Posts

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!

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!

2015 Form 8938 and FBAR Currency Conversion Rates

Currency conversion is a critical part of preparing 2015 FBAR and Form 8938. This is why 2015 Form 8938 and FBAR Currency Conversion Rates are so important.

The 2015 Form 8938 and FBAR Currency Conversion Rates are the December 31, 2015 rates officially published by the U.S. Department of Treasury (they are called “Treasury’s Financial Management Service rates” or the “FMS rates”). Recently, the Treasury Department published the FMS rates for December 31, 2015.

The 2015 Form 8938 and FBAR Currency Conversion Rates also serve for other purposes beyond the preparation of the 2015 FBAR and Form 8938.

The instructions to both forms, the FBAR and Form 8938, require (in case of Form 8938, this is the default choice) to use the 2015 Form 8938 and FBAR Currency Conversion Rates published by the Treasury Department.

For this reason, the 2015 Form 8938 and FBAR Currency Conversion Rates are very important to international tax lawyers and international tax accountants. For your convenience, Sherayzen Law Office provides the table below of the official 2015 Form 8938 and FBAR Currency Conversion Rates (keep in mind, you still need to refer to the official website for any updates).

Country Currency Foreign Currency to $1.00
Afghanistan Afghani 67.9000
Albania Lek 125.5400
Algeria Dinar 106.8780
Angola Kwanza 145.0000
Antigua-Barbuda East Caribbean Dollar 2.7000
Argentina Peso 12.9460
Armenia Dram 484.0000
Australia Dollar 1.3680
Austria Euro 0.9190
Azerbaijan Manat 1.6200
Bahamas Dollar 1.0000
Bahrain Dinar 0.3770
Bangladesh Taka 79.0000
Barbados Dollar 2.0200
Belarus Ruble 18555.0000
Belgium Euro 0.9190
Belize Dollar 2.0000
Benin CFA Franc 602.7900
Bermuda Dollar 1.0000
Bolivia Boliviano 6.8600
Bosnia-Hercegovina Marka 1.7970
Botswana Pula 11.2360
Brazil Real 3.9590
Brunei Dollar 1.4160
Bulgaria Lev 1.7970
Burkina Faso CFA Franc 602.7900
Burma-Myanmar Kyat 1311.0000
Burundi Franc 1600.0000
Cambodia (Khmer) Riel 4103.0000
Cameroon CFA Franc 602.6800
Canada Dollar 1.3860
Cape Verde Escudo 101.2220
Cayman Islands Dollar 1.0000
Central African Republic CFA Franc 602.6800
Chad CFA Franc 602.6800
Chile Peso 709.9800
China Renminbi 6.4920
Colombia Peso 3169.2800
Comoros Franc 435.3000
Congo CFA Franc 602.6800
Congo, Dem. Rep Congolese Franc 920.0000
Costa Rica Colon 531.9400
Cote D’Ivoire CFA Franc 602.7900
Croatia Kuna 6.8200
Cuba Peso 1.0000
Cyprus Euro 0.9190
Czech Republic Koruna 24.2030
Denmark Krone 6.8560
Djibouti Franc 177.0000
Dominican Republic Peso 45.4000
Ecuador Dolares 1.0000
Egypt Pound 7.8300
El Salvador Dolares 1.0000
Equatorial Guinea CFA Franc 602.6800
Eritrea Nakfa 15.0000
Estonia Euro 0.9190
Ethiopia Birr 21.0700
Euro Zone Euro 0.9190
Fiji Dollar 2.1250
Finland Euro 0.9190
France Euro 0.9190
Gabon CFA Franc 602.6800
Gambia Dalasi 40.0000
Georgia Lari 2.4000
