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Serious Illness as Reasonable Cause | International Tax Lawyer

We are continuing our series of articles on Reasonable Cause. Today, we will discuss whether a serious illness can establish a reasonable cause for abatement of the IRS penalties. It is important to note that this discussion of serious illness as a reasonable cause is equally applicable to death and unavoidable absence of the taxpayer (in fact, the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) discusses all three circumstances – death, serious illness and unavoidable absence of taxpayer – at the same time in providing guidance on reasonable cause).

Serious Illness Can Constitute a Reasonable Cause

IRM 20.1.1.3.2.2.1 (11-25-2011) expressly states that serious illness can be used as a Reasonable Cause Exception: “death, serious illness, or unavoidable absence of the taxpayer, or a death or serious illness in the taxpayer’s immediate family, may establish reasonable cause for filing, paying, or depositing late… .” In this context, “immediate family” means spouse, siblings, parents, grandparents, or children.

In the business context, a reasonable cause may be established if death, serious illness or other unavoidable absence occurred with respect to a taxpayer (or his immediate family) who had the sole authority to execute the return, make the deposit, or pay the tax. The same rule applies to corporations, partnerships, estates, trusts and other legal vehicles for conducting business.

Taxpayer Has the Burden of Proof to Establish that Serious Illness Constitutes Reasonable Cause for His Prior Tax Noncompliance

Stating that a serious illness can constitute a reasonable cause for abatement of the IRS penalties with respect to prior tax noncompliance is not equivalent to stating that serious illness automatically establishes a reasonable cause.

On the contrary, the taxpayer has the burden of proof to establish that serious illness did indeed constitute reasonable cause with respect to his prior tax noncompliance. In other words, serious illness may not be sufficient to establish reasonable cause for various reasons (for example, in cases where it was not actually related to tax noncompliance).

Factors Relevant to Determination of Whether Serious Illness Is Sufficient to Establish Reasonable Cause Exception

IRM 20.1.1.3.2.2.1 (11-25-2011) provides a list of recommended factors to consider in evaluating a taxpayer’s request for abatement of penalties based on serious illness, death or unavoidable absence. I somewhat modified the list to fit in all factors expressly mentioned in the IRM. Here is the non-exclusive list of factors expressly referenced in the IRM:

1. the relationship of the taxpayer to the other parties involved;

2. the dates, duration, and severity of illness (in case of death, the date of death; in case of unavoidable absence, the dates and reasons for absence);

3. how the event prevented tax compliance;

4. how the event impaired other obligations (including business obligations);

5. if tax duties were attended to promptly when the illness passed (or within a reasonable period of time after a death or absence);

6. (in a business setting) in a situation where someone other than responsible person or the taxpayer was responsible for meeting the infringed business tax obligation, and why that person was unable to meet the obligation;

7. (in a business setting) if only one person was authorized to meet the tax obligation, whether such an arrangement was consistent with ordinary business care and prudence.

This is not an all-inclusive list of factors. The IRM foresees the possibility that any other relevant factors may be considered in the analysis of whether a Reasonable Cause Exception was established based on serious illness, death or unavoidable absence.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Experienced Help With Establishing A Reasonable Cause Defense, Including Based on Serious Illness

There is always a risk that the IRS may reject a taxpayer’s reasonable cause argument, often simply because the argument was never properly elaborated by the taxpayer. This is why it is important to maximize your chance of success by timely securing professional legal help.

Sherayzen Law Office, PLLC is a highly experienced tax law firm that has helped its clients around the world to establish various reasonable cause defenses against IRS domestic and international tax penalties. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Offshore Voluntary Compliance Draws 100,000 Taxpayers and $10 Billion

On October 21, 2016, the IRS announced that more than 100,000 US taxpayers participated in its Offshore Voluntary Compliance programs paying a total of more than $10 billion. Let’s explore these Offshore Voluntary Compliance numbers in more depth.

OVDP is Still the King of Offshore Voluntary Compliance but Its Impact is More Targeted

The IRS flagship Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) is still the most profitable program for the IRS in terms of actual amount of dollars paid by the taxpayers. More than 55,800 taxpayers have come into the OVDP to resolve their past US tax noncompliance. They paid a total of more than $9.9 billion in taxes, interest and penalties since 2009.

These numbers are very impressive, but they also point to a more targeted influence of the OVDP compared to its past. In October of 2015, the IRS reported that more than 54,000 taxpayers entered into the OVDP and paid more than $8 billion. In other words, in the past year (November 2015 – October 2016), about 1,400 taxpayers entered into the OVDP and paid an additional $1.8 billion.

What this means is that the IRS was highly successful in properly addressing the basic original injustice of the OVDP program which was equally painful to small taxpayers and large taxpayers as well as non-willful taxpayers and willful taxpayers. The OVDP now draws a more limited number of people with substantial foreign assets who pay a higher penalty for their prior noncompliance.

The only danger that still remains is the issue of incompetent tax advisors who might be entering their wealthier clients into the OVDP irrespective of their willfulness or non-willfulness.

Streamlined Procedures is the Favorite Offshore Voluntary Compliance Option for “Smaller” Taxpayers

The IRS data also reflects the tremendous popularity of the Streamlined Procedures among the middle-class taxpayers with limited international asset exposure. According to the IRS, as of October of 2016, 48,000 taxpayers have made use of various Streamlined Procedures (SDOP and SFOP) to resolve their prior non-willful US international tax noncompliance. These taxpayers paid a total of about $450 million in taxes, interest and penalties.

In the prior report (October of 2015), the IRS stated that only 30,000 taxpayers used the Streamlined Procedures; 20,000 of them after June of 2014. This means that the Streamlined Procedures continues to attract the great majority of the taxpayers with smaller foreign assets.

Offshore Voluntary Compliance is One of he Key Strategies to Resolve Prior US International Tax Noncompliance

Undoubtedly, Offshore Voluntary Compliance options offer the key strategies to resolve prior US international tax noncompliance. The other options, such as Reasonable Cause Disclosure and Quiet Disclosure, are much more limited in scope and application. In fact, in the case of a Quiet Disclosure, this option may put the taxpayers into a position more dangerous than they were in before their quiet disclosure due to the increased danger of detection without any protection offered by the Offshore Voluntary Compliance options.

Doing nothing is also not a good option for noncompliant taxpayers, because of the increased risk that their prior noncompliance will be deemed willful once the IRS discovers their noncompliance.

The risk of the IRS detection of prior tax noncompliance is very high in today’s world. This detection may come not just from the IRS investigations of a specific taxpayer, the massive disclosures by the banks already being investigated by the IRS or even from the banks that provided information as a result of the Department of Justice’s Swiss Bank Program. Today, the primary danger of detection comes from the third-party reporting under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the network of inter-governmental agreements (IGAs) between the U.S. and partner jurisdictions.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office to Secure Professional Help With Your Offshore Voluntary Compliance Case

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts or any other foreign assets, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible for professional help with your voluntary disclosure.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leader in offshore voluntary disclosures which will help you with your entire case, including: the original determination of the best Offshore Voluntary Compliance option; the implementation of this option, including the preparation of all relevant legal documents and tax forms; the filing of the voluntary disclosure package; and the defense of your voluntary disclosure positions against the IRS.

We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance in the least painful and most beneficial way, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Initial Consultation!

Tata Mutual Fund FATCA Letters and Indians in the United States

Tata Mutual Fund FATCA Letters were some of the first FATCA letters received by U.S. investors in India. A lot of these U.S. investors were Indians born in India, but living and working in the United States. However, the process of sending FATCA letters is not over at this point. Therefore, more and more Indian-Americans should expect to receive Tata Mutual Fund FATCA Letters. In this article, I explore the purpose of Tata Mutual Fund FATCA Letters and how these letters affect Indians who live and work in the United States.

FATCA

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) became a law in 2010. The main purpose of FATCA is to combat tax noncompliance of U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts. Since its enaction, FATCA was successfully implemented by most countries around the world and became a new global standard for the exchange of tax information. In fact, more than 110 jurisdictions today operate under the worldwide reach of FATCA.

What makes FATCA different from other tax regimes is the fact that its core target are foreign financial institutions and it has “teeth” in the form of 30% tax withholding on transactions done with noncompliant foreign financial institutions. While the 30% tax withholding provision is important, it is not directly relevant to our discussion.

On the other hand, it is very important to understand how FATCA impacts the behavior of foreign financial institutions – FATCA obligates foreign financial institutions to turn over certain information regarding foreign accounts owned by U.S. persons as well as certain information regarding the U.S. owners themselves. In essence, FATCA effectively turns all compliant foreign financial institutions into de-facto IRS informants.

This means that foreign financial institutions report to the IRS the information which, prior to FATCA, the IRS could only obtain after a long and expensive investigation. Therefore, the investigative reach of the IRS has grown enormously and the IRS is now able to find and track down with far more ease noncompliant U.S. taxpayers.

Furthermore, another part of FATCA is targeting U.S. taxpayers themselves by requiring them to report “Specified Foreign Assets” on Form 8938.

Tata Mutual Fund FATCA Letters

FATCA is usually implemented after an adoption of a FATCA implementation treaty. India signed the Model 1 FATCA treaty which came into force on August 31, 2015.

As a foreign financial institution, Tata Mutual Fund is obligated to comply with the obligations accepted by the Indian government under the FATCA agreement. For this purpose, Tata Mutual Fund needs to collect and turn over certain information regarding its U.S. investors.

Tata Mutual Fund FATCA Letters are designed exactly for this purpose – to collect the required FATCA information regarding U.S. investors into Tata Mutual Fund.

Impact of Tata Mutual Fund FATCA Letters on Indian-American Investors

Tata Mutual Fund FATCA Letters may have a profound impact on Indian who live and work in the United States while investing into Tata Mutual Fund, especially if this investment was not timely disclosed to the IRS. I would like to focus here on two issues: identification and voluntary disclosure.

First, Tata Mutual Fund FATCA Letters would allow IRS to identify noncompliant Indian-American investors into Tata Mutual Fund. This can lead to an IRS investigation and imposition of civil and even criminal penalties (depending on the gravity of tax noncompliance).

Second, by reporting noncompliant U.S. investors, Tata Mutual Fund FATCA Letters may trigger an IRS investigation that may prevent these U.S. investors from doing a timely voluntary disclosure. It must be remembered that, one of the fundamental conditions of all IRS voluntary disclosure options is that the U.S. taxpayer is not under IRS examination or investigation.

Hence, when a U.S. taxpayer receives Tata Mutual Fund FATCA Letters, the clock starts on his ability to do timely voluntary disclosure. On the other hand, if the taxpayer refuses to provide the requested information, he may be classified as a “recalcitrant taxpayer” (although, the Indian FATCA Agreement offers better treatment to recalcitrant taxpayers than most other FATCA treaties).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Received a FATCA Letter from India

If you are an Indian-American or just an Indian who lives and works in the United States and you received a FATCA letter from your Indian financial institution, please contact Sherayzen Law Office for experienced help. Our professional legal team will thoroughly analyze your situation, propose the best strategy with respect to responding to the FATCA Letter, review your voluntary disclosure options and prepare all legal and tax documents required to complete your voluntary disclosure.

Call Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Mr. Sherayzen Completes Immigration and International Tax Law Seminar

On February 18, 2016, Mr. Sherayzen, in cooperation with two lawyers (an immigration lawyer and a business lawyer) completed another immigration and international tax law seminar “Foreign Investment in the United States: Key Immigration, Business and Tax Considerations”.

During this immigration and international tax law seminar, the immigration lawyer, Mr. Streff, covered a wide range of topics including investors visas, such as E-2 and EB-5, and alternative options for entrepreneurs, such as L-1 intracompany transferees, EB-1 and O-1 extraordinary ability, and National Interest Waivers’ through the Entrepreneurs Pathways initiative.

While immigration and international tax law issues were at the center of the seminar, a substantial part of the seminar was also devoted to business issues associated with various immigration options. The business lawyer, Mr. Vollmers, covered relevant business issues of appropriate entity formation, business plans, international business relationships, investment due diligence, and funds tracing.

Mr. Sherayzen’s presentation focused on the intersection of immigration and international tax law, especially U.S. tax residency classification, disclosure of foreign income and foreign assets, and foreign business ownership compliance requirements. U.S. tax residency is a concept completely different from U.S. permanent residence or “green card” and it occupies the center of any tax inquiry that involves immigration to the United States.

A lot of attention was given to tax compliance requirements with respect to another common intersection of immigration and international tax law issues – business ownership tax compliance issues associated with L-1 visa structures. In particular, Mr. Sherayzen discussed Forms 5471, 5472, 8865 and 8858 as well as PFIC and Subpart F antideferral regimes.

During the seminar, Mr. Sherayzen spent a substantial amount of time to one of the most important points of convergence of immigration and international tax law – reporting of foreign financial assets. Here, he explained the importance of FBAR and Form 8938, as well as FATCA.

Another part of Mr. Sherayzen’s presentation was devoted to the importance of pre-immigration tax planning. It is important for persons who plan to immigrate to the United States to contact a U.S. international tax attorney before they actually become U.S. persons. The international tax attorney should review their existing asset structure and advise on how this structure should be modified in order to avoid the various U.S. tax landmines and maximize favorable treatment under U.S. tax law. Special attention should be paid not only to income tax rules, but also estate and gift tax laws.

Mr. Sherayzen ended his presentation with the emphasis that immigration lawyers are at the forefront of international tax compliance, because they are usually the first to deal with persons who immigrate to the United States. Therefore, it is highly important for the immigration lawyers to be able to identify the most common junctions of immigration and international tax law issues and timely advise their clients to seek professional international tax help.

US Tax Consequences of the New Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme

A recent article from Reuters discusses the appearance of the new Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme. The idea is to allow Indians to deposit gold into the banks in return for interest payments; in return, the Indian government is hoping to utilize the gold hoarded by its citizens to reduce gold imports.

While the idea is that the Indian Gold Monetisation Plan will be open to resident Indians only, it is likely that at least some US tax residents will be able to participate in the scheme either as US citizens and US permanent residents (who are US tax residents irrespective of where they live) or as Indian non-residents who never declared their non-residency status in India.

This article intends to explore some of the potential US tax problems that may arise as are result of participation in the Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme. The conclusions drawn in this article are preliminary and they may or may not reflect the actual IRS position in the future; the conclusions are and also should be treated simply as general discussion of the subject, not as a legal advice.

2015 Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme

In October 25, 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that a new Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme will be in place by the time of an ancient Hindu festival – Diwali (November 11, 2015). Under the scheme, Indian residents (as well as mutual funds and ETFs) will be able to use gold to open an essentially a fixed-deposit bank account (based on a gold certificate) with an Indian bank; in return, they will receive a gold certificate valued at the “prevailing gold price” at the time the account is opened and they will further receive interest on these gold deposits.

The gold will be collected by the Collection and Purity Testing Centers (CPTCs) certified by the Bureau of Indian Standards. The banks will issue the gold certificates against these gold deposits.

The new bank accounts will start earning interest after the deposited gold is refined into tradable gold bars or 30 days after the receipt of gold at the CPTCs or the bank’s designated branch – whichever is earlier.

There will be three types of fixed-deposit accounts under the Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme: short-term (1-3 years), medium term (5-7 years) and long-term (12-15 years). The banks will determine any premature withdrawal penalties.

Upon the maturity of the fixed-deposit account, the depositor will receive either the gold or the equivalent amount in rupees. The choice of receiving the gold or the rupees needs to be made at the time the account is opened.

Indian Tax Treatment of Interest and Capital Gains Earned As a Result of the Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme

In this Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme, there are three potential points of tax recognition by the participating depositors: capital gain on the original gold deposit, interest earned on the gold deposit at maturity and capital gain at the point of gold redemption (or principal redemption) at the then-current market prices.

The Indian government does not tax any of these three tax recognition events – i.e. neither capital gains nor the interest earned.

Potential US Tax Treatment of Interest Earned As Part of Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme

Despite the fact that Indian government does not tax the interest return on the gold certificates and absent any tax treaty changes, I believe that the most likely outcome is that this interest will be taxed as ordinary income in the United States. There is some marginal potential for the interest to be treated as collectible gain, but I just do not see this as a likely scenario when the IRS has a chance to make a ruling on it.

Potential Problems in US Tax Treatment of the Initial Deposit of Gold to Obtain Gold Certificates under the Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme

Generally, in the United States, any gain on the sale of gold bars and gold jewelry is treated as a capital gain from the sale of a collectible subject to 28% tax gain. There is a potential additional 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax as a result of Obamacare.

The question really becomes whether the opening of the gold account under the Gold Monetisation Scheme, where the gold is being melted into bars and the depositor receives a gold certificate with a rupee account at fair market value, should be considered as a sale or exchange of gold or is this just a 1031 exchange of the like properties?

The answer cannot be given with any certainty at this point, because the IRS has made no rulings on this very subject. However, it is possible that such an even will be treated by the IRS as a taxable exchange, because the gold is transformed into a rupees-based deposit account based on its market value – i.e. the number of rupees given to the depositor is equivalent to the fair market value, not the cost-basis that the depositor has at the point the gold is given to CPTCs.

On the other hand, the IRS could agree with an argument that, under the Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme, the gold is nothing but a guarantee for the rupee deposit account. Since the depositor receives a Gold Certificate and can get the same gold back upon the maturity of the account, it does not seem fair to tax the gain on the gold at this point (this argument, may not work if the deposit chooses to receive the original deposit back in rupees). If the 1031 rules are used to analyze this situation, the majority of secondary sources (such as EFT law firm opinions) seem to indicate that there may not be a taxable exchange for US tax purposes in this case. I tend to agree with this position in most situations, but it is too early to make the final determination at this point.

There is actually merit to both arguments and, until the gold certificates are actually issued and all facts can be analyzed, it is difficult to state what the IRS position will be.

Potential US Tax Treatment of the Gold/Rupee Redemption Based on Gold Certificates Issued under the Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme

There are two issues here: (1) is the gold redemption considered to be a taxable event; (2) is the rupee redemption under the gold certificates considered to be a taxable and how should it be taxed.

1. Gold Redemption

Let’s analyze the physical gold redemption first. It appears that the deposit will be able to obtain the same amount of gold irrespective of the changes in value since the original gold was melted into bars at CPTCs. This means that, if the 1 gram of gold is originally melted at 2,500 rupees, and rises in price to 3,000 rupees within three years, the deposit will still get one gram of gold. There seems to be a gain here of 500 rupees, but there is no actual monetization of gain. This is a hypothetical gain on the conversion of the gold certificate into physical gold.

The taxation of gain in a situation where one form of gold is transformed into another form of gold is one of the most complex topics in the US taxation of collectibles. Often times, even the same certificates may be taxed in a different manner.

Due to the fact that this topic is heavily fact-dependent with little IRS official guidance, it is best to delay the answer of this question until the time when these certificates are issued and can be analyzed in the actual factual context. At that time, if you have any questions regarding taxation of your gold certificate, contact Sherayzen Law Office directly.

2. Rupee Redemption

Unlike the gold redemption (which, depending on the circumstances, may not be taxable at all), the issue of taxability of the rupee redemption of the gold is fairly straightforward – this is a taxable event where gold is exchanged for rupees. Most likely, this exchange will be taxed in the United States as a collectible capital gain rate of 28% percent.

However, there are a couple of complications with respect to calculating the collectible gain. First, it should be remembered that the collectible gain should be calculated in US dollars (contact Sherayzen Law Office directly for more information). Second, the cost-basis of the gold will depend on whether the conversion of gold into a Gold Certificate is considered to be a taxable gain. If it is, then, the cost basis would be the fair market value at the time the gold is submitted by the depositor to be melted into bars at CPTCs. If it is not, then the original cost-basis (i.e. what the gold was actually acquired for) will be used in the determination of the collectible gain.

Other Issues Regarding 2015 Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme

In addition to US collectible and interest tax issues discussed above, investing through Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme may bring forth other US tax requirements. In particular, I wish to emphasize here that accounts opened through Indian Gold Monetisation Scheme are most likely reportable accounts for FBAR and Form 8938 purposes.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With US Tax Compliance

If you are a US person who has foreign accounts, foreign assets and/or foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US tax compliance. Our experienced legal team, headed by the firm’s founder, attorney Eugene Sherayzen, will thoroughly analyze your case, identify your current and past US international tax compliance issues, develop a compliance plan for you (whether for current-year compliance or as part of your voluntary disclosure), and implement this plan, including preparation of all legal documents and tax forms.

US international tax laws are complex and should be handled by professionals with deep knowledge of the subject matter. This why You should contact Sherayzen Law Office Now!