Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts FINCEN Form 114

IRS Issues FBAR Fact Sheet | FBAR FATCA Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On April 4, 2019, the IRS issued the FBAR Fact Sheet in order to acquaint US taxpayers with this highly important reporting requirement for foreign accounts held by US persons. Let’s analyze the new fact sheet in more detail.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Organizational Structure of the Fact Sheet

The IRS FBAR Fact Sheet can be divided into seven parts: (1) introduction to FBAR and the need to report foreign accounts to the IRS; (2) identification of who needs to file FBARs; (3) explanation of how to file FBARs (including special cases such as joint accounts and the determination of highest balances); (4) discussion of Form 8938 and FBAR; (5) amended and late FBARs; (6) description of FBAR recordkeeping requirements; and (7) more IRS resources concerning FBAR. These parts are not clearly delineated in the Fact Sheet; rather, they are summaries of various information that this brochure contains.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Introduction to FBAR

The IRS FBAR Fact Sheet commences with the warning to US taxpayers that they are required to report their foreign bank and financial accounts even if they do not produce any interest income. April 15 is identified as the critical deadline for these taxpayers. Later, the IRS also states that there is an extension available for FBARs. Again, the IRS did not do a very good job in organizing the Fact Sheet.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Who Needs to File FBARs?

Then, the IRS Fact Sheet finally introduces FBAR and states that it was created by the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act; there is no discussion of the significance of this legal history. Then, the IRS focuses on the persons who may have to file FBARs and introduces the concept of “US Person”. It defines US person as a “citizen or resident of the United States or any domestic legal entity such as a partnership, corporation, limited liability company, estate or trust.”

There is a hidden trap in this IRS definition. “Resident of the United States” does not only include US permanent residents (as most non-lawyers would read it), but also US tax residents. I encourage the readers to read this article with respect to the definition of “resident” for FBAR purposes.

The IRS also defines “United States” for FBAR purposes. The readers can read this article published by Sherayzen Law Office for a more detailed analysis of this concept.

FBAR Fact Sheet: How to File FBARs

This part of the FBAR Fact Sheet focuses on the details concerning how to file FBAR electronically. The IRS cautions taxpayers that FBAR should not be filed with their federal tax returns.

Then, the IRS discusses in more detail certain special cases such as joint accounts and US retirement accounts. The IRS finishes this part of the FBAR fact sheet with the discussion on the determination of the highest value of a foreign account.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Form 8938 & FBAR

In this part of the Fact Sheet, the IRS introduces taxpayers to an existence of another requirement concerning foreign accounts, FATCA Form 8938. The IRS urges the readers to search the IRS website with respect to this form and how it compares to FBAR.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Amended and Late FBARs

The next part of the Fact Sheet focuses on amended and late FBARs. First, the IRS discusses how to amend an FBAR. Then, the IRS states that, as soon as a taxpayer learns that he did not file the required FBARs, he needs to e-file them. At that point, the IRS casually discusses that there is space available on the form to explain the reason for late filing. Finally, the IRS describes the severe FBAR criminal penalties, stating the following: “the IRS will not penalize those who properly report a foreign financial account on a late filed FBAR, and the IRS finds they have reasonable cause for late filing.”

Sherayzen Law Office believes that the IRS has not done a good job in this part of the Fact Sheet. It has completely failed to emphasize the importance of seeking a legal advice prior to filing a late FBAR. A taxpayer may get the wrong impression that he should file a late FBAR as soon as possible before exploring the options on how to do it in a way that protects him from excessive FBAR penalties.

Moreover, the IRS also failed to emphasize the importance of offshore voluntary disclosure with respect to late FBARs. Besides a casual mention of an “IRS compliance program”, there is nothing about the various available voluntary disclosure options for US taxpayers who are filing late FBARs. The IRS does not refer at all to the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Recordkeeping Requirements

In the next part of the Fact Sheet, the IRS discusses how many years the FBAR filers need to keep the supporting documentation and copies of FBARs. Curiously, the IRS states that the filers should keep the documents for five years from the due date of FBAR, but the FBAR Statute of Limitations is six years.

Sherayzen Law Office does not believe that the IRS advice is correct here. We urge FBAR filers to keep their FBAR records and copies of the filed FBARs for six to ten years.

FBAR Fact Sheet: IRS Resources

The IRS concludes its FBAR Fact Sheet with the discussion of additional available resources to US taxpayers, including FBAR hotline and Publication 4261.

Sherayzen Law Office’s View of the FBAR Fact Sheet

We believe that the FBAR Fact Sheet can serve only as a general introduction to FBAR, but it is not sufficient to provide US taxpayers with sufficient guidance on how to properly deal with late FBARs. On the contrary, a US taxpayer may actually put himself in a worse legal position if he only relies on the Fact Sheet to file his late FBARs.

