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October 15 2018 Deadline for FBARs and Tax Returns | US Tax Law Firm

With just a week left before October 15 2018 deadline, it is important for US taxpayers to remember what they need to file with respect to their income tax obligations and information returns. I will concentrate today on four main requirements for US tax residents.

1. October 15 2018 Deadline for Federal Tax Returns and Most State Tax Returns

US taxpayers need to file their extended 2017 federal tax returns and most state tax returns by October 15, 2018. Some states (like Virginia) have a later filing deadline. In other words, US taxpayers need to disclose their worldwide income to the IRS by October 15 2018 deadline. The worldwide income includes all US-source income, foreign interest income, foreign dividend income, foreign trust distributions, PFIC income, et cetera.

2. October 15 2018 Deadline for Forms 5471, 8858, 8865, 8938 and Other International Information Returns Filed with US Tax Returns

In addition to their worldwide income, US taxpayers also may need to file numerous international information returns with their US tax returns. The primary three categories of these returns are: (a) returns concerning foreign business ownership (Forms 5471, 8858 and 8865); (b) PFIC Forms 8621 – this is really a hybrid form (i.e. it requires a mix of income tax and information reporting); and (c) Form 8938 concerning Specified Foreign Financial Assets. Other information returns may need to be filed by this deadline; I am only listing the most common ones.

3. October 15 2018 Deadline for FBARs

As a result of the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, the due date of FinCEN Form 114, The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (also known as “FBAR”) was adjusted (starting tax year 2016) to the tax return deadline. Similarly to tax returns, the deadline for FBAR filing can also be extended to October 15; in fact, under the current law, the FBAR extension is automatic. Hence, October 15 2018 deadline applies to all 2017 FBARs which have not been filed by April 15, 2018.

The importance of filing this form cannot be overstated. The FBAR penalties are truly draconian even if they are mitigated by the IRS rules. Moreover, an intentional failure to file the form by October 15 2018 may have severe repercussions to your offshore voluntary disclosure options.

4. October 15 2018 Deadline for Foreign Trust Beneficiaries and Grantors

October 15 2018 deadline is also very important to US beneficiaries and US grantors (including deemed owners) of a foreign trust – the extended Form 3520 is due on this date. Similarly to FBAR, while Form 3520 is not filed with your US tax return, it follows the same deadlines as your income tax return.

Unlike FBARs, however, Form 3520 does not receive an automatic extension independent of whether you extended your tax return. Rather, its April 15 deadline can only be extended if your US income tax return was also extended.

Sherayzen Law Office warns US taxpayers that a failure to file 2017 Form 3520 by October 15 2018 deadline may result in the imposition of high IRS penalties.

EU Automatic Exchange of Banking and Beneficial Ownership Data Approved

On November 22, 2016, the European Parliament approved the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership data across the European Union. The directive received an overwhelming support from the Parliament: 590 members voted “yes”, 32 – “no”, and 64 did not vote.

Since the original proposal was already approved by the EU Council on November 8, 2016, the only issue left before the directive will come into force will be the final adoption of the directive by EU Council. Once the directive on the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership data is adopted by the Council, the member states will have until December 31, 2017, to implement it.

The directive represents a major undertaking with respect to the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership data. Once it is adopted, the directive will allow tax authorities of every EU member state to automatically share the banking information such as account balances, interest income and dividends. Moreover, the directive also requires the EU member states to create registers recording the beneficial ownership of companies and trusts. This means that the tax authorities of all EU member states will finally acquire access to the information regarding the true beneficiaries of foreign trusts and opaque corporate structures.

The idea behind the new legislation on the automatic exchanges of banking and beneficial ownership data is to provide the EU member states with tools to fight cross-border fraud and tax evasion, preserving the integrity of their domestic tax systems.

However, it appears that there are still serious implementation issues with respect to the new directive. The most serious problem is that the directive merely allows the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership date in the EU, but it does not obligate the member states to do so. Furthermore, the banking industry’s role in the facilitation of tax evasion is not addressed at all by the legislature.

After the directive on the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership date is adopted, the European Parliament is going to take up the legislation to provide for a cross-border method for accessing the shared information.

