2019 IRS Standard Mileage Rates | IRS Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On December 14, 2018, the IRS issued the 2019 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes. Let’s discuss in a bit more depth these new 2019 IRS Standard Mileage Rates.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2019, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 58 cents per mile driven for business use, up 3.5 cents from the rate for 2018,
  • 20 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 2 cents from the rate for 2018, and
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

The business mileage rate increased 3.5 cents for business travel driven and 2 cents for medical and certain moving expense from the rates for 2018. The charitable rate is set by statute and remains unchanged.

According to the IRS Rev. Proc. https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rp-10-51.pdf2010-51, a taxpayer may use the business standard mileage rate to substantiate a deduction equal to either the business standard mileage rate times the number of business miles traveled. If he does use the 2019 IRS standard mileage rates, then he cannot deduct the actual costs items. Even if the 2019 IRS standard mileage rates are used, however, the taxpayer can still deduct as separate items the parking fees and tolls attributable to the use of a vehicle for business purposes.

It is important to note that under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxpayers cannot claim a miscellaneous itemized deduction for unreimbursed employee travel expenses. With the exception of active duty members of Armed Forces, taxpayers also cannot claim a deduction for moving expenses. Notice-2019-02. As in previous years, a taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

Sherayzen Law Office advises taxpayers that they do not have to use the 2019 IRS standard mileage rates. They have the option of calculating the actual costs of using his vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates. In such a case, all of the actual expenses associated with the business use of the vehicle can be used: lease payments, maintenance and repairs, tires, gasoline (including all taxes), oil, insurance, et cetera.

Premier Minneapolis Minnesota Voluntary Disclosure Lawyer | International Tax Attorney

Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, the founder and owner of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., is a premier Minneapolis Minnesota Voluntary Disclosure Lawyer. Why is this the case? Let’s explore the top five reasons for it.

Premier Minneapolis Minnesota Voluntary Disclosure Lawyer: Experience

Mr. Sherayzen started practicing law at the end of 2005. In other words, he has been an international tax lawyer for over 13 years. During this time, he has successfully conducted hundreds of voluntary disclosures for US taxpayers all around the world.

He is a highly experienced lawyer in every type of a voluntary disclosure: OVDP/OVDI (while these programs existed), Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”), Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”), Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures, Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures and Reasonable Cause Disclosures.

During 2014-2016, Mr. Sherayzen also conducted the Transition to Streamlined Disclosure for some of his OVDP clients. Moreover, starting 2017, he has also helped his clients with the IRS audits of voluntary disclosures done pursuant to SDOP and SFOP. During all of these years, Mr. Sherayzen also helped clients with amendment of Forms 906 signed pursuant to OVDP or OVDI.

As a result of such an intense and diverse voluntary disclosure practice, Mr. Sherayzen has accumulated a tremendous, in many ways unique, amount of experience in offshore voluntary disclosures.

Premier Minneapolis Minnesota Voluntary Disclosure Lawyer: Knowledge

Knowledge comes with experience. Mr. Sherayzen may be considered a true expert on offshore voluntary disclosure. Not only does he possess a deep understanding of substantive US international tax law, but his extensive experience with offshore voluntary disclosures endowed him with a profound knowledge of the procedural aspects of offshore voluntary disclosures.

Premier Minneapolis Minnesota Voluntary Disclosure Lawyer: Ethical Creativity

This combination of knowledge and experience allows Mr. Sherayzen to devise creative ethical legal strategies for his clients’ offshore voluntary disclosures. Each strategy is customized based on the facts of each case. All pros and cons are carefully considered to achieve the necessary balance of risks and rewards. Potential IRS challenges are considered and prepared for. Each alternative strategy is discussed with each client in order to choose the most agreeable one to the client.

It should be emphasized that Mr. Sherayzen offers only those voluntary disclosure strategies which comply with the legal and ethical standards demanded by the IRS as well as the legal profession.

Premier Minneapolis Minnesota Voluntary Disclosure Lawyer: Customization

Mr. Sherayzen rejects “one size fits all” approach to offshore voluntary disclosure and strongly believes a case strategy must be considered only in light of the specific facts of each case. Too often, with dismay, he sees how many accountants and even lawyers herd their clients into one approach, charging a flat fee for it, without the proper consideration of specific facts of each case.

Mr. Sherayzen believes that each case is unique and deserves a special consideration of its special facts and circumstances. Each legal strategy must be adjusted to fit these facts and circumstances in order to produce the best result for the client.

Premier Minneapolis Minnesota Voluntary Disclosure Lawyer: Voluntary Disclosure Team

Mr. Sherayzen also counts on the support of a superb voluntary disclosure team of accountants and staff – a team which he has gradually built and trained over the past 13 years. He carefully chose each member of team and personally trained him to master certain aspects of a voluntary disclosure. The team is not trained only in their specific duties, but also to help each other, creating a sense of comradeship among Sherayzen Law Office employees. Everyone’s work goes through at least two levels of review to assure the highest quality. As a result, Mr. Sherayzen and his team are able to conduct and produce successful highly-efficient high-quality offshore voluntary disclosures.

