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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.

Sale of Russian Real Estate by US Residents | International Tax Lawyer

Sale of Russian Real Estate by US permanent residents was the subject of a recent guidance letter from the Russian Ministry of Finance (“MOF”). Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382 (dated October 11, 2011, but released only earlier this week) provides a thorough analysis of questions concerning the sale of real estate in Russia by a US resident and, eventually, comes to conclusion such a sale should be subject to a 30% tax rate. Let’s explore this recent MOF analysis in more detail.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: What is MOF Guidance Letter?

The closest US equivalent to the Russian MOF Guidance Letter is the IRS Private Letter Ruling (“PLR”). Similarly to PLR, the MOF Guidance Letters usually address a fairly specific situation and, generally, have a suggestive rather than normative value. A Guidance Letter does not have a precedential value (again similar to PLR). Nevertheless, the MOF Guidance Letters are good indicators of how the MOF would view similar situations and have a very strong persuasive value.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Fact Pattern Addressed by Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382

Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382 specifically addresses a situation where an individual is a Russian citizen who has resided in the United States since 1996. It is not clear whether the individual actually received his green card in 1996 or he simply commenced to reside in the United States on a permanent basis in 1996. This individual wishes to dispose of (or already sold) a real property in Russia.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Is the Sale Done by a Russian Taxpayer Who Is Subject to Russian Taxation?

The MOF begins its analysis by establishing that, in accordance with Section 1 of Article 207 of the Russian Tax Code (“Tax Code”), individuals who receive Russian-source income are Russian taxpayers for the purposes of the Russian income tax irrespective of whether they are Russian tax residents or not. Since Article 208, Section 1(5) states that income earned from the sale of Russian real estate is considered to be Russian-source income, an individual selling Russian real estate is considered to be a Russian taxpayer who is subject to Russian taxation.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Is the Sale Done by a Russian tax resident?

The MOF then continued its analysis to determine whether, in the situation described in the Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382, the individual is a Russian tax resident. I believe that this was the key reason why the individual in question requested the MOF Guidance letter: he was hoping that he would be found a Russian tax resident under the Russia-US tax treaty due to the fact that he had real estate in Russia (and, hence, subject to lower tax on the proceeds from sale).

The MOF analysis involved two steps: the determination of tax residency under the tax treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation (because the individual in question has resided permanently in the United States since 1996) and, then, the determination of tax residency under the domestic Russian tax laws.

First, the MOF stated that, pursuant to paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the Russia-US Tax Treaty, a person should be recognized as a permanent resident of a contracting state in accordance with the provisions of the national law of that state. In other words, the determination of who is a tax resident of the Russian Federation should be done under the Russian domestic tax law.

Here, the MOF also addressed the critical part of this Guidance Letter – does the ownership of Russian real estate matter for the purposes of establishing the Russian tax residency under the Treaty. The MOF determined that the factor of ownership of real estate matters only in cases where the owner of real estate is recognized as a resident of both contracting states in accordance with the national legislation of both, the United States and Russia. This is the most important part of the MOR Guidance Letter 03-04-05/66382.

Having made this determination, the MOF went into the second half of its analysis – who is considered to be a Russian tax resident under the Russian laws. According to Section 2 of Article 207 of the Tax Code, individuals are considered Russian tax residents if they are physically present in Russia for at least 183 calendar days within a period of 12 consecutive months. Since the individual in question did not satisfy the residency requirement of Article 207, the MOF determined that he was not a tax resident of the Russian Federation.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: Can Russia Tax the Proceeds from the Sale under the Russia-US Tax Treaty?

Having determined that the owner of the Russian Real Estate was not a Russian tax resident, the next issue was whether Russia can still tax the proceeds from the sale. The MOF stated that, under paragraph 3 of Article 19 of the Treaty, the gains from the sales of real estate located in one contracting state received by a permanent resident of the other contracting state can be taxed in accordance with the domestic tax legislation of the state where the property is located. Hence, Russia can tax the sale of Russian Real Estate made by a US permanent resident.

As a side note, Russia can also tax a disposition of shares or other rights of participation in the profits of a company in which Russian real estate makes up at least 50 percent of the assets.

Sale of Russian Real Estate: What is the Applicable Tax Rate?

The final point addressed by the MOF was the applicable tax rate for the sale of Russian real estate by a US permanent resident and a nonresident of Russia. Pursuant to Section 3 of Article 224 fo the Tax Code, the MOF decided that tax rate in this situation should be 30 percent.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional International Tax Help

If you are looking for a professional advice concerning US international tax law, contact Sherayzen Law Office. Our legal team, headed by attorney Eugene Sherayzen, is highly experienced in US international tax law, including international tax compliance filing requirements, international tax planning and offshore voluntary disclosures.

Contact Us Today To Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Credit Suisse and Italy Settle Dispute Over Undisclosed Offshore Accounts

On December 14, 2016, Credit Suisse and Italy settled their dispute over Credit Suisse undisclosed offshore accounts owned by Italian tax residents. The settlement between Credit Suisse and Italy was approved by a judge in Milan and obligates Credit Suisse to pay a total of 109.5 million euros – 101 million euros in taxes, interest and penalties; 7.5 million euros as a disgorgement of profits; and 1 million euros as an administrative penalty.