Germany FRG Euro 0.9190
Ghana Cedi 3.8200
Greece Euro 0.9190
Grenada East Carribean Dollar 2.7000
Guatemala Quentzel 7.6320
Guinea Franc 8004.0000
Guinea Bissau CFA Franc 602.7900
Guyana Dollar 202.0000
Haiti Gourde 56.5840
Honduras Lempira 22.3000
Hong Kong Dollar 7.7500
Hungary Forint 289.9800
Iceland Krona 129.6700
India Rupee 66.1000
Indonesia Rupiah 13550.0000
Iran Rial 29830.0000
Iraq Dinar 1166.0000
Ireland Euro 0.9190
Israel Shekel 3.8990
Italy Euro 0.9190
Jamaica Dollar 118.7000
Japan Yen 120.4200
Jerusalem Shekel 3.8990
Jordan Dinar 0.7080
Kazakhstan Tenge 339.5000
Kenya Shilling 102.2000
Korea Won 1175.9000
Kuwait Dinar 0.3030
Kyrgyzstan Som 75.5000
Laos Kip 8128.0000
Latvia Euro 0.9190
Lebanon Pound 1500.0000
Lesotho South African Rand 15.5560
Liberia Dollar 88.0000
Libya Dinar 1.3890
Lithuania Euro 0.9190
Luxembourg Euro 0.9190
Macao Mop 8.0000
Macedonia FYROM Denar 56.2900
Madagascar Aria 3196.0000
Malawi Kwacha 662.0000
Malaysia Ringgit 4.2900
Mali CFA Franc 602.7900
Malta Euro 0.9190
Marshall Islands Dollar 1.0000
Martinique Euro 0.9190
Mauritania Ouguiya 330.0000
Mauritius Rupee 35.8000
Mexico New Peso 17.3620
Micronesia Dollar 1.0000
Moldova Leu 19.6000
Mongolia Tugrik 1967.0500
Montenegro Euro 0.9190
Morocco Dirham 9.8740
Mozambique Metical 45.50000
Namibia Dollar 15.5560
Nepal Rupee 105.7500
Netherlands Euro 0.9190
Netherlands Antilles Guilder 1.7800
New Zealand Dollar 1.4610
Nicaragua Cordoba 27.8600
Niger CFA Franc 602.7900
Nigeria Naira 198.9000
Norway Krone 8.8290
Oman Rial 0.3850
Pakistan Rupee 104.7000
Palau Dollar 1.0000
Panama Balboa 1.0000
Papua New Guinea Kina 2.9410
Paraguay Guarani 5750.0000
Peru Nuevo Sol 3.3940
Philippines Peso 46.8360
Poland Zloty 3.9170
Portugal Euro 0.9190
Qatar Riyal 3.6410
Romania Leu 4.1540
Russia Ruble 73.7950
Rwanda Franc 742.3300
Sao Tome & Principe Dobras 22350.3086
Saudi Arabia Riyal 3.7500
Senegal CFA Franc 602.7900
Serbia Dinar 111.2500
Seychelles Rupee 13.0440
Sierra Leone Leone 5750.0000
Singapore Dollar 1.4160
Slovak Republic Euro 0.9190
Slovenia Euro 0.9190
Solomon Islands Dollar 8.0710
South Africa Rand 15.5560
South Sudananese Pound 18.5500
Spain Euro 0.9190
Sri Lanka Rupee 144.1500
St Lucia East Carribean Dollar 2.7000
Sudan Pound 6.6000
Suriname Guilder 4.0000
Swaziland Lilangeni 15.5560
Sweden Krona 8.4430
Switzerland Franc 0.9940
Syria Pound 219.6500
Taiwan Dollar 32.8740
Tajikistan Somoni 7.0000
Tanzania Shilling 2155.0000
Thailand Baht 36.0500
Timor-Leste Dili 1.0000
Togo CFA Franc 602.7900
Tonga Pa’anga 2.1270
Trinidad & Tobago Dollar 6.4040
Tunisia Dinar 2.0330
Turkey Lira 2.9180
Turkmenistan Manat 3.4910
Uganda Shilling 3378.0000
Ukraine Hryvnia 23.9520
United Arab Emirates Dirham 3.6730
United Kingdom Pound Sterling 0.6750
Uruguay New Peso 29.8900
Uzbekistan Som 2857.0000
Vanuatu Vatu 108.5500
Venezuela New Bolivar 6.3000
Vietnam Dong 22480.0000
Western Samoa Tala 2.5020
Yemen Rial 214.5000
Zambia Kwacha (New) 10.9900
Zambia Kwacha 5455.0000
Zimbabwe Dollar 1.0000

