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EU Tax Harmonization Initiative Stalled by Ireland and Hungary | Tax News

The EU Tax Harmonization initiative faced a joint opposition of Ireland and Hungary in early January of 2018. Both countries are vehemently opposed to any effort that would “tie their hands” in terms of their corporate tax policies.

The EU Tax Harmonization Initiative

Tax Harmonization is basically a policy that aims to adjust the tax systems of various jurisdictions in order to achieve one tax goal. The adjustment usually implies equalization of tax treatment.

In the past, the EU tax harmonization efforts were mostly limited to Value-Added Tax (“VAT”) and certain parent-subsidiary taxation issues. Since at least 2016, however, the EU Tax Harmonization policy seeks to regulate corporate income taxes among its members in order to limit intra-EU tax competition.

In 2016, the European Commission released two proposed directives addressing the issues of a common corporate tax base and a common consolidated corporate tax base. Neither directive establishes a minimum corporate tax rate. Neither directive passed the internal EU opposition.

Irish and Hungarian Opposition to the EU Tax Harmonization of Corporate Taxation

Today, the EU internal opposition to the EU tax harmonization initiatives consists of Ireland and Hungary. Both Hungary and Ireland have very low (by EU standards) corporate tax rates. The Irish corporate tax rate is 12.5% and the Hungarian corporate tax rate is only 9% (the EU average corporate tax rate is about 22%).

In early January of 2018, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar both stated that their countries have the right to set their corporate tax policies and that this area should not be subject to the EU tax harmonization efforts. “Taxation is an important component of competition. We would not like to see any regulation in the EU, which would bind Hungary’s hands in terms of tax policy, be it corporate tax, or any other tax,” Mr. Orbán said. He further added that “we do not consider tax harmonization a desired direction.”

Both countries view the aforementioned proposed 2016 European Commission directives as a threat, because harmonizing of the tax base could lead to corporate income tax rate harmonization.

Impact of Brexit on the EU Tax Harmonization Initiatives

The United Kingdom used to be in the same opposition camp as Ireland and Hungary. Given the size of its economy and its political influence, the United Kingdom was an almost insurmountable barrier to the proponents of greater EU unity (mainly France and Germany). In essence, the UK was enough of a counterweight to keep the balance of power within the European Union from tilting in favor of the EU unity proponents.

Everything has changed with Brexit. The exit of the United Kingdom from the EU automatically led to the shift of the balance of power in favor of Germany. Brexit also means that Ireland and Hungary are now alone in their resistance against the Franco-German efforts to achieve greater EU unity. The political pressure of these outliers is now enormous.

In fact, it appears that, rather than suspending the unanimity requirement by invoking the so-called “passerelle clauses” (which would be a highly controversial step), the proponents of the EU Tax Harmonization initiative will simply wait until this political pressure forces Ireland and Hungary to modify their positions on this issue.

Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer | International Tax Attorney

Bostonians who are beneficiaries or owners of a foreign trust face a large number of very complex US tax requirements. Failure to properly identify and comply with these requirements may result in imposition of severe tax penalties. For this reason, these Bostonians need to secure the help of a Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer in order to assure timely and correct compliance with all of the US tax requirements associated with foreign trusts. How does one choose the right Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer? Who is considered to be a Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer? Answering these two questions is the purpose of this article.

Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer Definition: Legal Foreign Trust Services Provided in Boston, Massachusetts

In order to answer a question about who is considered to be a Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer, it is important to first explore the legal origin of the foreign trust laws for which the compliance is required. Since Form 3520, Form 3520-A, Form 8938 and all other related forms are administered by the US Department of Treasury, it becomes clear that Bostonian foreign trust owners and foreign trust beneficiaries are dealing with federal law, not just the local state or city laws.

This means that any international tax lawyer who is licensed to practice in any state of the United States can offer his foreign trust tax services in Massachusetts – i.e. the physical presence in Boston, Massachusetts, is not necessary.

This conclusion clarifies the definition of a Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer. First, the definition includes all of the international tax lawyers who reside in Boston. Second, the definition extends to all US international tax lawyers who offer their tax services with respect to foreign trust compliance who reside outside of Boston or even the State of Massachusetts. This means that your lawyer can physically reside in Minneapolis and still be considered as a Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer.

Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer Must Be an International Tax Lawyer

Throughout the last paragraph, I repeatedly referred to “international tax lawyers”. This is not accidental; on the contrary, it was intentional – a Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer should be an international tax lawyer whose main area of practice is US international tax law and who deeply knows various international tax provisions related to US foreign trust tax compliance.

