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PLR TAM Comparison | IRS International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

The IRS Private Letter Rulings (“PLR”) and the IRS Technical Advice Memoranda (“TAM”) often get confused by non-practitioners. In this small essay, I will engage in a brief PLR TAM comparison in order to clarify the similarities and differences between both types of IRS administrative guidance.

PLR TAM Comparison: Similarities

Let’s begin our PLR TAM comparison with the similarities. The similarities are great between both types of the IRS administrative guidance; this is why so many taxpayers cannot tell the difference between PLR and TAM. Both, PLR and TAM are written determinations issued by the IRS National Office. Also, PLR and TAM both interpret and apply US tax law to a taxpayer’s specific set of facts. Finally, both PLR and TAM are written IRS determinations which are binding on the IRS only in relation to the taxpayer who requested them.

PLR TAM Comparison: Differences

The differences between PLR & TAM are more nuanced but highly important. The two main differences are: (a) the requesting party and (b) timing of the request.

PLR is requested by a taxpayer; i.e. the IRS issues its opinion to the taxpayer, based on the taxpayer’s pattern of facts and at his request. The request for TAM, however, is made by a district IRS office. Oftentimes, though, the district IRS office makes this request at the urging of a taxpayer to seek technical advice from the IRS National Office.

With respect to the timing of the request, a taxpayer requests a PLR before he files his tax return. The taxpayer wishes to know the IRS position (or he is seeking IRS permission to do something, like a late election) in order to prevent the imposition of IRS penalties by filing an incorrect or late return.

TAM, however, deals with refund claims and examination issues after a tax return has been filed. In fact, oftentimes, a TAM is issued in response to a question concerning a specific set of facts uncovered during an IRS audit.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Experienced US International Tax Help

If you have questions concerning US international tax law and procedure, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We are a highly experienced US international tax law firm that has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe with their US international tax compliance issues, including offshore voluntary disclosures, IRS audits and various annual tax compliance issues.

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Hungarian Bank Accounts | US International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

US taxpayers who own Hungarian bank accounts may have to comply with a large number of US tax reporting requirements. In particular, they need to be concerned about reporting income generated by their Hungarian bank accounts as well as disclosing the ownership of these accounts on FBAR and Form 8938. Other requirements may apply, but these are the three main ones. Let’s explore them in more detail in this essay.

Hungarian Bank Accounts: Definition of “Filer”

It is important to understand that each of the aforementioned three requirements has its own definition of “filer” – a person who is subject to these obligations to report his foreign assets and foreign income. These differences in the definition of filer, however, are fairly small. Rather, every definition is essentially based on the concept of “US tax residency”. In fact, the worldwide income reporting requirement applies only to US tax residents.

Who are “US tax residents”? This definition encompasses the following persons: US citizens, US permanent residents, persons who satisfy the Substantial Presence Test and persons who declare themselves as US tax residents. Keep in mind that this is a general definition of US tax residents which is subject to a number of important exceptions.

So, if US tax residency definition forms the basis for all three requirements, what are the differences? Generally, the differences arise with respect to situations which are less common and mostly limited to the persons who try to declare themselves as US tax residents or non-resident aliens. The most common issues arise with respect to the application of the Substantial Presence Test, first-year definition of US tax resident and last-year definition of a US tax resident. A common example can be found with respect to treaty “tie-breaker” provisions, which foreign persons use to escape the effects of the Substantial Presence Test for US tax residency purposes.

The determination of your US tax reporting requirements is the primary task of your international tax attorney. It is simply too dangerous for a common taxpayer or even an accountant to attempt to dabble in this area of US international tax law.

Hungarian Bank Accounts: Worldwide Income Reporting Requirement

Now that we understand the concept of US tax residency, we are ready to explore the aforementioned three US reporting requirements with respect to Hungarian bank accounts. Let’s begin with the obligation to report income generated by Hungarian bank accounts.

All US tax residents, as defined above, must disclose their worldwide income on their US tax returns. This means that they must report to the IRS their US-source and foreign-source income. The worldwide income reporting requirement applies to all types of foreign-source income: bank interest income, dividends, royalties, capital gains and any other income.

The worldwide income reporting requirement applies even if the foreign income is subject to Hungarian tax withholding or reported on a Hungarian tax return. It also does not matter whether the income was ever transferred to the United States or stayed in Hungary – the worldwide income reporting requirement will still apply in either case.

Hungarian Bank Accounts: FBAR (FinCEN Form 114)

In addition to reporting the income generated by Hungarian bank accounts, a taxpayer may also need to disclose the ownership of these accounts on his Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (abbreviated as “FBAR”). The official name of FBAR is FinCEN Form 114.

