IRS Notice 2014-52 Regarding Inversions and “Hopscotch Loans”

On September 22, 2014, the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued Notice 2014-52, “Rules Regarding Inversions and Related Transactions” (“Notice”) in the wake of recent inversions conducted by many US companies such as by Medtronic, Chiquita Brands, Pfizer and others.  Treasury and the IRS highlighted in the Notice that they were “concerned that certain recent inversion transactions are inconsistent with the purposes of sections 7874 and 367 of the Internal Revenue Code… certain inversion transactions are motivated in substantial part by the ability to engage in certain tax avoidance transactions after the inversion that would not be possible in the absence of the inversion.”

To address these concerns regarding inversions, Treasury and the IRS announced in the Notice that they intend to issue new regulations under Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) Sections 304(b)(5)(B), 367, 956(e), 7701(l), and 7874. In this article we will briefly explain the new regulations intended to be issued under IRC Section 956 that seek to prevent the avoidance of tax in this section “[T]hrough post-inversion acquisitions by controlled foreign corporations (“CFC’s”) of obligations of (or equity investments in) the new foreign parent corporation or certain foreign affiliates”. Such obligations are also commonly referred to as “Hopscotch loans”. Notice Section 3.01, “Regulations to Address Acquisitions of Obligations and Stock that Avoid Section 956” specifically addresses such issues.

This article is intended to provide explanatory material regarding the new inversion regulations as they relate to IRC Section 956 aspects; the article does not convey legal or tax advice. Please contact experienced international tax attorney Eugene Sherayzen for questions about your tax and legal needs.

Inversions and the Use of “Hopscotch Loans” to Avoid U.S. Taxation under Pre-Notice Rules

In general, under IRC Section 956, if a CFC subsidiary of a U.S. parent makes a loan to (or equity investment in) the U.S. parent, it will be treated as a deemed repatriation of the CFC’s earnings and profits, even though no actual dividend may be distributed. IRC Section 956(c)(1) specifically provides that U.S. property is “[A] any property acquired after December 31, 1962, which is… (B) stock of a domestic corporation; (C) an obligation of a United States person…” (See Section 956 for additional definitions of “U.S. property” for the purposes of this provision).

This deemed repatriation will be taxable to the CFC’s U.S. shareholders. As stated in the Notice, the taxable amount for any taxable year is the lesser of, “(1) the excess (if any) of—(A) such shareholder’s pro rata share of the average of the amounts of United States property held (directly or indirectly) by the controlled foreign corporation as of the close of each quarter of such taxable year, over (B) the amount of earnings and profits described in section 959(c)(1)(A) with respect to such shareholder, or (2) such shareholder’s pro rata share of the applicable earnings of such controlled foreign corporation.”

This is why many U.S. parents and CFC subsidiaries sought to avoid taxation by doing inversions in which new foreign parent companies would be formed that were not CFCs; the existing CFC would then make a loan to the new foreign parent (the “Hopscotch loan”), and the amount could at some future point then be lent to the former U.S. parent. As Treasury and the IRS stated in the Notice, “The ability of the new foreign parent to access deferred CFC earnings and profits would in many cases eliminate the need for the CFCs to pay dividends to the U.S. shareholders, thereby circumventing the purposes of section 956.”

Changes to Inversions under Notice 2014-52, Section 3.10(b)

Under IRC Section 956(e) the Treasury Secretary is directed to prescribe regulations to prevent tax avoidance of the provisions of section 956 through reorganizations or otherwise, and the Notice specified that inversions constitute such transactions. To address the inversions strategy, Treasury and the IRS noted that they intend to issue regulations, “[P]roviding that, solely for purposes of section 956, any obligation or stock of a foreign related person (within the meaning of section 7874(d)(3) other than an “expatriated foreign subsidiary”) (such person, a “non-CFC foreign related person”) will be treated as United States property within the meaning of section 956(c)(1) to the extent such obligation or stock is acquired by an expatriated foreign subsidiary during the applicable period (within the meaning of section 7874(d)(1)).”

An “expatriated foreign subsidiary” is defined in the Notice (except as provided in the succeeding paragraph) as a “CFC with respect to which an expatriated entity… is a U.S. shareholder”, but it does not include a “CFC that is a member of the EAG immediately after the acquisition and all transactions related to the acquisition are completed (completion date) if the domestic entity is not a U.S. shareholder with respect to the CFC on or before the completion date” (“EAG” is defined in the Notice to mean an “expanded affiliated group”). Additionally, under the Notice, “[A]n expatriated foreign subsidiary that is a pledgor or guarantor of an obligation of a non-CFC foreign related person under the principles of section 956(d) and §1.956-2(c) will be considered as holding such obligation.”