Where does such a strict competence criteria come from? As it was explained above, US foreign trust compliance is part of a much larger US federal law. However, this is a very specific part of US federal law – US international tax law. We can see now why only an international tax lawyer can be a Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer.

Sherayzen Law Office Can Be Your Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer

Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes US international tax compliance, including foreign trusts. Its legal team, headed by international tax lawyer Eugene Sherayzen, Esq., has extensive experience concerning all major relevant areas of US international tax law relevant to foreign trust compliance including Form 3520, Form 3520-A, foreign business ownership by a foreign trust, FBAR and FATCA compliance and other relevant requirements.

This is why, if you are looking for a Boston Foreign Trust Lawyer, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office today to schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

IRS OVDPs Comparison For the Years 2009-2016

Between the years 2009-2016, the IRS created three different Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs (IRS OVDPs) for U.S. taxpayers to voluntarily disclose their undeclared foreign accounts: 2009 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (2009 OVDP), 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (2011 OVDI), and 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (2012 OVDP). 2012 OVDP was subsequently profoundly modified in the year 2014 in what, in essence, became the new 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (2014 OVDP). In this article, I will do a comparative analysis of the different IRS OVDPs based on five factors: application period, disclosure period, principal miscellaneous offshore penalty, reduced offshore penalty options and other penalties.

Application Period of the IRS OVDPs

Application period means the period of time during which the IRS must receive the application from the taxpayer in order for the taxpayer to be considered for acceptance into a voluntary disclosure program.

All of the IRS OVDPs until 2012 had a clearly defined application period. The 2009 OVDP application period ran from March 23, 2009 through October 15, 2009. The 2011 OVDI application period was from February 8, 2011 to September 9, 2011 (actually, the original period was supposed to end on August 30, 2011, but the IRS extended the deadline by 9 days during to an East Coast hurricane).

Since January 9, 2012, however, the 2012 OVDP and its 2014 version have operated without a set closing date. Instead, the IRS has reserved the right to end the 2014 OVDP at any time. While this is always a possibility, it is not likely that the IRS will make such a drastic decision for various administrative reasons as well as due to the fact that OVDP is very profitable.

Disclosure Period of the IRS OVDPs

The disclosure period means the number of tax years or specific tax years which are covered by (i.e. included in) the voluntary disclosure. The disclosure period determines the years for which FBARs and amended tax returns need to be submitted as well as the years involved in the calculation of the Offshore Penalty.

The disclosure period varied greatly among the IRS OVDPs. The 2009 OVDP disclosure period included the six-year period between 2003 and 2008 (which is equivalent to the extended statute of limitations). The 2011 OVDI expanded the disclosure period to eight years to cover the years 2003-2010.

The 2012 OVDP differed from the prior programs, because the program did not have a fixed closing date and, hence, no fixed voluntary disclosure years. Instead, the disclosure period for the 2012 OVDP and its 2014 version apply to the most recent eight years for which the due date has already passed – i.e. the last closed tax year plus the previous seven tax years.

This flexibility on the part of the 2012 and 2014 IRS OVDPs may allow for a certain degree of strategy planning where a decision has to be made with respect to which is the eighth year that is more beneficial to be included. The OVDP application is then submitted in accordance with this strategy.

Principal Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty (the Default Penalty of IRS OVDPs)

All of the IRS OVDPs contain the default or “principle” Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty (the “OVDP Penalty”). The OVDP Penalty is calculated based on the assets subject to penalty (so-called “OVDP penalty base”) as a percentage of these assets.

This percentage of the OVDP Penalty has been steadily going up with each program. The 2009 OVDP Penalty rate was 20%; it grew to 25% for 2011 OVDI and 27.5% to 2012 OVDP.

The 2014 version of the 2012 OVDP introduced a dual Principal OVDP Penalty. It kept the 27.5% penalty rate as a default rate, but it introduced a 50% penalty rate for taxpayers with an account in a foreign financial institution (“FFI”) that had or has been publicly identified by the DOJ as being under investigation or as an entity cooperating with a DOJ investigation. The same 50% penalty rate also applied to facilitators who helped the taxpayer establish or maintain an offshore arrangement.

All such FFIs and facilitators are listed separately by the IRS on the OVDP website.

Reduced Offshore Penalty Options under IRS OVDPs

In addition to the Principal OVDP Penalty, almost all IRS OVDPs (except the 2014 OVDP) contained various Reduced OVDP Penalty options.

Already the 2009 OVDP introduced a reduction to a 5% penalty for so-called “passive account holders”. However, the 2009 OVDP’s definition of the 5% penalty category was fairly primitive and this was the only option for a reduced penalty.

