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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.

University Professor Sentenced to Prison with $100 Million FBAR Penalty

On February 10, 2017, the IRS scored yet another victory in its fight against secret offshore accounts with the imposition of a $100 Million FBAR Penalty. Mr. Dan Horsky, a 71-year old retired university professor (he used to teach at a business school), was a spectacularly successful investor and a very unsuccessful tax evader. After making a fortune, he decided to conceal his earnings through secret offshore accounts in Switzerland. Now, not only will this university professor pay an enormous $100 Million FBAR penalty, but he will also go to prison.

Facts of the Case: From University Professor to a $100 Million FBAR Penalty

Let’s first explore how did a simple professor ended up paying a $100 Million FBAR penalty.

According to court documents and statements made during the sentencing hearing, Mr. Horsky is a citizen of the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. For over 30 years, he worked as a professor of business administration at a university located in New York. Around 1995, this university professor invested in numerous start-up companies. All of them but one failed; however, the one that succeeded (“Company A”) was spectacularly profitable.

In 2000, Mr. Horsky consolidated all of his investments into a nominee account in the name of a shell entity, Horsky Holdings. The account was opened at a Swiss bank in Zurich in order to conceal his financial transactions and accounts from the IRS and the US Treasury Department (the “DOJ”).

In 2008, Mr. Horsky received approximately $80 million in proceeds from selling Company A’s stock. However, he filed a fraudulent 2008 tax return, under-reporting his income by more than $40 million and disclosing only approximately $7 million of his gain from the sale. Then, the Swiss Bank opened multiple accounts for the university professor to assist him in concealing his assets. The university professor decided to trick the IRS and opened one small account for which Horsky admitted that he was a US citizen and another much larger account for which he claimed he was an Israeli citizen and resident.

As a university professor who loved business, Mr. Horsky could not stay away from temptation of further investments. He re-invested some of his gains from selling Company A’s stock into Company B’s stocks. Again, the university professor was enormously successful – by 2015, his secret offshore holdings exceeded $220 million.

In 2012, after learning about the IRS efforts to fight offshore tax evasion, Mr. Horsky engaged in a new scheme. He arranged for an individual (“Person A”) to take nominal control over his accounts at the Swiss Bank because the bank was closing accounts controlled by US persons. Interestingly, the Swiss Bank went so far as to help Person A relinquish his US citizenship. In 2014, Person A filed a false Form 8854 (Initial Annual Expatriation Statement) with the IRS that failed to disclose his net worth on the date of expatriation, failed to disclose his ownership of foreign assets, and falsely certified under penalties of perjury that he was in compliance with his tax obligations for the five preceding tax years.

By 2015, however, the IRS already conducted an investigation (probably triggered by information received as a result of the Swiss Bank Program) and identified Mr. Horsky’s tax evasion scheme. The IRS special agents actually raided Mr. Horsky’s home and confronted him about his concealment of his foreign financial accounts.

The IRS estimated that, during this entire 15-year old tax evasion scheme, Mr. Horsky evaded more than $18 million in income and gift taxes.

Punishment: $100 Million FBAR Penalty, Imprisonment and Other Penalties

Mr. Horsky faced a large array of penalties for filing fraudulent federal income tax returns, failure to disclosure his beneficial interest in and control over his foreign financial accounts on FBARs through the year 2011, and filing of fraudulent 2012 and 2013 FBARs.

The court sentenced Mr. Horsky to seven months in prison, one year of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. As part of his plea agreement, Mr. Horsky also paid over $13,000,000 in taxes owed to the IRS and a $100,000,000 FBAR penalty.

Lessons to be Learned from this $100 Million FBAR Penalty Case

So, how did this become a $100 Million FBAR Penalty Case? What qualified this case for criminal prosecution?

First, the very sophisticated nature of the tax evasion scheme made it very easy for the IRS to pursue criminal penalties in this case. Mr. Horsky went from one tax evasion trick to another, believing that he could avoid IRS detection. Using a shell corporation to hide his identity was definitely a big factor here. However, other strategies (like the use of a nominee who gave up his US citizenship) employed by him also made it an easy target for criminal prosecution.

Second, the amounts involved. With over $200 million in assets, Mr. Horsky should have known that he would be a valuable target for the IRS criminal prosecution.

