FATCA Lawyers

Offshore Bank Accounts Remain on the IRS 2019 Dirty Dozen List

On March 15, 2019, the IRS announced that it will keep undisclosed offshore bank accounts on its 2019 Dirty Dozen list.

2019 Dirty Dozen List: Background Information

The “Dirty Dozen” list is complied annually by the IRS. It consists of common tax scams and noncompliance schemes that the IRS prioritizes in its enforcement efforts. Many of these scams and schemes peak during the tax filing season, but offshore evasion is present throughout the year.

2019 Dirty Dozen List: Offshore Evasion Remains a Priority for the IRS

Despite many years of an intense focus on this area, the IRS still priorities its enforcement efforts in the area of offshore evasion. “Offshore evasion remains a primary focal point of overall IRS enforcement efforts,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Our Criminal Investigation and civil enforcement teams work closely with the Justice Department in the international arena to ensure our nation’s tax laws are followed. Taxpayers considering hiding funds or assets offshore should think twice; the civil penalties and criminal sanctions can be severe.”

2019 Dirty Dozen List: Undisclosed Offshore Bank Accounts May Lead to Criminal Prosecution and Imposition of Huge Civil Penalties

This is very much true. Over the years, the IRS has conducted thousands of offshore-related audits that resulted in the imposition of multimillion-dollar civil penalties as well as additional tax liability. Moreover, the IRS has also been very active in pursuing criminal penalties, which resulted in the collection of billions of dollars in criminal fines and restitution.

Many of these cases involved undisclosed offshore bank accounts. In fact, the IRS has expressly warned noncompliant taxpayers that hiding income in undisclosed offshore bank accounts may result in significant penalties as well as criminal prosecution.

2019 Dirty Dozen List: Common Schemes Involving Undisclosed Offshore Bank Accounts

The IRS has identified numerous schemes that involve undisclosed offshore bank accounts. The most simple of them (and the one that is becoming increasingly rare) is the direct ownership of secret offshore bank accounts and brokerage accounts. The more sophisticated schemes use nominee entities and prepaid debit cards. The most complicated schemes often involve foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities and insurance plans.

The IRS has emphasized that it is not illegal to have offshore bank accounts, foreign business entities and foreign trusts. All of these foreign assets, however, must be disclosed and the appropriate US taxes must be paid.

2019 Dirty Dozen List: How the IRS Finds Out About Schemes In order to Prosecute Noncompliant Taxpayers

There are many different ways for the IRS to find out about undisclosed offshore accounts and schemes that involve such accounts. Let’s briefly review the top four of them. First, the IRS has built up a significant pile of information from prior prosecutions of taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts as well as bankers and other financial experts suspected of helping clients hide their assets overseas. Each new audit and prosecution continues to bring in more information.

Second, the IRS also received a huge amount of information from US taxpayers who participated in the different versions of the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) during 2004-2018 as well as Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. OVDP has been particularly helpful, because it involved a large number of taxpayers who could be classified as willful in their prior noncompliance.

Third, the IRS has also obtained very sophisticated information concerning offshore schemes from the Swiss Bank Program. As part of this program, Swiss banks disclosed their strategies for using undisclosed offshore bank accounts to hide income overseas.

Finally, as a result of the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) and the network of Intergovernmental Agreements (“IGAs”), there is a continuous and automatic flow of information concerning US-owned accounts from third parties to the IRS.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Undisclosed Foreign Assets

The fact that undisclosed offshore bank accounts remain on the 2019 Dirty Dozen list demonstrates the IRS commitment to fighting tax noncompliance in this area. As a result of the information collection efforts by the IRS, US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts are at a severe risk of discovery by the IRS.

This is why, if you have undisclosed foreign assets or foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their offshore voluntary disclosures, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FFI FATCA Requirements: Introduction | FATCA Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Since July 1, 2014, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) has imposed a heavy compliance burden on Foreign Financial Institutions (“FFIs”). Many of these FFIs have struggled with developing a good understanding of their new FATCA requirements even to this day. In this brief essay, I want to provide a general overview of these FFI FATCA requirements so that readers can begin to develop an understanding of FATCA.

FFI FATCA Requirements: Background Information

FATCA was enacted into law in 2010. The most important idea behind the new law was to combat US tax noncompliance of US taxpayers with foreign financial assets.

