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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!

BSI SA is the First Bank to Reach Resolution Under Swiss Bank Program

On March 30, 2015, the US Department of Justice announced that BSI SA, one of the 10 largest private banks in Switzerland, was the first bank to reach a resolution under the DOJ Swiss Bank Program.

Background Information

The Swiss Bank Program, which was announced on August 29, 2013, provides a path for Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal liabilities in the United States. Swiss banks eligible to enter the program were required to advise the department by December 31, 2013, that they had reason to believe that they had committed tax-related criminal offenses in connection with undeclared United States-related accounts. Banks already under criminal investigation related to their Swiss-banking activities and all individuals were expressly excluded from the program.

“Because of the department’s continuing efforts to root out offshore tax evasion, Swiss banks are operating much differently today than they did just a few years ago, and the department’s Swiss Banking Program is a big part of that change,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates. “When we announced the program, we said that it would enhance our efforts to pursue those who help facilitate tax evasion and those who use secret offshore accounts to evade taxes. And it has done just that. We are using the information that we have learned from BSI and other Swiss banks in the program to pursue additional investigations into both banks and individuals.”

Since 2009, the department has charged more than 100 offshore bank accountholders, dozens of facilitators, and financial institutions. The department’s offshore enforcement efforts have reached far beyond Switzerland, as evidenced by publicly announced actions involving banking activities in India, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Israel and the Caribbean.

“Today’s action sends a clear message to anyone thinking about keeping money offshore in order to evade tax laws,” said Chief Richard Weber of IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI). “Fighting offshore tax evasion continues to be a top priority for IRS-CI and we will trace unreported funds anywhere in the world. IRS-CI special agents are our nation’s best financial investigators, trained to follow the money and enforce our country’s tax laws to ensure fairness for all.”

BSI – DOJ Non-Prosecution Agreement

According to the terms of the non-prosecution agreement signed on March 30, 2015, BSI agrees 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 $211 million penalty in return for the department’s agreement not to prosecute BSI for tax-related criminal offenses.

BSI had more than 3,000 active United States-related accounts after 2008, many of which it knew were not disclosed in the United States. In resolving its criminal liabilities under the program, BSI provided extensive cooperation and encouraged hundreds of U.S. accountholders to come into compliance. BSI is also assisting with ongoing treaty requests.

BSI’s Past Activities

BSI helped its U.S. clients create sham corporations and trusts that masked the true identity of its U.S. accountholders. Many of its U.S. clients also opened “numbered” Swiss bank accounts that shielded their identities, even from employees within the Swiss bank. BSI acknowledged that in order to help keep identities secret, it issued credit or debit cards to many U.S. accountholders without names visible on the card itself.

BSI not only helped U.S. clients shield their identity from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but helped them repatriate cash as well. BSI admitted that its relationship managers and their U.S. clients used code words in emails to gain access to funds.

Consequences for US Taxpayers With Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

The consequences of the BSI’s participation in the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks are far reaching for the US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts, particularly BSI accounts.

First, the most immediate consequence of the BSI’s Non-Prosecution Agreement is the higher OVDP penalty. Most U.S. taxpayers who enter the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure program to resolve undeclared offshore accounts will pay a penalty equal to 27.5 percent of the high value of the accounts. On August 4, 2014, the IRS increased the penalty to 50 percent if, at the time the taxpayer initiated their disclosure, either a foreign financial institution at which the taxpayer had an account or a facilitator who helped the taxpayer establish or maintain an offshore arrangement had been publicly identified as being under investigation, the recipient of a John Doe summons or cooperating with a government investigation, including the execution of a deferred prosecution agreement or non-prosecution agreement. With today’s announcement of BSI’s non-prosecution agreement, its noncompliant U.S. accountholders must now pay that 50 percent penalty to the IRS if they wish to enter the OVDP program.

Second, as part of its participation in the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks, BSI provided a very large amount of information regarding its US accountholders as well as individuals who facilitated US tax evasion. This means that these individuals are at the very high risk of being investigated and/or prosecuted by the IRS for tax non-compliance.

Third, as part of its participation in the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks, BSI (and other banks in the Swiss Bank Program) also provided detailed information to the DOJ about transfers of money from Switzerland to other countries. The Tax Division and the IRS intend to follow that money to uncover additional tax evasion schemes.

This means that any US taxpayers who transferred the money out of Switzerland to avoid Swiss bank disclosure are at very high risk of the IRS detection.

What Should US Taxpayers with Undisclosed BSI and Other Swiss Bank Accounts Do?

If you are a US taxpayer who has (or had any point since 2008) undisclosed financial accounts at BSI and any other Swiss bank, you should contact an international tax lawyer to consider your voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible.

What if voluntary disclosure is no longer possible due to investigation by the IRS? The answer that your international tax lawyer will give you is likely to depend on the facts of the case. In some cases, it may be best to pursue a noisy voluntary disclosure option. In other cases, it may be best to contact the IRS and work with them directly to reduce the penalties.

“An individual is not culpable simply because he or she is identified by a bank within the program,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the department’s Tax Division. “With that said, the department strongly encourages those individuals and entities currently under indictment, under investigation, or who have concerns regarding their potential criminal liability to contact and fully cooperate with the department to reach a final resolution.”

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

If you have (had at any point since the year 2008) undisclosed foreign accounts (whether BSI accounts or any other foreign bank), you should contact the international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office for experienced professional help.

We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe to bring their US tax affairs in compliance with the simultaneous goal of reducing the penalty exposure to a reasonable amount under the IRS rules. And we can help You!

Contact Us to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation Now!