Effective Dates of the New Regulation Concerning Inversions

Subject to certain exceptions, the regulations under Notice section 3.01(b), “[W]ill apply to acquisitions of obligations or stock of a non-CFC foreign related person by an expatriated foreign subsidiary completed on or after September 22, 2014, but only if the inversion transaction is completed on or after September 22, 2014.”

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With International Tax Matters

International tax matters often involve very complex issues, and it is advisable to seek the assistance of a tax attorney in this area. If you have questions regarding taxation of CFC’s, are in need of international tax planning, or have any other tax and legal questions, please contact Sherayzen Law Office, PLLC.

FBAR Reporting of Foreign Gold and Silver Storage Accounts

There is a great deal of confusion about the reporting of foreign gold and silver storage accounts on the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). In this article, I would like to set forth the general legal framework for the analysis of the reporting requirements for the foreign gold and silver storage accounts. However, it should be remembered that this article is for educational purposes only and it does not provide any legal advice; whether your particular foreign gold and silver accounts should be reported on the FBAR is a legal question that should be analyzed by an international tax attorney within your particular fact setting.

FBAR Background

FBAR’s official name is FinCEN Form 114 (former TD F 90-22.1). Generally, the FBAR is used by US persons to report foreign bank and financial accounts whenever the aggregate balance on these accounts exceeds the threshold of $10,000. The FBAR applies to accounts which are directly, indirectly and constructively owned; it further applies to situations where a US person has signatory or other authority over a foreign account.

The above description contains numerous terms of art that have very specific meaning (even with respect to such common terms as “US person” and “accounts”). I only provide a very general definition of the FBAR here, but there is plenty of FBAR articles on that you can read to learn more about this requirement.

General Rule for Reporting of Foreign Gold and Silver Storage Accounts

In general, if you have a foreign gold and silver storage accounts, they are reportable on the FBAR as long as the threshold requirement is satisfied. However, as almost everything in international tax law, you have to look closely at the definition of terms. In this case, the critical issue is what situations fall within the definition of foreign gold and silver storage accounts.

What are Foreign Gold and Silver Storage Accounts?

It is important to understand that certain facts and details may play a great role in determining whether one has foreign gold and silver storage accounts – this is why it is so important to have an international tax attorney review the particular facts of your case.

Nevertheless, there are certain general legal concepts that provide helpful guidance to international tax attorneys in their FBAR analysis. The most important FBAR factors for determining whether a particular arrangement is defined as foreign gold and silver storage accounts are two interrelated concepts of “custodial relationship” and “control”.

Generally, where another person or entity has access and/or control of assets or funds on your behalf, the IRS is very likely to find that a custodial relationship exists and all such arrangements would be reportable on the FBAR as foreign gold and silver storage accounts. For example, if one buys gold and silver through BullionVault or Goldmoney (whether allocated or non-allocated), one creates foreign gold and silver storage accounts because BullionVault or Goldmoney would handle the transaction on your behalf and store the precious metals on your behalf (and, as mentioned above, even allocate your holdings to a particular gold or silver bar).

A word of caution: the IRS tends to interpret the definitions of “account” and “custodial relationship” very broadly and one must not indulge oneself with false thoughts of security because one thinks that he was able to circumvent a particular fact setting. Again, the existence of foreign gold and silver storage accounts is a legal question that should be reviewed by an experienced international tax lawyer.

Foreign Gold and Silver Storage Accounts: What about a Safe Deposit Box?

There is a situation that comes up often in my practice (particularly for clients with Australian, Hong Kong and Swiss accounts) with respect to FBAR reporting of precious metals – putting gold, silver and other precious metals in a foreign safe deposit box. There is a dangerous myth that safe deposit boxes are never reportable – this is incorrect.

In general, it is true that precious metals held in a safe deposit box are not reportable, but if and only if no account relationship exists. If there is an account relationship with respect to a safe deposit box, then it would be considered a reportable foreign gold and silver storage account for the FBAR purposes.

What does this mean? Let’s go back to the definition of a custodial relationship cited above – an account relationship exists whenever another person or entity has control of funds or assets on your behalf. If one applies this definition to a safe deposit box, then it is likely that the IRS will interpret any situation where an institution or person has access to a safe deposit box as an existence of an account. Moreover, the IRS is likely to find that foreign gold and silver storage accounts exist where an owner (direct or indirect) of the safe deposit box can instruct the institution to sell the gold from the safe deposit box.

