Main Worldwide Income Reporting Myths | International Tax Attorney St Paul

In a previous article, I discussed the worldwide income reporting requirement and I mentioned that I would discuss the traps or false myths associated with this requirement in a future article. In this essay, I will keep my promise and discuss the main worldwide income reporting myths.

Worldwide Income Reporting Myths: the Source of Myths

I would like to begin by reminding the readers about what the worldwide income reporting rule requires. The worldwide income reporting requirement states that all US tax residents are obligated to disclose all of their US-source income and foreign-source income on their US tax returns.

This rule seems clear and straightforward. Unfortunately, it does not coincide with the income reporting requirements of many foreign tax systems. It is precisely this tension between the US tax system and tax systems of other countries that gives rise to numerous false myths which eventually lead to the US income tax noncompliance. Let’s go over the four most common myths.

Worldwide Income Reporting Myths: Local Taxation

Many US taxpayers incorrectly believe that their foreign-source income does not need to be disclosed in the United States because it is taxed in the local jurisdiction. The logic behind this myth is simple – otherwise, the income would be subject to double taxation. There is a variation on this myth which relies on various tax treaties between the United States and foreign countries on the prevention of double-taxation.

The “local taxation” myth is completely false. US tax law requires US tax residents to disclose their foreign-source income even if it is subject to foreign taxation or foreign tax withholding. These taxpayers forget that they may be able to use the foreign tax credit to remedy the effect of the double-taxation.

Where the foreign tax credit is unavailable or subject to certain limitations, the danger of double taxation indeed exists. This is why you need to consult an international tax attorney to properly structure your transactions in order to avoid the effect of double-taxation. In any case, the danger of double taxation does not alter the worldwide income reporting requirement – you still need to disclose your foreign-source income even if it is taxed locally.

The tax-treaty variation on the local taxation myth is generally false, but not always. There are indeed tax treaties that exempt certain types of income from US taxation; the US-France tax treaty is especially unusual in this aspect. These exceptions are highly limited and usually apply only to certain foreign pensions.

Generally, however, tax treaties would not prevent foreign income from being reportable in the United States. In other words, one should not turn an exception into a general rule; the existence of a tax treaty would not generally modify the worldwide income reporting requirement.

Worldwide Income Reporting Myths: Territorial Taxation

Millions of US taxpayers were born overseas and their understanding of taxation was often formed through their exposure to much more territorial systems of taxation that exist in many foreign countries. These taxpayers often believe that they should report their income only in the jurisdictions where the income was earned or generated. In other words, the followers of this myth assert that US-source income should be disclosed on US tax returns and foreign-source income on foreign tax returns.

This myth is false. US tax system is unique in many aspects; its invasive worldwide reach stands in sharp contrast to the territorial or mixed-territorial models of taxation that exist in other countries. Hence, you cannot apply your prior experiences with a foreign system of taxation to the US tax system. With respect to individuals, US tax laws continue to mandate worldwide income reporting irrespective of how other countries organize their tax systems.

Worldwide Income Reporting Myths: De Minimis Exception

The third myth has an unclear origin; most likely, it comes from human nature that tends to disregard insignificant amounts. The followers of this myth believe that small amounts of foreign source income do not need to be disclosed in the United States, because there is a de minimis exception to the worldwide income reporting requirement.

This is incorrect: there is no such de minimis exception. You must disclose your foreign income on your US tax return no matter how small it is.

This myth has a special significance in the context of offshore voluntary disclosures. The Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures can only be used if there is no income noncompliance. Oftentimes, taxpayers cannot benefit from this voluntary disclosure option, because they failed to disclose an interest income of merely ten or twenty dollars.

Worldwide Income Reporting Myths: Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

Finally, the fourth myth comes from the misunderstanding of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (the “FEIE”). The FEIE allows certain taxpayers who reside overseas to exclude a certain amount of earned income on their US tax returns from taxation as long as these taxpayers meet either the physical presence test or the bona fide residency test.

Some US taxpayers misunderstand the rules of the FEIE and believe that they are allowed to exclude all of their foreign income as long as they reside overseas. A variation on this myth ignores even the residency aspect; the taxpayers who fall into this trap believe that the FEIE excludes all foreign income from reporting.

This myth and its variation are wrong in three aspects. First of all, even in the case of FEIE, all of the foreign earned income must first be disclosed on a tax return and then, and only then, would the taxpayer be able to take the exclusion on the tax return. Second, the FEIE applies only to earned income (i.e. salaries or self-employment income), not passive income (such as bank interest, dividends, royalties and capital gains). Finally, as I already stated, in order to be eligible for the FEIE, a taxpayer must satisfy one of the two tests: the physical presence test or the bona fide residency test.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Worldwide Income Reporting

Worldwide income reporting can be an incredibly complex requirement despite its appearance of simplicity. In this essay, I pointed out just four most common traps for US taxpayers; there are many more.

