Sherayzen Law Office Successfully Completes 2019 April 15 Tax Season

Hundreds of filed complex tax forms and FBARs is the supreme evidence of the successful completion of the 2019 April 15 tax season by Sherayzen Law Office. Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures and US international tax compliance.

Annual compliance occupies a special place in the firm’s practice. This part of our practice consists of almost entirely clients who were so satisfied with our services that they wanted us to handle their annual tax compliance. It is a proud testimony of the high quality, efficiency and professionalism of Sherayzen Law Office’s work.

Since there are more and more clients every year who wish to retain our services for annual compliance, this has been a very dynamic area of growth. It also means that, with each year, the deadline pressure is rising.

The 2019 April 15 tax season was no exception. A record number of clients placed their utmost confidence in our work and asked us to prepare their 2018 income tax returns, information returns and FBARs. Moreover, the tremendous complexity of the 2017 tax reform has further added to the difficulty of the 2019 April 15 tax season.

Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, the founder and owner of Sherayzen Law Office, recognized very early that this tax season is going to be the most difficult one yet in the firm’s existence. This why he expanded and trained additional workforce at the beginning of 2019, engaged in proper tax season planning, addressed ahead of time the needs of the ongoing audit and offshore voluntary disclosure clients and established aggressive deadlines for the firm.

Thanks to all of this work by Mr. Sherayzen and the firm’s employees, all of the annual compliance deadlines were successfully completed. Moreover, Sherayzen Law Office was also able to finalize the filings for all of the offshore voluntary disclosure clients according to the already-created (by Mr. Sherayzen) customized plans of offshore voluntary disclosure.

We are not planning, however, to simply enjoy the laurels of another success. We look forward to helping hundreds of new clients with their offshore voluntary disclosures, IRS audits and international tax planning. We also already started our preparation for June 15, September 15 and October 15 tax seasons.

If you are looking for an international tax firm to which you entrust your case, you should retain the services of Sherayzen Law Office! We are a team of highly-experienced US international tax specialists who have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their US international tax compliance and offshore voluntary disclosures. We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

South African Bank Accounts | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney Los Angeles California

Due to various waves of emigration from South Africa since early 1990s, there is a significant number of South Africans who live in the United States. Many of these new US taxpayers continue to maintain their South African bank accounts even to this very day. These taxpayers need to be aware of the potential US tax compliance requirements which may apply to these South African bank accounts. This is exactly the purpose of this article – I intend to discuss the three most common US tax reporting requirements which may apply to South African bank accounts held by US persons. These requirements are: worldwide income reporting, FBAR and Form 8938.

South African Bank Accounts: US Tax Residents, US Persons and Specified Persons

Prior to our discussion of these reporting requirements, we need to identify the persons who must comply with them. It turns out that this task is not that easy, because different reporting requirements have a different definition of “filer”.

The most common and basic definition is the one that applies to the worldwide income reporting requirement – US tax residency. A US tax resident is a broad term that covers: US citizens, US permanent residents, persons who satisfy the Substantial Presence Test and individuals who declare themselves as US tax residents. This general definition of US tax residents is subject to a number of important exceptions, such as visa exemptions (for example, an F-1 visa five-year exemption for foreign students) from the Substantial Presence Test.

FBAR defines its filers as “US Persons” and Form 8938 filers are “Specified Persons”. These concepts are fairly similar to US tax residency, but there are important differences. Both terms apply to US citizens, US permanent residents and persons who satisfy the Substantial Presence Test. The differences arise mostly with respect to persons who declare themselves as US tax residents. A common example are the treaty “tie-breaker” provisions, which foreign persons use to escape the Substantial Presence Test for US tax residency purposes.

Determination of your US tax reporting requirements is the primary task of your international tax lawyer. I strongly recommend that you do not even attempt to do this yourself or use an accountant for this purpose. It is simply too dangerous.

South African Bank Accounts: Worldwide Income Reporting

All US tax residents must report their worldwide income on their US tax returns. This means that US tax residents must disclose to the IRS on their US tax returns both US-source and foreign-source income. In the context of the South African bank accounts, foreign-source income means all bank interest income, dividends, royalties, capital gains and any other income generated by these accounts.

South African Bank Accounts: FBAR Reporting

FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”), requires all US Persons to disclose their ownership interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over South African (and any other foreign country) bank and financial accounts if the aggregate highest balance of these accounts exceeds $10,000. I encourage you to read this article (click on the link) concerning the definition of a “US Person”. You can also search our firm’s website, sherayzenlaw.com, for the explanation of other parts of the required FBAR disclosure.

The definition of “account”, however, deserves special attention here. The FBAR definition of an account is substantially broader than what this word generally means in our society. “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.

Finally, FBAR has a very complex and severe penalty system. The most feared penalties are criminal FBAR penalties with up to 10 years in jail (of course, these penalties come into effect in extreme situations). On the civil side, the most dreaded penalties are FBAR willful civil penalties which can easily exceed a person’s net worth. Even FBAR non-willful penalties can wreak a havoc in a person’s financial life.