Contact Mr. Sherayzen Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Costa Rican Bank Accounts | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney Miami

Upon moving to Costa Rica, many US retirees open Costa Rican bank accounts in order to pay for their local expenses and purchase properties. While to US retirees their Costa Rican bank accounts seem innocent and completely unrelated to US tax laws, the ownership of these accounts may put them at a significant risk for US tax noncompliance. In this article, I would like to discuss the top three US reporting requirements with which US owners of the Costa Rican bank accounts need to comply.

Costa Rican Bank Accounts: Who Must Report Them?

Before we discuss these US tax requirements in more detail, we need to make it clear that, generally, only US tax residents must comply with these requirements. The definition of a US tax resident is broad and includes US citizens, US permanent residents, an individual who declares himself a US tax resident.

A couple of words of caution. First, there are important exceptions to this general definition of a US tax resident. For example, students on an F-1 visa are generally exempt from the Substantial Presence Test for five years. It is the job of your international tax attorney to determine whether you fall within any of these exceptions.

Second, different information returns may modify the categories of persons which are included in the category of the required filers. In other words, while it is generally true that US tax residents are the ones who are required to comply with the US tax requirements concerning Costa Rican bank accounts, there are important, though limited exceptions. The most prominent example is FBAR discussed below; the form requires “US persons”, not “US tax residents” to disclose the ownership of foreign accounts. While these two concepts are similar, they are not exactly the same.

Costa Rican Bank Accounts: Worldwide Income Reporting

All US tax residents must report their worldwide income on their US tax returns. In other words, US tax residents must disclose both US-source and foreign-source income to the IRS. In the context of the Costa Rican bank accounts, foreign-source income would usually include bank interest income, but this concept also covers dividends, royalties, capital gains and any other income generated by the Costa Rican bank accounts.

Costa Rican Bank Accounts: FBAR Reporting

The official name of the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) is FinCEN Form 114. FBAR requires all US tax persons to disclose their ownership interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over Costa Rican bank and financial accounts if the aggregate highest balance of these accounts exceeds $10,000.

Note that the term “US persons” is very close to “US tax residents”, but it is not the same. The term “US tax residents” is slightly broader than “US persons”. I have already discussed the definition of US persons in a series of articles (for example, see this article on individuals who are considered US persons); hence, I will not discuss it here, but I urge the readers to search sherayzenlaw.com for more materials on this subject.

There is one aspect of the FBAR requirement that I wish to explain in more detail here – the definition of an “account”. The FBAR definition of an account is substantially broader than how this word is generally understood by taxpayers. “Account” for FBAR purposes includes: checking accounts, savings accounts, fixed-deposit accounts, investments accounts, mutual funds, options/commodity futures accounts, life insurance policies with a cash surrender value, precious metals accounts, earth mineral accounts, et cetera. In fact, whenever there is a custodial relationship between a foreign financial institution and a US person’s foreign asset, there is a very high probability that the IRS will find that an account exists for FBAR purposes.

The final aspect of FBAR that I wish to discuss here is its penalty system. US taxpayers dread FBAR penalties which are supremely severe to an astonishing degree. At the apex are the criminal penalties with up to 10 years in jail (of course, these penalties come into effect only in the most egregious situations). While FBAR willful civil penalties do not threaten incarceration, they are so harsh that they can easily exceed a person’s net worth. Even taxpayers who non-willfully did not file an FBAR (either because they did not know about it or due to circumstances beyond their control) are not free from FBAR penalties. Since 2004, the Congress added non-willful FBAR penalties of up to $10,000 per account per year.

In order to mitigate the potential for the 8th Amendment challenges to FBAR penalties and make the penalty imposition more flexible, the IRS created a multi-layered system of penalty mitigation. Since 2015, the IRS has added additional limitations on the FBAR penalty imposition. These self-imposed limitations of course help, but one must keep in mind that they are voluntary IRS actions and maybe disregarded under certain circumstances (in fact, there are already a few instances where this has occurred).

Costa Rican Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938

Form 8938 is one of the most important and relatively recent additions to the numerous US international tax requirements. The IRS created Form 8938 under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) in 2011.

Form 8938 is filed with a federal tax return. This means that, without Form 8938, the tax return would not be complete and, potentially, open to an IRS audit.

The primary focus of Form 8938 is on the reporting by US taxpayers of Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”). SFFA includes a very diverse range of foreign financial assets, including: foreign bank accounts, foreign business ownership, foreign trust beneficiary interests, bond certificates, various types of swaps, et cetera.