Hence, if you have foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our highly-experienced tax team, headed by a known international tax lawyer, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to bring themselves into full compliance with US tax laws. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Worldwide Income Reporting Requirement | IRS International Tax Lawyer

Worldwide income reporting is at the core of US international tax system. Yet, every year, a huge number of US taxpayers fail to comply with this requirement. While some of these failures are willful, most of this noncompliance comes from misunderstanding of the worldwide income reporting requirement. In this essay, I will introduce the readers to the worldwide income reporting requirement and explain who must comply with it.

Worldwide Income Reporting Requirement: Who is Affected

It is important to understand that the worldwide income reporting requirement applies to all US tax residents. US tax residents include US citizens, US Permanent Residents (the so-called “green card” holders), taxpayers who satisfied the Substantial Presence Test and non-resident aliens who declared themselves US tax residents on their US tax returns. This is the general definition and there are certain exceptions, including treaty-based exceptions.

Worldwide Income Reporting Requirement: What Must Be Disclosed

The worldwide income reporting requirement mandates US tax residents to disclose all of their US-source income and all of their foreign-source income on their US tax returns. This seems like a very straightforward rule, but its practical application creates many tax traps for the unwary, which I will discuss in a future article.

Worldwide Income Reporting Requirement: Constructive Income and Anti-Deferral Regimes

It is important to emphasize that the worldwide income reporting requirement requires the disclosure not only of the income that you actually received, but also the income that you are deemed to have received by the operation of law. In other words, US tax residents must also disclose their constructive income.

One of the most common sources of constructive income in US international tax law are Anti-Deferral regimes that arise from the ownership of a foreign corporation. The two most common regimes are Subpart F rules (which apply only to a Controlled Foreign Corporation) and the brand-new GILTI  regime. You can find out more about these two highly-complex US tax laws by searching the articles on our website.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Worldwide Income Reporting Requirement

The worldwide income reporting requirement can be extremely complex; you can easily get yourself into trouble with the IRS over this issue. In order to avoid making costly mistakes and correct prior US tax noncompliance in the most efficient manner, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to comply with their US international tax obligations with respect to foreign income and foreign assets, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Mexican Bank Accounts & US Tax Obligations | International Tax Lawyers

In this essay, I would like to discuss three main US tax obligations concerning Mexican bank accounts: the worldwide income reporting requirement, FBAR and Form 8938. I will only concentrate on the obligations concerning individuals, not business entities.

Mexican Bank Accounts and US Tax Residents

Before we delve into the discussion concerning US tax obligations, we should establish who is required to comply with these obligations. In other words, who needs to report their Mexican bank accounts to the IRS?

The answer to this question is clear: US tax residents. Only US tax residents must disclose their worldwide income and report their Mexican bank accounts on FBAR and Form 8938. Non-resident aliens who have never declared themselves as US tax residents do not need to comply with these requirements.

US tax residents include US citizens, US Permanent Residents, an individual who satisfied the Substantial Presence test and an individual who properly declares himself a US tax resident. This is, of course, the general rule; important exceptions exist to this rule.

Mexican Bank Accounts: Worldwide Income Reporting Requirement

US tax residents must disclose their worldwide income on their US tax returns, including any income generated by Mexican bank accounts. In other words, all interest, dividend and royalty income produced by these accounts must be reported on Form 1040. Similarly, any capital gains from sales of investments held in Mexican bank accounts should also be disclosed on Form 1040. US taxpayers should pay special attention to the reporting of PFIC distributions and PFIC sales.

It is also possible that you may have to disclose passive income generated by your Mexican business entities through the operation of Subpart F rules and the GILTI regime, but this is a topic for a separate discussion.

Mexican Bank Accounts: FBAR

US tax residents must disclose on FBAR their ownership interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over Mexican bank and financial accounts if the aggregate highest balance of these accounts exceeds $10,000. FBAR is a common acronym for the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114. Even though this is a FinCEN Form, the IRS is charged with the enforcement of this form since 2001.

While seemingly simple, FBAR contains a number of traps for the unwary. One of the most common trap is the definition of “account”. For the FBAR purposes, “account” has a much broader definition than what people generally think of as an account. ‘Account” includes not just regular checking and savings accounts, but also investment accounts, life insurance policies with a cash surrender value, precious metals accounts, earth mineral accounts, et cetera. In fact, it is very likely that the IRS will find that an account exists whenever there is a custodial relationship between a financial institution and a US person’s foreign asset.