The 2011 OVDI was really the program that perfected the concept of the Reduced OVDP Penalty. It contained and expanded the 5% penalty option defining the “passive account holders” as the taxpayers who: (a) did not open the account or cause the account to be opened, (b) exercised minimal, infrequent contact with respect to the account, (c) did not withdraw more than $1,000 from the account in any year covered by the voluntary disclosure, except in the case of a withdrawal closing the account and transferring the funds to an account in the U.S., and (d) could establish that all applicable U.S. taxes had been paid on the funds deposited to the account (i.e., where only account earnings escaped U.S. taxation).

The 5% penalty option also applied to US citizens who resided overseas and did not know that they were US citizens until the 2011 OVDI.

Furthermore, the 2011 OVDI introduced a new Reduced OVDP Penalty of 12.5% available to taxpayers with the highest aggregate account balance (which was really expanded to more than just bank accounts and included various assets) in each of the eight years covered by the OVDI less than $75,000.

The 2012 OVDP was the last program so far to adopt the Reduced OVDP Penalty structure. It borrowed it completely unchanged from the 2011 OVDI with both 5% and 12.5% options available.

In 2014, the OVDP was modified to remove all Reduced OVDP Penalty options. The reason for such a drastic change was the introduction of the Streamlined Compliance Options (both SDOP and SFOP) which operated under the reduced (in the case of SFOP, reduced to zero) penalty structure for non-willful taxpayers.

Indeed, the non-willful taxpayers won more than anyone else from the changes introduced by 2014 OVDP. However, the willful taxpayers with small bank accounts were the biggest losers from these changes. The 2014 OVDP also marked the rise of the “willfulness vs. non-willfulness” concept to the dominant position in the world of offshore voluntary disclosures.

Other Penalties under the IRS OVDPs

With respect to other penalties (such as failure to file, failure to pay and accuracy related penalties), all of the IRS OVDPs were similar in their structure.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with Your Voluntary Disclosure of Offshore Accounts and Other Foreign Assets

If you have undisclosed accounts or other assets overseas, you are in grave danger of an IRS discovery and the imposition of draconian noncompliance penalties. This is why you need professional help to evaluate your voluntary disclosure options, including the 2014 OVDP and the Streamlined Compliance Procedures.

The highly experienced team of Sherayzen Law Office Ltd. can help you with your entire voluntary disclosure, including the initial evaluation of your case and your penalty exposure, identification of your voluntary disclosure options, preparation of the chosen voluntary disclosure option including the preparation of all legal and tax documents, and the final negotiations with the IRS.

We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide and we can help you. Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Foreign Trust Tax Treatment in the United States: Historical Overview

Over the years, the US tax treatment of foreign trusts has undergone dramatic changes. It is important to study and understand this history in order to properly understand and interpret current US tax laws concerning foreign trust. In this essay, I will provide a broad overview of the history of foreign trust tax treatment in the United States since before 1962 until the present time.

Foreign Trust Tax Treatment Prior to 1962

Before 1962, the US tax laws treated in the same manner all foreign trusts, whether they had a US beneficiary or foreign one. A complex foreign trust established by a US grantor for the benefit of a US beneficiary was taxed similarly to the one established by a foreign granter for a US beneficiary. Moreover, since foreign-source income of a foreign trust was not included in the trust’s gross income for US income tax purposes, this trust would not have any DNI (distributable net income)!

Such treatment of foreign trusts led to a lot of abuse whereby large portions of income were never taxed in the United States. For example, prior to 1962, a foreign trust’s income would not be subject to US taxes in a situation where the trust was located in a country with low or no income taxes and the corpus consisted solely of foreign assets.

While in some situations US beneficiaries might have been taxed when the trust income was actually distributed (under the regular five-year throwback rule), careful tax planning could have prevented even such taxation of the beneficiaries in light of the fact that foreign-source income was excluded from DNI. Moreover, distributions of accumulated foreign trust income contained no undistributed net income (UNI) and were not subject to taxation under even the limited five-year throwback rule.

The Watershed Legislation in Foreign Trust Tax Treatment: the Revenue Act of 1962

The foreign trust tax treatment changed dramatically with the Revenue Act of 1962. The new legislation introduced two major changes to foreign trust tax treatment in the United States. First, it changed the calculation of DNI by requiring foreign trusts to add foreign-source income to it (unless such treatment was exempt by a treaty). Moreover, foreign trusts with US grantors now had to include capital gains in DNI.

Second, the Revenue Act of 1962 created the throwback rule on accumulation distributions from a foreign trust if the trust was created by a US person. Furthermore, important exceptions to throwback rule, such as exclusions for emergency distributions of accumulated income, were made unavailable to foreign trusts by the Act. Finally, the throwback rule became unlimited for foreign trusts while there was a five-year limitation on its application to domestic trusts.

