EU Automatic Exchange of Banking and Beneficial Ownership Data Approved

On November 22, 2016, the European Parliament approved the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership data across the European Union. The directive received an overwhelming support from the Parliament: 590 members voted “yes”, 32 – “no”, and 64 did not vote.

Since the original proposal was already approved by the EU Council on November 8, 2016, the only issue left before the directive will come into force will be the final adoption of the directive by EU Council. Once the directive on the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership data is adopted by the Council, the member states will have until December 31, 2017, to implement it.

The directive represents a major undertaking with respect to the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership data. Once it is adopted, the directive will allow tax authorities of every EU member state to automatically share the banking information such as account balances, interest income and dividends. Moreover, the directive also requires the EU member states to create registers recording the beneficial ownership of companies and trusts. This means that the tax authorities of all EU member states will finally acquire access to the information regarding the true beneficiaries of foreign trusts and opaque corporate structures.

The idea behind the new legislation on the automatic exchanges of banking and beneficial ownership data is to provide the EU member states with tools to fight cross-border fraud and tax evasion, preserving the integrity of their domestic tax systems.

However, it appears that there are still serious implementation issues with respect to the new directive. The most serious problem is that the directive merely allows the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership date in the EU, but it does not obligate the member states to do so. Furthermore, the banking industry’s role in the facilitation of tax evasion is not addressed at all by the legislature.

After the directive on the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership date is adopted, the European Parliament is going to take up the legislation to provide for a cross-border method for accessing the shared information.

An interesting question for US taxpayers is whether any of the information acquired through the EU sharing mechanism will be shared with the IRS through FATCA. The likelihood of this scenario is fairly strong and may further expose noncompliant US taxpayers to IRS detection.

Last Swiss Bank Program Category 2 Resolution

On January 27, 2016, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) declared the last Swiss Bank Program Category 2 Resolution. The Swiss Bank Program was proclaimed on August 29, 2013, and constituted an unprecedented triumph of US economic might over the most formidable bank secrecy bulwark (though, already a greatly weakened one since the 2008 UBS case) which Switzerland had been for hundreds of years.

Under the Swiss Bank Program, the Swiss banks were forced to turn over a large amount of information regarding foreign accounts held by US persons, cooperate with US information requests, and, in case of category 2 banks, pay a fine. In return, the Swiss banks were provided a guarantee against US criminal prosecution in the form of non-prosecution agreements.

The Swiss Bank Program was successful, though not every eligible Swiss bank actually chose to participate in the Program. The most profitable part of the Program consisted of the Category 2 banks, which had to pay fines as a condition of their participation in the Swiss Bank Program.

The first resolution with a Category 2 bank occurred on March 30, 2015. On January 27, 2016, the last Swiss Bank Program Category 2 resolution took place after reaching a Non-Prosecution Agreement with HSZH Verwaltungs AG (HSZH).

In total, the DOJ signed Non-Prosecution Agreements with about 80 banks and collected more than $1.36 billion in Swiss Bank Penalties, including $49 million from the last Swiss Bank Program Category 2 resolution. While this amount pales in comparison with the originally-projected amounts (due to penalty mitigation), the enormous impact the Program has had on the worldwide US tax compliance and convincing foreign governments to accept FATCA render this Program an important success for the US government.

The final Swiss Bank Program Category 2 resolution marked the end of the Category 2 part of the Swiss Bank Program, but an important question remains – will we see the re-appearance of the Swiss Bank Program with Category 2 banks in another country? While the implementation of FATCA reduces the probability of a chance of another program similar to Swiss Bank Program, one cannot fully discount this possibility. It is possible that the IRS will identify another important center (such as the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Isle of Mann, Singapore, et cetera) of US tax non-compliance based on the information collected in the Swiss Bank Program and attack this center.

On the other hand, one can also see the appearance of a global “Swiss Bank Program” which banks of any country can enter in order to prevent US criminal prosecution.

Whatever form the future voluntary disclosure program for foreign banks will take, one can be certain that the last Swiss Bank Program Category 2 Resolution with HSZH was not the last IRS enforcement effort with respect to foreign banks.

The Location of Your International Tax Lawyers Austin Texas

Choosing your lawyer among International Tax Lawyers Austin Texas is not a simple task, especially for a US taxpayer thinking about doing an offshore voluntary disclosure. One of the critical questions often arises is whether it is better to retain an international tax lawyer in Austin or in Minneapolis if you live in Austin? It is also related to a broader question: is the location of your international tax lawyer important?

Let’s analyze this question in the context of retaining one or more International Tax Lawyers Austin Texas.

International Tax Lawyers Austin Texas: US International Tax Law and Geography

One of the most critical aspects of US international tax law is that it does not respect national or state borders. Rather, it focuses on the individual taxpayer; if the taxpayer is a US person, then he is subject to US international tax law.

Another important aspect of US international tax law is that it applies uniformly (with a few exceptions, such blockades, sanctions, et cetera) irrespective of where the individual taxpayer is.

This means that, if you are in Austin and searching for International Tax Lawyers Austin Texas, it does not matter whether your lawyer is physically located in Austin, Minneapolis or Buenos Aires. The knowledge of international tax law of your lawyer and the application of that law to your specific case does not depend on the physical location of your lawyer.

International Tax Lawyers Austin Texas: Expertise and Experience in International Tax Law is the Critical Criteria, Not Geography

Based on this logic, it is easy to see that the geographical location of your International Tax Lawyers Austin Texas is not the most important factor in your decision to retain an attorney. Rather, it is a lawyer’s expertise in international tax law that should drive your decision.

If you feel comfortable with the lawyer’s grasp of the subject matter and his experience in handling cases involving issues similar to the ones involved in your case, then these factors should be the critical factors on which your decision to retain the an international tax lawyer should be based.

International Tax Lawyers Austin Texas: “Face-to-Face” Meetings Obstacle Has Been Overcome By Modern Technology

There is a common misconception that your international tax lawyer must be near you in order to understand you and be able to render advice.

About a third of my clients are overseas and, additionally, more than a third of my clients are located in the United States but outside of Minnesota, leaving me with only about a quarter of my clients physically located in Minnesota. Yet, this factor never influenced the outcome in any of my cases.

In the modern world of Video Skype Conferences, the value of the face-to-face meetings has deteriorated and, in most cases, completely disappeared.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With International Tax Issues

Hence, if you are searching for International Tax Lawyers Austin Texas, contact the international tax law team of Sherayzen Law Office (physically based in Minneapolis, MN). Our team of international tax professionals has developed deep expertise in international tax law based on the help that we have rendered to hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide.

So, if you have international tax issues with respect to undeclared foreign accounts, international tax compliance or international tax planning, please contact an experienced international tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen of Sherayzen Law Office for comprehensive legal and tax help.

Call Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!