FBAR is a very dangerous form. Not only is the filing threshold very low, but there are huge penalties for FBAR noncompliance. For a willful violation, the penalties can go up to $100,000 (adjusted for inflation) per account per year or 50% of the highest value of the account per year, whichever is higher. In special circumstances, the IRS may refer FBAR noncompliance to the US Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. Even non-willful FBAR penalties may go up to $10,000 (again, adjusted for inflation) per account per year.

Mexican Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938

The final requirement that I wish to discuss today is the FATCA Form 8938. Born out of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, Form 8938 occupies a unique role in US international tax compliance. On the one hand, it may result in the duplication of a taxpayer’s US tax disclosures (especially with respect to the accounts already disclosed on FBAR). On the other hand, however, Form 8938 is a “catch-all” form that fills the compliance gaps with respect to other US international tax forms.

For example, if a taxpayer holds a paper bond certificate, this asset would not be reported on FBAR, because it is not an account. For the Form 8938 purposes, however, the IRS would consider this certificate as part of assets that fall within the definition of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”).

Hence, the scope of Form 8938 is very broad. It requires a specified person (this term is almost equivalent to a US tax resident) to disclose all SFFA as long as these SFFA, in the aggregate, exceed the applicable filing threshold.

SFFA includes a huge variety of foreign financial assets which are divided into two sub-categories: (a) foreign bank and financial accounts; and (b) “other” foreign financial assets. The definition of the “other” assets is impressive in its breadth: bonds, stocks, ownership interest in a closely-held business, beneficiary interest in a foreign trust, an interest rate swap, currency swap; basis swap; interest rate cap, interest rate floor, commodity swap; equity swap, equity index swap, credit default swap, or similar agreement with a foreign counterparty; an option or other derivative instrument with respect to any currency or commodity that is entered into with a foreign counterparty or issuer; and so on.

Form 8938 requires not only the reporting of SFFA, but also the income generated by the SFFA. In essence, the worldwide income reporting requirement is incorporated directly into the form.

The filing threshold for Form 8938 is more reasonable than that of FBAR for specified persons who reside in the United States, but it is still fairly low (especially for individuals). For example, if a taxpayer lives in the United States, he will need to file Form 8938 if he has SFFA of $50,000 ($100,000 for a married couple) or higher at the end of the year or $75,000 ($150,000 for a married couple) or higher during any time during the year. Specified persons who reside outside of the United States enjoy much higher thresholds.

Form 8938 has its own penalty system which contains some unique elements. First of all, a failure to comply with the Form 8938 requirements may allow the IRS to impose a $10,000 failure-to-file penalty which may go up to as high as $50,000 in certain circumstances. Second, Form 8938 noncompliance will lead to an imposition of much higher accuracy-related penalties on the income tax side – 40% of the additional tax liability. Third, Form 8938 noncompliance will limit the taxpayer’s ability to utilize the Foreign Tax Credit.

Finally, a failure to file Form 8938 will directly affect the Statute of Limitations of the entire tax return by extending the Statute to the period that ends only three years after the form is filed. In other words, Form 8938 penalties may allow the IRS to audit tax years which otherwise would normally be outside of the general three-year statute of limitations.

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

Sherayzen Law Office’s core area of practice is international tax compliance, including offshore voluntary disclosures – i.e. helping US taxpayers with foreign assets and foreign income to stay in US tax compliance and, if a taxpayer fails failed to comply with US tax laws in the past, bring him into compliance through an offshore voluntary disclosure. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Foreign Inheritance Definition | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Foreign inheritance definition is a topic of crucial importance for both US income and US estate tax compliance, because domestic inheritance and foreign inheritance have vastly different income tax results and reporting requirements. Hence, the topic of foreign inheritance definition directly concerns millions of Americans who reside overseas and tens of millions of Americans who have relatives outside of the United States. In this article, I will explore the foreign inheritance definition and warn against the common tax traps associated with it.

Foreign Inheritance Definition: Confusion Among Taxpayers

There is an enormous confusion right now among many US taxpayers with respect to US tax compliance requirements concerning a foreign inheritance. Some taxpayers firmly believe that a foreign inheritance is never subject to US taxation, some adopt an exactly opposite position while the rest simply do not know what to think.

It appears that the notion that foreign inheritance is non-taxable was acquired by reading various articles on the internet that state exactly this point. The people who believe that foreign inheritance is taxable also draw their conclusion from the internet – the difference arises from the fact that they read different articles. Finally, the third category of taxpayers read both kinds of articles and they simply do not know who to believe.

What is going on? Why is it that the articles on the internet seem to draw mutually-exclusive conclusions? Is one category of articles correct while the other one is one hundred percent wrong?

The answer to these questions lies in identifying the purpose for which an internet article was written, because the source of confusion lies in the foreign inheritance definition. It turns out that there are two definitions with separate applicable US tax compliance requirements!

Foreign Inheritance Definition for Income Tax Purposes

The first foreign inheritance definition exists for income tax purposes only. Under this rule, foreign inheritance is an inheritance received from a decedent who is a non-resident alien.