If you should have filed FBARs but you have not done so, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. As the IRS states in its FBAR Fact Sheet, the FBAR penalties are extremely severe. Hence, it is important to approach any FBAR violations with an extreme caution and retain Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to deal with late FBARs, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Taylor Lohmeyer Law Firm Clients Face Potential IRS Audit | FBAR News

On May 15, 2019, a Texas federal court ruled that the IRS can enforce John Doe summons for client information from Taylor Lohmeyer Law Firm because the firm failed to demonstrate that the attorney-client privilege protected this information. This is bad news for Taylor Lohmeyer Law Firm clients who now may have to face a potential IRS audit.

How and Why Taylor Lohmeyer Law Firm Clients Face IRS Pressure

This entire affair arose as a result of an IRS audit of an unnamed client of Taylor Lohmeyer law firm. During the audit, the IRS determined that this client owed more than $2 million in taxes with respect to about $5 million of undisclosed foreign income.

Moreover, the IRS agent who conducted the audit discovered that the taxpayer received an advice from Taylor Lohmeyer law firm with respect to evasion of US taxes on his foreign income. It appears that the IRS agent also received additional information confirming the involvement of the firm in illegal tax-avoidance schemes from a former partner of the firm.

As a result, the IRS agent was able to build the case that Taylor Lohmeyer law firm helped its clients build offshore trust structures and beneficial ownership schemes for the purpose of evading US taxes. The IRS then made the logical conclusion that other Taylor Lohmeyer law firm clients may have used the firm to hide their taxable income in foreign jurisdictions through foreign bank accounts and foreign entities.

Why the Court Approved the John Doe Summons for the Identities of Taylor Lohmeyer Law Firm Clients

Based on this information, the court ruled that the government had sufficient evidence to establish that the summons was made with the legitimate purpose of combating tax evasion. The court also said that the burden to show the government made a wrongful summons was on the Taylor Lohmeyer law firm, and the firm failed to satisfy its burden of proof.

It was not just the IRS work that convinced the court to approve the IRS summons for the names of the Taylor Lohmeyer Law Firm clients. Rather, it appears that the firm was overly confident and did not properly assert the attorney-client privilege to protect its clients. The court specifically objected to what it believed to be a “blanket assertions of privilege” for the firm’s clients. It wanted the firm to establish that the attorney-client privilege applied to each specific client and each specific document.

Will There Be an Appeal?

It is not clear if the firm will appeal the court’s decision, but it appears that such an appeal would be the least that the firm can do to protect its clients. From a broader perspective, it would be too dangerous to let the IRS further chip away at the attorney-client privilege.

What Should Taylor Lohmeyer Law Firm Clients Do?

The clients of the firm should not simply wait for what happens next in this case, whether the firm will appeal the decision or simply disclose their names. They are right now in a very dangerous situation and should immediately explore their voluntary disclosure options to limit their exposure to IRS criminal penalties, including FBAR criminal penalties. Moreover, a voluntary disclosure may allow them to reduce their exposure to civil penalties.

They must also prepare for the possibility that they may not be able to do a classic voluntary disclosure and prepare for an IRS audit. Even in a willful situation, it may be possible to significantly reduce the exposure to FBAR and other IRS penalties if the case is handled correctly.

In other words, whether their earlier noncompliance was willful or non-willful, the clients of this law firm should immediately contact an international tax attorney who specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures and IRS audits.

Taylor Lohmeyer Law Firm Clients Should Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Their Offshore Voluntary Disclosures and IRS Audits

If you are a client of Taylor Lohmeyer law firm, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional advice with respect to your offshore voluntary disclosure options and IRS audit preparation. Sherayzen Law Office is a highly-experienced international tax law firm with respect to both of these subjects.

Our founder is an international tax attorney who possesses deep knowledge and understanding of US international tax law and its application in the context of an IRS audit and offshore voluntary disclosures. In fact, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws through an offshore voluntary disclosure. Moreover, he has handled a great variety of IRS audits, including audits of undisclosed offshore assets.

Contact Mr. Sherayzen Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2019 IRS Hiring Spree Targets US International Tax Compliance

On May 11, 2019, the IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig stated that the IRS is rapidly increasing the number of agents in certain divisions. US international tax compliance is the primary target of this 2019 IRS hiring spree.

2019 IRS Hiring Spree: Affected IRS Divisions

The Commissioner announced this news while speaking at the American Bar Association’s Section of Taxation conference in Washington, D.C. He stated that the Large Business and International (“LB&I), Small Business/Self-Employed (“SB/SE”) and Criminal Investigation (“CI”) divisions are the ones that form the core of the 2019 IRS hiring spree. Additionally, the Office of Chief Counsel and the Modernization and Information Technology Division are also beefing up their staff.

2019 IRS Hiring Spree: Why the IRS is Hiring New Agents

The Commissioner expressly mentioned two reasons for the 2019 IRS hiring spree – reducing the tax gap and assuring international compliance. Interestingly, he also mentioned that he will not allow the illegal tax shelter scandals, like the ones that happened in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, to happen on his watch.

