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NPB Neue Privat Bank Signs Non-Prosecution Agreement | OVDP Lawyer

On July 18, 2018, the US Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) announced that it signed a Non-Prosecution Agreement with NPB Neue Privat Bank AG (“NPB”). Let’s explore in more detail the history of this case and its resolution.

Background Information: 2001 QI Agreement between NPB and the IRS

NPB is a Swiss private bank based in Zurich. In 2001, NPB entered into a Qualified Intermediary Agreement (“QI Agreement”) with the IRS, which had extensive requirements for US tax withholding and US information reporting. Among these requirements was the obligation for NPB to ask its new and existing US clients to complete IRS Forms W-9 if they engaged in US securities transactions. In such cases, NPB was required to report the relevant transactions on IRS Form 1099.

Based on the QI Agreement, NPB arrived at a paradoxical conclusion that became prevalent among Swiss banks in the early 2000s. It believed that, as long as the bank complied with its QI Agreement, it could continue to accept and service US taxpayers even if NPB knew or had reason to believe that these taxpayers engaged in tax evasion. In other words, the bank could service such clients as long as they were not trading US-based securities or the investment accounts were nominally structured in the name of a foreign-based entity. It does not appear that an opinion of a legal counsel was secured in support for this belief.

Background Information 2009: NPB Accepts Noncompliant US Taxpayers

Prior to 2009, NPB had relatively few US clients; in fact, at the close of 2008, all of the NPB accounts owned by its US clients held approximately 8 million Swiss francs in assets.

The situation changed dramatically in 2009. As a result of the UBS case and other signs of increased IRS activity with respect to undisclosed foreign accounts, major Swiss banks started closing accounts owned by US taxpayers, creating a flood of potential clients for NPB. In early 2009, certain external-asset managers asked the bank to give refuge to these taxpayers and their money. The managers told the bank that they asked their US clients to become tax compliant, but some of them still had not done so.

On March 9, 2009, the NPB’s board of directors unanimously voted to allow US taxpayers to open accounts with the bank, even for those clients who fled other Swiss banks. As a result, by the end of 2009, NPB accumulated close to 450 million Swiss francs in accounts owned or beneficially owned by US taxpayers. The DOJ estimated that only 69% of these assets were reported to the US government at that time.

It appears that the bank’s executives had hoped that their US clients would eventually come into full compliance with US tax laws, but no written or formal policy to encourage or mandate such compliance was ever created.

Years 2010-2012: NPB Stops Accepting US Clients and Implements Some Procedures to Encourage US Tax Compliance

In August of 2010, as a result of the fact that US tax enforcement made the environment for Swiss banks which accepted noncompliant US taxpayers more and more dangerous, NPB decided not to open any new accounts for US clients who were noncompliant with US tax laws.

This decision (which was not reduced to writing) did not stop the bank from continuing to service its already existing noncompliant US taxpayers. Moreover there were at least 89 US-related accounts, both declared and undeclared, held in the name of offshore structures, such as trusts or corporations. These offshore structures were domiciled in countries such as Panama, Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, and Belize. All of these structures, however, were set up before the clients were accepted by the bank.

Starting August of 2010, NPB finally started to require new US clients to provide Forms W-9. The existing clients were required to submit Form W-9 only starting in the summer of 2011. The bank started to require evidence of tax compliance from its external asset managers only in August of 2011.

Swiss Bank Program: NPB is a Category 1 Bank

On August 29, 2013, the DOJ announced the Swiss Bank Program, but it declared NPB as a Category 1 bank ineligible to participate in the Program. By that time, the DOJ already started its investigation of the bank and its activities with respect to noncompliant US taxpayers.

Non-Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ

NPB cooperated throughout the DOJ investigation. In fact, the bank turned over the identities of US account holders and beneficial owners of more than 88% of the US-held assets.

The parties finally reached the agreement on July 18, 2018, when they signed the Non-Prosecution Agreement. Under the Agreement, the DOJ promised not to prosecute NPB. In return, the bank agreed to pay a penalty of $5 million. The bank further agreed to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings as well as demonstrate that it implemented the necessary procedure to stop misconduct involving undeclared US-related accounts.

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

The NPB-DOJ Non-Prosecution Agreement demonstrates the continued IRS focus on US international tax enforcement. The IRS has devoted considerable resources to this area and all noncompliant US taxpayers around the world are at a significant risk of discovery, not just taxpayers with undisclosed Swiss bank accounts.

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options. Time is of the essence: the IRS flagship Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) will close on September 28, 2018.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

IRS Requests Comments on OVDP Information Collection | OVDP Lawyer

On February 28, 2018, the IRS issued a request for comments from the general public with respect to the its OVDP Information Collection practices. Let’s explore this new development in more detail.

