IRS Acquires Phone-Hacking Software | IRS Lawyer News

It seems that the IRS audit powers are increasing more and more at the expense of taxpayers’ privacy rights. In June of 2019, the IRS posted a procurement notice on its website to award a contract to a company Cellebrite, an Israeli company that specializes in smartphone decryption software and equipment. In other words, the IRS is about to acquire phone-hacking software from this company.

IRS Phone-Hacking Software: Primary Targets

What exactly does the IRS want to be able to hack? It appears pretty much everything that is used by taxpayers on a daily basis. Cellebrite software is capable to hacking both Android and Apple phones. Moreover, it can extract data from programs such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. This data-extraction ability covers encrypted messages.

According to Cellebrite’s website, its software would allow the IRS to “go beyond texts, call logs and photos with a comprehensive toolset that effectively accesses data from the widest variety of digital sources.” Furthermore, “advanced capabilities help you bypass passwords, overcome locks and encryption challenges to extract and decode complete data from the most devices, operating systems and applications. You can also extract and preserve public and private data from social media and other cloud-based sources, providing an unparalleled amount of forensically sound digital evidence.”

IRS Phone-Hacking Software: IRS Is Not the Only Federal Agency to Use It

The IRS is not alone in its usage of phone-hacking software. US Secret Service, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other government agencies have acquired phone-hacking abilities, including from Cellebrite. One of the most famous examples of a government agency using phone-hacking software occurred with respect to a mass shooter’s iPhone. After Apple refused to cooperate with the FBI, the Bureau reportedly used an “outside party” to unlock the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter (the FBI has denied it, but it appears that the rumors are true).

Also, this is not the first time that the IRS used Cellebrite software. It appears the IRS has had contracts with the firm all the way back to 2009. In those instances, the IRS simply paid Cellebrite for its services to unlock a specific phone. This time, however, the IRS wants the software license, equipment and maintenance support.

IRS Phone-Hacking Software: Privacy Invasion Concerns

The fact that the IRS will acquire the capability to directly hack into taxpayers’ phones raises all kinds of privacy concerns. When will the IRS use it – only in criminal investigations or also in civil ones? Will there be a judicial review of the IRS usage of this software? Who will authorize the hacking and under what circumstances? How will the privacy rights of innocent taxpayers be protected? Will the information obtained by the IRS be shared with other federal agencies? What about state agencies? What kind of safeguards are in place to prevent the usage of the discovered data (especially when it is not relevant to tax compliance) for political vendetta purposes?

All of these questions are highly-important concerns in our world of rapidly-disappearing privacy rights. This is a concern that should be shared by all members of our society.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to follow these recent developments with respect to expanding IRS capabilities to investigate US taxpayers.

Minnesota Sales Tax Responsible Person Legal Standard | Audit Tax Lawyer

In this article, I would like to discuss the legal definition of Responsible Person under Minn. Stat. § 270C.56 – I will refer to this term as Minnesota sales tax responsible person legal standard.

Minnesota Sales Tax Responsible Person: Background Information

Minnesota imposes a sales tax “on the gross receipts from retail sales.” Minn. Stat. § 297A.62, subd. 1 (2014). “The sales … tax required to be collected by the retailer under chapter 297A constitutes a debt owed by the retailer to Minnesota, and the sums collected must be held as a special fund in trust for the state of Minnesota.” Minn. Stat. § 289A.31, subd. 7(a) (2014).

If the sales tax is not collected or remitted to the Minnesota Department of Revenue (“DOR”) by the company, then Minnesota law imposes personal liability upon a person who “has the control of, supervision of, or responsibility for filing returns or reports, paying taxes, or collecting or withholding and remitting taxes and who fails to do so.” Minn. Stat. § 270C.56, subd. 1 (2014). In other words, the State of Minnesota will collect the sales tax liability incurred by a company from whoever is defined as a “responsible person” – this is what I mean by Minnesota Sales Tax Responsible Person.

Minnesota Sales Tax Responsible Person: Legal Test

In order for a person to be assessed with the personal liability for non-payment of a sales tax, Minnesota courts follow a two-prong analysis under the Legal Test that establishes whether a person is a Minnesota Sales Tax Responsible Person. The first prong is definitional and the second one is substantive. Yik C. Lo v. Comm’r of Revenue, 2016 Minn. Tax LEXIS 17, *24 (Minn. T.C. April 7, 2016).

