FATCA Tax Attorney

FATCA Criminal Penalties | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

While there are a number of articles in professional publications and attorneys’ blogs covering the civil penalties associated with a failure to comply with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”), there is almost a complete silence with respect to FATCA criminal penalties. This essay intends to fill this gap by introducing its readers to potential FATCA criminal penalties that the IRS may pursue in case of FATCA noncompliance.

FATCA Criminal Penalties: FATCA Background and FFI Reporting Requirements

Congress enacted the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (“HIRE”) Act of 2010. The law revolutionized international tax compliance, because, for the very first time, it forced all foreign financial institutions (“FFIs”) to report their US account holders to the IRS, including their names, account numbers and highest values of these accounts.

In other words, FATCA has turned all compliant FFIs into IRS agents. FFIs now carry the entire burden of automatically (and, it is important to emphasize the word “automatically”) disclosing all of the FATCA-required information directly to the IRS. The IRS now only needs to properly process and analyze the data in order to identify noncompliant taxpayers and investigate them.

How did the Congress achieve this goal? It imposed a very harsh penalty on FATCA-noncompliant FFIs without paying much attention to the potential legal and political implications such an over-reaching law has for the sovereignty of other nations. FATCA created a new tax withholding regime under which every noncompliant FFI faces a 30% withholding with respect to any incoming transaction. The penalty is imposed on the gross amount of a transaction, which means that using a noncompliant FFI may result in a net loss for the parties engaged in the transaction.

The net impact of the FATCA FFI penalty is that no bank or person would wish to utilize a noncompliant FFI, effectively cutting off the latter from the any USD-nominated transactions and the world markets.

FATCA Criminal Penalties: FATCA Requirements Imposed on US Taxpayers

FATCA created a new tax reporting obligation specifically for US taxpayers called Form 8938. I have discussed Form 8938 in detail elsewhere on my website and here I will provide just a very simplified description of this requirement. A Specified Person (who can be an individual or an entity) must file Form 8938 if the value of his Specified Foreign Financial Assets (SFFAs) exceeds a certain filing threshold which is determined by the tax return filing status of the Specified Person.

SFFAs are defined very broadly to include pretty much any type of a financial asset, an ownership interest in a foreign business, ownership of a beneficiary interest in a foreign trust, ownership interest in a foreign trust under the IRC Sections 671 through 679, et cetera. Additionally, Form 8938 requires the Specified Person to report foreign income attributable to holding or disposing of SFFAs.

Failure to file Form 8938 may lead to an imposition of a $10,000 civil penalty, subject to reasonable cause exception. An additional $10,000 penalty applies if the taxpayer fails to file Form 8938 within 90 days after the IRS mails notice of the failure to file the form. If the taxpayer persists in his failure to file the form, the IRS will impose additional $10,000 for each thirty-day periods the failure continues up to the maximum of $50,000. It is important to note that the statute of limitations does not start to run if Form 8938 has not been filed.

FATCA Criminal Penalties in General

Interestingly, the US Congress did not create any separate FATCA criminal penalties. The IRS and the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”), however, have not had any problems in engaging into criminal prosecutions of FATCA violations.

There are three major provisions that the IRS and the DOJ can rely upon in their criminal prosecution of FATCA violations. First, 18 U.S.C. section 371 (see below for more details). Second, 26 U.S.C. 7201 – a felony charge for intentional filing of a false Form 8938. Finally, 26 U.S.C. 7203 – a misdemeanor charge for a willful failure to file Form 8938.

So far, the IRS and the DOJ have used Section 371 more than Sections 7201 and 7203. However, as time goes on, I expect that Sections 7201 and 7203 will be used more extensively.

Since Section 371 criminal charges are the most common at this point, let’s explore this type of a criminal prosecution charge in more detail.

FATCA Criminal Penalties: 18 U.S.C. Section 371

As long as there is enough evidence, the IRS and the DOJ can use 18 U.S.C. section 371 to prosecute US taxpayers based on a charge of engaging in a FATCA-related conspiracy. This is likely to become the most favorite tool to prosecute persons for aiding US clients to circumvent FATCA requirements, including tax withholding provisions.

The DOJ already used this tool as early as within two months after FATCA tax withholding obligations became effective in July of 2014. On September 9, 2014, Mr. Robert Bandfield, five other individuals and six corporations were charged under 18 U.S.C. section 371 for a conspiracy to aid US clients with evasion of FATCA reporting requirements.

