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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.

US Tax Return Statute of Limitations and IRC Section 6501(c)(8)

Most tax practitioners are familiar with the general rules of assessment statute of limitation for US tax returns. However, very few of them are aware of the danger of potentially indefinite extension of the statute of limitations contained in IRC Section 6501(c)(8). In this article, I would like to do offer a succinct observation of the impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) on the US tax return Statute of Limitations as well as your offshore voluntary disclosure strategy.

Background Information

While IRC Section 6501(c)(8) has existed for a while, its present language came into existence as a result of the infamous HIRE act (the same that gave birth to FATCA) in 2010. The major amendments came from PL 111-147 and PL 111-226.

When IRC Section 6501(c)(8) Applies

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) applies when there has been a failure to by the taxpayer to supply one or more accurate foreign information return(s) with respect to reporting of certain foreign assets and foreign-related transactions under IRC Sections 1295(b), 1298(f), 6038, 6038A, 6038B, 6038D, 6046, 6046A and 6048. In essence, it means IRC Section 6501(c)(8) applies whenever the taxpayer fails to file Forms 8621, 5471, 5472, 926, 3520, 3520-A, 8865, 8858 and 8938 (and potentially other forms). In essence, this Section comes into play with respect to virtually all major international tax reporting requirements, with the exception of FBAR (which is governed by its own Title 31 Statute of Limitations provisions).

It is important to emphasize that it is not just the failure to file these international tax returns that triggers IRC Section 6501(c)(8). Rather, most international tax attorneys agree that, if the filed international tax returns are inaccurate or incomplete, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) still applies.

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) only applies to the returns filed after the date of the enactment of the provisions that amended the section – March 18, 2010. The Section also applies to returns filed on or before March 18, 2010 if the statute of limitations under Section 6501 (without regard to the amendments) has not expired as of March 18, 2010.

The Impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) On the Statute of Limitations

As amended by PL 111-147 and PL 111-226, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) may have a truly monstrous effect on the statute of limitations for the entire affected tax return – a failure to file any of the aforementioned international tax forms (including a failure to provide accurate and complete information) will keep the statute of limitations open indefinitely with respect to “any tax return, even, or period to which such information relates”.

Thus, a failure to file a foreign information return may keep the statute of limitations open forever for the entire tax return, not just that particular foreign information return. This means that the IRS can potentially audit a taxpayer’s return and assess additional taxes outside of the usual statute of limitations period; the IRS changes can affect any item on the US tax return, not just the items on the foreign information return.

Reasonable Cause Exception to the “Entire Case” Rule

IRC Section 6501(c)(8)(B) provides a limited exception to the “entire case” rule. Where a taxpayer establishes that the failure ot file an accurate international information return was due to a reasonable cause and not willful neglect, only the international tax forms will be subject to indefinite statute of limitations and not the entire return.

Impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) on Your Voluntary Disclosure Strategy

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) may have a significant impact on the voluntary disclosure strategy where multiple international tax forms need to be filed. In these cases, the taxpayers are more likely to go into Streamlined disclosures or 2014 OVDP rather than attempt doing a reasonable cause disclosure.

This is the case because this indefinite statute of limitations may undermine a reasonable cause strategy if the disclosure period does not coincide with the years in which the international tax returns were due. For example, let’s suppose that US citizen X owned PFICs during the years 2008-2014, but he never filed Forms 8621 even though they were required. If X decides to do a reasonable cause disclosure and files amended 2012-2014 tax returns only, then, the years 2008-2011 will still be open to an IRS audit (though, if X successfully establishes reasonable cause for the earlier non-filing, only Forms 8621 will be subject to an IRS audit). In this case, X may have to make a choice between an unpleasant filing of amended 2008-2011 tax return or doing a Streamlined disclosure.