Let’s deal with the definitional prong first. “The threshold definitional question is whether the assessed person qualifies as a ‘person’ for purposes of the personal liability statute.” Id.; also see Igel v. Comm’r of Revenue, 566 N.W.2d 706, 709 (Minn. 1997). For the purposes of this statute, the word “person” is defined broadly to include an officer of a company, a member of a partnership and even an employee. Minn. Stat. § 270C.56, subd. 2 (2014). Pretty much any stakeholder, officer or employee would be considered a “person”.

If the first question is answered positively, then, the second issue is whether the “person” was also a “responsible person” – i.e. whether the “person” had the requisite control over financial matters to be found personally liable for the company’s tax liabilities. Stevens v. Comm’r of Revenue, 822 N.W.2d 646, 652 (Minn. 2012).

The Minnesota Supreme Court adopted a five-factor test to determine who is a responsible person. Benoit v. Commissioner of Revenue, 453 N.W.2d 336, 344 (Minn. 1990). This test is “informative” while the statutory language of 270C.56 controls. Larson v. Comm’r of Revenue, 581 N.W.2d 25, 28-29 (Minn. 1998). In other words, the courts may and actually at other factors besides those listed in the test.

The five factors are:

“(1) The identity of the officers, directors and stockholders of the corporation and their duties;
(2) The ability to sign checks on behalf of the corporation;
(3) The identity of the individuals who hired and fired employees;
(4) The identity of the individuals who were in control of the financial affairs of the corporation; and
(5) The identity of those who had an entrepreneurial stake in the corporation.” Benoit, 453 N.W.2d at 344.  

The idea behind the test is to focus on “those persons who have the power and responsibility to see that the taxes are paid.” Id. Writing for a unanimous court, Judge Wahl also stated: “Control and influence over the ‘disbursement of funds and priority of payments to creditors’ are the most important elements.” Id. at 342.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Minnesota Statute § 270C.56

If the DOR found you personally responsible for a company’s sales tax liability under Minn. Stat. § 270C.56, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional tax help.

2019 Zurich Trip Completed | Zurich US International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

In July of 2019, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an international tax attorney and owner of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., completed his business trip to Zurich, Switzerland. Let’s discuss in more detail this 2019 Zurich Trip, its goals and accomplishments.

2019 Zurich Trip: Goals

Mr. Sherayzen outlined the firm’s goals for the Zurich trip during the Sherayzen Law Office Board of Director’s meeting on March 19, 2019. At the beginning of the meeting, he outlined two long-term goals for Sherayzen Law Office: (1) deepen the firm’s ties to the global banking and investment community, and (2) promote Sherayzen Law Office’s international tax services in Europe.

Mr. Sherayzen stated that the particular goals for the 2019 Zurich trip were as follows: (1) gather the necessary intelligence to achieve the long-term goals; (2) resolve certain issues for the firm’s current clients with Swiss bank accounts; and (3) make promotional videos of the firm’s services.

2019 Zurich Trip: Achievements

The 2019 Zurich trip achieved all of the goals that were outlined above. During the trip, Mr. Sherayzen gathered a large amount of data that will need to be analyzed in the future for the purpose of improving the firm’s marketing strategies.

Second, while in Zurich, Mr. Sherayzen successfully resolved all of the pending issues for the firm’s clients.

Finally, a number of videos were made for the purpose of promoting the vast experience and deep expertise that Sherayzen Law Office has accumulated in US international tax law. Sherayzen Law Office is a leader in US international tax compliance, including offshore voluntary disclosures.

2019 Zurich Trip and Future Plans

Sherayzen Law Office intends to capitalize in the near future on the achievements made by Mr. Sherayzen during this trip. We encourage our clients and followers on social media to stay tuned for future updates, including video updates.

The Board of Directors of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., will analyze the successes of the 2019 Zurich trip in order to modify the plans for the firm’s marketing strategies in Europe. The Board already commenced planning for new targeted trips which will lead to the expansion of the firm’s clientele in Europe.

Sherayzen Law Office already has a very large exposure in the European continent. We have helped clients with undisclosed European assets in most countries on the European continent: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Ukraine.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your US International Tax Compliance

Sherayzen Law Office is a US international tax law firm with deep expertise in all relevant areas of US international tax law, including offshore voluntary disclosures. With clients from over 70 countries around the world, our firm is a leader in US international tax compliance.

We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their US international tax compliance issues, and We can help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2019 Karlovy Vary Trip Completed | US International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an international tax attorney and owner of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., completed his trip to Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, on July 10, 2019. Let’s discuss in more detail this brief 2019 Karlovy Vary trip, its motivations and results.

