International Contract Lawyers Minneapolis | New Incoterms 2010

The International Chamber of Commerce (“ICC”) has announced that Incoterms 2010 is scheduled to be launched in September and come into effect on January 1, 2011.

Incoterms is the abbreviation for “International Commercial Terms” and were introduced by the ICC back in 1936 to provide people engaging in international trade a common set of trade terms that would be understood across the world. Incoterms are crucial when trading across borders and should be included in all international sale of goods contracts because they help parties avoid misunderstandings by clearly identifying the obligations of the buyer and seller. They stipulate in one short acronym exactly who will pay for the freight, who wears the risk in the goods at which point in time, who pays for insurance and duty.

In order to keep up with the rapid expansion of world trade and globalization, the Incoterms rules are revised about once a decade. Since the last revision in 2000, much has changed in global trade and the current revision will take into account issues such as developments in cargo security and the need to replace paper documents with electronic ones.

Therefore, the new 2010 edition includes 11 terms instead of the 13 in the previous edition. The following terms from Incoterms 2000 have been deleted from the list: DAF, DES, DEQ and DDU. These two new terms have been added to the list: DAT and DAP.

Another significant change has to do with categories of the Incoterms. Incoterms 2000 had four categories, while Incoterms 2010 only has two categories. The first category can be called “Rules for Any Mode of Transport” (also knows as “multimodal” Incoterms) and includes the following terms:

CIP – Carriage and Insurance Paid
CPT – Carriage Paid To
DAP – Delivered At Place
DAT – Delivered At Terminal
DDP – Delivered Duty Paid
EXW – Ex Works
FCA – Free Carrier

The second category is described as “Rules for Sea and Inland Waterway Transport Only” and includes the following terms:

CFR – Cost and Freight
CIF – Cost, Insurance and Freight
FAS – Free Alongside Ship
FOB – Free On Board

All current and potential exporters should be aware that new Incoterms are expected to take effect in 2011. Sherayzen Law Office will continue to update the readers on the progress of the revisions. In the meantime, we recommend that you ensure, and if necessary seek legal advice to ensure, that your commercial trading terms accurately reflect the transaction.

Call NOW to discuss your contract with an international trade attorney!

Minnesota Money Transmitter License Application: Required Enclosures

When a business entity applies for a Minnesota money transmitter license, the applicant must be aware that, in addition to answering the questions on the application, the Department of Commerce (“Department”) requires a large number of additional documents that must accompany the original license application. While the precise nature of the required documentation varies depending on whether the applicant is a corporate entity or noncorporate entity and how many locations the applicant intends to operate, the following documents usually must be submitted with the original license application.

1. Sample of the authorized delegate contract(s), if applicable;
2. Sample of the form of payment instrument(s);
3. If the applicant is a corporation, copy of the “Certificate of Incorporation” or, if incorporated in another jurisdiction, copy of the “Certificate of Foreign Incorporation” from the Minnesota Secretary of State. If, however, the applicant is not a corporation, then a copy of the “Article of Organization”;
4. Certificate of good standing from the state in which the applicant is incorporated (if applicable);
5. Copy of criminal history verification for each person listed in Section III or IV of the application;
6. Required financial statements;
7. Surety bond, irrevocable letter of credit, or other similar security device for the required amount (the form is included in the application);
8. Uniform Consent to Service of Process and acknowledgment form;
9. If the applicant has employees in Minnesota, then evidence of current worker’s compensation coverage;
10. Authorization to Release Information form;
11. Affidavit of Official Signing Application form; and
12. Check of money order for the applicable fee amount payable to the “Department of Commerce”.

Sherayzen Law Office can help you correctly collect all of this information, review your money transmitter license application, and file the application with the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Please, call NOW to discuss your license application with a business attorney!

Minnesota Money Transmitter License Application: Expiration of Initial License Considerations

Applying for a money transmitter license in Minnesota can be an expensive enterprise, and the applicant should make sure that he will be able to maximize the benefits that can be derived from the license. The definition of the licensed period, therefore, becomes one of the most important considerations.

The Department of Commerce (“Department”) states that the licenses issued under Chapter 53B (the statute which grants the Department authority to issue money transmitter licenses) expire annually on December 31. In order to conduct money transmissions after December 31, the applicant will have to timely submit the application for the license renewal. Hence, it does not matter whether the license is issued on January 1 or October 30 of the same year – the license will still expire on December 31 and, in the latter case, the applicant will need to file the license renewal application almost immediately after the initial license application is granted.

Therefore, if the applicant applies for a money transmitter license in the last quarter of a calendar year, it may be beneficial for him to insist that the license should be issued as of the first of January of the following calendar year. Obviously, in this situation, the applicant may not conduct any transmissions prior to January 1 of the following calendar year. Hence, a cost-benefit analysis must be conducted in order to determine whether it is more profitable for the applicant to obtain the license now or to postpone it until January 1 of the following year.

Sherayzen Law Office can help you file your money transmitter license application with the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Please, call NOW to discuss your license application with a business attorney!