There are several important parts of FATCA, but the most important one of them was forcing FFIs to identify US owners of foreign financial assets, collect certain information about them and share it with the IRS. Failure to do so meant facing a FATCA penalty in the form of a 30% withholding tax on the gross amount of all transactions with a noncompliant FFI. In essence, FATCA turned FFIs around the world into free IRS informants.

FFI FATCA Requirements: Three Categories

What precisely does FATCA require FFIs to do in order to be FATCA-compliant? If we look broadly at the FFI FATCA requirements, we can group all of these requirements into three broad categories. Each of these categories consists of a myriad of smaller but still fairly complex FATCA compliance requirements and requires a deep understanding of new FATCA terms.

The first and most important category of FATCA requirements is to collect the required due diligence information concerning all account holders, investors and payees. “Collecting” here means obtaining the required due diligence information and documentation. In other words, FATCA has to be part of an FFI’s “Know Your Client” (“KYC”) procedures.

Additionally, these new due diligence requirements apply not only to new customers, but also to pre-existing account holders. Pre-existing account holders are the account holders who already had accounts with an FFI as of the time FATCA was implemented (i.e. July 1, 2014) or sometimes a different date.

The second requirement is to report to the IRS three categories of persons: (a) all US account holders; (b) recalcitrant account holders; and © non-participating (i.e. FATCA-noncompliant) FFIs. This means that, under FATCA, FFIs must turn over to the IRS the identifying information concerning accounts held by US persons as well as point out the “bad apples” who refuse to comply with FATCA.

Recalcitrant account holders is a fairly complex FATCA term. In its most basic form, it refers to an account holder who does not supply the required FATCA information and who does not fall under any types of a waiver. In a future article, I will provide a more detailed description of this term, but, at this point, I would like to refer the readers to Treas Reg § 1.1471-5(g)(2).

Finally, the FFIs are charged with the requirement to coordinate FATCA withholding as necessary. In other words, the FFIs are required to impose FATCA noncompliance penalties on any FATCA non-compliant FFI, thereby turning FATCA in a worldwide self-enforcing system from which no FFI can escape.

FFI FATCA Requirements Are Interconnected

Needless to say that all three of these FFI FATCA requirements are deeply related to each other. For example, the due diligence requirement is essential to an FFI’s ability to properly comply with its FATCA reporting and withholding obligations. It is important to keep this connection between different FFI FATCA Requirements in mind while building an effective FATCA compliance system.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office to Find Out More About Your FFI FATCA Requirements

Sherayzen Law Office is a US international tax law firm that specializes in US international tax compliance, including FATCA compliance. We also help FFIs develop an effective FATCA compliance program as well as analyze existing FATCA compliance programs.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Specified Domestic Entity Seminar | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On August 17, 2017, the owner of Sherayzen Law Office, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, conducted a seminar on the new FATCA reporting requirement concerning Form 8938, specifically the new filing category of Specified Domestic Entities (the “Specified Domestic Entity Seminar”). Mr. Sherayzen is a highly experienced attorney who specializes in U.S. international tax compliance, including FATCA Form 8938. The Specified Domestic Entity Seminar was organized by the International Business Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

The Specified Domestic Entity Seminar commenced with the historical overview of FATCA. Then, it continued to analyze the three principal parts of FATCA (as relevant to the seminar), including Form 8938.

The next part of the Specified Domestic Entity Seminar focused on the filing requirements of FATCA, including the definition of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets. Mr. Sherayzen devoted considerable time to the exploration of various categories of Form 8938 filers and their respective filing thresholds. He explained to the audience that Form 8938 was previously required to be filed only by Specified Individuals. The tax attorney then stated that, starting tax years after December 31, 2015, a domestic corporation, partnership or trust classified as a Specified Domestic Entity was required to file Form 8938.

Having finished the review of the background information, Mr. Sherayzen proceeded to analyze the definition of Specified Domestic Entity. At this point, the Specified Domestic Entity Seminar turned very technical and analytical.

After stating the general definition of Specified Domestic Entity, the tax attorney divided the definition into various parts and analyzed each part in detail. In particular, the Specified Domestic Entity seminar covered the following topics: definition of “domestic” (as defined specifically for the purposes of domestic trusts and domestic business entities), Specified Foreign Financial Assets and the phrase “formed or availed of”.

As part of the analysis of the latter, Mr. Sherayzen discussed the Closely-Held Test and the Passive Tests with their varying applications to domestic trusts and domestic business entities. The tax attorney also discussed the highly unusual attribution rules within the context of the Closely-Held Test.