In some ways, Form 8938 requires the reporting of the same assets as FBARs (especially with respect to foreign bank and financial accounts), but the two requirements are independent. This means that a taxpayer may have to do duplicate reporting on FBAR and Form 8938.

Form 8938 has a filing threshold that depends on a taxpayer’s tax return filing status and his physical residency. For example, if a taxpayer is single and resides in the United States, he needs to file Form 8938 as long as the aggregate value of his SFFA is more than $50,000 at the end of the year or more than $75,000 at any point during the year.

Form 8938 needs to be filed by Specified Persons. Specified Persons consist of two categories: Specified Individuals and Specified Domestic Entities. There are specific definitions for both categories; you can find them by searching our website sherayzenlaw.com.

Finally, Form 8938 has its own penalty system which has far-reaching consequences for income tax liability (including disallowance of foreign tax credit and imposition of higher accuracy-related income tax penalties). There is also a $10,000 failure-to-file penalty.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the US Tax Reporting of Your Costa Rican Bank Accounts

Foreign income reporting, FBAR and Form 8938 do not constitute a complete list of requirements that may apply to Costa Rican bank accounts. There may be many more.

This is why, if you have Costa Rican bank accounts, you should contact the experienced international tax attorney and owner of Sherayzen Law Office, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen. Mr. Sherayzen has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their US international tax issues, and He can help You!

Contact Mr. Sherayzen Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FinCEN Form 114 Business Filers | FBAR Lawyer & Attorney Delaware

In a previous article, I described individuals who need to file FinCEN Form 114. This essay is a continuation of the same series of articles concerning FinCEN Form 114 filers. Today, I will devote my attention to FinCEN Form 114 Business Filers.

FinCEN Form 114 Business Filers: FBAR Filing Requirement

We first need to understand what Form 114 is. The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114 also known as “FBAR”, is one of the most important information returns administered by the IRS since 2001 (the form itself has existed since 1970). FBAR requires a US person to disclose his financial interest in or signatory authority (or any other authority) over foreign bank and financial accounts as long as the highest balance of these accounts, in the aggregate, exceeds $10,000 at any point during a calendar year.

FBAR is the creation of the Bank Secrecy Act, Title 31 of the United States Code (“USC”). In other words, it is technically not a tax form. In fact, its original purpose was to fight financial crimes.

Due to this legal history, FBAR has a ruthless yet highly elaborate penalty system. FBAR penalties range from criminal penalties that include incarceration to the astonishingly high willful and even non-willful civil penalties. This severe penalty system makes FBAR one of the most dangerous US international information returns.

FinCEN Form 114 Business Filers: General Definition

As described above, only US persons are required to file FBARs. There are various categories of US persons: individuals, businesses, trusts and estates. Our focus today is on business filers.

The general rule is that a business entity is considered a US person if it was created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States. There are two terms that we need to understand within this general rule in order to the rule apply correctly: entity and the United States.

FinCEN Form 114 Business Filers: Entity

For FBAR purposes, the word “entity” is defined broadly to include without limitation a corporation, a partnership and a limited liability company. This term applies even if a business is a disregarded entity for US tax purposes.

In other words, a single member limited liability company is required to file an FBAR if it has foreign accounts that satisfy the FBAR filing threshold. Again, the reason for applying the legal, rather than a tax a definition of “entity”, is driven by the FBAR’s legal history; it is a Title 31 requirement, not a Title 26 (i.e. the Internal Revenue Code) requirement.

FinCEN Form 114 Business Filers: Definition of the United States

I have already explored the FBAR definition of the United States in another article. Hence, I will only briefly state the rule here. 31 CFR 1010.100(hhh) defines the United States for FBAR purposes as: the States of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Indian Lands (as defined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) and the territories and insular possessions of the United States.

Thus, a business entity formed in Guam is considered a US person for FBAR purposes. Similarly, a partnership formed in Delaware by two non-resident aliens is also a US person. Even an entity created under the laws of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will still be a US person. If these entities have foreign financial and bank accounts which exceed the FBAR filing threshold, they will also be considered FinCEN Form 114 business filers.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional FBAR Help

If you are a US business entity which maintains foreign accounts outside of the United States, please consider contacting Sherayzen Law Office for professional legal help. We have extensive experience in helping US businesses to comply with their FBAR requirements as well as to remedy their past FBAR noncompliance through an offshore voluntary disclosure.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

This article focuses on FinCEN Form 114 business filers and is part of the series of articles on FinCEN Form 114 filers. The series began with the article that FBAR and Form 114a are the same form, then another article on the FBAR definition of the United States and still another article on the FinCEN Form 114 Filers (with the focus on the individual filers). Future articles are planned to continue this series.