Civil FBAR penalties have their own complex web of penalty mitigation layers, which depend on the facts and circumstances of one’s case. One of the most important factors is the size of the South African bank accounts subject to FBAR penalties. Additionally, since 2015, the IRS has added another layer of 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 may be disregarded under certain circumstances (in fact, there are already a few instances where this has occurred).

South African Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938

Form 8938 is filed with a federal tax return and forms part of the tax return. This means that a failure to file Form 8938 may render the entire tax return incomplete and potentially subject to an IRS audit.

Form 8938 requires “Specified Persons” to disclose on their US tax returns all of their Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”) as long as these Persons meet the applicable filing threshold. The filing threshold depends on a Specified Person’s tax return filing status and his physical residency. For example, if he 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.

The IRS defines SFFA very broadly to include an enormous variety of financial instruments, including foreign bank accounts, foreign business ownership, foreign trust beneficiary interests, bond certificates, various types of swaps, et cetera. In some ways, FBAR and Form 8938 require the reporting of the same assets, but these two forms are completely independent from each other. This means that a taxpayer may have to do duplicate reporting on FBAR and Form 8938.

Specified Persons consist of two categories of filers: Specified Individuals and Specified Domestic Entities. You can find a detailed explanation of both categories by searching our website sherayzenlaw.com.

Finally, Form 8938 has its own penalty system which has far-reaching income tax consequences (including disallowance of foreign tax credit and imposition of 40% 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 South African Bank Accounts

If you have South African bank accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US international tax compliance. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their US international tax issues, and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR Financial Interest Definition | FBAR International Tax Lawyer & Attorney | FinCEN Form 114

In this article, I discuss one of the most important aspects of FBAR compliance – the FBAR financial interest definition.

FBAR Financial Interest: Legal Relevance and Context

FBAR is the acronym for the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114. A US person who has a financial interest in foreign bank and financial accounts must file FBARs to report these accounts as long as their aggregate value exceeds the FBAR filing threshold. The key issue here is the definition of “financial interest” for FBAR purposes.

FBAR Financial Interest: Classification of Financial Interest

As I just stated, the FBAR financial interest definition describes a situation when a US person has a “financial interest” in foreign account. It turns out that there are six possible situations when a US person may have a financial interest in a foreign account.

These situations can be divided into three categories: direct ownership, indirect ownership and constructive ownership. Let’s explore them in more detail.

FBAR Financial Interest: Direct Ownership

A US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if he is the owner of record or holder of legal title for this account. It does not matter whether he maintains the account for his own benefit or for the benefit of another person (US or foreign). As long as he is the owner of the account, he has a financial interest in the account and must file an FBAR to report it if the account’s highest value (together with all other foreign accounts of this person) exceeds $10,000.

FBAR Financial Interest: Indirect Ownership

There are four different scenarios which may result in having a reportable indirect FBAR financial interest in a foreign account:

1. Indirect Ownership Through a Corporation

A US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record of holder of legal title is a corporation in which a US person owns directly or indirectly: (i) more than 50 percent of the total value of shares of stock; or (ii) more than 50 percent of the voting power of all shares of stock.

This means that, if a US corporation owns a foreign company which has a foreign account, then this US corporation has a financial interest in this account through its direct ownership of the foreign company. In other words, the US corporation will need to file FBAR for the foreign company’s foreign bank and financial accounts.

One of the most frequent sources of FBAR noncompliance, however, is with respect to indirect ownership of the foreign account by the owners of the US corporation. For example, if a Nevada corporation owns 100% of a French corporation and a US owner owns 51% of the US corporation, then, the US owner must disclose on his FBAR his financial interest in the French corporation’s foreign accounts. This financial interest is acquired through indirect 51% ownership of the French corporation.

2. Indirect Ownership Through a Partnership

This scenario is very similar to that of corporations. A US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record or holder of legal title is a partnership in which the US person owns directly or indirectly: (i) an interest in more than 50 percent of the partnership’s profits (distributive share of partnership income taking into account any special allocation agreement); or (ii) an interest in more than 50 percent of the partnership capital.

3. Indirect Ownership Through a Trust

This is a more complex category which includes two scenarios. First, a US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record or holder of legal title is a trust and this US person is the trust grantor who has an ownership interest in the trust under the 26 U.S.C. §§ 671-679.

Second, a US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record or holder of legal title is a trust in which the US person has a greater than fifty percent (50%) beneficial interest in the assets or income of the trust for the calendar year. This second scenario is a true FBAR trap for US taxpayers, because while grantors may anticipate their FBAR requirements, beneficiaries are usually completely oblivious to this requirement.

This category of FBAR financial interest definition is even more complicated by the fact that it requires a very nuanced understanding of US property law and FBAR regulations. For example, how many taxpayers can answer this question: if a US person has a remainder interest in a trust that has a foreign financial account, should he disclose this account on his FBAR?

4. Indirect Ownership Through Any Other Entity

This a “catch-all” category of indirect FBAR financial interest definition. If a situation does not fall within any of the aforementioned categories, a US person still has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record or holder of legal title is any other entity in which the US person owns directly or indirectly more than 50% of the voting power, more than 50% of the total value of equity interest or assets, or more than 50% of interest in profits.

