Foundation, a Liechtenstein entity. As of May 2008, the Colsa Foundation account at UBS held approximately $4,927,500 in assets.

In light of the increased IRS tax enforcement and the UBS case, all three defendants attempted to partially hide their prior ownership of Swiss accounts by moving the assets from one account to another. At the same time, they also tried to legitimize partial ownership of their assets.

Mr. Dan Kalili opened an undeclared account at Swiss Bank A in the name of the Colsa Foundation and in May 2008 and transferred his assets from the UBS Colsa Foundation account to Swiss Bank A. He then made partial disclosure of the Swiss Bank A Colsa account on his individual income tax returns. In 2009, Mr. Dan Kalili opened undeclared accounts at Israeli Bank A and at Bank Leumi, both in Israel. He then closed his joint (with his brother) Credit Suisse account and his own undeclared account and transferred all funds to Israel.

At that time of its closure, the undeclared joint account of Dan and David Kalili at Credit Suisse held approximately $2,561,508 in assets. As of December 2009, Dan Kalili’s undeclared account at Israeli Bank A had the approximate value of $1,569,973 and his undeclared account at Bank Leumi was valued at approximately $2,497,931.

Mr. David Kalili followed almost the same pattern. In August of 2008, he opened an account at Israeli Bank A in Israel and transferred to this account all of his funds from his UBS accounts. He later partially declared the Israeli Bank A account on his individual income tax returns. As of August 2009, Mr. David Kalili’s undeclared account at Israeli Bank A held assets valued at approximately $1,369,489.

Finally, Mr. Azarian also opened an account at Israeli Bank A in Israel in August of 2008. In May of 2009, he closed his Credit Suisse account and transferred all funds to his Israeli account. At the time of its closure, Mr. Azarian’s undeclared account at Credit Suisse held assets valued at approximately $1,903,214.

Neither of the three defendants ever filed an FBAR for their secret Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts on their FBARs during any of the years 2006-2009.

Criminal and Civil Penalties Imposed For Failure to Declare Foreign Income and Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts

According to the plea agreements, the criminal and civil penalties were severe. Mr. Dan Kalili, Mr. David Kalili and Mr. Azarian each face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison, a period of supervised release and restitution for 2003-2009 tax loss and monetary penalties. The defendants also admitted to committing civil fraud, which exposes them to additional civil fraud penalty.

In addition, each defendant agreed to pay a willful FBAR civil penalty in the amount of 50% of the highest balances of their undeclared Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts. Mr. Dan Kalili agreed to pay the FBAR penalty of $2,674,329, Mr. David Kalili agreed to pay the FBAR penalty of $1,325,121 and Mr. Azarian agreed to pay the FBAR penalty of $951,607.

Lessons to Be Learned from the Defendants’ Handling of Their Undeclared Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts

This case is a classical example of what not to do if one wishes to avoid criminal prosecution. Let’s point out five main mistakes which exposed the taxpayers to the IRS criminal prosecution.

The first mistake is obvious – the defendants willfully failed to declare their Swiss-Israeli bank accounts on their FBARs and the income generated by these accounts on their US tax returns.

The deleterious impact of the first mistake was magnified by the usage of an offshore shell corporation to hide the ownership of the Swiss-Israeli bank accounts (while the entity was concerned mostly with Swiss accounts, it was also used to hide the source of funds on the defendants’ Israeli bank accounts).

Third, the defendants engaged in the evasive pattern of opening and closing foreign accounts in various banks in order to hide them from the IRS. The defendants obviously underestimated the IRS ability to track these accounts and ended up giving the IRS additional powerful indirect evidence of intent to evade taxes and the willfulness of their failures to file FBARs.

Fourth, the taxpayers engaged in partial voluntary disclosure outside of any actual voluntary disclosure program. By doing partial disclosure, the taxpayers provided additional evidence to the IRS of their knowledge of the requirement to report foreign income and properly complete Schedule B. At the same time, the fact that their disclosure was only partial further emphasized the willfulness of their prior failure to disclosure foreign income and foreign assets. The readers should remember that a voluntary disclosure must always be accurate and complete; otherwise, the taxpayers simply give the IRS more evidence of willfulness of their tax noncompliance.