FBAR is arguably the most important reporting requirement with respect to foreign accounts. The irony is that it is not a tax form – i.e. it is not part of the Internal Revenue Code which is Title 26 of the United States Code. Rather, FBAR was created by the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 under Title 31 of the United States Code.

Basically, the US Department of the Treasury requires all “US Persons” to disclose their ownership interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over Hungarian (and any other foreign country) bank and financial accounts if the aggregate highest balance of these accounts exceeds $10,000. If these requirements are met, the disclosure requirement is satisfied by filing an FBAR.

It is important to understand that all parts of this FBAR requirement are terms and conditions that require further exploration and understanding. I encourage you to search our firm’s website, sherayzenlaw.com, for the definition of “US Persons” and the explanation of other parts of the FBAR requirement.

There is one part of the FBAR requirement, however, that I wish to explore here in more detail – the definition of “account”. The reason for this special treatment is the fact that this definition is a very important source of confusion among US taxpayers with respect to what needs to be disclosed on FBAR.

The FBAR definition of an account is substantially broader than what this word generally means in our society. “Account” for FBAR purposes includes: checking accounts, savings accounts, fixed-deposit accounts, investments accounts, mutual funds, options/commodity futures accounts, life insurance policies with a cash surrender value, precious metals accounts, earth mineral accounts, et cetera. In fact, whenever there is a custodial relationship between a foreign financial institution and a US person’s foreign asset, there is a very high probability that the IRS will find that an account exists for FBAR purposes.

Despite the fact that FBAR compliance is neither easy nor straightforward, FBAR has a very severe penalty system. On the criminal side, FBAR noncompliance may lead to as many as ten years in jail (of course, these penalties come into effect in extreme situations). On the civil side, the most dreaded penalties are FBAR willful civil penalties which can easily exceed a person’s net worth. Even FBAR non-willful penalties can wreak a havoc in a person’s financial life.

Civil FBAR penalties have their own complex web of penalty mitigation layers, which depend on the facts and circumstances of one’s case. In 2015, the IRS added another layer of limitations on the FBAR penalty imposition. One must remember, however, that these are voluntary IRS actions which the IRS may disregard whenever circumstances warrant such an action.

Hungarian Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938

Finally, the third requirement that I wish to discuss today is a relative newcomer, FATCA Form 8938. This form requires “Specified Persons” to disclose all of their Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”) as long as these Specified Persons meet the applicable filing threshold. The filing threshold depends on the Specified Person’s tax return filing status and his physical residency.

The IRS defines SFFA very broadly to include an enormous variety of financial instruments, including foreign bank accounts, foreign business ownership, foreign trust beneficiary interests, bond certificates, various types of swaps, et cetera. In some ways, FBAR and Form 8938 require the reporting of the same assets, but these two forms are completely independent from each other. This means that a taxpayer may have to report same foreign assets on FBAR and Form 8938.

Specified Persons consist of two categories of filers: Specified Individuals and Specified Domestic Entities. You can find a detailed explanation of both categories by searching our website sherayzenlaw.com.

Finally, Form 8938 has its own penalty system which has far-reaching income tax consequences (including disallowance of foreign tax credit and imposition of 40% accuracy-related income tax penalties). There is also a $10,000 failure-to-file penalty.

One must also remember that, unlike FBAR, Form 8938 is filed with the filer’s federal tax return and forms part of the tax return. This means that a failure to file Form 8938 may render the entire tax return incomplete and potentially subject to an IRS audit.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the US Tax Reporting of Your Hungarian Bank Accounts

If you have Hungarian bank accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US international tax compliance. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their US international tax issues (including disclosure of Hungarian bank accounts), and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2019 Third Quarter IRS Interest Rates | MN International Tax Law Firm

On June 5, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service announced 2019 Third Quarter IRS Interest Rates. This quarter, the IRS interest rates will be reduced for the first time in years.

2019 Third Quarter IRS Interest Rates: 3rd Quarter and Interest Rates Defined

Third quarter of 2019 begins on July 1, 2019 and ends on September 30, 2019. The term “IRS interest Rates” refers to both, IRS underpayment and overpayment rates. In other words, these are the interest rates that the IRS will charge on any late tax liability; at the same time, these are also the interest rates that the IRS will pay on tax refunds (for example, if a refund results from amending a tax return).

For international tax purposes, the IRS Interest Rates also refer to the rates that the IRS will change on any PFIC tax under the default PFIC IRC Section 1291 calculations. These are also the rates that taxpayers will need to pay on any tax due as part of their offshore voluntary disclosure submissions, including Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, the rate of interest is determined on a quarterly basis; therefore, US taxpayers and tax professionals should refer to IRS announcements of IRS interest rates on a quarterly basis. For taxpayers other than corporations, the overpayment and underpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points

2019 Third Quarter IRS Interest Rates: How These Rates Were Determined

Under the Internal Revenue Code, the rate of interest is determined on a quarterly basis; therefore, US taxpayers and tax professionals should refer to IRS announcements of IRS interest rates on a quarterly basis. For taxpayers other than corporations, the overpayment and underpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points.

