The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) created a worldwide international tax compliance regime that has influenced more industries than simply foreign financial institutions. FATCA compliance presents a formidable challenge even to hedge funds.
FATCA Compliance Challenges for Hedge Funds
The challenges that FATCA compliance poses to hedge funds is best understood by analyzing what FATCA compliance requires of hedge funds – a multi-group coordination effort from various divisions within a business enterprise: business, operations, technology, finance and compliance.
The compliance department, most likely with the cooperation of the in-house counsel (and outside counsel who specializes in FATCA compliance, if in-house counsel lacks such knowledge) should lay out the FATCA compliance goals and make sure that the FATCA compliance process complies with these goals. The operations division should create the framework for the FATCA compliance process, including how this process should be controlled and managed for tax reporting and tax withholding purposes. The technology division needs to build the IT infrastructure to address the technological challenges of FATCA goals in a cost-effective way. The members of the business division (which incorporates the actual customer intake) should be thoroughly educated in the FATCA compliance process as well as the company’s specific IT solutions.
When this FATCA compliance process is applied to the hedge fund industry, one can clearly see the numerous challenges that the hedge funds face in the implementation of their FATCA compliance. The hedge funds need to register their funds for FATCA on the IRS portal, gather various investor data with respect to numerous (and often changing) customers, review and assess such data, and properly report customer data to the IRS.
Another challenge for hedge funds is the required tax withholding. Unlike previous attempts at international tax legislation, FATCA has very effective enforcement mechanisms which forces all US banks, brokers and financial institutions to essentially work for the IRS, including withholding taxes. In fact, the hedge funds that deal in US dollars are likely to be subject to the withholding tax requirement at an increasing rate in the near future.
However, the tax withholding challenge for hedge funds goes far beyond the more straightforward fact that it will need to withhold tax. Rather, the biggest headache for hedge funds is the identification of the beneficial owners and controlling persons of their clients. A lot of investors in hedge funds operate through unregulated legal vehicles or individual agents; this fact makes the FATCA data collection process a much more difficult challenge for hedge funds.
Impact of FATCA Compliance By Hedge Funds On US Taxpayers
Despite these challenges, many hedge funds are successfully addressing FATCA compliance issues and are incorporating advanced software solutions to make their look-through process more efficient.
These successes of hedge funds in their FATCA compliance make it difficult for US persons investing in mutual funds through foreign entities to conceal their ownership of these entities. This means that one can expect an increase of the IRS discovery of such investors.
If these investors are not in full compliance with their US tax obligations – particularly with respect to FBAR, Form 8938, foreign business ownership reporting, foreign trust ownership and foreign income disclosure – they may be facing catastrophic US tax consequences, including draconian FBAR willful penalties as well as potential imprisonment.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Undisclosed Foreign Assets and Income
If you have undisclosed foreign assets or foreign income, please contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. After reviewing the facts of your case and analyzing the available voluntary disclosure options, our team of tax professionals will conduct your voluntary disclosure process from the beginning through the end, including the preparation all of the required legal documents and tax forms.