FBAR Financial Interest: Constructive Ownership

This is a very dangerous category of FBAR financial interest definition, because, in the event of an unfavorable determination by the IRS, it may have highly unfavorable consequences, including the imposition of FBAR willful penalties and even FBAR criminal penalties. A US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record or holder of legal title is a person who acts on behalf of the US person with respect to the account. Various classes of persons fall under this description: agents, nominees and even attorneys.

This category of FBAR financial interest definition targets situations where a US person is trying to hold his money under the name of a third party. It is not easy, however, to determine whether the foreign person is holding this money on behalf of the US person.

The key consideration here is the degree of control that the US person exercises over the account. If the agent can only access the account in accordance with the instructions from the US person, if there is an understanding that the agent holds the account on behalf of the US person and if the agent does not independently distribute funds for his own needs, then the IRS is likely to find that the US person has a financial interest in the account for FBAR purposes.

On the other hand, if the account owner uses the funds for his own purposes and makes gifts to third parties, the situation becomes increasingly unclear. In this case, one has to retain an international tax attorney to analyze all facts and circumstances, including the origin of funds.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for FBAR Help, Including the Determination of FBAR Financial Interest in a Foreign Account

FBAR is a very dangerous form. FBAR noncompliance penalties are truly draconian. They range from FBAR criminal penalties (of up to ten years in prison) to civil FBAR willful penalties (with 50% of the account or $100,000 (adjusted for inflation) whichever is higher) and even civil FBAR non-willful penalties of up to $10,000 (adjusted for inflation) per account per year. FBAR’s unusual Statute of Limitation of six years also means that the IRS has an unusually long period of time to assess these penalties.

This is why, if you have foreign bank and financial accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We are a highly-experienced international tax law firm that specialized in US international tax compliance and offshore voluntary disclosures (including for prior FBAR noncompliance). We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world, and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Determination of the FBAR maximum account value is a problem with which every FBAR filer has to deal. In this article, I would like to provide the main guidelines for the determination of the FBAR maximum account value.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Background Information

The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts or FBAR requires each filer to disclose his financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts to the IRS. As part of this disclosure, the filer must calculate and report the maximum account value for each of his foreign accounts on his FBAR.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Definition of Highest Value

FinCEN defines the maximum value of an account for FBAR purposes as “a reasonable approximation of the greatest value of currency or nonmonetary assets in the account during the calendar year.” In other words, the IRS does not expect you to always get the highest possible value. A reasonable approximation of this value will do if the exact highest value is not possible to determine.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Usual Problems

There are two main problems that each FBAR filer faces whenever he tries to identify the maximum account value for FBAR purposes. The first and most obvious problem is the determination of the highest account value. How does one determine the highest value for a bank account? What about a securities account where stocks fluctuate all the time? What about a precious metals account which has investments in different precious metals?

Second, FBAR requires that all amounts be stated in US dollars. Hence, an issue arises with respect to proper currency conversion – i.e. what is the proper currency exchange rate? Should the spot rates be used? Or December 31 exchange rates?

Let’s discuss each of these problems in more depth.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Methodology

Determination of maximum account value depends to a certain degree on the type of an account for which the filer is trying to determine this value. There is no question that, with respect to checking and savings bank accounts, the IRS wants you to use the full-year statements to determine the day on which the highest value was achieved for each of these accounts. This is a simple and effective method.

Determining the maximum value of a securities account is much harder, because securities fluctuate on a daily basis. For this reason, the IRS allows you to rely on periodic account statements to make this determination, especially end-of-year statements. This method is allowed only as long as the statements fairly approximate the maximum value during the calendar year.

Even this method, however, is often insufficient when one deals with mixed-currency accounts, mixed-investment accounts, mixed-metal accounts, et cetera. These situations should be handled on a case-by-case basis by your international tax attorney.

Let’s illustrate the complexity of the issues involved here by a relatively simple example. Generally, an end-of-year statement for an investment account is a good approximation of the maximum value of the account. If, however, there was a withdrawal of funds from the account following a major sale of investments, then the end-of-year statement cannot be relied upon. Instead, one should try a different method to approximate the highest value. One possibility is to use a reliable and known financial website for valuing the remaining assets on the date of the sale plus the proceeds from the sale of investments. The method, however, may fail if the highest value of investments was at the beginning of the year, not the date of sale.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Currency Conversion

Unlike the identification of the highest account value with its various complications, the currency conversation part of the FBAR maximum account value determination is fairly straightforward. All filers must use the end-of-year FBAR rates published by the Treasury Department. These rates are officially called “Treasury Financial Management Service rates”, but they are commonly called “FBAR rates” by US international tax lawyers. The FBAR rates are division rates, not the multiplication ones. This is standard in US international tax law.

Hence, for the currency conversion purposes, you need to identify the currency in which your account is nominated, find the appropriate FBAR conversion rate for the relevant year and divide your highest balance by the relevant FBAR rate. For your convenience, Sherayzen Law Office also publishes FBAR rates on its website.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your FBAR Preparation

If you are required to file FBARs, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to comply with their FBAR obligations, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!