OVDP Information Collection: Background Information on the OVDP

The IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) remains today the primary voluntary disclosure route for taxpayers who violated their US international tax requirements willfully. It is also a valid option for taxpayers who wish to avoid the uncertainty associated with the Streamlined Compliance Procedures. This uncertainty often arises with respect to being able to establish non-willfulness and the potential follow-up audit. Finally, given the differences between the OVDP penalty calculation rules and those of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”), some taxpayers may find it beneficial to go through the OVDP rather than SDOP.

The idea behind the OVDP is to allow US taxpayers to voluntarily disclose their prior noncompliance with US international tax requirements, including FBAR, in return for a fixed, lower penalty. One of the great benefits of the OVDP is that it generally eliminates the risk of a criminal prosecution.

OVDP Information Collection: Forms For Which Comments are Requested

The IRS requests comments for all Forms 14452, 14453, 14454, 14457, 14467, 14653, 14654, 14708 and 15023. In other words, while this request is formally made under the OVDP, it also covers the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. Moreover, by including the brand-new Form 15023 (which was just created a few months ago), this request for comments (which supposed should cover only the OVDP Information Collection) also extends to the new IRS Decline and Withdrawal Campaign.

OVDP Information Collection: Requested Comments

The IRS requests comments on five matters related to the OVDP Information Collection, SDOP, SFOP and Form 15023:

“(a) whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of the collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology; and (e) estimates of capital or start-up costs and costs of operation, maintenance, and purchase of services to provide information.”

OVDP Information Collection: Deadline for Comments

The IRS requests that all written comments be received on or before April 30, 2018.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With OVDP and Other Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts and foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to resolve their prior US international tax noncompliance, and we can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests Are Targeted by IRS

Since January 31, 2017, all of the denied and abandoned OVDP Preclearance requests have become the target of a special IRS compliance campaign. Let’s analyze in more detail this important development and attempt to predict what may be its main consequences for noncompliant or formerly noncompliant US taxpayers.

Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests: OVDP Background

IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) is a special program developed by the IRS to allow US taxpayers to resolve their past tax noncompliance concerning unreported foreign assets and foreign income. Under the OVDP, US taxpayers have to file delinquent FBARs and other information returns as well as amended tax returns; additionally, the taxpayers are required to pay additional tax due with interest and penalties.

In return, the IRS promises that participation in the OVDP would result in no criminal prosecution for past noncompliance. Furthermore, OVDP offers a clear and limited civil penalty exposure in the form of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, which replaces all other civil penalty systems, including the draconian FBAR penalties.

What Are These Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests?

In order to participate in the OVDP, US taxpayers have to file a Preclearance Request with the IRS-CI (Criminal Investigation). The IRS-CI determines whether applicants are eligible to participate in the OVDP; the taxpayers who fail to meet the eligibility criteria are rejected without the possibility of further participation in the OVDP.

Additionally, especially after the Streamlined Compliance Procedures were instituted, there were a lot of taxpayers who submitted their Preclearance Requests and even certain additional information, but ultimately decided not to participate in the OVDP and/or withdrew from the OVDP. These are abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests.

Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests: June of 2016 TIGTA Report

Despite the fact that the IRS was already aware of prior noncompliance of the taxpayers who submitted these denied or abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests, it failed to do any follow-up in many of these cases. In June of 2016, TIGTA issued a report on the IRS management of OVDP. Among other matters, TIGTA recommended that the IRS review all Denied or Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests.

LB&I Campaign on Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests

Partially in response to the 2016 TIGTA report, the IRS LB&I announced an unprecedented compliance campaign on Denied and Abandoned Preclearance Requests in January of 2017. The campaign specifically targets taxpayers who were denied the participation in the OVDP or who voluntarily abandoned their Preclearance requests.

On October 26, 2017, an IRS official stated that the Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests Campaign is focusing on approximately 6,000 US taxpayers. It appears that the exact treatment stream will be decided on a case-by-case basis, but the IRS is hoping to review (at least at some level) this entire category of taxpayers. In other words, virtually every one of these taxpayers should expect some sort of communication from the IRS, including, potentially (and maybe even likely) full IRS audit of their tax returns and FBARs.

What Does the LB&I Campaign on Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests Mean for US Taxpayers

US taxpayers who abandoned their OVDP Preclearance Requests or whose requests were denied by the IRS-CI should prepare as soon as possible a viable strategy on how to deal with respect to the potential IRS audit. Right now, they are at an extremely high risk of detection and possible imposition of the IRS civil and criminal penalties.

The options are various and highly depend on the individual fact pattern of a taxpayer. In particular, a taxpayer’s legal position will depend on whether the taxpayer’s prior noncompliance was willful or non-willful and whether he abandoned his OVDP Preclearance Request or such a request was denied.

This entire analysis of a taxpayer’s legal position and available strategies for dealing with a possible IRS audit should be done by an experienced international tax lawyer who specializes in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the LB&I Campaign on Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests

If your OVDP Preclearance Request was denied by the IRS or abandoned by you, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Our legal team is highly experienced in the area of international tax law and, specifically, offshore voluntary disclosures. In fact, we have helped hundred of US taxpayers around the globe to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws. We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!