1. Lesotho’s loti is pegged to South African Rand 1:1 basis
2. Macao is also spelled Macau: currency is Macanese pataka
3. Macedonia: due to the conflict over name with Greece, the official name if FYROM – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
4. Please, refer to the Treasury’s website for amendments regarding any reportable transactions in January, February, and March of 2015.

Individual IRS Tax Deadlines in the Calendar Year 2016

As the New Year festivities are drawing to an end, the attention of hundreds of millions of US taxpayers focuses more and more on its annual US tax compliance in the calendar year 2016. In this brief article, I would like to summarize some of the most important deadlines of the calendar year 2016. Obviously, other calendar year 2016 deadlines may also apply to you depending on your situation; please, consult your tax attorney for a detailed review of your US tax requirements.

January 15, 2016: Form 1040-ES for the final installment of estimated tax payments for the tax year 2015.

February 1, 2016: If you did not make your final estimated tax payment by January 15, 2016, you can still avoid the penalty by filing your 2015 US tax return by February 1, 2016.

April 18, 2016: Three important deadlines fall on this date.

First, due to the fact that April 15 falls on Saturday and the following Monday (April 17) is a federal holiday, the US taxpayers will receive a few extra days to file their 2015 individual tax returns by April 18, 2016.

Second, April 18 is also the deadline for the first installment of 2016 estimated tax payments that should be filed with Form 1040-ES.

Third, April 18 is the deadline for filing the automatic 6-month extension to file 2015 income tax return. The extension is done by filing Form 4868 with the IRS. Remember, the estimated tax liability must still be paid by April 18 (i.e. the extension applies to the return filing deadline, not to the actual income tax payment).

June 15, 2016: this is a dual deadline for US individual taxpayers who reside outside of the United States. First, June 15 is the 2015 income tax return filing deadline for such individuals. Second, if these US individual taxpayers do not yet desire to file their 2015 individual income tax returns, then they can file an automatic four-month extension by June 15, 2016. Similar to April 18 extensions, however, the estimated 2015 income tax liability must still be paid by June 15, 2016.

Furthermore, June 15, 2016, is the deadline for the second installment for 2016 estimated tax payments.

June 30, 2016: FinCEN Form 114, commonly known as FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts), is due for the calendar year 2016. This is one of the most important international tax deadlines and no extensions are allowed.

September 15, 2016: this is the deadline for the third installment for 2016 estimated tax payments.

October 17, 2016: if the filing extensions to file 2015 individual income tax returns were properly filed, these returns will be due on October 17, 2016 (normally, the deadline would be on October 15, but it falls on a Saturday in the 2016 and the deadline shifts to the following Monday).

US Tax Return Statute of Limitations and IRC Section 6501(c)(8)

Most tax practitioners are familiar with the general rules of assessment statute of limitation for US tax returns. However, very few of them are aware of the danger of potentially indefinite extension of the statute of limitations contained in IRC Section 6501(c)(8). In this article, I would like to do offer a succinct observation of the impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) on the US tax return Statute of Limitations as well as your offshore voluntary disclosure strategy.

Background Information

While IRC Section 6501(c)(8) has existed for a while, its present language came into existence as a result of the infamous HIRE act (the same that gave birth to FATCA) in 2010. The major amendments came from PL 111-147 and PL 111-226.