Despite these profound changes in the foreign trust tax treatment, the Revenue Act of 1962 still failed to eliminate some important advantages of using foreign trusts to lower US tax liability. For example, the unlimited throwback rule did not seriously impact the foreign trust advantages in its ability for potentially unlimited tax deferral and tax-free income accumulation. Of course, this meant that the possibility of the rate of earnings of a foreign trust was likely to be much greater than that of US domestic trusts.

Furthermore, nothing was done to limit the ability of the US grantor and beneficiaries (and their families) to access undistributed funds of a foreign trust. For example, they could still receive these funds through loans, private annuities, like-kind exchanges and other similar “indirect” methods.

Finally, with respect to foreign trusts with US grantors, the foreign trusts were required to allocate capital gains to DNI. This meant that every distribution by a foreign trust contained a mixture of ordinary income and capital gains. US domestic trusts could not do that, because capital gains of a domestic trust could not be distributed until current and accumulated ordinary income was distributed.

Thus, perversely, the new foreign trust tax treatment afforded foreign trusts an important advantage in the form of its ability to distribute part of its capital gains to the beneficiaries more quickly than a domestic trust. This advantage became especially evident once the unlimited throwback rule was extended to domestic trusts in 1969.

Tightening of Screws in the Foreign Trust Tax Treatment: the Tax Reform Act of 1976

By 1976, these obvious advantages in the foreign trust tax treatment became unacceptable for the US Congress. Therefore, it acted in a major piece of US tax legislation known as the Tax Reform Act of 1976. While the Act was very broad, there were five key changes to the foreign trust tax treatment in the United States.

First, the new legislation re-classified foreign trusts that were created by US persons and had or could potentially have at least one US beneficiary as a grantor trust under IRC Section 679.

Second, the Act of 1976 required an automatic inclusion of capital gains of a foreign trust in the foreign trust’s DNI.

Third, it eliminated the loophole with respect to foreign trust distributions of income that accumulated prior to a beneficiary’s twenty-first birthday. Now, such distributions were taxed.

Fourth, with the obvious desire to attack the tax advantage in foreign trust tax treatment with respect to accumulated income, the Congress imposed a 6% simple interest charge on the tax imposed on a beneficiary of a foreign trust with respect to accumulations after December 31, 1976.

Finally, the last major change attacked the ability of US grantors to avoid US capital gain taxes by transferring appreciated assets into foreign trusts. The Act of 1976 imposed a 35% excise tax on the transfer of all appreciated assets to a foreign trust by a US grantor, unless the grantor elected to recognize the gain at the time of the transfer.

Changing the Foreign Trust Tax Treatment under IRC Section 672(f)

Another change in the foreign trust tax treatment came under the Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1990 with respect foreign grantor trusts that had a foreign grantor and a US beneficiary who had made gifts to the foreign grantor. This new law was summarized in IRC Section 672(f). Section 672(f) states that, in a situation where a foreign trust has a US beneficiary and should have been a grantor trust under the ordinary grantor trust rules found in IRC Sections 671 through 678 but for the fact that the grantor was a foreign person, this trust should be treated as owned by the trust’s US beneficiary to the extent that this beneficiary has made prior gifts to the foreign grantor.

There is still a small exception that a “gift shall not be taken into account to the extent such gift would be excluded from taxable gifts under section 2503(b).” 26 U.S.C. Section 672(f)(5)

1996 and 1997 Changes in the Foreign Trust Tax Treatment

The last major change in foreign trust tax treatment that I wish to mention here was introduced in the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 (as slightly modified by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997). The Act of 1996 introduced major revisions in the rules of foreign trust tax treatment, arguably on the scale of the Tax Reform Act of 1976.

Five major areas of foreign trust tax treatment were in focus. First, the definition of a foreign trust was clarified with a strong bias toward treating a trust as a foreign trust. Two new tests, the court test and the control test, were introduced (and clarified further in the Treasury regulations). These changes were codified in IRC Section 7701.

Second, the reporting requirements for foreign trusts (Forms 3520 and 3520-A) were introduced. This was a major change in the reporting burden for US taxpayers and foreign trusts with US beneficiaries.

Third, the penalties for failure to report transfers to a foreign trust were introduced.

Fourth, new rules were put in place to reduce the utility of foreign trusts by individuals who were planning to become US residents.

