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2018 Post-OVDP Options | Foreign Accounts IRS Lawyer & Attorney

In a previous article, I discussed the recent IRS announcement with respect to the closure of the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) on September 28, 2018. Today, I would like to predict the range of the 2018 post-OVDP options for offshore voluntary disclosures starting October of 2018.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Streamlined Compliance Procedures

As of October 1, 2018, the taxpayers will still be able to utilize the Streamlined Compliance Procedures to complete their voluntary disclosures with respect to their foreign income and foreign assets. This option will be available only to taxpayers who will be able to certify that their prior noncompliance with US international tax laws was non-willful.

There are two variations within the Streamlined Compliance Procedures that are available to taxpayers depending on their residency: Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”). I expect both options to be available on October 1, 2018 and even into 2019.

I should emphasize, however, that the existence of Streamlined Compliance Procedures is by no means assured in the future. As I have stated in the article that predicted the demise of the OVDP, there may be a point in the future (and it can be a near future – 2020 or 2021) when even these procedures will be affected. It is more likely that SFOP will survive for a longer period of time than SDOP.

The other issue with Streamlined Compliance Procedures is that some of the terms of this type of voluntary disclosures may change over time even if SDOP and SFOP will remain in place.

Nevertheless, the Streamlined Compliance Procedures is a very popular option.  In fact, according to the IRS, about 65,000 taxpayers have used it since its creation in 2014). This is a very high dis-incentive for the IRS to end this option.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures

I fully expect the Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures to be available as of October 1, 2018. In one form or another, this option has always existed within the IRS. First, it was an informal understanding of the IRS that, in the absence of income tax noncompliance and other aggravating factors, there would be no FBAR penalties. Then, this option was “codified” as FAQ #17 within the OVDP programs.

In 2014, the Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures became an independent option. Of course, now, this is a somewhat harsher option.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures

I expect that this option will continue to exist as of October 1, 2018. Similarly to FBAR, it used to be a part of various OVDPs as FAQ #18. Now, Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures is a separate option which requires a reasonable cause explanation.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: IRS-Criminal Investigation Voluntary Disclosure Program (CI-VDP)

This option has existed for a very long time; it just faded into obscurity during the existence of OVDP. Now, it will surge back to life as it becomes almost the default option for a voluntary disclosure for US taxpayers who willfully violated their US tax obligations. In fact, I now expect CI-VDP to become a very valuable voluntary disclosure option (similar to what it used to be prior to 2009 OVDP).

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Reasonable Cause “Noisy” Disclosures

Since Reasonable Cause Disclosures (a/k/a “Noisy Disclosures”) are based on statutory law and not on any IRS programs, I fully expect this voluntary disclosure option to be available on October 1, 2018.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Assets and Foreign Income

If you have been unable to comply with US international tax laws concerning the reporting of foreign assets (including foreign accounts) and foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leading international tax law firm in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures. Our highly specialized legal team, led by an international tax attorney Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with assets in close to 70 countries to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws.

We can Help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Credit Suisse and Italy Settle Dispute Over Undisclosed Offshore Accounts

On December 14, 2016, Credit Suisse and Italy settled their dispute over Credit Suisse undisclosed offshore accounts owned by Italian tax residents. The settlement between Credit Suisse and Italy was approved by a judge in Milan and obligates Credit Suisse to pay a total of 109.5 million euros – 101 million euros in taxes, interest and penalties; 7.5 million euros as a disgorgement of profits; and 1 million euros as an administrative penalty.

The settlement between Credit Suisse and Italy has ended an investigation by the Italian authorities into the bank’s involvement in helping Italians evade Italian taxes. The Italian government’s inquiry into the Credit Suisse’s role in Italian tax evasion appeared to be thorough and, at times, even combined with significant pressure. For example, in December of 2014, the Italian tax authorities raided the offices of a Credit Suisse’s subsidiary in Milan.

The agreement between Credit Suisse and Italy does not mean the end of the Italian tax authorities’ investigation of Italians with undisclosed offshore accounts. On the contrary, these activities will continue their relentless progress.