The settlement between Credit Suisse and Italy has ended an investigation by the Italian authorities into the bank’s involvement in helping Italians evade Italian taxes. The Italian government’s inquiry into the Credit Suisse’s role in Italian tax evasion appeared to be thorough and, at times, even combined with significant pressure. For example, in December of 2014, the Italian tax authorities raided the offices of a Credit Suisse’s subsidiary in Milan.

The agreement between Credit Suisse and Italy does not mean the end of the Italian tax authorities’ investigation of Italians with undisclosed offshore accounts. On the contrary, these activities will continue their relentless progress.

While a significant event, the settlement between Credit Suisse and Italy pales in comparison with the settlement between Credit Suisse and the US Department of Justice when Credit Suisse paid $2.6 billion.

Nevertheless, the settlement between Credit Suisse and Italy points to the continued global trend of increased focus on international tax compliance. The new trend really started with the IRS victory in the UBS case in 2008, gained steam with the 2009 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program and became worldwide with the passage of FATCA in 2010.

Countries throughout the world, including Italy, have followed the US lead in international tax enforcement. In fact, it appears that the European countries have gone further in some aspects than the United States, especially after the adoption of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS). While the United States refused to join CRS arguing that its revolutionary FATCA already achieved the same goals (and, thereby, effectively turning the United States into a tax shelter for nonresident aliens), the vast majority of the European countries adopted the CRS and applied unprecedented pressure on the financial industry to share the heretofore confidential information with various government tax authorities.

Switzerland has arguably felt more pressure than any other country in the world and has largely been forced to give up its much vaunted bank secrecy. After the US DOJ Program for Swiss Banks dealt the decisive blow to the Swiss bank secrecy laws, various European countries decided to take advantage of the Swiss banks’ defeat and swarmed into Switzerland to get their share of penalties and information regarding tax noncompliance of their own citizens. The recent settlement between Credit Suisse and Italy is just one more example of this continued European squeeze of the Swiss banks for money and information.

I am Working in the US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts

“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have foreign accounts” – this is the phrase that I often hear from various callers. Usually, these persons know very little about their US tax obligations and are concerned about their US tax compliance. Let’s analyze this phrase – “I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have foreign accounts” – and see if we can draw some general conclusions about the US tax obligations of such individuals.

“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – L1 Visa

L1 visa is a a non-immigrant work visa which allows international companies that operate in the United States and abroad to transfer certain classes of employees from its foreign divisions to the US division for up to seven years. Some of clients eventually end up moving to H-1B visa before applying for US permanent residency.

“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – US Tax Residency

If a person is working in the United States on L1 visa, a natural question arises about that person’s tax obligations in the United States; more specifically, whether such a person should file For m 1040-NR (as a non-resident) or Form 1040 (as a US tax resident). Since an L1 Visa holder is not a US citizen or a US permanent resident, the key issue here is whether this person satisfies the Substantial Presence Test.

If the Substantial Presence Test is not satisfied, then Form 1040-NR should be filed for US-source income only. However, if the Substantial Presence Test is satisfied, then this individual should file Form 1040 as US tax residence.

“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – Income Tax Consequences of US Tax Residency

If a person becomes a US tax resident under the Substantial Presence Test, he is required to report and pay US taxes on his worldwide income. This is the case even if a person is here just on L1 visa and he is not a US permanent resident. Also, a whole set of US laws comes into effect with respect to this person’s foreign income which may dramatically alter his tax situation.

For example, if an L1 individual satisfies the Substantial Presence Test, his foreign tax-exempt income may suddenly become taxable in the United States. This often occurs with respect to various “building” or “construction” accounts which are present in many countries (for example, Colombia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, et cetera). Moreover, new complexity will be added with PFIC treatment of certain investments in foreign mutual funds.

“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – Foreign Accounts

The last part of the phrase – “I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – is related to the ownership of foreign accounts. If the L1 visa holder satisfies the Substantial Presence Test, he is required to report these foreign accounts to the IRS (and perhaps in more than one way) if the relevant balance thresholds are satisfied. The most important forms for reporting foreign accounts are FinCEN Form 114 (FBAR) and IRS Form 8938. Other forms may also be applicable.

Undoubtedly, FBAR occupies the central place in foreign account reporting. This is the case not only because of the lower reporting thresholds, but also due to the draconian penalties that the IRS may impose for FBAR noncompliance.

“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – A Dangerous Phrase that Requires Legal Help

Even from the very general description above, it becomes clear that this phrase – “I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – indicates a precarious legal situation that needs a detailed examination by an experienced international tax lawyer. The penalties for noncompliance are extraordinarily high making a professional analysis of this person’s situation almost obligatory.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help With Reporting of Your Foreign Accounts and Filing Delinquent Tax Forms

If this phrase – “I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – applies to your situation, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for legal help. Sherayzen Law Office is a highly-experienced international tax law firm that has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their tax affairs into full compliance. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

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!