FBAR: Financial Interest, Signature Authority, and Other Comparable Authority

One of the major requirements that gives rise to the obligation to file the FBAR is that a U.S. person has either a financial interest in, or a signature authority or other comparable authority over the relevant foreign financial accounts. In deciding whether the FBAR is required, it is useful to go through all three of these requirements in order.

First, the filer needs to determine whether he has a financial interest in the account. If the account is owned by an individual, the financial interest exists if the filer is the owner of record or has legal title in the financial account, whether the account is maintained for his own benefit or for the benefit of others, including non-U.S. persons. See 75 Fed. Reg. at 8847. Hence, if the owner of record or holder of legal title is a U.S. person acting as an agent, nominee, or in some other capacity on behalf of another U.S. person, the financial interest in the account exists and this agent or nominee needs to file the FBAR. If a corporation is the owner of record or the holder of legal title in the financial account, a shareholder of a corporation has a financial interest in the account if he owns, directly or indirectly, more than 50 percent of the total value of the shares of stock or has more than 50 percent of the voting power. Id. Where a partnership is the owner of record or the holder of legal title in the financial account, a partner has a financial interest in the financial account if he owns, directly or indirectly, more than 50 percent of the interest in profits or capital. Similar rule applies to any other entity (other than a trust) where a U.S. person owns, directly or indirectly, more than 50 percent of the voting power, total value of the equity interest or assets, or interest in profits. Id. Special rules apply to trust and can be found in the Proposed Regulations. Id. Finally, a U.S. person who “causes an entity to be created for a purpose of evading the reporting requirement shall have a financial interest in any bank, securities, or other financial account in a foreign country for which the entity is the owner of record or holder of legal title.” Id.

If there is no financial interest in the foreign financial account, the filer should determine whether he has signature authority over the account. A U.S. person has account signature authority if that person can control the disposition of money or other property in the account by delivery of a document containing his signature to the bank or other person with whom the account is maintained. See 75 Fed. Reg. at 8848. Notice, once again, that control over the disposition of assets in the account is one of the main factors in deciding whether the FBAR needs to be filed.

It is important to mention that, pursuant to the IRS Announcement 2010-23, persons with signature authority over, but no financial interest in, a foreign financial accounts for which an FBAR would otherwise have been due on June 30, 2010, will now have until June 30, 2011, to report those foreign financial accounts. Combined with IRS Announcement 2009-62, this means that the deadline has been extended for the calendar year 2009 and all prior years.

Finally, even if no financial interest or signature authority exists, the filer has to continue his analysis and determine whether he has “other comparable authority” over the account. This catch-all, ambiguous term is not defined by the IRS. Nevertheless, the instructions to FinCEN Form 114 formerly Form TD F 90-22.1 generally state that the other comparable authority exists when the filer can exercise power comparable to the signature authority over the account by communication with the bank or other person with whom the account is maintained, either directly or through an agent, or in some other capacity on behalf of the U.S. person.

FBAR Penalties

In this essay, I would like to discuss some of the penalties that may be imposed as a result of the failure to file the FBAR even though you were required to do so. In particular, I will focus on three general scenarios describing specific penalties commonly attributed to each of them. The first scenario is where you willfully failed to file the FBAR, or destroyed or otherwise failed to maintain proper records of account, and the IRS learned about it when it launched an investigation. This is the worst type of scenario which carries substantial penalties. The IRS may impose civil penalties of up to the greater of $100,000, or 50 percent of the value of the account at the time of the violation, as well as criminal penalties of up to $500,000, or 10 years of imprisonment, or both.

Another scenario is where you negligently and non-willfully failed to file the FBAR, and the IRS learned about it during an investigation. Unlike the first scenario, there are no criminal penalties for non-willful failure to file the FBAR; only civil penalties of up to $10,000 per each violation (unless there is a pattern of negligence which carries additional civil penalties of no more than $50,000 per any violation). In this situation, you are likely to fare much better, and you may even be able to obtain lower penalties by showing of reasonable cause for the failure to file.

The third scenario is where you non-willfully fail to file the FBAR, accidentally discover your mistake, and come to an attorney to file a delinquent FBAR before the IRS commences its investigation of your finances. This is the most favorable of all scenarios due to the fact that you may qualify for the benefits of a voluntary disclosure program, despite the fact that the position of the IRS regarding civil penalties for voluntarily filed but delinquent FBARs is uncertain following the October 15, 2009 voluntary disclosure deadline. The best strategy for addressing delinquent FBARs, however, varies depending on the facts and circumstances of the particular case.

A word of caution: this discussion focuses solely on the penalties associated with the failure to file the FBAR. This essay does not address the various strategies that may be employed in dealing with the delinquent FBAR filings in the post-October 15, 2009 world, including qualification for the voluntary disclosure program. In certain situations, there may also be other relevant significant tax issues outside of the FBAR realm – the most important of which is non-payment of taxes on undisclosed income by the U.S. taxpayers – which may significantly alter the amount of penalties, interest, and taxes due to the IRS.