After the explanation of the Form 8938 filing threshold for Specified Domestic Entities, Mr. Sherayzen concluded the Specified Domestic Entity Seminar and opened the Q&A session.

Indian Bank Accounts : Key US Tax Obligations | International Tax Lawyer

Due to ongoing implementation of FATCA as well as the tax reform in India, more and more Indian Americans and US tax residents of Indian nationality are learning that they are required to disclose to the IRS their Indian bank accounts. Yet, there are still many more US taxpayers left who are either completely unaware of this requirement or they are confused with respect to what is required to be disclosed and how. This essay intends to clarify who is required to report their Indian bank accounts to the IRS and explain the most common US international tax requirements applicable to Indian bank accounts.

Indian Bank Accounts: Who Needs to Report Them to the US Government?

All US tax residents with Indian bank accounts need to disclose them to IRS. Warning: “US tax resident” is not equivalent to the immigration concept of “US Permanent Resident”. The confusion over these two concepts is a frequent cause of US tax noncompliance, because many Indian immigrants who come to the United States on a work visa assume hat they are not US tax residents since they do not have the status of a US Permanent Resident. This assumption is completely false.

The definition of US tax residency includes US permanent residents, but it is much broader. In general, this term includes: US citizens, US Permanent Residents, any person who satisfied the Substantial Presence Test and any person who declared himself as a tax resident. There are exceptions to this rule, but you will need to consult with an international tax lawyer before making use of any of these exceptions.

Indian Bank Accounts: Indian Income Must Be Disclosed on US Tax Returns

All US tax residents must comply with the numerous US tax reporting requirements, including the worldwide income reporting requirement. All Indian-source income generated by the Indian bank accounts of US tax residents must be disclosed on their US tax returns.

The worldwide income reporting requirement applies to any kind of income: bank interest income, dividends, capital gains, et cetera. This income should be reported on US tax returns even if it was already disclosed on Indian tax returns or subject to Indian tax withholding. This income should be disclosed in the United States even if it never left India.

Indian Bank Accounts: FBAR

The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114 (popularly known as “FBAR”) is one of the most important and dangerous reporting requirements that applies to Indian bank accounts. Generally, a US person is required to file FBAR if he has a financial interest in or signatory authority or an authority over foreign bank and financial accounts which, in the aggregate, exceed $10,000 at any point during a calendar year.

FBAR has an extremely severe penalty system, and US taxpayers should strive to do everything in their power to make sure that they comply with this requirement.

Indian Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938

US tax residents are also required to disclose their Indian bank accounts on Form 8938. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) led to the creation of Form 8938; US taxpayers should have filed their first Forms 8938 with their 2011 US tax returns.

Form 8938 requires US tax residents to report all of their Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”) as long as the Form’s filing threshold is met. SFFA includes a very diverse set of financial instruments, including foreign bank and financials accounts, bonds, swaps, ownership interest in a foreign business, beneficiary interest in a foreign trust and many other types of financial assets. In other words, with the exception of signatory authority accounts, Form 8938 not only duplicates FBAR, but covers a much broader range of financial instruments that would not be required to be reported on FBAR.

It should be pointed out that, even when FBAR and Form 8938 cover the same assets, both forms must be filed despite the duplication of the disclosure.

While Form 8938 has a much higher filing threshold than FBAR, it may still be easily exceeded, especially by taxpayers who reside in the United States. For example, if a taxpayer resides in the United States and his tax return filing status is “single”, then he would only need to have $50,000 or higher at the end of the year or $75,000 or higher at any point during the year in order to trigger the Form 8938 filing requirement. A lot of US taxpayers with Indian bank accounts easily exceed this threshold, especially if they are helping their parents or buying properties in India.

Finally, it should be remembered that Form 8938 has its own penalty structure for failure to file the form. Furthermore, Form 8938 forms an integral part of a federal tax return; this means that a failure to file the form may extend the IRS Statute of Limitations for an IRS audit indefinitely for the entire return.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Reporting of Your Indian Bank Accounts in the United States

In this essay, I just listed the most common US tax reporting requirements that may apply to US owners of Indian bank accounts. There is a plethora of other requirements that may apply to these taxpayers.

This is why you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US tax compliance. We have worked extensively with our Indian clients with respect to reporting of their Indian bank accounts, including offshore voluntary disclosure for late filings.

The stakes in international tax compliance are high, and you need to be able to rely on the knowledge, experience and professionalism of Sherayzen Law Office in order to make sure that you protect yourself from draconian IRS tax penalties. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers to deal with their US international tax compliance, and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!