Finally, it does not appear that the taxpayers ever considered doing a true voluntary disclosure which could have limited their penalties and prevented the IRS criminal prosecution. One of the first thing that the taxpayers should always consider once they find out about their noncompliance or the possibility of the IRS detection of such noncompliance is to retain an international tax lawyer to review their voluntary disclosure options. The taxpayers failed to do so in this case and paid a very high price.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Income and Foreign Assets, including Swiss-Israeli Bank Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign income and foreign assets, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Our international tax law firm has successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US laws and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Indianapolis FBAR Lawyer | Foreign Accounts Tax Attorney

One of the advantages of practicing US international tax law is that an international tax lawyer can offer his FBAR services throughout the United States. Why is this case? Why is an international tax lawyer who lives in Minneapolis considered as an Indianapolis FBAR Lawyer?

Indianapolis FBAR Lawyer: FBAR is Federal Law, Not State Law

The answer to the question above is not difficult and, in fact, very logical. FBAR is a part of US federal law and no local law plays a role in defining its requirements or its implementation. This means that any US international tax lawyer can offer FBAR services in any of the 50 states and the District of Columbia irrespective of his physical location. This further means that a lawyer in Minneapolis can be considered as an Indianapolis FBAR Lawyer even though he never visited the State of Indiana.

Indianapolis FBAR Lawyer Must Be a US International Tax Lawyer

It is worth emphasizing that an Indianapolis FBAR Lawyer must be a US international tax lawyer, not just any lawyer. This emphasis is very important because FBAR forms are part of the US international tax law and its penalty structure is deeply connected with a taxpayer’s overall tax compliance. In a voluntary disclosure situation, the relationship between FBAR and the overall US international tax compliance may play a determinative role in the legal position of a taxpayer.

A sophisticated reader might wonder why FBAR forms are part of the US international tax law if the FBAR was created as a result of the Bank Secrecy Act (i.e. Title 31 of the United States Code), whereas the entire Internal Revenue Code is located in Title 26 of the United States Code. The answer is not that simple and deserves a special article.

Nevertheless, I can provide a short answer here: FBAR is administered by the IRS and, as part of its historic evolution, the form became a tax enforcement mechanism.

Sherayzen Law Office Can Be Your Indianapolis FBAR Lawyer

If you are looking for an Indianapolis FBAR Lawyer, Sherayzen Law Office may be the perfect fit for you! Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in US tax compliance, including FBARs. We have profound knowledge of this area of law and the extensive experience in helping clients with international tax law issues, including offshore voluntary disclosures with respect to delinquent FBARs. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide with their FBAR issues and we can help You!

Contact Sherayzen Law Office today to schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

IRS Form 14654 for Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

IRS Form 14654 is probably the most important part of the taxpayer’s voluntary disclosure under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”). In this article, I would like to explore the various parts of IRS Form 14654 and explain why this form is so important.

Please, note that IRS Form 14654 was just revised in January of 2015.

SDOP and IRS Form 14654

In June of 2014, the IRS announced the creation of a brand-new voluntary disclosure option for the taxpayers who reside in the United States – SDOP. As part of the disclosure package under SDOP, the IRS required U.S. taxpayers to submit a Certification of Non-Willfulness with respect to the taxpayers’ failure to timely disclose their foreign income and assets. At the end of August of 2014, this Certification became the new IRS Form 14654.

Purpose of IRS Form 14654

IRS Form 14654 constitutes an essential part of SDOP because this is the form used by the taxpayer to certify his non-willfulness with respect to his failure to timely and accurately report his foreign income and assets. Moreover, IRS Form 14654 also functions as a convenient summary of the calculation of the income tax liability as well as the SDOP Title 26 Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty (“Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty”). Finally, IRS Form 14654 allows the taxpayer to make a statement in support of his non-willfulness.

In order to accomplish these multiple tasks, IRS Form 14654 incorporates three different parts: income tax summary, Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty calculation, and the Certification with Explanation of Non-Willfulness.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these three parts of IRS Form 14654.

IRS Form 14654: Income Tax Summary

The very first part of the Certification is with respect to income tax liability. There is a pre-set language in IRS Form 14654 that requires the taxpayer to certify that: he is providing amended tax returns for each of the three most recent years, he filed the original tax returns previously, and he properly calculated his additional tax due with statutory interest on IRS Form 14654.

