Florida Streamlined Disclosure Lawyer | International Tax Attorney

Florida is one of the most favorite destinations for immigrants as well as US citizens who do business overseas. Many of these taxpayers own assets in foreign countries and receive income generated by these assets. For this reason, Florida is also one of the leading states when it comes to individuals who wish to go through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (SDOP) or Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (SFOP). These individuals often look for a Florida streamlined disclosure lawyer for professional help, but they do not understand what this term really means. In this essay, I will explain who would be included within the definition of Florida streamlined disclosure lawyer.

Florida Streamlined Disclosure Lawyer: International Tax Lawyer

From the outset, It is important to understand that both SDOP and SFOP are part of US international tax law, because these options deal with US international tax compliance concerning foreign assets and foreign income. In order to be more precise, I should say that SDOP and SFOP fall within a very specific sub-area of US international law – IRS offshore voluntary disclosures.

The knowledge that SDOP and SFOP are part of US international tax law makes you better understand what kind of a lawyer you are looking for when you search for a Florida streamlined disclosure lawyer. In reality, when you are seeking help with the SDOP and SFOP filings, you are searching for an international tax lawyer.

Florida Streamlined Disclosure Lawyer: Specialty in Offshore Voluntary Disclosures

As I stated above, SDOP and SFOP form part of a very specific sub-area of offshore voluntary disclosures. This means that not every international tax lawyer would be able to conduct the necessary legal analysis required to successfully complete an offshore voluntary disclosure, including Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. Only a lawyer who has developed expertise in a very narrow sub-field of offshore voluntary disclosures within US international tax law will be fit for this job.

This means that you are looking for an international tax lawyer who specializes in offshore voluntary disclosure and who is familiar with the various offshore voluntary disclosure options. Offshore voluntary disclosure options include: SDOP (Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures), SFOP (Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures), DFSP (Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures), DIIRSP (Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures), VDP (IRS Voluntary Disclosure Practice) and Reasonable Cause disclosures. Each of these options has it pros and cons, which may have tremendous legal and tax (and, in certain cases, even immigration) implications for your case.

Florida Streamlined Disclosure Lawyer: Geographical Location Does Not Matter

While the expertise and experience in offshore voluntary disclosures are highly important in choosing your international tax lawyer, the geographical location (i.e. the city where the lawyer lives and works) does not matter. I already hinted at why this is the case above: offshore voluntary disclosure options were all created by the IRS and form part of US international (i.e. federal) law. In other words, the local law has no relation whatsoever to the SDOP and SFOP.

This means that you are not limited to Florida when you are looking for a lawyer who can help you with your streamlined disclosure. Any international tax lawyer who specializes in this field may be able to help you, irrespective of whether this lawyer resides in Florida or Minnesota.

Moreover, the development of modern means of communications has pretty much eliminated any communication advantages that a lawyer in Florida might have had in the past over out-of-state lawyers. This is especially true in our world today where the pandemic has greatly reduced the number of face-to-face meetings.

Sherayzen Law Office May Be Your Florida Streamlined Disclosure Lawyer

Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. is a highly-experienced international tax law firm that specializes in all types of offshore voluntary disclosures, including SDOP, SFOP, DFSP, DIIRSP, VDP and Reasonable Cause disclosures. Our professional tax team, led by attorney Eugene Sherayzen, has successfully helped our US clients around the globe, including in Florida, with the preparation and filing of their Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures disclosure. We can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

CFC Income Recognition: Five Groups | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Ownership of a Controlled Foreign Corporation (“CFC”) presents unique income tax challenges under US international tax law. One of them is the fact that US shareholders of a CFC may have to recognize CFC income on their US tax returns beyond what is required under US domestic tax laws. In this article, I will introduce the readers to the main five CFC income recognition groups.

CFC Income Recognition: General Definitions of “CFC” and “US Shareholder”

Before we describe the five main CFC income recognition groups, we should briefly define the US international tax concepts of “CFC” and “US Shareholder”. I will provide only a general definition of both here; there are some specific circumstances that may modify this definition.