It is important to point out that criminal charges under 18 U.S.C. section 371 are especially dangerous for foreigners who help US taxpayers with tax evasion.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With a Willful Failure to File Forms 8938

For persons who willfully failed to file their Forms 8938, the best strategy to avoid a criminal prosecution is to engage in a voluntary disclosure of their undisclosed foreign assets before the IRS finds out about your willful FATCA violations. Sherayzen Law Office can help you!

While the IRS flagship Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) was closed on September 28, 2019, the IRS updated its traditional voluntary disclosure program in November of 2018 to help willful taxpayers voluntarily disclose their prior tax noncompliance. I will refer to this option as Modified Traditional Voluntary Disclosure (“MTVD”).

Sherayzen Law Office can help you with MTVD and any other type of a voluntary disclosure. Our highly-experienced team of tax professionals has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to successfully conduct an offshore voluntary disclosure of their undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income. We have prevented the initiation of numerous criminal prosecutions and saved tens of millions of dollars in penalties for our clients. We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Japanese Bank Accounts : Main US Tax Obligations | FATCA Tax Lawyer

Despite the fact that FATCA has been implemented already in July of 2014, a lot of US taxpayers are still unaware of their obligation to disclose their Japanese bank accounts in the United States. In this essay, I will discuss the three most important US international tax requirements concerning Japanese bank accounts: worldwide income reporting, FBAR and FATCA Form 8938.

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

All US tax residents must disclose their worldwide income on their US tax returns. This requirement includes all income generated by the Japanese bank accounts. This obligation applies to all types of income: bank interest income, dividends, capital gains, et cetera.

In this context, it is important to reject two incorrect, but commonly-held beliefs concerning the reporting of Japanese-source income. First, a significant number of US taxpayers believe that Japanese income does not need to be reported if it never left Japan. This is completely false; it does not matter where the income is earned or held – as long as you are a US tax resident, you must disclose your Japanese income on your US tax returns whether or not it was ever transferred to the United States.

The second and most common myth is the belief that, if the income is subject to Japanese tax withholding, it does not need to be reported in the United States. Some taxpayers hold this belief because of their familiarity with the territorial system of taxation, while others assume that this is true due to the prohibition of double-taxation under the US-Japan tax treaty.

In either case, this myth is also completely false. All US tax residents must disclose their Japanese income on their US tax returns even if it is subject to Japanese tax withholding or reported on Japanese tax returns. However, you may be able to take advantage of the Foreign Tax Credit to reduce your US tax liability by the amount of taxes paid in Japan.

Japanese Bank Accounts: FBAR

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

FBAR has a severe penalty system for failure to file the form, failure to provide accurate information on the form and failure to maintain supporting documentation for the amounts reported on FBAR. The penalties range from criminal penalties (i.e. actual time in jail) to willful and non-willful civil penalties. The civil penalties are adjusted for inflation each year.

Given the fact that FBAR penalties may completely destroy one’s financial life, US taxpayers should strive to do everything in their power to make sure that they comply with this requirement.

Japanese Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938

In addition to FBAR, US tax residents with Japanese bank accounts may be required to file Form 8938. Form 8938 is the creation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”). US tax residents must disclose their Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”) on Form 8938 in each year their SFFA exceed the form’s filing threshold.

Form 8938 has a higher filing threshold than FBAR, but it is still relatively low, especially if the owner of Japanese bank accounts resides 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.

Moreover, SFFA is defined very broadly to include a lot of more financial assets than what is required to be reported on FBAR; hence, it is easier for US taxpayers to meet the Form 8938 filing Threshold. SFFA includes 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. A word of caution: even when FBAR and Form 8938 cover the same assets, both forms must be filed despite the duplication of the disclosure.

The readers should also remember that Form 8938 has it own distinct penalty structure for failure to file the form or failure to comply with all of its requirements.

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

This essay broadly covered three most important and most common reporting requirements concerning Japanese bank accounts. There may be a lot more of these requirements depending on your particular fact pattern.

Sherayzen Law Office has extensive experience working with Japanese clients and their bank accounts. We can help you identify your US international tax requirements and prepare all of the tax documents necessary to comply with them. Moreover, if you did not comply with any of these US tax obligations in the past, we will help you with your offshore voluntary disclosure to minimize your IRS penalties and avoid IRS criminal prosecution.