Finally, new restrictions were placed to reduce the utility of using foreign trusts by individuals who were planning to surrender their US residency or citizenship.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Tax Help With Foreign Trusts

Over the years, one can see profound changes in the foreign trust tax treatment; in this brief article, I only focused on some of the major changes in the foreign trust tax treatment, but there were other developments that took place (for example, FATCA compliance for foreign trusts).

These changes in foreign trust tax treatment generally indicate the trend toward stricter regulation of foreign trusts, increasing reporting burden on US taxpayers and foreign trusts, and the reduction in any type of an income tax advantage of foreign trusts. In fact, the foreign trust law has become so complex that one should not try to resolve these matters without the help of an experienced tax professional.

Despite these burdens, there is still a large number of foreign trusts with US grantors and US beneficiaries. The latter situation (i.e. US beneficiaries) often occurs when a foreign beneficiary becomes a US beneficiary through immigration. Oftentimes, these new US beneficiaries are not even aware of the existence of foreign trusts until significant US tax non-compliance occurs.

This is why it is so important to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with respect to your foreign trusts as soon as possible. We have helped US beneficiaries, US grantors and foreign trusts around the world to do proper tax planning and comply with US reporting requirements (including Forms 3520, 3520-A and the voluntary disclosures associated with these forms). We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Importance of Pre-Immigration Tax Planning

Pre-immigration tax planning is done by very few of the millions of immigrants who come to the United States. This is highly unfortunate because US tax laws are highly complex and it is very easy to get into trouble. The legal and emotional costs of bringing your tax affairs back into US tax compliance (after you violated any of these complex laws) are usually a lot higher than those of the pre-immigration tax planning. In this writing, I would like to discuss the concept and process of pre-immigration tax planning for persons who wish to immigrate and/or work in the United States.

The concept of pre-immigration tax planning is far more complex than what people generally believe. Most people simply focus on the actions required by local tax laws of their home country; very little attention is actually paid to the tax laws of the future host country – the United States. Perhaps, the only exception to this rule is avoidance of double-taxation; however, even this concept is approached narrowly to avoid only the taxation of US-source income by the home country.

Yet, the pre-immigration tax planning should focus on both, US tax laws and the laws of the home country. It is even safe to argue that a much larger effort should be going into US tax planning due to the much farther reach and the higher level of complexity of the US tax system; in fact, the capacity of US tax laws to invade one’s life is not something for which the new US immigrants are likely to be prepared. Furthermore, once a person emigrates to the United States, he will likely lose his tax residency in his home country.

Once the correct focus on US tax laws is adopted, the pre-immigration tax planning process should begin by securing a consultation with an international tax lawyer in the United States. Beware of using local tax lawyers who are not licensed in the United States to do your pre-immigration tax planning – having an idea of US tax laws is not the same as practicing US tax law. A separate article can be written on how to find and secure the right international tax lawyer, but, if you are reading this article, you already know that you should call Sherayzen Law Office for help with your pre-immigration tax planning!

During the consultation, your international tax lawyer should carefully go over your existing asset structure, their acquisition history, any built-up appreciation and other relevant matters. Then, he should classify the assets according to their likely US tax treatment and identify the problematic assets or assets which need further research. The lawyer should also discuss with you some of the most common US tax compliance requirements.

After the initial consultation, your US international tax lawyer will engage in preliminary pre-immigration tax planning, creating the first draft of your plan solely from US tax perspective.

Then, he will contact a tax professional in your home country (preferably a tax professional that you supply and who is familiar with your asset structure). If you have assets in multiple jurisdictions, the US lawyer should also contact tax attorneys in these jurisdictions in order to find out the tax consequences of his plan in these jurisdictions. He will then modify his plan based on these discussions to create the second draft of your pre-immigration tax plan.

The next step of your pre-immigration tax planning should be the discussion of the relevant details of the modified plan with your immigration lawyer in order to make sure that the plan does not interfere with your immigration goals. Once the immigration lawyer’s approval is secured, you can proceed with the implementation of the tax plan.

Obviously, this discussion of your pre-immigration tax planning is somewhat simplified in some aspects and overly structured in others. Not all of the steps need to be always followed, especially followed in the same order; a lot will depend on your asset structure and how complex or simple it is.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that pre-immigration tax planning applies not only to persons who wish to obtain US permanent residence, but also to persons who just wish to work (either as employees, contractors or business owners) in the United States, because these persons are likely to become US tax residents even if they never become US permanent residents.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Experienced Help With Your Pre-Immigration Tax Planning

If you are thinking of immigrating to or working in the United States, you need to contact a leading international tax law firm in this field, Sherayzen Law Office, for professional tax help. Our experienced legal team has helped foreign individuals and families around the world and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!