Third, income evasion was done here on a grand scale. Not only did Mr. Horsky conceal the income from his accounts, but he also tried to evade the taxation of his very large capital gains. Every time that there is a combination of FBAR violation with a large-scale income tax violation, the chances of a criminal prosecution increase exponentially.

Finally, the willfulness of Mr. Horsky’s entire behavior was particularly made evident with the filing of fraudulent tax returns. A partial disclosure is one of the most dangerous patterns of tax behavior, because it discloses the knowledge of a tax obligation on the part of the taxpayer and points to the willfulness of the violation with respect to the noncompliant part of the obligation.

In fact, looking at this case, one can say that Mr. Horsky’s $100 Million FBAR penalty was definitely not the worse outcome. It is probably thanks to the skillful work of his criminal tax attorneys that the worst was avoided.

There is one more lesson that needs to be learned from this case. It appears that Mr. Horsky had plenty of opportunities to enter into any of the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure programs to avoid his $100 Million FBAR penalty and a prison sentence. He could have entered the 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI, 2012 OVDP and probably even 2014 OVDP.

If he would have entered into any of these programs, Mr. Horsky could have avoided the $100 Million FBAR penalty, saved tens of millions of dollars in potential penalties and eliminated any serious chance of a criminal prosecution.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts outside of the United States, you are in grave danger of IRS detection and the imposition of draconian FBAR penalties, including incarceration. This is why you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options.

Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers to avoid or reduce draconian FBAR penalties and bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement Authorized for Signature

On November 9, 2016, the Ukrainian government authorized the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement for signature. Let’s explore this new development in more depth.

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement and FATCA Background

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is one of the many bilateral FATCA implementation agreements signed by the great majority of jurisdictions around the world. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enacted into law in 2010 and quickly became the new standard for international tax information exchange.

FATCA is extremely complex, but its core purpose is very clear – increased US international tax compliance (with higher revenue collection) by imposing new reporting requirements on US taxpayers and especially foreign financial institutions (FFIs). Since FFIs are not US taxpayers, the United States has been working with foreign governments to enforce FATCA through negotiation and implementation of FATCA treaties. The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is just one more example of these bilateral treaties.

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is a Model 1 FATCA Agreement

There are two types of FATCA treaties – Model 1 and Model 2. Model 2 FATCA treaty requires FFIs to individually enter into a FFI Agreement with the IRS to report the required FATCA information directly to the IRS (for example, Switzerland signed a Model 2 treaty).

On the other hand, Model 1 treaty requires FFIs in the “partner country” (i.e. the country that signed a Model 1 FATCA agreement) to report the required FATCA information regarding US accounts to the local tax authorities. Then, the tax authorities of the partner country share this information with the IRS.

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is a Model 1 FATCA Agreement.

When will the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement Enter into Force?

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement will enter into force once Ukraine notifies the US government that it has completed all of the necessary internal procedures for the ratification of the Agreement.

What is the Impact of Ukranian FATCA Agreement on Noncompliant US Taxpayers?

The implementation of the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement will mean that the Ukrainian government will force its FFIs to identify all of the FATCA information regarding their US accountholders and share this information with US government.

This further means that any US taxpayers who are currently noncompliant with the US tax reporting requirements (such as FBAR, Form 8938, foreign income reporting, et cetera) are now at an ever increasing risk of detection by the IRS and the imposition of draconian IRS penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With US Tax Compliance in light of the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement

If you have undisclosed Ukrainian assets (including Ukrainian bank accounts) and Ukrainian foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for help as soon as possible. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe (including Ukrainians) to bring their US tax affairs in order and we can help you!

Cambata Case: IRS Wins Against Former U.S. Citizen on Offshore Income

In the Cambata case, the IRS successfully demonstrated once again that renunciation of U.S. citizenship will not protect a taxpayer from being pursued for unreported income from foreign accounts. On February 3, 2016, Mr. Albert Cambata pleaded guilty to filing a false income tax return with respect to his unreported Swiss account income.

Facts Related to Mr. Cambata’s Unreported Swiss account income

According to court documents, in 2006, Mr. Albert Cambata established Dragonflyer Ltd., a Hong Kong corporate entity, with the assistance of a Swiss banker and a Swiss attorney. Days later, he opened a financial account at Swiss Bank 1 in the name of Dragonflyer. Although he was not listed on the opening documents as a director or an authorized signatory, Mr. Cambata was identified on another bank document (which the IRS obtained most likely through the Swiss Bank program) as the beneficial owner of the Dragonflyer account. That same year, Mr. Cambata received $12 million from Hummingbird Holdings Ltd., a Belizean company. The $12 million originated from a Panamanian aviation management company called Cambata Aviation S.A. and was deposited to the Dragonflyer bank account at Swiss Bank 1 in November 2006.