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!

FATCA Criminal Case Filed Against Foreigners | FATCA Lawyer & Attorney

On March 22, 2018, the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that it charged four foreign residents – Panayiotis Kyriacou (resides in London, UK), Arvinsingh Canaye (resides in Mauritius), Adrian Baron (resides in Budapest, Hungary), and Linda Bullock (resides in St. Vincent/Grenadines) – with conspiracy to defraud the United States by failing to comply with FATCA. Let’s explore this new FATCA criminal case in more detail.

Legal Basis for FATCA Criminal Case

The legal basis for this FATCA criminal case is the allegation that the defendants conspired to defraud the United States by obstructing the IRS administration of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”).

FATCA was passed into law in 2010. One part of this highly complex law requires foreign financial institutions (“FFIs”) to identify their US customers, collect the information about foreign accounts held by these US customers as required by FATCA (“FATCA Information”) and send FATCA Information to the United States. The DOJ alleges that the defendants in this case intentionally conspired to obstruct the collection and reporting of FATCA Information to the IRS.

Facts of the FATCA Criminal Case As Alleged by the DOJ

The indictment alleges that the defendants agreed to defraud the United States by opening foreign bank and brokerage accounts without collecting FATCA information that should have been reported to the IRS. The indictment describes two specific schemes, both of which were uncovered by the DOJ through an undercover agent.

The first scheme is called the Beaufort Scheme, because Canaye and Kyriacou both worked at Beaufort Management as a general manager and an investment manager respectively. The indictment alleges that, between August 2016 and February 2018, these two defendants conspired to defraud the United States by failing to comply with FATCA. The DOJ states that it obtained the proof of the existence of this conspiracy through an undercover agent (the “Agent”).

The Agent first approached Kyriacou in 2016, who opened bank accounts for the agent without doing any FATCA compliance. In July 2017, Kyriacou introduced the Agent to Canaye and advised that Canaye could assist with the Agent’s stock manipulation scheme schemes. In January 2018, Canaye and Beaufort Management opened six global business corporations for the Agent. The Agent’s name did not appear on any of the account opening documents.

The second scheme is called the Loyal Scheme because it involved Baron, the Loyal Bank’s Chief Business Officer. During their meetings, the Agent explained to Baron that he was a US citizen and described his stock manipulation schemes, including the need to bypass FATCA. In July and August of 2017, the Undercover Agent met with Baron and Bullock, Loyal Bank’s Chief Executive Officer. During the meeting, the Undercover Agent described how his stock manipulation deals operated, including the necessity to bypass FATCA. In July and August 2017, Loyal Bank opened multiple bank accounts for the Agent. At no time did Loyal Bank request or collect FATCA Information from the Undercover Agent.

It should be remembered that the charges in the superseding indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This FATCA Criminal Case Reflects IRS Commitment to FATCA Enforcement

While not the first FATCA criminal case, the present case is definitely at the beginning of the future series of FATCA cases against US taxpayers and foreigners. The IRS stressed that this FATCA criminal case reflects the commitment of the IRS and the DOJ to combat offshore tax evasion and enforce FATCA worldwide.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to monitor IRS enforcement of FATCA, including this FATCA criminal case.

Specified Domestic Entity: Passive Test | FATCA Form 8938 Lawyer & Attorney

This article is published as part of a long series of articles on the Specified Domestic Entity (“SDE”) Definition. In a previous article, I stated that the term “formed or availed of” consists of two legal tests: the Closely-Held Test and the Passive Test. Since I already explained the general requirements of the Closely-Held Test in another article, I would like to focus today on the Passive Test.

The Passive Test: Background Information

Starting tax year 2016, business entities classified as SDEs may be required to attach Form 8938 to their US tax returns. What entity is considered to be SDE? The answer is found in Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(a): “a specified domestic entity is a domestic corporation, a domestic partnership, or a trust described in IRC Section 7701(a)(30)(E), if such corporation, partnership, or trust is formed or availed of for purposes of holding, directly or indirectly, specified foreign financial assets.”

I already explained in a previous article that “formed or availed of” is a term of art and a requirement that an entity meets two legal tests: the Closely-Held Test and the Passive Test.

