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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!

Vadian Bank AG Signs Non-Prosecution Agreement with DOJ

On May 8, 2015, Vadian Bank AG (Vadian) became the second bank to sign a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) pursuant to the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks.

Program for Swiss Banks: Background Information

On August 29, 2013, the DOJ announced the creation of the “The Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks (Program)”. The basic goal of the program was to allow Swiss banks to purge themselves of the prior US tax non-compliance (or complicity with such non-compliance) in exchange for providing DOJ with detailed description of their illegal activities, bank accounts owned by US persons and, in many cases, the payment of monetary penalties.

The Program is a really a version of the 2014 OVDP for foreign banks. However, it was not open to all banks. The banks already under criminal investigation related to their Swiss-banking activities and all individuals were expressly excluded from the program.

As of the time of this writing, the application process has already been completed for the great majority of the Swiss banks, and the Program has entered into the resolution phase (i.e. the review of the banks’ disclosure and penalty calculation).

Vadian bank’s case was the second such case that completed the resolution phase (BSI SA was the first bank to do so).

Vadian Bank Background

Vadian has one office and 26 employees. Prior to 2008, Vadian’s business predominantly consisted of savings accounts, residential mortgage lending and small business loans. In 2007, Vadian hired a marketing firm to assist with its planned growth into private banking, and focused its efforts on attracting external asset managers. In 2008, after it became publicly known that UBS was a target of a criminal investigation, Vadian accepted accounts from U.S. persons who were forced out of other Swiss banks. At this time, Vadian’s management was aware that the U.S. authorities were pursuing Swiss banks that facilitated tax evasion for U.S. accountholders in Switzerland, but was not deterred because Vadian had no U.S. presence. As a result of its efforts, after August 2008, Vadian attracted cross-border private banking business and increased its U.S. related accounts from two to more than 70, with $76 million in assets under management.

Through its managers, employees and/or other individuals, Vadian knew or believed that many of its U.S. accountholders were not complying with their U.S. tax obligations, and Vadian would and did assist those clients to conceal assets and income from the IRS. Vadian’s services included: “hold mail” services; numbered accounts, where the client was known to most bank employees only by a number or code name; opening and maintaining accounts for U.S. taxpayers through non-U.S. entities such as corporations, trusts or foundations; and accepting instructions from U.S.-based accountholders to prevent investments from being made in U.S.-based securities that would require disclosure to U.S. tax authorities.

Vadian Bank: Terms the DOJ Non-Prosecution Agreement

According to the terms of the non-prosecution agreement that was signed on May 20, 2015, Vadian agreed 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 $4.253 million penalty in return for the department’s agreement not to prosecute Vadian for tax-related criminal offenses.

In resolving its criminal liabilities under the program, Vadian also provided extensive cooperation and encouraged U.S. accountholders to come into compliance.

Consequences of Vadian Non-Prosecution Agreement for Vadian US Accountholders

If you have (or had at any point since the year 2008) undeclared foreign accounts at Vadian, you may still be eligible to participate in the OVDP (assuming that you can pass the IRS-CI Preclearance process). However, the price of participating in the OVDP has almost doubled from the pre-Agreement 27.5% to the current 50% of the highest value of your undisclosed foreign assets.

Of course, if the behavior was non-willful, Streamlined options remain available at the same penalty rates.

What Should Vadian US Accountholders Do?

If you are a US person and an accountholder at Vadian, please contact the experienced international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office to explore your voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible.

HSBC FATCA Letter

In a previous article, I explained why FATCA Letters mark a critical event for the voluntary disclosure process of a US taxpayer with undisclosed foreign accounts. While I mentioned that the content of a FATCA letter is usually more or less the same, I emphasized that the actual format of a FATCA letter may differ dramatically from bank to bank. With this article, I am starting a series of article devoted to various FATCA letter formats adopted by various banks around the world. Today, I wish to concentrate on the HSBC FATCA Letter.

HSBC FATCA Letter: General Format

HSBC FATCA Letter follows what I call a “reference format”. Unlike the “comprehensive format” usually followed by FATCA letters issued by Swiss banks, the reference format of the HSBC FATCA Letter means that the HSBC FATCA Letter is fairly concise but it references (hence the name) various forms that need to be completed by the HSBC customers.

Basically, this means that the HSBC FATCA Letter itself does not ask any questions, but it acts as kind of a checklist for various supplementary forms that need to be completed by the account holder in order to provide the bank with the information necessary for its own FATCA compliance. Failure to provide such information would result in the bank classifying the US taxpayer as a “recalcitrant account holder”.

An interesting aspect about the format that the HSBC FATCA Letter follows is that some (but not all) of the supplementary forms were developed and modified by the bank for the sole purpose of FATCA compliance. Thus, there are two types of supplementary forms that are referenced by HSBC FATCA letter: US standard forms (W-8, W-9, et cetera) and proprietary forms developed by the HSBC itself (SW, S1, S3, et cetera).

HSBC FATCA Letter: US Supplementary Forms

Similar to every FATCA letter issued by other banks around the world, HSBC FATCA letter references the main relevant forms developed by the US government – Form W8 (usually, W8BEN) and Form W9. Form W9 is of course the critical form that must be provided to a foreign bank in order to verify the US taxpayer’s social security number. Form W8, on the other hand, provides the critical information for the foreign bank for the purpose of tax withholding under relevant tax treaties. It also allows the bank to indirectly confirm the account holder’s non-US tax status.

HSBC FATCA Letter: Proprietary Forms Developed by HSBC

HSBC FATCA letter references a variety of forms developed or modified by HSBC according to FATCA requirements. The most common documents are S1, S2 and S3. Form S1 is basically asks for a government-issued ID establishing non-US status. Form S2 is a copy of Individual Certification of Loss of Nationality (again for establishing the Non-US Citizenship status) which is very relevant in the limited 9(though, rapidly growing) situation where a US taxpayer gives up his US citizenship.

Form S3 is one of the most important forms referenced by the HSBC FATCA letter. Officially titled as “Explanation of a US address and/or US Phone Number”, Form S-1 requires a fairly intrusive explanation of whether the account holder has US phone number and US telephone address, and why. What is very interesting about Form S3 issued by HSBC is that it requires the taxpayer to make a detailed determination whether the substantial presence test has been met. It even contains a fairly detailed explanation of the test itself.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with HSBC FATCA Letter

If you have undisclosed bank accounts with HSBC (whether Hong Kong, India, or any other country except the United States itself), you should immediately begin the exploration of your voluntary disclosure options before HSBC discloses your account to the IRS.

This is why you will need the professional help of Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an experienced international tax lawyer who already has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with respect to their US tax compliance. We can also help you!

Contact US to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation Now!