On his 2007 and 2008 federal income tax returns, Mr. Cambata failed to report interest income earned on his Swiss financial account in the amounts of $77,298 and $206,408, respectively. In April 2008, Mr. Cambata caused the Swiss attorney to request that Swiss Bank 1 send five million Euros from the Swiss financial account to an account Mr. Cambata controlled at the Monaco branch of Swiss Bank 3. In June 2008, Cambata closed his financial account with Swiss Bank 1 in the name of Dragonflyer and moved the funds to an account he controlled at the Singapore branch of Swiss Bank 2.

In 2012, Mr. Cambata, who has lived in Switzerland since 2007, went to the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia, to renounce his U.S. citizenship and informed the U.S. Department of State that he had acquired the nationality of St. Kitts and Nevis by virtue of naturalization.

Link between the Cambata Case and Swiss Bank Program

It appears that the IRS was able to focus on Mr. Cambata due to information provided by one of the Swiss Bank that participated in the Swiss Bank Program. This led to the IRS investigation that unraveled the whole scheme constructed by Mr. Cambata. Additional information might have been provided to the IRS by one of the Category 1 banks as part of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

This affirms what the IRS has stated in the past about its determination to continue to pursue older fraud cases based on the information it already obtained from the Swiss banks. “IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to pursue those who do not pay the taxes they owe to the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas Jankowski of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office. “Today’s plea is a reminder that we are committed to following the money trail across the globe and will not be deterred by the use of sophisticated international financial transactions that hide the real ownership of income taxable by the United States.”

The Global Reach of the IRS Investigations Grows

Mr. Cambata’s accounts were spread out among the local branches of Swiss banks in Monaco, Singapore and Switzerland. The funds originated from companies based in Belize and Panama (the information regarding these companies was probably obtained through John Doe summons issued in 2015).

It becomes obvious from this case that our earlier warnings about the spread of the IRS investigations beyond Switzerland were correct. The IRS now reaches far beyond Switzerland and focuses more and more on jurisdictions like Belize, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Monaco, Panama, Singapore and other favorite offshore jurisdictions. The Cambata case is a grave warning to U.S. taxpayers who still operate in offshore jurisdictions to hide assets from the U.S. government.

The Cambata Case is a Warning to Taxpayers Who Pursued Quiet Disclosure to Cover-Up Past Tax Noncompliance

One of the most curious aspects about the Cambata case is that the IRS never imposed any FBAR penalties or tax return penalties with respect to the later years. While it is not clear from the documents, it appears that Mr. Cambata probably did a quiet disclosure in the year 2009 and has properly filed his FBARs and tax returns ever since.

The FBAR statute of limitations probably did not allow the IRS to impose the FBAR penalties, but the IRS still ignored the quiet disclosure and pursued criminal penalties for the 2006 and 2007 fraudulent tax returns (in addition to restitution of $84,849 – presumable the tax Mr. Cambata would have owed had he filed his 2006 and 2007 returns correctly).

Therefore, U.S. taxpayers who filed quiet disclosure should heed one of the main lessons of the Cambata case – quiet disclosure will not protect you from the IRS criminal prosecution.

The Cambata Case is also a Warning to Taxpayers Who Renounced U.S. Citizenship to Hide Past Tax Noncompliance

The Cambata case also dispels another myth common to U.S. taxpayers: renouncing citizenship somehow prevents the IRS criminal prosecution for past noncompliance. On the contrary, U.S. taxpayers who renounce citizenship may draw the IRS attention because they have to certify that they are fully compliant with the tax laws of the United States.

If the IRS is able to prove that these taxpayers are not fully tax-compliant, then, as the Cambata case clearly demonstrates, the IRS can pursue criminal penalties against former U.S. citizens. It is possible that one of the chief purposes of the IRS in this case was to scare other U.S. citizens who renounced their citizenship to hide their past tax noncompliance.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help with Your Foreign Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Whether your case involves complex beneficial ownership structures or you own your foreign accounts personally, our highly experienced team of tax professionals 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!