The Passive Test: General Requirements

The Passive Test consists of two threshold requirements: the Passive Income Threshold and the Passive Assets Threshold. If one of these Thresholds is satisfied, the Passive Test is met and a business entity would be considered as formed or availed of for the purposes of holding specified foreign financial assets. Let’s explore these two requirements in more detail.

The Passive Test: the Passive Income Threshold

The Passive Income Threshold is satisfied if “at least 50 percent of a corporation’s or a partnership’s gross income for the taxable year is passive income.” Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(b)(1)(ii). The definition of passive income includes:

“(A) Dividends,

(B) Interest;

(C) Income equivalent to interest, including substitute interest;

(D) Rents and royalties, other than rents and royalties derived in the active conduct of a trade or business conducted, at least in part, by employees of the corporation or partnership;

(E) Annuities;

(F) The excess of gains over losses from the sale or exchange of property that gives rise to passive income described in paragraphs (b)(3)(i)(A) through (b)(3)(i)(E) of this section;

(G) The excess of gains over losses from transactions (including futures, forwards, and similar transactions) in any commodity, but not including –

(1) Any commodity hedging transaction described in section 954(c)(5)(A), determined by treating the corporation or partnership as a controlled foreign corporation; or

(2) Active business gains or losses from the sale of commodities, but only if substantially all the corporation or partnership’s commodities are property described in paragraph (1), (2), or (8) of section 1221(a);

(H) The excess of foreign currency gains over foreign currency losses (as defined in section 988(b)) attributable to any section 988 transaction; and

(I) Net income from notional principal contracts as defined in § 1.446-3(c)(1).” Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(b)(3).

The Treasury Regulations also contain certain exceptions to the definition of passive income (for example, for dealers).

The Passive Test: the Passive Assets Threshold

The Passive Assets Threshold is satisfied if at least 50 percent of the assets held by a corporation or a partnership for the taxable year “are assets that produce or are held for the production of passive income.” Treas. Reg. §1.6038D-6(b)(1)(ii). Such assets are called “passive assets”. Id.

The percentage of passive assets held by a corporation or a partnership during a taxable year is determined based on “the weighted average percentage of passive assets (weighted by total assets and measured quarterly).” Id. This is very similar to the PFIC test.

The regulations allow for two different methods of valuation of the assets for the purpose of the Passive Asset Threshold. The first method is Fair Market Value of the assets. The second method is valuation of assets based on the “book value of the assets that is reflected on the corporation’s or partnership’s balance sheet.” Id. Surprisingly, both US and an international financial accounting standard are permitted for the purpose of the valuation of assets (usually, only US GAAP is allowed).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with FATCA Form 8938 Compliance

If you are concerned about whether your entity is required to file Form 8938 or you have any other FATCA-related questions, please contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in the US international tax compliance, including FATCA Form 8938 compliance. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their FATCA requirements and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 Filing Threshold | FATCA Lawyer

The Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 filing threshold is likely to be very easily satisfied by the majority of Specified Domestic Entities. With the major tax return filing deadlines just two or three months away (depending on whether an entity is a corporation, a partnership or a trust), every Specified Domestic Entity must assess whether it is required to file FATCA Form 8938. Failure to do so may result in imposition of Form 8938 penalties by the IRS.

Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 Filing Threshold

For tax years beginning after December 31, 2015, a Specified Domestic Entity must file Form 8938 if the total value of its Specified Foreign Financial Assets exceeds $50,000 on the last day of the tax year or $75,000 at any time during the tax year. This is an incredibly low Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 filing threshold that pretty much means that virtually all Specified Domestic Entities will have to file a Form 8938.

Transition Years Are Most Dangerous

Transition tax years 2016, 2017 and 2018 are likely to be the most dangerous for Specified Domestic Entities. Since the Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 filing threshold is very low and the awareness of the Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 filing obligation is limited to a small number of specialized tax professionals, there can be no doubt that many Specified Domestic Entities will fail to comply with their Form 8938 filing obligations and may face steep Form 8938 penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with the Specified Domestic Entity Form 8938 Filing Obligations

If your business or a trust is classified as a Specified Domestic Entity and your entity failed to file FATCA Form 8938, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our international tax law firm specializes in helping business and individuals with their US international tax compliance requirements, including Form 8938, and with their offshore voluntary disclosures involving a Form 8938.

Contact Us today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!