There is already a self-calculating table in the form that allows the taxpayer to quickly summarize his additional income tax liability with statutory interest per each covered year and the total amount due (which should be included on the checks written to the IRS).

IRS Form 14654: Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty Base

The second part of the certification is concerned with the taxpayer’s calculation of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, or more precisely its penalty base. IRS Form 14654 provides a set of self-calculating tables to be completed by the taxpayer for all of the foreign accounts and other assets subject to the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty. Each table requires the taxpayer to disclose the financial institution with address and description of the asset, the account number (where applicable), when the account was opened or asset acquired, and the end-of-year balance/asset value in U.S. dollars.

If additional space is needed, my experience has been that it would be best to attach to IRS Form 14654 a detailed statement disclosing all of this information. Note, the attachment should contain the taxpayer’s name, TIN and original signature.

In addition to the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty’s penalty base calculation, IRS Form 14654 already contains the language which states that the taxpayer already filed his FBARs for the past six years and he met all of the eligibility requirements for SDOP.

IRS Form 14654: Calculation of Payments Due

The next part of the certification requires the taxpayer to summarize all of the payments due – the calculation of the Miscellaneous offshore Penalty, the total due and the total interest due. At the end of this section, the taxpayer should add all of these payments together to equal to the “Total Payment” due.

IRS Form 14654: “Comprehensive Certification” and Explanation of Non-Willfulness

Following the completion of the payment calculations section, IRS Form 14654 turns to the most important part of a SDOP case – the certification of non-willfulness with respect to income, tax payments and information returns.

The actual language for the certification of non-willfulness is already provided by the IRS on IRS Form 14654; this is a standard text that the taxpayer must agree to if he wishes to do a SDOP disclosure (i.e. this language cannot be modified). It is very important for international tax lawyers to discuss this language with their clients to make sure that they understand what they are agreeing to.

In addition to providing the standard certification text, IRS Form 14654 requires the taxpayer to provide a statement of facts and specific reasons for the original failure to report all income, pay all tax and submit all required information returns, including FBARs.

Please, note that the January of 2015 revision of IRS Form 14654 specifically allows the taxpayer to provide the explanation not only on the form itself, but also on a separate signed attachment (this clarified a previous confusion over the statement must be provided on the form only). Moreover, the new revision specifically states that the failure to provide a narrative statement of facts will result in the certification being deemed incomplete and the taxpayer will not qualify for the SDOP penalty relief.

The explanation of non-willfulness is undoubtedly the most important part of IRS Form 14654, because here the taxpayer has a unique opportunity to establish his legal case for non-willfulness. If this explanation is not deemed satisfactory to the IRS, the taxpayer may face willful FBAR penalties, civil fraud penalties and potentially even criminal penalties (see note below on the certification under the penalty of perjury).

In fact, the explanation of non-willfulness is so crucial to the taxpayer’s SDOP case, that I strongly recommend that the taxpayer refrains from completing the Streamlined certification himself or letting his accountant to do it. This is the job only for the taxpayer’s international tax attorney.

IRS Form 14654: Signature under the Penalties of Perjury

The last part of certification requires the taxpayer to sign the Form under the penalties of perjury. By signing IRS Form 14654, the taxpayer is certifying (1) that he is eligible for the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures; (2) that all required FBARs have now been filed; (3) that the failure to report all income, pay all tax, and submit all required information returns, including FBARs, resulted from non-willful conduct; and (4) that the miscellaneous offshore penalty amount is accurate.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with IRS Form 14654 and Your Voluntary Disclosure Under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

If you wish to do the voluntary disclosure of your foreign accounts under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Despite the fact that SDOP only appeared last June and IRS Form 14654 was created at the end of August of 2014, our international tax law firm has already completed SDOP disclosures for a number of our clients, and we can also help you.

Contact Us NOW to Schedule Your Initial Consultation! Remember, contact Sherayzen Law Office is Confidential!

Lebanon FATCA Note: Is the “Switzerland of Middle East” in the Crosshair of FATCA?

This Lebanon FATCA update is intended to provide a broad analysis of the impact of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) on the numerous U.S. accountholders in Lebanon.