An interesting question for US taxpayers is whether any of the information acquired through the EU sharing mechanism will be shared with the IRS through FATCA. The likelihood of this scenario is fairly strong and may further expose noncompliant US taxpayers to IRS detection.

Indian FATCA Letters

As the FATCA deadline to report Indian preexisting accounts approaches for Indian foreign financial institutions, more and more Indian-Americans and Indians who live and work in the United States receive Indian FATCA Letters (i.e. FATCA letters from Indian foreign financial institutions).

Many U.S. taxpayers of Indian origin are completely unprepared for Indian FATCA Letters and do not understand what they need to do. In this article, I would like to discuss the origin and purpose of Indian FATCA Letters as well as what you should do if you received such a letter.

Indian FATCA Letters

Indian FATCA Letters are the tools used by Indian foreign financial institutions to comply with their FATCA obligations. Since its enaction into law in 2010, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) has had a tremendous impact on global tax information exchange, forcing foreign financial institutions from more than 110 jurisdictions to comply with FATCA provisions.

One of the most prominent aspects of FATCA is the fact that it forces foreign financial institutions to report (directly or indirectly) certain information regarding U.S. owners of foreign bank and financial accounts. In essence, foreign financial institutions around the world are now forced to play the role of IRS informants, actively spying and turning over information regarding foreign financial activities of U.S. taxpayers to the IRS.

FATCA is implemented worldwide through a network of bilateral treaties. India signed such a treaty which came into force on August 31, 2015, forcing Indian foreign financial institutions to adopt FATCA-compliant procedures.

Indian FATCA Letters represent this compliance effort by Indian foreign financial institutions. In particular, Indian FATCA Letters are designed to collect various information required by FATCA, such as: the name and address of a U.S. taxpayer, the tax identification number of a U.S. taxpayer, and other information required to determine the U.S. tax status of the accountholder.

Indian FATCA Letters and Undisclosed Indian Bank and Financial Accounts

Indian FATCA Letters may have profound impact on U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank and financial accounts in India. First of all, Indian FATCA Letters automatically establish the awareness of U.S. tax requirements on the part of U.S. taxpayers – i.e. after receiving these letters, the taxpayers must take prudent steps to assure current and future U.S. tax compliance if they wish to avoid willful noncompliance with consequent imposition of heavy IRS penalties. This is especially important for taxpayers who receive Indian FATCA letters right before the tax return and FBAR filing deadlines.

Second, Indian FATCA Letters “start the clock” for U.S. taxpayers who wish to do voluntary disclosure. This is done in two ways – direct and indirect.

The direct impact of Indian FATCA Letters is the FATCA requirement that foreign financial institutions report the required FATCA information to the IRS with respect to their U.S. (or suspected U.S.) accountholders within certain limited period of time. If the taxpayer refuses to answer his Indian FATCA Letters, the financial institutions will report him to the IRS as a “recalcitrant” taxpayer. This, in turn, may lead to a subsequent IRS examination which may deprive the taxpayer of the ability to take advantage of any type of a voluntary disclosure option.

The indirect impact of Indian FATCA Letters is linked to the “knowledge” issue described above – Indian FATCA Letters start the clock for the taxpayers to do their voluntary disclosure. If they do not do it within reasonable period of time (which may differ depending on circumstances), the IRS may proceed based on the assumption that prior noncompliance with U.S. tax requirements by the procrastinating taxpayers was willful.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Received Indian FATCA Letters

If you received one or more Indian FATCA Letters from foreign financial institutions, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our experienced legal team is led by one of the leading experts in offshore voluntary disclosures in the world – attorney Eugene Sherayzen. He will personally analyze your situation, advise you with respect to your FATCA Letter, and develop your voluntary disclosure strategy. Then, our legal team will implement this strategy, including the preparation of all required tax forms.

Call Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Privatbank Von Graffenried AG Signs Non-Prosecution Agreement

On July 2, 2015, the US Department of Justice announced that Privatbank Von Graffenried AG became the fifteenth bank to sign a Non-Prosecution Agreement under the DOJ’s Swiss Bank Program. It also became the 27th bank on the 50% penalty list for US taxpayers who wish to enter the OVDP.