Obviously, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) is just one factor in what could be a very complex maze of pros and cons of a distinct voluntary disclosure strategy. Other factors need to be taken into effect in determining, including whether the financials were disclosed on the FBAR and Form 8938 and the amounts of underreported income (which may actually keep the statute of limitations open for the years 2009-2011 as well).

These types of decisions need to be made carefully by a tax professional on a case-by-case basis with detailed analysis of the facts and potential legal strategies; I strongly recommend retaining an experienced tax attorney for the creation and implementation of your voluntary disclosure strategy.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Delinquent International Tax Forms

If you have not filed international tax forms and you were required to do so, you should contact the professional international tax team of Sherayzen Law Office. Our team is lead by an experienced international tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, and has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their US tax affairs into fully US tax compliance.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Higher OVDP Penalties May Affect More US Taxpayers

As of August 25, 2015, and as a result of increasing number of DOJ Swiss Bank Program Non-Prosecution agreements, 2015, higher OVDP penalties (50 %) apply to US account holders of 43 banks. Between August 1 and August 20, 2015, six more banks were added to the 50% penalty list. In this article, I would like to discuss this trend of higher OVDP penalties and analyze how it affects US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts.

2014 OVDP Background

The 2014 IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) is a sequel to at least six prior voluntary disclosure initiatives since 2003. In reality, 2014 OVDP most closely resembles 2012 OVDP, but there are some crucial differences between 2014 OVDP and 2012 OVDP.

2012 OVDP was a voluntary disclosure program created by the IRS to allow U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts to come forward and settle their US tax problems related to foreign accounts under specific terms. The biggest advantage to participating in the 2012 OVDP (and it remains the same for 2014 OVDP) was the reduction of civil penalties (especially in a willful situation) and avoidance of criminal liability.

Over the years, the offshore voluntary disclosure programs have gotten more and more demanding in terms of information that needed to be submitted by the participating taxpayers and penalties that needed to be paid. Since 2012 OVDP never considered the difference between willful and non-willful taxpayers, many international tax lawyers considered it unfair for non-willful taxpayers to participate in the OVDP.

Learning from these experiences, the IRS realized that it could get better and more widespread compliance if it is able to effectively process non-willful taxpayers while, at the same time, imposing harsher penalties on willful taxpayers. Hence, the IRS implemented dramatic changes to the 2012 OVDP; from these changes, the Streamlined Options and 2014 OVDP with higher OVDP penalties were born.

Higher OVDP Penalties under 2014 OVDP

Since most of the non-willful taxpayers were likely to follow the Streamlined options, the IRS felt that it could impose higher OVDP penalties on the more stubborn willful taxpayers, particularly taxpayers with undisclosed Swiss accounts who did not heed the IRS warnings and did not enter the 2014 OVDP timely.

From this desire, the dual-tier OVDP penalty system was born. The first tier imposes a regular 27.5% (of the” OVDP penalty base”) penalty if the foreign accounts of US taxpayers who entered the OVDP program were not held in the banks on the IRS list. Also, there was a limited opportunity to enter the OVDP at 27.5% penalty rate even the “listed” foreign bank accounts if the taxpayer filed the preclearance request prior to August 4, 2014.

The second tier imposes higher OVDP penalties of 50% if the taxpayer filed the preclearance request after August 4, 2014, and the foreign accounts were held at a bank which is on the IRS list of foreign banks/facilitators.

DOJ Swiss Bank Program and the Expansion of the IRS List of Foreign Banks/ Facilitators

Initially, the IRS List of Foreign Banks consisted of a dozen banks already under investigation as of June 18, 2014, which included such big names as UBS, Credit Swiss, Zurcher Kantonalbank, et cetera. This means that higher OVDP penalties were imposed on US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts at these banks if these taxpayers did not file the preclearance request timely.

On August 29, 2013, the US Department of Justice announced an unprecedented initiative – The Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks (“Swiss Bank Program”) – which was intended to allow Swiss banks avoid DOJ prosecution in exchange for disclosure of their non-compliant US account holders and payment of monetary penalties. In essence, this was a voluntary disclosure program for Swiss banks similar to OVDP for US individuals (and, similarly to higher OVDP penalties, the Swiss Bank Program also had its own graduated scale of penalties).