While a significant event, the settlement between Credit Suisse and Italy pales in comparison with the settlement between Credit Suisse and the US Department of Justice when Credit Suisse paid $2.6 billion.

Nevertheless, the settlement between Credit Suisse and Italy points to the continued global trend of increased focus on international tax compliance. The new trend really started with the IRS victory in the UBS case in 2008, gained steam with the 2009 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program and became worldwide with the passage of FATCA in 2010.

Countries throughout the world, including Italy, have followed the US lead in international tax enforcement. In fact, it appears that the European countries have gone further in some aspects than the United States, especially after the adoption of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS). While the United States refused to join CRS arguing that its revolutionary FATCA already achieved the same goals (and, thereby, effectively turning the United States into a tax shelter for nonresident aliens), the vast majority of the European countries adopted the CRS and applied unprecedented pressure on the financial industry to share the heretofore confidential information with various government tax authorities.

Switzerland has arguably felt more pressure than any other country in the world and has largely been forced to give up its much vaunted bank secrecy. After the US DOJ Program for Swiss Banks dealt the decisive blow to the Swiss bank secrecy laws, various European countries decided to take advantage of the Swiss banks’ defeat and swarmed into Switzerland to get their share of penalties and information regarding tax noncompliance of their own citizens. The recent settlement between Credit Suisse and Italy is just one more example of this continued European squeeze of the Swiss banks for money and information.

FBAR and Form 8938 Filings Continue to Grow

On March 15, 2016, the IRS announced that there was continuous growth in the FBAR and Form 8938 filings. While the IRS attributes this growth in FBAR and Form 8938 filings to the greater awareness of taxpayers, one cannot underestimate the impact of the FATCA letter and the increasing knowledge of foreign financial institutions with respect to U.S. tax reporting requirements.

Background Information for the FBAR and Form 8938 Filings

FBAR and Form 8938 are the main forms with respect to reporting of foreign financial accounts and (in the case of Form 8938) “other specified assets”. The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114 (commonly known as “FBAR”) should be filed by U.S. taxpayers to report a financial interest in or signatory authority over foreign financial accounts if the aggregate value of these accounts exceeds $10,000. This form is associated with draconian noncompliance penalties.

IRS Form 8938 was created by the famous Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”). Generally, U.S. citizens, resident aliens and certain non-resident aliens must report specified foreign financial assets on Form 8938 if the aggregate value of those assets exceeds the required thresholds (the lowest threshold is $50,000, but it varies by taxpayer). The noncompliance with respect to Form 8938 may result in additional penalties, including $10,000 per form.

IRS Registers Sustained Increase in the FBAR and Form 8938 Filings

Compliance with FBAR and, later, Form 8938 is one of the top priorities for the IRS according to the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Recent statistics with respect to the FBAR and Form 8938 filings support the conclusion that the IRS has been largely successful in achieving this task.

The IRS states that the FBAR filings have grown on average by 17 percent per year during the last five years, according to FinCEN data. In fact, in 2015, FinCEN received a record high 1,163,229 FBARs.

Similar, but far less successful trends can be seen with respect to Form 8938 filings. In 2011, the IRS received about 200,000 Forms 8938, but the number rose to 300,000 by the tax year 2013. However, it seems to have stagnated at the same number judging from the statistics for the tax year 2014.

While the lower number of Forms 8938 could be explained by the novelty of the form as well as higher thresholds, it appears that some Forms 8938 might not also be filed due to mistaken calculation of the asset base used to determine whether Form 8938 filing requirements were met.

Nevertheless, overall, it appears that the FBAR and Form 8938 filings have grown sufficiently for the IRS to be satisfied with its progress.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your FBAR and Form 8938 Filings

U.S. international tax law is incredibly complex and the penalties are excessively high. If you were supposed to file FBARs and Forms 8938 in the past, but you have not done so, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Mr. Sherayzen and his legal team will thoroughly analyze your case, assess your potential tax liabilities, determine the available voluntary disclosure options, and implement (including the preparation of all legal documents and tax forms) the voluntary disclosure option that fits your case best.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

BSI SA is the First Bank to Reach Resolution Under Swiss Bank Program

On March 30, 2015, the US Department of Justice announced that BSI SA, one of the 10 largest private banks in Switzerland, was the first bank to reach a resolution under the DOJ Swiss Bank Program.