Background Information

Von Graffenried is a private bank founded in 1992 and based in Bern, Switzerland. Starting in at least July 1998, Von Graffenried, through certain practices, assisted U.S. taxpayer-clients in evading their U.S. tax obligations, filing false federal tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and otherwise hiding assets maintained overseas from the IRS.

Von Graffenried opened and maintained undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers when it knew or should have known that, by doing so, it was helping these U.S. taxpayers violate their legal duties. Von Graffenried offered a variety of traditional Swiss banking services that it knew could assist, and that did assist, U.S. clients in the concealment of assets and income from the IRS. For example, Von Graffenried would hold all mail correspondence, including periodic statements and written communications for client review, thereby keeping documents reflecting the existence of the accounts outside the United States. Von Graffenried also offered numbered account services, replacing the accountholder’s identity with a number on bank statements and other documentation that was sent to the client.

In late 2008 and early 2009, Von Graffenried accepted accounts from two European nationals residing in the United States who had been forced to leave UBS and Credit Suisse, respectively. At the time it accepted the accounts, Von Graffenried knew that UBS was the target of an investigation by the Department of Justice. It also knew that both individuals had been forced to leave their respective banks because the banks were closing their accounts, and that both individuals had U.S. tax obligations and did not want the accounts disclosed to U.S. authorities. Senior management at Von Graffenried approved the opening of these accounts.

When Von Graffenried compliance personnel sought to obtain an IRS Form 8802, Application for U.S. Residency Certification, from one of the accountholders, that accountholder replied that completing the form would be problematic for him and that he believed the relationship manager knew why. The beneficial owner of the second account was referred by an external fiduciary, who handled the account at Credit Suisse. The fiduciary told a Von Graffenried relationship manager that Credit Suisse was attempting to exit its U.S. offshore clients to other banks if the clients would not sign an IRS Form W-9. The relationship manager agreed to take on the account, which was held by a Liechtenstein “stiftung,” or foundation, with the beneficial owner as the primary beneficiary and U.S. citizens as other beneficiaries.

Between July 1998 and July 2000, Von Graffenried accepted approximately two dozen accounts from a specific external asset manager. Von Graffenried was aware that the external asset manager seemed to be targeting U.S. clientele. Sixteen of the accounts were beneficially owned by individuals with U.S. tax and reporting obligations, and most of those accounts were held by U.S. citizens residing in the United States. At the time, Von Graffenried did not have a policy in place that required U.S. clients to show tax compliance. Consequently, Von Graffenried accepted these accounts without obtaining IRS Forms W-9 or assurances that the accounts were in fact tax compliant. By early 2009, Von Graffenried determined that some of the external asset manager’s accountholders likely were attempting to evade U.S. tax requirements. In 2010, Von Graffenried began to close the existing U.S.-related accounts that originated with the external asset manager. Von Graffenried did not complete the exit process for these accounts until late 2012.

Non-Prosecution Agreement with DOJ

According to the terms of the non-prosecution agreement signed on July 2, 2015, Von Graffenried agreed to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings, demonstrate its implementation of controls to stop misconduct involving undeclared U.S. accounts and pay penalties in return for the department’s agreement not to prosecute Von Graffenried for tax-related criminal offenses.

Since August 1, 2008, Von Graffenried held a total of 58 U.S.-related accounts with approximately $459 million in assets. Von Graffenried will pay a penalty of $287,000.

In accordance with the terms of the Swiss Bank Program, Von Graffenried mitigated its penalty by encouraging U.S. accountholders to come into compliance with their U.S. tax and disclosure obligations.

Consequences for US Taxpayers With Undisclosed Accounts at Von Graffenried

There are two major consequences (for US taxpayers with undisclosed accounts) of the Von Graffenried’s participation in the Swiss Bank Program. First, as it was mentioned above, if such taxpayers with undisclosed financial accounts at Von Graffenried wish to enter the 2014 IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Penalty, their penalty rate will now go up to 50% of the highest value of the accounts.