Generally, a foreign corporation is a CFC if US shareholders own more than 50% of the corporation’s stock. One determines the percentage of stock ownership either based on the value of stocks or the voting rights associated with these stocks.

A person is considered to be a US Shareholder if this person is a US person that owns more 10% or more of the total voting power or the total value of all classes of stock in a foreign corporation. Besides the direct ownership of stock, one should also include this US person’s indirect ownership of stock as well as any stock he (or it) owns constructively by the operation of any of the attribution rules of IRC §958(b). These rules are described in detail in other articles on sherayzenlaw.com.

CFC Income Recognition As A Special Set of US International Tax Rules

When we talk about “CFC income recognition”, we mean a set of special US international tax rules that require US shareholders of a CFC to recognize income from the CFC that would not be normally taxed. In other words, this is income that no one would recognize under the normal US domestic tax rules or even any other US international tax rules.

CFC Income Recognition: Five Main Groups

The CFC income recognition rules force US shareholders of a CFC to increase their gross income only by certain types of income of a CFC. There are five main groups of this special CFC income:

  1. §951(a)(1)(A): subpart F income earned by a CFC;
  2. Former §951(a)(1)(A)(ii) and former §951(a)(1)(A)(iii) (both repealed by the 2017 tax reform, but still relevant for the years beginning before January 1, 2018): previously excluded subpart F income withdrawn from certain types of investments;
  3. §951(a)(1)(B): investments in certain types of US property;
  4. §951A: GILTI (Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income) income starting January 1, 2018; and
  5. §59A: base erosion minimum tax starting January 1, 2019.

Note that these are not the only rules that may accelerate recognition of CFC income. As stated above, these five groups of income are the ones that apply only to US shareholders of a CFC. However, there are other tax rules that apply to CFCs as well as other types of corporations.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office Concerning CFC Income Recognition Rules

Each of the aforementioned five groups of CFC income contains a huge amount of highly complex rules and exceptions. There are also important rules for the interaction of these categories with each other as well as other general US tax rules. It is very easy to get into trouble in this area of law without the help of an experienced international tax lawyer.

If you are US shareholder of a CFC you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional tax help. We have successfully helped US shareholders around the world with their US tax compliance concerning their ownership of CFCs, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

January 28 2021 Inbound Transactions Seminar | US International Tax Lawyer

On January 28, 2021, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an international tax attorney and founder of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., co-presented with a business lawyer a seminar titled “Investing in US Businesses by Foreign Persons – Common Business and Tax Considerations” (the “Inbound Transactions Seminar”). The Inbound Transactions Seminar was sponsored by the International Business Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the seminar was conducted online.

Mr. Sherayzen began his part of the Inbound Transactions Seminar with an explanation of the term “inbound transactions” and how it differs from “outbound transactions”. He then laid out a flowchart which represented the entire analytical tax framework for inbound transactions; the tax attorney warned the audience that, due to time restraints, the breadth of the subject matter only allowed him to generally highlight the most important parts of this framework.

Then, Mr. Sherayzen proceeded with an explanation of each main issue listed on the inbound transactions tax framework flowchart. First, he discussed the explanation of the concept of a US person and how it related to the flowcharted. The international tax attorney provided definitions for all four categories of US persons: individuals, business entities (corporations and partnerships), trusts and estates.

Then, Mr. Sherayzen focused on the second part of the flowchart – US income sourcing rules. After the general explanation of the significance of the income sourcing rules, the international tax attorney discussed in general terms the application of these rules to specific types of income: interest, dividends, rents, royalties, sales of personal property, sales of inventory, sales of real estate and income from services. Despite the time limitations, he was even able to provide a few examples of some of the most paradoxical outcomes of some of the US source-of-income rules.

The third part of the Inbound Transactions Seminar was devoted to the definition of “US trade or business activities”, an important tax term. Mr. Sherayzen provided a general definition and gave some specific examples, warning the audience that this is a highly fact-dependent issue.

In the next two parts of the seminar, the international tax attorney explained one of the most important terms in US taxation – ECI or Effectively Connected Income. Mr. Sherayzen not only went over all three ECI income categories but he also explained how ECI should be taxed. He also mentioned the affect of specific tax regimes (such as BEAT and branch taxes) on the taxation of ECI.

After finishing the left side of the flowchart (the part that was devoted to the analysis of the ECI of US trade and business activities), Mr. Sherayzen switched to the explanation of inbound transactions that do not involve US trade or business activities. In this last part of his presentation, the international tax attorney discussed the definition of FDAP income and the potential Internal Revenue Code and treaty exemptions from US taxation.

While the ongoing pandemic currently limits the number of options for conducting seminars, Mr. Sherayzen already plans future talks in 2021 on the subjects of US international tax compliance and US international tax planning.

Inbound Transactions Tax Framework | US International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Inbound transactions deal with Non-US persons who operate in and/or derive income from the United States. This introductory essay opens a series of articles concerning US taxation of inbound transactions. Today, I will set forth the general inbound transactions tax framework; in future articles, I will explore in more detail each element of this framework.

Inbound Transactions Tax Framework: General Guiding Principals

US taxation of inbound transactions is mainly based on the following guiding principle – nexus to the United States. In other words, the US government taxes Non-US persons in a different manner depending on the level and extent of a Non-US person’s activities in the United States.

The more extensive and regular these activities are, the more likely the income derived from these activities to be taxed by the IRS on a net-income basis (as opposed to gross income) at graduated tax rates. On the other hand, if a Non-US person’s activities are limited, less frequent and more passive, then they are likely to be subject to a completely different type of taxation – the one based on gross income at a set rate.

This “US nexus” principal is subject to numerous exceptions due to the fact that the inbound transactions tax framework incorporates two additional goals. The first goal is the US government’s attempt to design the framework in a manner which would attract foreign investments into the United States. For this reason, the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) may exclude entire categories of income from US taxation either directly or by altering the source-of-income rules (i.e. excluding certain income from the definition of “US-source income”).

Second, as a counter to the “attraction of foreign investments” principal, the US government wishes to make sure that all income of Non-US persons that needs to be taxed is actually taxed and there is no inappropriate non-taxation of US-source income. As a result of the IRS efforts to ensure the effectiveness of this principal, certain types of income are subject to special regimes of taxation. The most prominent example is the taxation of foreign investments in US real property.

Finally, one should remember to consult US income tax treaties for country-specific exceptions. In particular, treaties often modify tax-withholding provisions with respect to various categories of US-source income.

Inbound Transactions Tax Framework: Main Test

The analytical framework for the taxation of inbound transactions is comprised of a test with seven critical questions. The answers to each question will point us to the right sections of the Internal Revenue Code and establish the correct tax treatment for specific types of income.

  1. Is the person who derives the income is a US person or a Non-US person?

Obviously, if the answer to the question is “US person”, then we are not dealing with an inbound transaction, but a domestic investment. Hence, the taxation of a transaction or investment should be examined under a different tax framework (the one that applies to US persons) than the inbound transactions tax framework.

The difference between these tax frameworks is huge. A US person is subject to worldwide income taxation, whereas a Non-US person is generally taxed only on the income derived from US business activities and US investments.

2. Is it a US-source income?

The question whether a Non-US person derives US-source income or foreign-source income is of huge importance and complexity. The answer to this question involves the analysis of relevant source-of-income rules as modified by a relevant tax treaty.

Generally, Non-US persons are taxed only on their US-source income. This means that if it is determined that the income is derived from a foreign-source, none of it is likely to be subject to US taxation. However, certain types of foreign-source income deemed “effectively connected” with US business activities may still be taxed in the United States. Hence, even if the answer to this question #2 is “no”, you must still continue your analysis by answering question #4 below.

3. Does the Non-US person engage in US trade or business activities?

The determination of whether a Non-US person engages in “trade or business within the United States” depends highly on the facts of a case. In a future article, I will discuss in more detail what the IRS and the courts have determined this term of art to mean.

4. Is the income effectively connected to these US trade or business activities?

The term “effectively connected income” or ECI is one of the most important concepts in US international tax law. It may include not only US-source income generated by a US trade or business, but also certain foreign-source income closely related to a US trade or business. In a future article, I will explore ECI in more detail.

5. Is the ECI subject to a special tax regime such as BEAT or Branch Tax?

The ECI of a foreign person may be subject to a special tax regime related to US companies owned by a foreign person or US branches of a foreign corporation. I will discuss each of these regimes in more detail in the future.

6. If the Non-US person is not engaged in US trade or business activities, is his US-source income classified as FDAP (Fixed, Determinable, Annual or Periodic) income?

FDAP income typically includes passive investment income, such as interest, dividends, rents and royalties. Unless modified by a treaty, FDAP income is subject to a 30% tax withholding on gross income. I will cover FDAP income in more detail in the future.

7. Is this FDAP income subject to an IRC or Treaty Exemption?

In order to promote foreign investment into the United States, certain types of FDAP income are entirely exempted rom US taxation. These exemptions can be found in the IRC or a relevant tax treaty. Again, I will discuss FDAP exemptions in more details in a future article.

Inbound Transactions Tax Framework: Information Returns

In addition to income tax considerations, it is important to remember that the answers to the questions above may lead to the determination of additional compliance requirements in the form of information returns. For example, if a Non-US person engages in a US trade or business through a foreign-owned US corporation, then this corporation may likely have to file Form 5472. A failure to file relevant information returns may lead to an imposition of significant IRS penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US Tax Compliance and Planning

If you are a Non-US person who has income from the United States or engages in business activities in the United States, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US tax compliance. We have helped hundreds of taxpayers around the world and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Beware of Flat-Fee Lawyers Doing Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

Recently, I received a number of phone calls and emails from people who complained about incorrect filing of their Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) packages by lawyers who took their cases on a flat-fee basis. In this article, I would like to discuss why a flat fee is generally not well-suited for a proper SDOP preparation and why clients should critically examine all facts and circumstances before retaining flat-fee lawyers.

A small disclosure: the analysis below is my opinion and the result of my prior experience with SDOPs. Moreover, I am only describing general trends and there are certainly exceptions which may be applicable to a specific case. Hence, the readers should consider my conclusions in this article carefully and apply them only after examining all facts and circumstances related to a specific lawyer before making their final decision on whether to retain him.

Flat-Fee Lawyers versus Hourly-Rate Lawyers

The two main business models that exist in the professional tax community in the United States with respect to billing their clients are the hourly-rate model and the flat-fee model. The hourly-rate model means that an attorney’s fees will depend on the amount of time he actually worked on the case. The flat-fee model charges one fee that covers a lawyer’s work irrespective of how much time he actually spends on a case.

Both billing models have their advantages and disadvantages. Generally, the chief advantage of an hourly-rate model is potentially higher quality of work. The hourly-rate model has a built-in incentive for attorneys to do as accurate and detailed work as possible, maximizing the quality of the final work product. An hourly-rate attorney is likely to take more time to explore the documents, uncover hidden problems of the case and properly resolve them.

The disadvantage of an hourly-rate model is that it cannot make an absolutely accurate prediction of what the legal fees will ultimately be. However, this problem is usually mitigated by estimates – as long as he knows all main facts of the case, an experienced attorney can usually predict the range of his legal fees to cover the case. Only a discovery of substantial unexpected issues (that were not discussed or left unresolved during the initial consultation) will substantially alter the estimate, because more time would be needed to resolve these new issues.

The chief advantage of the flat-fee model is the certainty of the legal fee – the client knows exactly how much he will pay. A secondary advantage of this model is the built-in incentive for flat-fee lawyers to complete their cases as fast as possible.

However, this advantage is undermined by several serious disadvantages. First, the flat-fee model provides a powerful incentive for lawyers to spend the least amount of time on a client’s case in order to maximize their profits; in other words, the flat-fee model has a potential for undermining the quality of a lawyer’s work product. Of course, it does not happen in every case, but the potential for such abuse is always present in the flat-fee model.

Second, closely-related to the first problem, the flat-fee model discourages lawyers from engaging in a thorough analysis of their clients’ cases. This may later result in undiscovered issues that may later expose a client to a higher risk of an unfavorable outcome of the case. Again this does not happen in every case, but I have repeatedly seen this problem occur in voluntary disclosures handled by flat-fee lawyers and CPAs.

Finally, a client may actually over-pay for a flat-fee lawyer’s services compared to an hourly-rate attorney, because a flat-fee lawyer is likely to set his fees at a high level to make sure that he remains profitable irrespective of potential surprises contained in the case. Of course, there is a risk for flat-fee lawyers that the reverse may occur – i.e. despite being set to a high level, the fee is still too small compared to issues involved in a case.

The effective usage of either one of these billing models differs depending on where they are applied. In situations where the facts are simple and legal issues are clear, a flat-fee model may be preferable. However, where one deals with a complex legal situation and the facts cannot all be easily established during an initial consultation, the hourly-rate model with its emphasis on thoroughness and quality of legal work is likely to be the best choice.

Flat-Fee Lawyers Can Be An Inferior Choice for Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

In my opinion and based on the analysis above, in the context of an SDOP voluntary disclosure, a flat-fee engagement is particularly dangerous because of the nature of offshore voluntary disclosure cases.

Voluntary disclosures are likely to deal with complex US international tax compliance issues and unclear factual patterns. It may be difficult to identify all legal issues and all US international tax reporting requirements during an initial consultation. There are too many facts that clients may simply not have at their disposal during an initial consultation. Moreover, additional issues and questions are likely to arise after the documents are processed. I once had a situation where I discovered that a client had an additional foreign corporation with millions of dollars only several months after the initial consultation – the corporation was already closed and the client forgot about it.

For these reasons, SDOP and offshore voluntary disclosures in general require an individualized, detailed and thorough approach as well as a hard-to-determine (during an initial consultation) depth of legal analysis which is generally ill-fit for a flat-fee engagement. A flat-fee lawyer is unlikely to accurately estimate how much time is required to complete a client’s case and, hence, unlikely to accurately set his flat fee for the case.

This can cause a huge conflict of interest as the case progresses. I have seen a number of cases where, in an attempt to remain profitable, flat-fee lawyers did their analysis too fast and failed to properly identify all relevant tax issues; as a result, the voluntary disclosures (including SDOP disclosures) done by them had to amended later by my firm. This caused significant additional financial costs and mental stress to my clients.

In my opinion, this potential conflict of interest makes the flat-fee model unsuitable for the vast majority of the SDOP cases.

Beware of Some Flat-Fee Lawyers Including Unnecessary Services Into the Flat Fee

This applies only to a tiny minority of flat-fee lawyers. I have observed several times where flat-fee lawyers included irrelevant services that the client never used to increase the flat fee for the case (for example, audit fees for years not included in the SDOP). My recommendation is that, if you decide to go with a flat-fee arrangement, you should make sure that it includes only the services that you will likely use.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

Sherayzen Law Office is a leader in SDOP disclosures. We have helped clients from over 70 countries with their offshore voluntary disclosures, including SDOPs. Our firm follows an hourly-rate billing model, because we value the quality of our work above all other considerations. Of course, we make every effort to make our fees reasonable and competitive, but our priority is the peace of mind of our clients who know that they can rely on the creativity of our legal solutions and the high quality of our work.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!