More than one hundred Swiss banks decided to participate in the DOJ Swiss Bank Program and complied with December 31, 2013 filing deadline. Starting March of 2015, the Swiss Bank Program entered its final stage in which the DOJ and the Swiss banks entered into individualized Non-Prosecution Agreement.

As these banks enter into the Non-Prosecution Agreements, the IRS adds each bank to the IRS List of Foreign Banks. This directly results in higher OVDP penalties for US taxpayers who owned foreign accounts at the “listed” banks and did not file the OVDP preclearance requests prior to the relevant Non-Prosecution Agreement.

As of August 26, 2015, this list consists virtually exclusively of Swiss banks and includes 43 foreign banks:

UBS AG
Credit Suisse AG, Credit Suisse Fides, and Clariden Leu Ltd.
Wegelin & Co.
Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG
Zurcher Kantonalbank
swisspartners Investment Network AG, swisspartners Wealth Management AG, swisspartners Insurance Company SPC Ltd., and swisspartners Versicherung AG
CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank Limited, its predecessors, subsidiaries, and affiliates
Stanford International Bank, Ltd., Stanford Group Company, and Stanford Trust Company, Ltd.
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited in India (HSBC India)
The Bank of N.T. Butterfield & Son Limited (also known as Butterfield Bank and Bank of Butterfield), its predecessors, subsidiaries, and affiliates
Sovereign Management & Legal, Ltd., its predecessors, subsidiaries, and affiliates (effective 12/19/14)
Bank Leumi le-Israel B.M., The Bank Leumi le-Israel Trust Company Ltd, Bank Leumi (Luxembourg) S.A., Leumi Private Bank S.A., and Bank Leumi USA (effective 12/22/14)
BSI SA (effective 3/30/15)
Vadian Bank AG (effective 5/8/15)
Finter Bank Zurich AG (effective 5/15/15)
Societe Generale Private Banking (Lugano-Svizzera) SA (effective 5/28/15)
MediBank AG (effective 5/28/15)
LBBW (Schweiz) AG (effective 5/28/15)
Scobag Privatbank AG (effective 5/28/15)
Rothschild Bank AG (effective 6/3/15)
Banca Credinvest SA (effective 6/3/15)
Societe Generale Private Banking (Suisse) SA (effective 6/9/15)
Berner Kantonalbank AG (effective 6/9/15)
Bank Linth LLB AG (effective 6/19/15)
Bank Sparhafen Zurich AG (effective 6/19/15)
Ersparniskasse Schaffhausen AG (effective 6/26/15)
Privatbank Von Graffenried AG (effective 7/2/15)
Banque Pasche SA (effective 7/9/15)
ARVEST Privatbank AG (effective 7/9/15)
Mercantil Bank (Schweiz) AG (effective 7/16/15)
Banque Cantonale Neuchateloise (effective 7/16/15)
Nidwaldner Kantonalbank (effective 7/16/15)
SB Saanen Bank AG (effective 7/23/15)
Privatbank Bellerive AG (effective 7/23/15)
PKB Privatbank AG (effective 7/30/15)
Falcon Private Bank AG (effective 7/30/15)
Credito Privato Commerciale in liquidazione SA (effective 7/30/15)
Bank EKI Genossenschaft (effective 8/3/15)
Privatbank Reichmuth & Co. (effective 8/6/15)
Banque Cantonale du Jura SA (effective 8/6/15)
Banca Intermobiliare di Investimenti e Gestioni (Suisse) SA (effective 8/6/15)
bank zweiplus ag (effective 8/20/15)
Banca dello Stato del Cantone Ticino (effective 8/20/15)

Possible Future Scenario: Higher OVDP Penalties for Non-Swiss Bank Accounts?