Second, as part of its participation in the Swiss Bank Program, Von Graffenried also had provided to the IRS certain account information related to U.S. taxpayers that will enable the IRS to make requests under the 1996 Convention between the United States of America and the Swiss Confederation for the Avoidance of Double Taxation with Respect to Taxes on Income for, among other things, the identities of U.S. accountholders. If the IRS is successful, then, these accountholders are likely to be rejected from the OVDP participation and may face draconian civil and criminal FBAR and income tax penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

The number of banks which are coming forward to disclose their US clients’ accounts is growing rapidly with each passing month. Moreover, the great majority of the banks worldwide are also attempting to comply with various FATCA requirements.

This means that the longer US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts wait, the more likely it is that their situation will worsen. The risk of the IRS discovery is higher today than ever before, and the consequences of such a discovery may be truly grisly.

This is why, if you have undisclosed foreign accounts or any other assets, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our professional legal team is highly experienced in handling all types of offshore voluntary disclosures. We can handle the entire process of your voluntary disclosure from the beginning to the end, including the preparation of all tax forms and legal documents.

So, Contact Us Now to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation Now! We Can Help You!

HSBC FATCA Letter

In a previous article, I explained why FATCA Letters mark a critical event for the voluntary disclosure process of a US taxpayer with undisclosed foreign accounts. While I mentioned that the content of a FATCA letter is usually more or less the same, I emphasized that the actual format of a FATCA letter may differ dramatically from bank to bank. With this article, I am starting a series of article devoted to various FATCA letter formats adopted by various banks around the world. Today, I wish to concentrate on the HSBC FATCA Letter.

HSBC FATCA Letter: General Format

HSBC FATCA Letter follows what I call a “reference format”. Unlike the “comprehensive format” usually followed by FATCA letters issued by Swiss banks, the reference format of the HSBC FATCA Letter means that the HSBC FATCA Letter is fairly concise but it references (hence the name) various forms that need to be completed by the HSBC customers.

Basically, this means that the HSBC FATCA Letter itself does not ask any questions, but it acts as kind of a checklist for various supplementary forms that need to be completed by the account holder in order to provide the bank with the information necessary for its own FATCA compliance. Failure to provide such information would result in the bank classifying the US taxpayer as a “recalcitrant account holder”.

An interesting aspect about the format that the HSBC FATCA Letter follows is that some (but not all) of the supplementary forms were developed and modified by the bank for the sole purpose of FATCA compliance. Thus, there are two types of supplementary forms that are referenced by HSBC FATCA letter: US standard forms (W-8, W-9, et cetera) and proprietary forms developed by the HSBC itself (SW, S1, S3, et cetera).

HSBC FATCA Letter: US Supplementary Forms

Similar to every FATCA letter issued by other banks around the world, HSBC FATCA letter references the main relevant forms developed by the US government – Form W8 (usually, W8BEN) and Form W9. Form W9 is of course the critical form that must be provided to a foreign bank in order to verify the US taxpayer’s social security number. Form W8, on the other hand, provides the critical information for the foreign bank for the purpose of tax withholding under relevant tax treaties. It also allows the bank to indirectly confirm the account holder’s non-US tax status.

HSBC FATCA Letter: Proprietary Forms Developed by HSBC

HSBC FATCA letter references a variety of forms developed or modified by HSBC according to FATCA requirements. The most common documents are S1, S2 and S3. Form S1 is basically asks for a government-issued ID establishing non-US status. Form S2 is a copy of Individual Certification of Loss of Nationality (again for establishing the Non-US Citizenship status) which is very relevant in the limited 9(though, rapidly growing) situation where a US taxpayer gives up his US citizenship.

Form S3 is one of the most important forms referenced by the HSBC FATCA letter. Officially titled as “Explanation of a US address and/or US Phone Number”, Form S-1 requires a fairly intrusive explanation of whether the account holder has US phone number and US telephone address, and why. What is very interesting about Form S3 issued by HSBC is that it requires the taxpayer to make a detailed determination whether the substantial presence test has been met. It even contains a fairly detailed explanation of the test itself.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with HSBC FATCA Letter

If you have undisclosed bank accounts with HSBC (whether Hong Kong, India, or any other country except the United States itself), you should immediately begin the exploration of your voluntary disclosure options before HSBC discloses your account to the IRS.

This is why you will need the professional help of Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an experienced international tax lawyer who already has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with respect to their US tax compliance. We can also help you!

Contact US to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation Now!