Background Information

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 United States-related accounts. Banks already under criminal investigation related to their Swiss-banking activities and all individuals were expressly excluded from the program.

“Because of the department’s continuing efforts to root out offshore tax evasion, Swiss banks are operating much differently today than they did just a few years ago, and the department’s Swiss Banking Program is a big part of that change,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates. “When we announced the program, we said that it would enhance our efforts to pursue those who help facilitate tax evasion and those who use secret offshore accounts to evade taxes. And it has done just that. We are using the information that we have learned from BSI and other Swiss banks in the program to pursue additional investigations into both banks and individuals.”

Since 2009, the department has charged more than 100 offshore bank accountholders, dozens of facilitators, and financial institutions. The department’s offshore enforcement efforts have reached far beyond Switzerland, as evidenced by publicly announced actions involving banking activities in India, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Israel and the Caribbean.

“Today’s action sends a clear message to anyone thinking about keeping money offshore in order to evade tax laws,” said Chief Richard Weber of IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI). “Fighting offshore tax evasion continues to be a top priority for IRS-CI and we will trace unreported funds anywhere in the world. IRS-CI special agents are our nation’s best financial investigators, trained to follow the money and enforce our country’s tax laws to ensure fairness for all.”

BSI – DOJ Non-Prosecution Agreement

According to the terms of the non-prosecution agreement signed on March 30, 2015, BSI agrees to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings, demonstrate its implementation of controls to stop misconduct involving undeclared U.S. accounts, and pay a $211 million penalty in return for the department’s agreement not to prosecute BSI for tax-related criminal offenses.

BSI had more than 3,000 active United States-related accounts after 2008, many of which it knew were not disclosed in the United States. In resolving its criminal liabilities under the program, BSI provided extensive cooperation and encouraged hundreds of U.S. accountholders to come into compliance. BSI is also assisting with ongoing treaty requests.

BSI’s Past Activities

BSI helped its U.S. clients create sham corporations and trusts that masked the true identity of its U.S. accountholders. Many of its U.S. clients also opened “numbered” Swiss bank accounts that shielded their identities, even from employees within the Swiss bank. BSI acknowledged that in order to help keep identities secret, it issued credit or debit cards to many U.S. accountholders without names visible on the card itself.

BSI not only helped U.S. clients shield their identity from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but helped them repatriate cash as well. BSI admitted that its relationship managers and their U.S. clients used code words in emails to gain access to funds.

Consequences for US Taxpayers With Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

The consequences of the BSI’s participation in the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks are far reaching for the US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts, particularly BSI accounts.

First, the most immediate consequence of the BSI’s Non-Prosecution Agreement is the higher OVDP penalty. Most U.S. taxpayers who enter the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure program to resolve undeclared offshore accounts will pay a penalty equal to 27.5 percent of the high value of the accounts. On August 4, 2014, the IRS increased the penalty to 50 percent if, at the time the taxpayer initiated their disclosure, either a foreign financial institution at which the taxpayer had an account or a facilitator who helped the taxpayer establish or maintain an offshore arrangement had been publicly identified as being under investigation, the recipient of a John Doe summons or cooperating with a government investigation, including the execution of a deferred prosecution agreement or non-prosecution agreement. With today’s announcement of BSI’s non-prosecution agreement, its noncompliant U.S. accountholders must now pay that 50 percent penalty to the IRS if they wish to enter the OVDP program.

Second, as part of its participation in the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks, BSI provided a very large amount of information regarding its US accountholders as well as individuals who facilitated US tax evasion. This means that these individuals are at the very high risk of being investigated and/or prosecuted by the IRS for tax non-compliance.

Third, as part of its participation in the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks, BSI (and other banks in the Swiss Bank Program) also provided detailed information to the DOJ about transfers of money from Switzerland to other countries. The Tax Division and the IRS intend to follow that money to uncover additional tax evasion schemes.

This means that any US taxpayers who transferred the money out of Switzerland to avoid Swiss bank disclosure are at very high risk of the IRS detection.