SFOP Non-Residency | Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures Lawyer

Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”) is currently the preferred offshore voluntary disclosure option for US taxpayers who reside overseas, recently came to the United States or recently left the United States. Hence, the issue of SFOP eligibility (i.e. the ability of a taxpayer to participate in this program) is very important for these taxpayers. Today, I would like to concentrate on the SFOP non-residency requirement (I will alternatively refer to it simply as “SFOP non-residency”).

SFOP Non-Residency: Two Main SFOP Legal Requirements

In addition to meeting the general procedural requirements, a taxpayer who wishes to do a SFOP voluntary disclosure must meet two specific legal requirements. First, he must satisfy the applicable non-residence requirement. Second, he must meet the non-willfulness requirement. As I pointed out above, the focus of today’s article is on the non-residency requirement.

SFOP Non-Residency: All Participants Must Meet This Requirement

From the outset, it is important to point out that all SFOP participants must meet the SFOP non-residency requirement. This means that, in case of joint filers, both spouses must satisfy this requirement. This is the case even if only one spouse has unreported foreign assets.

SFOP Non-Residency: Two Categories

There are two distinct SFOP non-residency requirements depending on the immigration status of SFOP participants. The first type of non-residency requirements applies only to US citizens, US Lawful Permanent Residents (a/k/a “green card holders”) and their estates. The second type applies to everyone else.

SFOP Non-Residency: US Citizens and US Permanent Residents

In order to meet the SFOP non-residency requirement, a US citizen or US Permanent Resident (or his estate) must satisfy the following test:

1. In any one or more of the most recent three years for which the US tax return due date (including proper due date extensions) has passed;

2. He did not have a US abode; and

3. He was physically outside of the United States for at least 330 full days.

SFOP instructions specifically cite IRC §911 and its regulations for interpreting the term “abode”, which the IRS defines as one’s home, habitation, residence, domicile, or place of dwelling; it is not equivalent to one’s principal place of business. The IRS confirmed that temporary presence in the United States or maintenance of a dwelling in the United States does not necessarily mean that one has an abode in the United States.

SFOP Non-Residency: IRS Examples for US Citizens and US Permanent Residents

The SFOP instructions offer two examples where a US citizen or US Permanent Resident meets the SFOP non-residency requirement. I have provided both examples here verbatim:

“Example 1: Mr. W was born in the United States but moved to Germany with his parents when he was five years old, lived there ever since, and does not have a U.S. abode. Mr. W meets the non-residency requirement applicable to individuals who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Example 2: Assume the same facts as Example 1, except that Mr. W moved to the United States and acquired a U.S. abode in 2012. The most recent 3 years for which Mr. W’s U.S. tax return due date (or properly applied for extended due date) has passed are 2013, 2012, and 2011. Mr. W meets the non-residency requirement applicable to individuals who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.”

Please, note that example 2 emphasizes the fact that the non-residency requirement is satisfied even if an individual complies with it in only one of the past three years.

SFOP Non-Residency: Other Individuals

The second type of the SFOP non-residency requirement applies to all individuals who do not fit into the first category (i.e. they are not US citizens or US Permanent Residents). An individual from the second category meets the SFOP non-residency requirement if:

1. In any one or more of the most recent three years for which the US tax return due date (including proper due date extensions) has passed;

2. He did not meet the substantial presence test described in IRC §7701(b)(3).

SFOP Non-Residency: Substantial Presence Test

The Substantial Presence Test of IRC §7701(b)(3) is used to determine whether a person was a US tax resident in a given tax year. The Substantial Presence Test is satisfied if:

1. The individual was present in the United States for at least 31 days during the tax year in question; and

2. The sum of the number of days on which such individual was present in the United States during the current year and the two preceding calendar years equals or exceeds 183 days. The amount of days in the two preceding years should be multiplied by the applicable multiplier as follows: first preceding year – one-third; second preceding year – one-sixth.

I wish to emphasize that this is the general rule. There are numerous exceptions to the Substantial Present Test, including the “closer connection exception” and certain visa exemptions.

SFOP Non-Residency: IRS Example for Other Individuals

The IRS SFOP instructions again provide a useful example, which I copied here:

“Example 3: Ms. X is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, was born in France, and resided in France until May 1, 2012, when her employer transferred her to the United States. Ms. X was physically present in the U.S. for more than 183 days in both 2012 and 2013. The most recent 3 years for which Ms. X’s U.S. tax return due date (or properly applied for extended due date) has passed are 2013, 2012, and 2011. While Ms. X met the substantial presence test for 2012 and 2013, she did not meet the substantial presence test for 2011. Ms. X meets the non-residency requirement applicable to individuals who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.”

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, Including SFOP Non-Residency and Non-Willfulness Requirements

If you are not in compliance with US tax laws concerning foreign assets and foreign income, please contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe with their offshore voluntary disclosures, including Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!