2019 Third Quarter IRS Interest Rates: Rate Reduction

The 2019 Third Quarter IRS Interest Rates will be reduced from those of the second quarter as follows:

five (5) percent for overpayments (four (4) percent in the case of a corporation) instead of six (6) and (5) percent respectively;
five (5) percent for underpayments from (6) percent;
seven (7) percent for large corporate underpayments from eight (8) percent; and
two and one-half (2.5) percent for the portion of a corporate overpayment exceeding $10,000 (it used to one and one-half (1.5) percent).

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to closely monitor the moves of the Federal Reserve regarding its interest rates in the future.

Minneapolis MN International Tax Lawyer & Attorney | PLR 201922010

On May 31, 2019, the IRS released a Private Letter Ruling (“PLR”) on the extension of time to make an election to be treated as a disregarded entity for US tax purposes under Treas. Reg. Section 301.7701 (26 CFR 301.7701-3). Let’s explore this PLR 201922010 in more detail.

PLR 201922010: Fact Pattern

PLR 201922010 deals with a typical fact pattern for someone who is doing business overseas. A US citizen wholly owns a foreign corporation which wholly owns a foreign subsidiary. The foreign subsidiary wants to make an election to be classified as a disregarded entity for US tax purposes, but misses the deadline to do so timely. Hence, it files a request for the IRS to grant a discretionary extension of time to file Form 8832 pursuant to Treas. Reg. Sections 301.9100-1 and 301.9100-3.

PLR 201922010: Legal Analysis

The IRS began its legal analysis of the request by noting that, under Treas. Reg. Section 301.7701-3(a), a business entity that is not classified as a corporation under Treas. Reg. Section 301.7701-2(b)(1), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7) or (8) (hereinafter, an “eligible entity”) can elect its classification for federal tax purposes as provided in Treas. Reg. Section 301.7701-3. An eligible entity with at least two members can elect to be classified as either an association (and thus a corporation under the Treas. Reg. Section 301.7701-2(b)(2)) or a partnership. An eligible entity with a single owner, however, can elect to be classified as an association (i.e. a corporation) or to be disregarded as an entity separate from its owner.

The IRS then focused specifically on the classification of foreign entities relying on Treas. Reg. Section 301.7701-3(b)(2)(I). This provision states that, unless it elects otherwise, a foreign eligible entity is (A) a partnership if it has two or more members and at least one member does not have limited liability; (B) an association if all members have limited liability; or © disregarded as an entity separate from its owner if it has a single owner that does not have limited liability.

What does “limited liability” mean in this context? Treas. Reg. Section 301.7701-3(b)(2)(ii) answers this question by stating that a member of a foreign eligible entity has limited liability if the member has no personal liability for the debts of or claims against the entity by reason of being a member.

How does one make this classification election? Treas. Reg. Section 301.7701-3(c)(1)(I) provides, in part, that an eligible entity may elect to be classified other than as provided under Treas. Reg. Section 301.7701-3(b), or to change its classification, by filing Form 8832 with the service center designated on Form 8832.

Then, the IRS addressed the key issue for this PLR – when this classification election can be made. Treas. Reg. Section 301.7701-3(c)(1)(iii) provides that the election will be effective on the date specified by the entity on Form 8832 or on the date filed if no such date is specified on the election form. The effective date specified on Form 8832 can not be more than 75 days prior to the date on which the election is filed and can not be more than 12 months after the date on which the election is filed.

Is it possible to make a late election? The IRS answered this question by referring to Treas. Reg. Section 301.9100-1(c), which provides that the Commissioner may grant a reasonable extension of time to make a regulatory election, or a statutory election (but no more than six months except in the case of a taxpayer who is abroad), under all subtitles of the Internal Revenue Code (Code), except subtitles E, G, H, and I. Treas. Reg. Section 301.9100-1(b) defines “regulatory election” as an election whose due date is prescribed by a regulation published in the Federal Register, or a revenue ruling, revenue procedure, notice or announcement published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin.

Treas. Reg. Section 301.9100-3 addresses extensions of time for making late regulatory elections. Treas. Reg. Section 301.9100-3(a) states that such requests for relief will be granted when the taxpayer provides the evidence (including affidavits described in Treas. Reg. Section 301.9100-3(e)) to establish to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that the taxpayer acted reasonably and in good faith, and the grant of relief will not prejudice the interests of the Government.