The Commissioner went on to identify certain problematic areas where he wants the new hires to focus. He specifically listed: digital economy, transfer pricing, syndicated conservation easements, employment tax and cash-intensive businesses.

Finally, the Commissioner stated that he wants to expand the IRS message to the taxpayers who speak English as a second language. He said: “I’m from Los Angeles. In the grocery store in line there are more than six languages being spoken. This is 2019. We need to have our information available to every American trying to get it right.” He also shared that he was surprised when he found out that the IRS printed tax returns in only six languages.

The Commissioner emphasized that the IRS should not just print the returns in more languages, but also to provide IRS guidance in more languages. Also, he stated that the quality of translation services can be further improved. Undoubtedly, this will be the job of some of the new hires.

2019 IRS Hiring Spree: Consequences for Noncompliant Taxpayers with Foreign Assets and Foreign Income

The new IRS hiring spree means that there will be more audits and investigations of noncompliant taxpayers, including those who own foreign assets and receive foreign income. The fact that the Commissioner specifically mentioned illegal tax shelters and international tax compliance is a direct confirmation that taxpayers with offshore assets will soon be at an even higher risk of the IRS discovery of their tax noncompliance.

Furthermore, with more agents available, the IRS can expand the scope of its international tax audits. We can anticipate that there will be more audits with respect to Forms 3520/3520A (owners and beneficiaries of foreign trusts), 5471 (owners of a foreign corporation), 8621 (PFICs) and 8865 (owners of an ownership interest in a foreign partnership).

The IRS will also able to better utilize the piles of data it receives from foreign financial institutions under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) and bilateral automatic information exchange treaties. In other words, the IRS will be able to identify more noncompliant taxpayers.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Undisclosed Foreign Assets and Foreign Income

If you have undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Within just a few months, the IRS ability to locate you will expand much further than ever. If the IRS audits you or even just commences an investigation of your foreign assets, you may not be able to utilize the offshore voluntary disclosure options to reduce your FBAR and other IRS penalties.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Amato Case: 5-Years in Prison for Secret Russian Bank Accounts | FBAR News

Failure to file FBARs for secret Russian bank accounts and income tax evasion led to the imposition of a five-year prison sentence on a New Jersey chiropractor. This is the essence of the new IRS victory in the Amato case. Let’s explore this case in more detail, because the case demonstrates the long reach of the FBAR requirement even in unusual jurisdictions, like Russia.

The Amato Case: Factual Background

Mr. Amato is a US citizen. He was a chiropractor who resided and worked in New Jersey. He practiced medicine through two corporate entities: Chiropractic Care Consultations, Inc. (“Chiropractic Care”) and Accident Recovery Physical Therapy, Inc. (“Accident Recovery”).

It appears that, between January 1, 2013 and December 7, 2016, Mr. Amato over-billed at least six insurance companies. In many cases, he was simply billing for services that he never actually rendered. For these crimes, he was separately charged by the US Department of Justice. On April 9, 2018, in his guilty plea, Mr. Amato admitted that his over-billings were over $1 million.

In order to hide these illegal proceeds, sometime between January 1, 2013 and December 7, 2016, Mr. Amato opened bank accounts in Russia and wired over $1.5 million to these accounts.

On September 14, 2015, Mr. Amato filed his 2014 tax return, stating that he had no taxable income and he owed no taxes. In reality, his 2014 taxable income was about $561,258.

At about the same time, Mr. Amato also deposited checks from his businesses into accounts owned by his minor children. He never disclosed these checks as part of his earnings on his US tax returns. Additionally, there were more funds deposited in his corporate accounts which he also never disclosed on his personal and corporate tax returns.

The Amato Case: IRS investigation and Criminal Prosecution

It appears that the 2014 return was the trigger and huge contributing factor to the commencement of the subsequent IRS investigation of Mr. Amato’s dealings. In 2018, the US Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) filed criminal charges against Mr. Amato with respect to two different types of violations.

The first charge was tax evasion pursuant to 26 USC 7201. It was directly tied to his 2014 tax return, stating that Mr. Amato knowing and willfully attempted to evade his income taxes due.

The second charge was made under 31 USC 5314 & 5322(b) – these are FBAR criminal penalties. Again, the DOJ chose to focus only on 2014 FBAR.

The Amato Case: Tax Evasion and FBAR Criminal Sentence

As part of his deal with the DOJ, Mr. Amato pleaded guilty to both counts. On May 7, 2019, as a result of his failure to pay a large amount in taxes and failure to file FBARs, the New Jersey federal court sentenced him to five years in prison.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Reporting of Your Undisclosed Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts

The Amato case is one more reminder of the legal dangers that US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts face. You do not want to be in Mr. Amato’s position.

This is why you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with the reporting of your undisclosed foreign bank and financial accounts. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with the voluntary disclosure of their foreign assets and foreign income, 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!