What Should US Taxpayers with Undisclosed BSI and Other Swiss Bank Accounts Do?

If you are a US taxpayer who has (or had any point since 2008) undisclosed financial accounts at BSI and any other Swiss bank, you should contact an international tax lawyer to consider your voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible.

What if voluntary disclosure is no longer possible due to investigation by the IRS? The answer that your international tax lawyer will give you is likely to depend on the facts of the case. In some cases, it may be best to pursue a noisy voluntary disclosure option. In other cases, it may be best to contact the IRS and work with them directly to reduce the penalties.

“An individual is not culpable simply because he or she is identified by a bank within the program,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the department’s Tax Division. “With that said, the department strongly encourages those individuals and entities currently under indictment, under investigation, or who have concerns regarding their potential criminal liability to contact and fully cooperate with the department to reach a final resolution.”

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

If you have (had at any point since the year 2008) undisclosed foreign accounts (whether BSI accounts or any other foreign bank), you should contact the international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office for experienced professional help.

We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe to bring their US tax affairs in compliance with the simultaneous goal of reducing the penalty exposure to a reasonable amount under the IRS rules. And we can help You!

Contact Us to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation Now!

New Guilty Pleas For Using Cayman Islands Bank Accounts to Conceal Funds

On July 11, 2014, the DOJ and the IRS announced that Joshua Vandyk, a U.S. citizen, and Eric St-Cyr and Patrick Poulin, Canadian citizens, have each pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder monetary instruments and conceal funds using Cayman Islands bank accounts (mostly through foreign corporations). Patrick Poulin, 41, pleaded guilty on July 11, 2014, Vandyk, 34, pleaded guilty on June 12, 2014, and St-Cyr, 50, pleaded guilty on June 27, 2014. The three defendants were indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on March 6, 2014, and the indictment was unsealed on March 12, 2014, after the defendants were arrested in Miami.

According to the plea agreements and statements of facts, Vandyk, St-Cyr and Poulin conspired to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of property believed to be the proceeds of bank fraud, specifically $2 million by using Cayman Islands bank accounts and foreign corporations. Vandyk, St-Cyr and Poulin assisted undercover law enforcement agents posing as U.S. clients in laundering purported criminal proceeds through an offshore structure and Cayman Islands bank accounts designed to conceal the true identity of the proceeds’ owners. Vandyk and St-Cyr invested the laundered funds on the clients’ behalf and represented that the funds and the Cayman Islands bank accounts would not be reported to the U.S. government.

“These three defendants played a shell game by creating offshore entities designed to help their U.S. clients evade taxes and other legal requirements, and they used that same shell game to launder purported criminal proceeds,” said U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente for the Eastern District of Virginia. “We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to penetrate and combat these schemes wherever they occur.”

According to the DOJ, Vandyk and St-Cyr lived in the Cayman Islands and worked for an investment firm based in the Cayman Islands. St-Cyr was the founder and head of the investment firm, whose clientele included numerous U.S. citizens. Poulin, an attorney at a law firm based in Turks and Caicos, worked and resided in Canada as well as the Turks and Caicos. His clientele also included numerous U.S. citizens. Vandyk, St-Cyr and Poulin solicited U.S. citizens to use their services (including creations of Cayman Islands bank accounts) to hide assets from the U.S. government, including the IRS. Vandyk and St-Cyr directed the undercover agents posing as U.S. clients to create an offshore corporation (and Cayman Islands bank accounts) with the assistance of Poulin and others because they and the investment firm did not want to appear to deal with U.S. clients. Vandyk, St-Cyr and Poulin used the offshore entity to move money into the Cayman Islands bank accounts and used Poulin as a nominee intermediary for the transactions.

This case just emphasizes again how the focus of the IRS has expanded far beyond Switzerland into Central America, including Cayman Islands bank accounts.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help with Undisclosed Foreign Financial Accounts

If you have any undisclosed foreign financial accounts (including Cayman Islands bank accounts), contact Sherayzen Law Office for legal help. Our international tax firm has experienced professionals who specialize in advising U.S. persons with respect to the voluntary disclosure of their foreign financial accounts. We can help you!

Contact Us to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation.