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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.

Uruguay-US Social Security Agreement Sent to Congress | Tax Lawyer

On March 19, 2018, President Trump sent the Uruguay-US Social Security Agreement to the US Senate. This is an important step toward the final ratification of the treaty that promises to benefit the citizens of both countries.

Uruguay-US Social Security Agreement: What is a Social Security Agreement?

A Social Security Agreement (also called a Totalization Agreement) is essentially a treaty between two countries that eliminates the burden of dual social security taxation for individuals and businesses who operate in both countries.

Typically, the potential for this type of double-taxation arises when a worker from country A works in Country B, but he is covered under the social security systems in both countries. In such situations, without a Social Security Agreement, the worker will have to pay social security taxes to both countries on the same earnings. A Social Security Agreement, on the other hand, allows the worker (and employers) to pay social security taxes only in one country identified in the treaty.

Social Security Agreements are authorized by Section 233 of the Social Security Act. Right now, only 26 Totalization Agreements are in force between the United States and another country: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Uruguay may become the 27th country to have a Social Security Agreement with the United States.

Uruguay-US Social Security Agreement: Recent History

The Uruguay-US Social Security Agreement has had a very favorable history so far. In fact, it may set the record for the fastest treaty ever negotiated by Uruguay. The countries first agreed to pursue a Social Security Agreement between them in May 2014, when the then Uruguayan president Jose Mujica was in Washington.

Amazingly, already in May of 2015, after just two rounds of talks held over a six-month period, the countries finished the negotiations of the Uruguay-US Social Security Agreement. Typically, it takes anywhere between two to three years to negotiate a Totalization Agreement.

On January 10, 2017, the Uruguay-US Social Security Agreement was signed in Montevideo. The United States was represented by its ambassador Mr. Kelly Kinderling. Uruguay was represented by its Foreign Minister Jose Luis Cancela and Labor and its Social Security Minister Ernesto Murro.

On October 3, 2017, the Uruguayan Senate approved the pending Uruguay-US Social Security Agreement, thereby completing the first part of the necessary ratification process. By sending the treaty to Congress for the required 60-day review period, President Trump started the US ratification process.

Uruguay-US Social Security Agreement: Benefits

According to Uruguay, the Uruguay-US Social Security Agreement will benefit some 60,000 Uruguayans working in the United States and up to 6,000 Americans living in Uruguay. The primary benefit is that the workers of both countries will be able to count the working years spent in both countries to be obtain eligibility for their home-country retirement, disability and survivor benefits.

Additionally, the Agreement will exempt US citizens sent by US-owned companies to work in Uruguay for five years or less from paying the Uruguayan social security taxes. Similarly, Uruguayan citizens sent to work temporarily in the United States by Uruguayan-owned companies will not need to pay social security taxes to the US government. Thus, employers in both countries will pay social security taxes only to their employees’ home countries.

Additionally, both countries hope that the Uruguay-US Social Security Agreement will boost trade between the countries. Currently, more than 200 American firms operate in Uruguay (mostly in the service sector).

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to monitor future developments with respect to this highly-beneficial treaty.

El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On October 10, 2017, the Salvadorian Congress enacted the Legislative Decree No. 804, “La Ley Transitoria para el Cumplimiento Voluntario de Obligaciones Tributarias y Aduaneras”. After noting the experience of the past El Salvador voluntary disclosure options, the Decree announced a three-month long El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program. Let’s briefly explore the main contours of this new El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program.

The Duration of El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program

The Decree specifies that the program will become effective on October 27, 2017 and it will end on January 27, 2018.

The Terms of El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program

El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program basically allows El Salvadorian taxpayers to voluntarily come forward, correctly declare their income and pay any undeclared or understated taxes. In return for doing so, all penalties, charges and interest will be waived by the tax authorities of El Salvador, la Dirección General de Impuestos Internos. This Salvadorian voluntary disclosure program compares very favorably with the IRS OVDP (which is not really an amnesty program and imposes a significant penalty for prior noncompliance).

The El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program is also very broad. The voluntary disclosure program is applicable to all taxpayers with outstanding tax liabilities that were due prior to October 27, 2017. The program covers understated taxes, undeclared taxes, withholding taxes, VAT, real estate transfer taxes and basically all other situations. The program is applicable to taxpayers irrespective of whether they ever filed their tax returns. El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program will even allow the taxpayers to simply pay their tax liability without any penalties, even if the income was already declared and taxes assessed.

Only a narrow category of taxpayers is not eligible to participate in El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program: the taxpayers already under a criminal investigation initiated by la Dirección General de Impuestos Internos and la Dirección General de Aduanas.

US Taxpayers May Participate in El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program and US Voluntary Disclosure at the Same Time

If you are a US taxpayer who has not declared his Salvadorian income in the United States and El Salvador, you may be eligible to participate in the voluntary disclosure programs of both countries at the same time.

It is important to remember, however, that these voluntary disclosures should be coordinated by your US and Salvadorian lawyers. The main reason for this coordination is a concern that an information disclosed under El Salvador Tax Amnesty Program may be automatically disclosed to the IRS by la Dirección General de Impuestos Internos, leading to an investigation that may prevent you from going through a voluntary disclosure in the United States.

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 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!