Given the success of the Swiss Bank Program, I expect that this experience maybe applied by the IRS in another country and even worldwide. If this happens, higher OVDP penalties may affect a larger percentage of US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts outside of Switzerland. Israel, Singapore, the Caribbean islands (e.g. the Cayman Islands) and other tax shelter and low-tax jurisdictions are all good candidates for the expansion of the Swiss Bank Program.

Impact on US Taxpayers

Given the continuous expansion of the IRS List of Foreign Banks (as a result of Swiss Bank Program Resolutions), more and more US taxpayers are likely to be affected by the higher OVDP penalties. Moreover, in light of the potential expansion of the Swiss Bank Program to other countries, it is very likely that higher OVDP penalties will commence to impact more US taxpayers with non-Swiss foreign accounts. Finally, there is a possibility that the almost worldwide implementation of FATCA may lead to higher OVDP penalties in the future.

Thus, in light of these developments, US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts should contact an experienced international tax attorney to review their offshore voluntary disclosure options. Failure to do so may lead not only to higher OVDP penalties down the road, but also to the total loss of the possibility of doing a voluntary disclosure (for example, if the IRS commences an investigation) and imposition of willful FBAR penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

This is why you should contact the experienced legal team of Sherayzen Law Office lead by the founder of the firm – Eugene Sherayzen, Esq. Mr. Sherayzen is a highly experienced international tax attorney who has helped hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide to bring their US tax affairs in full compliance with US tax laws. He can help you!

Swiss Bank Program Update: Bank Zweiplus and Banca Stato del Cantone Ticino

On August 20, 2015, the US Department of Justice announced another Swiss Bank Program update – Bank Zweiplus AG (Bank Zweiplus) and Banca dello Stato del Cantone Ticino (Banca Stato) have reached resolutions under the department’s Swiss Bank Program.

The Swiss Bank Program, which was announced on August 29, 2013, provides a path for Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal liabilities in the United States. Swiss banks eligible to enter the program were required to advise the department by December 31, 2013, that they had reason to believe that they had committed tax-related criminal offenses in connection with undeclared U.S.-related accounts. Banks already under criminal investigation related to their Swiss-banking activities and all individuals were expressly excluded from the program.

Swiss Bank Program Update: Bank Zweiplus Background and Non-Prosecution Agreement

As part of its Swiss Bank Program Update, the DOJ provided various background information regarding Bank Zweiplus. The Bank was founded in July 2008 as a retail bank based in Zurich. Offices located in Geneva and Basel, Switzerland, were closed in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Since Aug. 1, 2008, Bank Zweiplus maintained and serviced 44 U.S.-related accounts with an aggregate value of approximately $12.1 million.

Bank Zweiplus was aware that U.S. taxpayers have a legal duty to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) their ownership of bank accounts outside the United States and to pay taxes on income earned in such accounts. Nevertheless, in disregard of U.S. laws, the bank provided a variety of traditional Swiss banking services that assisted some U.S. taxpayers in concealing their undeclared accounts. For example, Bank Zweiplus maintained numbered accounts and accounts held in the name of structures which were effectively owned or controlled by U.S. persons, including structures in the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.

Bank Zweiplus cooperated with the department during its participation in the Swiss Bank Program and encouraged its U.S. clients to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program. Bank Zweiplus will pay a penalty of $1.089 million.

Swiss Bank Program Update: Banca Stato Background and Non-Prosecution Agreement

As part of its Swiss Bank Program Update, the DOJ provided various background information regarding Banca Stato. Banca Stato was established in 1915 and is headquartered in Bellinzona, Switzerland. Banca Stato was aware that U.S. taxpayers had a legal duty to report to the IRS and pay taxes on the basis of all of their income, including income earned in accounts that the U.S. taxpayers maintained at the bank. Despite this, the bank opened and serviced accounts for U.S. clients who the bank knew or had reason to know were not complying with their U.S. income tax obligations.