In this context, “non-resident alien” is defined by the IRS income tax rules. In other words, a non-resident alien is a person who does not fall into any of the tax residency categories. He cannot be a US citizen or US permanent resident; he did not stay long enough to satisfy the Substantial Presence Test; and he never declared himself a US tax resident (for example, by filing a joint US tax return with his US spouse).

Foreign Inheritance Definition for Estate Tax Purposes

A different definition of foreign inheritance applies under the US estate tax rules. Here, a foreign inheritance is defined as an inheritance received from a decedent who is a nonresident noncitizen. A noncitizen is a nonresident if he is domiciled outside of the United States. The term “domicile” here means acquiring a place to live without a present intention of later leaving. There are various factors used to determine a person’s domicile.

It is important to understand that, due to these two different definitions of a foreign inheritance, it is possible that a person could be a tax resident for income tax purposes and a nonresident noncitizen for estate tax purposes. Vice-versa may also be true.

Foreign Inheritance Definition and Tax Consequences

Now that we understand that there is a separate foreign inheritance definition for each tax regime (income and estate), we can clarify the confusion that prevails on the internet and among US taxpayers.

Generally, if the decedent was a non-resident alien, then neither his estate nor his US heirs would be subject to income taxes at the time of inheritance. I wish to emphasize here that this rule applies only “at the time of inheritance”, not before or after the foreign inheritance takes place. Exceptions may be possible with respect to foreign trusts.

On the other hand, if an inheritance was received from a taxpayer who is domiciled in the United States, then it will be subject to US estate tax rules irrespective of the country where the inherited assets are located. Of course, estate tax treaties may provide a certain amount of relief against double-taxation in this case.

If an inheritance was received from a nonresident noncitizen, then all foreign assets, except those considered as “US situs assets”, will avoid US estate taxation. The US situs assets above the exclusion of $60,000, however, may still be taxed in the United States.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Tax Help With Your Foreign Inheritance

All of the rules that I have stated here are general, and your international tax attorney needs to apply them to your specific fact pattern in order to determine whether an inheritance fits a foreign inheritance definition for either estate or income tax purposes or both.

Furthermore, one should remember that “non-taxable” does not mean “non-reportable”. There are various income tax information reporting requirements that may apply to you even if your foreign inheritance was not taxable. Additionally, income tax recognition may be required in certain situations with respect to your foreign inheritance, especially before and after the you are deemed to have inherited your foreign assets.

Under these circumstances, the help of Sherayzen Law Office is of critical importance if you wish to stay in US tax compliance and avoid high IRS tax penalties. We are an international tax law firm highly experienced in US tax compliance concerning a foreign inheritance. We have successfully helped US taxpayers all over the globe with their foreign inheritance issues, and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation About Your Foreign Inheritance!

IRS Waives 2018 Estimated Tax Penalty for Certain Taxpayers | Tax News

On January 16, 2019, the IRS announced that it would waive the 2018 estimated tax penalty for taxpayers who paid at least 85% of their total tax liability during 2018, either through federal income tax withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments or the combination of both of these payment methods. These changes will be integrated in the forthcoming revision of Form 2210 and instructions.

The 85% threshold is a reduction from the usual 90% threshold required to avoid a penalty. It appears that this new limitation will apply only to the 2018 estimated tax penalty.

Why did the IRS single out the 2018 estimated tax penalty for this additional relief? Very simple – the IRS is trying to help the taxpayers who were unable to properly calculate the needed tax withholding and estimated tax payments due to the numerous changes to tax laws introduced by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The IRS probably also feels that its own federal tax withholding tables could have contributed to underpayment of tax by many taxpayers. When they were released in early 2018, the updated federal tax withholding tables reflected only the lower tax rates and the increased standard deduction. The tables, however, did not fully reflect other changes, such as the elimination of personal exemptions (including exemptions for dependents) and the severe limitations placed on  itemized deductions. Hence, if a taxpayer relied on the federal tax withholding tables, he would have been unfairly exposed to the 2018 estimated tax penalty had the IRS refused to grant this relief.

In all fairness, it should be mentioned that the IRS attempted to correct its mistake by initiating a very extensive education campaign (which also involved all IRS partner groups) for taxpayers with respect to the need to check on their tax withholding.

It is important to point out that the taxpayers should pay a lot more attention to their tax withholding for 2019 so that a 2018 estimated tax penalty does not turn into a 2019 estimated tax penalty. This is especially true for taxpayers who will now owe (maybe, somewhat unexpectedly for them) taxes on their tax returns. The highest-risk taxpayers are, of course, those who have itemized their deductions and complex income. Sherayzen Law Office also warns that taxpayers with foreign income are within this high-risk category.