2019 Karlovy Vary Trip: Reasons for this Excursion

There were several reasons why Mr. Sherayzen decided to undertake this trip to Karlovy Vary. He outlined them at the Sherayzen Law Office board of directors meeting on March 19, 2019.

First, this is part of the firm’s overall expansion effort into the European market of high-net worth individuals.

Second, this is a very attractive venue for new clients from all over the world, because Karlovy Vary is a world-famous resort. It is important for Sherayzen Law Office to establish a foothold in this city.

Third, Karlovy Vary offers amazing scenery which is perfect for filming promotional videos for the firm.

Finally, the 2019 Karlovy Vary trip was undertaken during Mr. Sherayzen’s Switzerland-Prague business trip. In other words, it was very a convenient time for a journey into this prestigious European high-end legal market.

2019 Karlovy Vary Trip: Results

The 2019 Karlovy Vary trip was very successful in three aspects. First of all, the firm now has acquired certain information about the city sufficient to commence building a comprehensive marketing strategy. Second, the trip laid basis for several business relationships which the firm hopes to explore further in the future. Finally, a large set of promotional material was created during the trip.

Despite its successes, the 2019 Karlovy Vary trip was merely an exploratory marketing trip. In order to build a more solid foothold in the city, Mr. Sherayzen and the employees of Sherayzen Law Office will need to continue to visit the city on a more sustained basis.

2019 Karlovy Vary Trip: What Sherayzen Law Office Can Offer to Its European Clients

Sherayzen Law Office specializes in US international tax compliance, including offshore voluntary disclosures, current tax compliance and international tax planning. Europeans who reside in Europe, but who are US citizens or US permanent residents, may be exposed to high IRS non-compliance penalties. This is why they should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with US international tax compliance requirements.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Legal Entity Identifiers: Introduction to LEI | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

The Legal Entity Identifiers (“LEI”) is a method to identify legal entities that engage in financial transactions. Let’s discuss LEI in more detail.

LEI: Background Information

The establishment of LEI was driven by the recognition by regulators around the world that there is a complete lack of transparency with respect to identifying parties to international transactions. Each business entity is registered at the national level, but another country’s authorities would have great difficulty identifying this entity in an international transaction, including whether this entity has taken consistent tax positions in both countries.

Establishment of LEI; Additional Initiatives

Hence, on the initiative of the largest twenty economies of the world (“G-20“), the Financial Stability Board (“FSB”) developed the framework of Global LEI System (“GLEIS”). FSB was created in 2009 in the aftermath of the financial crisis (it replaced the Financial Stability Forum or “FSF”).

Additionally, in January of 2013, a LEI Regulatory Oversight Committee (“ROC”) was created. ROC is a group of over 70 public authorities from member-countries and additional observers from more than 50 countries. The job of the ROC is coordination and oversight of the worldwide LEI framework.

On May 9, 2017, the ROC announced that it has launched data collection on parent entities in the Global Legal Entity Identifiers System – this is the so-called “relationship data”. The member countries (especially in the European Union (“EU”)) will use this data in a number of regulatory initiatives. For example, as of 2018, the EU uses the relationship data for the purposes of commodity derivative reporting.

How LEI Works

The LEI is a 20-character, alpha-numeric code, to uniquely identify legally distinct entities that engage in financial transactions. The code incorporates the following information:

1.the official name of the legal entity as recorded in the official registers;
2.the registered address of that legal entity;
3.the country of formation;
4.codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions;
5.the date of the first Legal Entity Identifier assignment; the date of last update of the information; and the date of expiration, if applicable.

Here is how the numbering system works:

•Characters 1–4: A four-character prefix allocated uniquely to each LOU.
•Characters 5–6: Two reserved characters set to zero.
•Characters 7–18: Entity—specific part of the code generated and assigned by LOUs according to transparent, sound, and robust allocation policies.
•Characters 19–20: Two check digits as described in the ISO 17442 standard.

Jurisdictions With Rules Referring to LEI

Over 40 jurisdictions have rules that refer to Legal Entity Identifiers: Argentina, Australia, Canada, 31 members of the European Union and European Economic Area, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States. IGOs such as Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and International Organization of Securities Commissions also use Legal Entity Identifiers.

Could LEI Be Used for CRS and FATCA Purposes?

Sherayzen Law Office, like many other commentators, believes that there is a possibility that the LEI would be a better alternative than Global Intermediary Identification Number (GIIN) for CRS and FATCA purposes. First of all, it would be more efficient to have one identification system across all compliance terrains. Second, Legal Entity Identifiers are actually more popular than GIINs. As of December 7, 2017, there were 830,477 LEIs issued versus a mere less than 300,000 GIINs.