PLR 201922010: IRS Granted Request for Extension to Time to Make the Election

Based on the information submitted and the representations made, the IRS concluded that the foreign entity satisfied the requirements of Treas. Reg. Sections 301.9100-1 and 301.9100-3. As a result, the IRS granted to the foreign entity an extension of time of 120 days from the date of PLR 201922010 to file a properly executed Form 8832 with the appropriate service center electing to be treated as a disregarded entity.

PLR 201922010: The Electing Foreign Entity Must Submit Form 8858 and All Other Returns

The IRS emphasized that its ruling was contingent on the electing foreign entity and its owner filing within 120 days from the date of the PLR all of the required federal income tax and information returns for all relevant years. The IRS specifically mentioned Form 8858 (Return of U.S. Persons With Respect to Foreign Disregarded Entities).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Need to File a PLR Request for Late Entity Classification Election Similar to PLR 201922010

If you need to ask the IRS to grant a late entity classification request, you can contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with drafting and submitting your request for a Private Letter Ruling.

IRC 965 Tax: Introduction | US International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

The 2017 Tax Reform created the Internal Revenue Code Section 965, which requires US shareholders of foreign corporations to pay a new transition tax (hereinafter, “IRC 965 Tax”) in certain circumstances. In this short article, I will introduce the readers to the IRC 965 Tax.

IRC 965 Tax: Taxpayers Who Are Targeted by the New Tax

The IRC 965 Tax targets US shareholders of specified foreign corporations. In very general terms, a specified foreign corporation means either a controlled foreign corporation, as defined under the IRC Section 957 (“CFC”), or a foreign corporation (other than a passive foreign investment company (“PFIC”), as defined under the IRC Section 1297, that is not also a CFC) that has a US shareholder that is a domestic corporation.

The term “US shareholders” includes all individuals who are considered to be US tax residents, domestic corporations (including S-corporations), domestic partnerships (including LLC, LP, LLP and LLLP), domestic estates, domestic trusts, domestic cooperatives, REITs, RICs and even US tax-exempt organizations. All US shareholders of a CFC who previously filed a Form 5471 are in a particular danger of being subject to the IRC 965 Tax. Note, however, that even if you are a US shareholder who has not filed Form 5471 before, you may still be subject to the new tax.

IRC 965 Tax: What It Taxes and How

Generally, IRC 965 Tax imposes a special tax on untaxed foreign earnings of specified foreign corporations as if these earnings had been repatriated to the United States. In other words, if a specified foreign corporation has a positive accumulated Earnings & Profits (“E&P”), its US shareholders will have to pay the new tax on it unless the E&P had been already taxed under a different provision of the Internal Revenue Code.

The effective tax rates applicable to income inclusions are adjusted by way of a participation deduction set out in IRC Section 965©. A reduced foreign tax credit applies to the inclusion under the IRC Section 965(g). Interestingly, in certain situations, a US shareholder may reduce the amount of the income inclusion for the purposes of the new tax based on deficits in earnings and profits of other specified foreign corporations (of which he is a US shareholder as well).

The new tax applies to the last taxable year of a specified foreign corporations beginning before January 1, 2018; a US shareholder must include the new tax in the tax year in which the specified foreign corporation’s year ends (in other words, a US shareholder may need to pay the tax on his 2017 and/or 2018 US tax returns). If a US shareholder must pay the IRC 965 Tax, he may either pay it in full when he files the relevant US tax return or choose to do it in installments over an eight-year period.

IRC 965 Tax: IRS Closely Monitors Compliance with the New Tax

Any US taxpayers’ noncompliance with the IRC 965 Tax faces a high risk of IRS detection. The reason for it is the IRS pledge to closely monitor potential noncompliance with the new tax. In fact, the IRS even launched a special compliance campaign dedicated to the IRC Section 965 compliance.

IRC 965 Tax: What to Do if You Did Not Timely Pay the Tax

If you failed to properly comply with your reporting and payment obligations under the IRC Section 965, you will most likely face additional IRS tax penalties as well as the interest on the tax. If you also did not file the required Form 5471 and/or Form 8938 to disclose your interest in a foreign corporation, you are also at a high risk of being subject to Form 5471 penalties as well as Form 8938 penalties. Additional penalties may also apply, including the draconian FBAR criminal and civil penalties (for example, if you are the majority shareholder of a controlled foreign corporation and you did not disclose the foreign bank and financial accounts of this corporation on your FBAR).

Given the gravity of your situation, it is important that you immediately contact an international tax lawyer who specializes in US international tax compliance and offshore voluntary disclosures.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help If You Are Not in Compliance with the IRC 965 Tax

If you have not complied with your payment requirement with respect to IRC 965 Tax and other related US international tax forms, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible.

Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in US international tax compliance and offshore voluntary disclosures. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to resolve their past US tax noncompliance issues, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!