Lebanon FATCA: Background Information

The Lebanese banking secrecy rules, commonly known as the “1956 Law”, have earned the country the unofficial title of the “Switzerland of the Middle East”. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 U.S. taxpayers took advantage of the 1956 law and opened foreign bank and financial accounts in Lebanon.

Lebanon FATCA: Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act Threatens the 1956 Law

The UBS case in 2008 became a crucial turning point in global tax compliance, because, for the first time, the US was able to leverage its economic might to break through the wall of bank secrecy in the country which, until recently, was synonymous with bank secrecy.

Encouraged by the crucial success over UBS in 2008, the IRS and U.S. Congress took an unprecedented step in international tax compliance with the passage of FATCA in 2010. FATCA is not just another law, but a new global standard for the international tax transparency which endangered all U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts.

One of the unique aspects of FATCA is that it requires foreign financial institutions (“FFIs”) to report directly or indirectly to the IRS all bank and financial accounts held by their U.S. customers. In essence, it turned foreign banks into the agents of the IRS compliance effort.

While FATCA requires legislative adjustments in many countries, in Lebanon, FATCA ran counter to the spirit and letter of the 1956 Law.

Lebanon FATCA: Initial and Subsequent Reaction in Lebanon

At first, the reaction of the Lebanese banks was very negative with even talk of accepting the 30% tax withholding requirement imposed by FATCA. As late as the first quarter of 2012, Lebanon was considered as one of the potentially most vexatious non-compliant countries.

By April of 2012, however, the attitude of the Lebanese banks and Lebanese financial authorities began to change rapidly. In February of 2013, the head of Lebanon’s banking association stated that the Lebanese banks will cooperate with FATCA.

At the present time, all major Lebanese Banks (such as Bank Audi, Blom Bank, Bank of Beirut and so on) are in the process of implementing FATCA regulations. Given the another unprecedented step by the U.S. government – voluntary disclosure program for banks in Switzerland – it is expected that the Lebanese Banks (as the example of Bank of Beirut demonstrated) will strive to implement FATCA as fast as posssible.

Lebanon FATCA: What Does FATCA Compliance Mean for U.S. Taxpayers with Undisclosed Accounts in Lebanon

The move of the Lebanese banks toward FATCA compliance has profound consequences for all U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank and financial accounts in Lebanon even though the exact impact is not likely to be felt in the same way by all U.S. accoundholders (due to the individual circumstances of each U.S. taxpayer).

At this point, these U.S. taxpayers with Lebanese accounts should understand that their account information is likely to be reported by the Lebanese banks to the IRS within a fairly short time (it is hard to state it exactly and some of the account information may have already been disclosed, but I would expect the Lebanon FATCA compliance to be firmly implemented by the end of 2014 or early 2015). This development is likely to have two major effects on U.S. taxpayers. First, the U.S. accountholders whose information will be disclosed to the IRS are not going to be able to enter the OVDP (unless there is a specific exception or a chance in the OVDP rules), which is the official IRS voluntary disclosure program for offshore accounts.

Second, once the IRS follows up on the information that it receives from the Lebanese banks (i.e. opens up an investigation), these taxpayers are likely to suffer from the imposition of the draconian FBAR willful penalties. Criminal penalties, including jail time, are also possible. See this article for a more detailed explanation of the FBAR penalties.

Thus, the implementation of FATCA in Lebanon means the end of 1956 Law and Lebanese Bank Secrecy for U.S. taxpayers. It also means that the U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed Lebanese accounts are currently in a very dangerous position and may face heavy penalties.

Lebanon FATCA: U.S. Taxpayers with Undisclosed Accounts in Lebanon Should Explore their Voluntary Disclosure Options As Soon As Possible

With the implementation of FATCA in Lebanon, U.S. taxpayers have to act fast if they want to reduce or avoid IRS penalties. This is why they should consult an experienced international tax attorney who specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures as soon as possible.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Legal and Tax Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Lebanese Bank and Financial Accounts

If you have undisclosed bank or financial accounts in Lebanon, contact the offshore voluntary disclosure experts of Sherayzen Law Office now. Our experienced international tax law firm will thoroughly analyze your case, advise on the available voluntary disclosure options, prepare all necessary tax forms and legal documents, and professionally represent your interests through the IRS voluntary disclosure process.