When IRC Section 6501(c)(8) Applies

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) applies when there has been a failure to by the taxpayer to supply one or more accurate foreign information return(s) with respect to reporting of certain foreign assets and foreign-related transactions under IRC Sections 1295(b), 1298(f), 6038, 6038A, 6038B, 6038D, 6046, 6046A and 6048. In essence, it means IRC Section 6501(c)(8) applies whenever the taxpayer fails to file Forms 8621, 5471, 5472, 926, 3520, 3520-A, 8865, 8858 and 8938 (and potentially other forms). In essence, this Section comes into play with respect to virtually all major international tax reporting requirements, with the exception of FBAR (which is governed by its own Title 31 Statute of Limitations provisions).

It is important to emphasize that it is not just the failure to file these international tax returns that triggers IRC Section 6501(c)(8). Rather, most international tax attorneys agree that, if the filed international tax returns are inaccurate or incomplete, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) still applies.

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) only applies to the returns filed after the date of the enactment of the provisions that amended the section – March 18, 2010. The Section also applies to returns filed on or before March 18, 2010 if the statute of limitations under Section 6501 (without regard to the amendments) has not expired as of March 18, 2010.

The Impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) On the Statute of Limitations

As amended by PL 111-147 and PL 111-226, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) may have a truly monstrous effect on the statute of limitations for the entire affected tax return – a failure to file any of the aforementioned international tax forms (including a failure to provide accurate and complete information) will keep the statute of limitations open indefinitely with respect to “any tax return, even, or period to which such information relates”.

Thus, a failure to file a foreign information return may keep the statute of limitations open forever for the entire tax return, not just that particular foreign information return. This means that the IRS can potentially audit a taxpayer’s return and assess additional taxes outside of the usual statute of limitations period; the IRS changes can affect any item on the US tax return, not just the items on the foreign information return.

Reasonable Cause Exception to the “Entire Case” Rule

IRC Section 6501(c)(8)(B) provides a limited exception to the “entire case” rule. Where a taxpayer establishes that the failure ot file an accurate international information return was due to a reasonable cause and not willful neglect, only the international tax forms will be subject to indefinite statute of limitations and not the entire return.

Impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) on Your Voluntary Disclosure Strategy

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) may have a significant impact on the voluntary disclosure strategy where multiple international tax forms need to be filed. In these cases, the taxpayers are more likely to go into Streamlined disclosures or 2014 OVDP rather than attempt doing a reasonable cause disclosure.

This is the case because this indefinite statute of limitations may undermine a reasonable cause strategy if the disclosure period does not coincide with the years in which the international tax returns were due. For example, let’s suppose that US citizen X owned PFICs during the years 2008-2014, but he never filed Forms 8621 even though they were required. If X decides to do a reasonable cause disclosure and files amended 2012-2014 tax returns only, then, the years 2008-2011 will still be open to an IRS audit (though, if X successfully establishes reasonable cause for the earlier non-filing, only Forms 8621 will be subject to an IRS audit). In this case, X may have to make a choice between an unpleasant filing of amended 2008-2011 tax return or doing a Streamlined disclosure.

Obviously, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) is just one factor in what could be a very complex maze of pros and cons of a distinct voluntary disclosure strategy. Other factors need to be taken into effect in determining, including whether the financials were disclosed on the FBAR and Form 8938 and the amounts of underreported income (which may actually keep the statute of limitations open for the years 2009-2011 as well).

These types of decisions need to be made carefully by a tax professional on a case-by-case basis with detailed analysis of the facts and potential legal strategies; I strongly recommend retaining an experienced tax attorney for the creation and implementation of your voluntary disclosure strategy.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Delinquent International Tax Forms

If you have not filed international tax forms and you were required to do so, you should contact the professional international tax team of Sherayzen Law Office. Our team is lead by an experienced international tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, and has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their US tax affairs into fully US tax compliance.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!