Other Reporting Requirements May Apply to Foreign Gold and Silver Storage Accounts

It is important to mention that FBAR is just one of potential reporting requirements under US tax laws. Other reporting requirements (such as Form 8938, 8621, 5471, 8865 and so on) may apply depending on the nature of the foreign gold and silver storage accounts, form of ownership, whether a foreign entity is involved, and numerous other facts. You will need to contact an experienced international tax lawyer to determine your international tax reporting requirements under US tax laws.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Reporting of Foreign Gold and Silver Accounts

If you have unreported foreign gold and silver storage accounts, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Owner Eugene Sherayzen an experienced international tax attorney who will thoroughly analyze your case, determine the extent of your current reporting requirements and potential non-compliance liability, analyze your voluntary disclosure options, and implement the preferred legal option (including preparation of all legal documents and tax forms).

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IRS Pursuit of Mizrahi Bank Clients Gains Steam

It is well-known that the IRS is in hot pursuit of U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank accounts in Mizrahi Bank. There have been a number of victories that the IRS has scored against Mizrahi Bank clients. The latest example of this is the case of Monajem Hakimijoo who plead guilty on February 13, 2014.

According to court documents, Mr. Hakimijoo, a U.S. citizen, and his brother maintained an undeclared bank account in Israel at Mizrahi Bank in the name of Kalamar Enterprises, a Turks and Caicos Islands entity they used to conceal their ownership of the account. Mr. Hakimijoo and his brother used the funds in the Kalamar account as collateral for back-to-back loans obtained from the Los Angeles branch of Mizrahi Bank. Although Mr. Hakimijoo and his brother claimed the interest paid on the back-to-back loans as a business deduction for federal tax purposes, they failed to report the interest income earned in their undeclared, Israel-based account as income on their tax returns. In total, Mr. Hakimijoo failed to report approximately $282,000 in interest income. The highest balance in the Kalamar Enterprises account was approximately $4,030,000.

As further described in the release by the U.S. DOJ, in March 2013, Mr. Hakimijoo was scheduled to be interviewed by Justice Department attorneys and IRS special agents. Prior to the interview, Mr. Mr. Hakimijoo, through counsel, provided the attorneys and special agents with copies of his amended tax returns for 2004 and 2005. When asked if the amended tax returns had been filed with the IRS, Mr. Hakimijoo indicated that the returns had been filed. Shortly thereafter, the IRS determined there was no record of the amended returns being filed with the IRS. When Mr. Hakimijoo was asked to provide copies of cancelled checks to prove that the taxes reflected on the amended returns had been paid, none were provided.

Points of Interest of the Mr. Hakimijoo Case

Several features are prominent in this case. First, the Mizrahi Bank account in question was not in Switzerland, but Israel itself. This is one more example of the IRS interest in countries other than Switzerland. Israel is an obvious target, but it appears that it will not take long for the IRS to expand into the neighboring country of Lebanon.

Second, it seems incredible that Mr. Hakimijoo would engage in such reckless conduct as to gamble on the IRS not finding out that he has not filed the amended tax returns. Equally puzzling is the fact that the guilty plea did not involve any type of a false statement charge.

Finally, unfortunately for Mr. Hakimijoo, the facts of his case were greatly influenced by the use of an entity to conceal the ownership of the Mizrahi Bank account.

U.S. Taxpayers with Undisclosed Accounts in Israel Should Do Some Type of Voluntary Disclosure

Mr. Hakimijoo is the latest in a series of defendants charged in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California with concealing undeclared bank accounts in Israel that were used to obtain back-to-back loans in the United States. It is unlikely that the IRS will relent its pursuit at this point given the wealth of information that has been collected through the IRS voluntary disclosure programs as well as the Swiss voluntary disclosure program for banks.

The biggest lesson for U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed accounts in Israel and Mizrahi Bank specifically is that the IRS will not limit itself to Switzerland. Hence, there is a great urgency for these taxpayers to commence the analysis of their voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible. Some options may still be open if these taxpayers come forward now; these options may be closed once the taxpayer is subject to an IRS investigation.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Experienced Professional Help with Your Voluntary Disclosure

If you are a U.S. person who has (or had at any point since 2007) undisclosed bank or financial accounts in Israel and any other foreign country, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible for professional help. Our experienced international tax law firm has helped taxpayers throughout the world with their voluntary disclosures and we can help you.

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