During the applicable period, Banca Stato maintained and serviced 187 U.S.-related accounts with an aggregate maximum balance of approximately $137 million. Banca Stato will pay a penalty of $3.393 million.

Impact of this Swiss Bank Program Update on US Taxpayers

Starting August 20, 2015, noncompliant U.S. accountholders at Bank Zweiplus and Banca Stato must now pay that 50 percent penalty to the IRS if they wish to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

Follow this link to the DOJ website for more information on this Swiss Bank Program Update.

Guilty Plea for Failure to Report Income from Undeclared UBS Account

On October 20, 2014, the Justice Department and the IRS announced that Menashe Cohen pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire to filing a false federal income tax return for tax year 2009. In addition, Mr. Cohen has agreed to resolve his civil liability for failure to report his financial interest in the undeclared UBS account on a FBAR by paying a 50 percent civil penalty to the IRS based on the high balance of his ownership of the undeclared UBS account.

Main Facts of the Case

According to court documents, Mr. Cohen, an oriental carpet dealer, and his sister maintained an undeclared UBS account in Switzerland that had a balance of approximately $1.3 million. Mr. Cohen also maintained bank accounts in Israel and in Jersey, a British Crown dependency located in the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy, France. It appears that the defendant did report the Israeli and Jersey account on his 2009 FBAR, but he failed to report his financial interest in the undeclared UBS account in Switzerland. In total, for tax years 2006 through 2009, Cohen failed to report approximately $170,000 in income earned from offshore bank accounts.

The actual guilty plea, however, is related only to the 2009 tax return where Mr. Cohen reported only $350 in interest income, when in fact he had received approximately $66,500 in interest from his undeclared UBS account.

Mr. Cohen faces a statutory potential maximum sentence of three years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 at his January 26, 2015, sentencing.

Case Highlights

Mr. Cohen’s case is actually quite troubling because it involves a criminal pursuit of an owner with an undeclared UBS account even though many of the usual criminal facts are not present in the case.

There was no complex tax planning with an intention to conceal the ownership of the undeclared UBS account. The balance on the undeclared UBS account is on the milder side ($1.3 million is not a small amount of money, but the criminal cases tend to concentrate in the amount higher than $3 million); in this case, half of the undeclared UBS account was not even owned by Mr. Cohen, but his sister. Finally, the under-reported amount of interest from the undeclared UBS account was not such a large amount as to normally warrant criminal prosecution.

It appears that two factors steered this case toward criminal prosecution. First, partial FBAR reporting – the fact that Mr. Cohen reported two out of three accounts gave rise to the inference that he acted willfully with respect to his undeclared UBS account.

Second, it appears that the under-reporting of income might have involved all three accounts, not just the undeclared UBS account. If this was the case, then it might have a been a contributory factor in favor of the prosecution as well.

The Importance of the Case to Other Taxpayers With Undeclared Foreign Accounts

Mr. Cohen’s case with respect to his undeclared UBS account contains a strong warning to other US taxpayers with undeclared foreign accounts – it appears that the IRS is now willing to prosecute cases involving lower dollar amounts than in the past. While an undeclared UBS account has its special negative connotations in US tax enforcement, it does appear that there is a growing trend toward criminal prosecution of under-reported foreign income as long as the IRS is comfortable with being able to establish willfulness with respect to FBAR non-reporting.

This means that the taxpayers with balances under $1 million on their undeclared foreign accounts should not take the risk of criminal prosecution lightly. The exact probability of a criminal prosecution should be determined by an international tax lawyer based on the particular facts of a taxpayer’s case.

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

If you have undeclared foreign accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for legal and tax help. We are a team of highly experienced tax professionals who will thoroughly analyze, determine the proper path of your voluntary disclosure, and prepare all of the necessary legal and tax documents. Once your voluntary disclosure is filed, our international tax firm will be there to defend your case against the IRS.

Contact Us Now to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation.