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50% Offshore Penalty of the 2014 OVDP

The 50% Offshore Penalty is a unique feature of the 2014 OVDP. What is so unusual about this penalty is that its impact widens with each passing month and year to include and affect more and more US taxpayers. In this article, I would like to explore the emergence of the 50% Offshore Penalty and its importance to US international tax compliance.

2014 OVDP Penalty Structure

On June 18, 2014, the IRS completely changed the entire legal landscape of US voluntary disclosure. The unwieldy and uncompromising penalty structure of the 2012 OVDP was replaced by the new Streamlined Procedures and a completely modified 2014 OVDP.

Under the new rules, the IRS eliminated the 5% and 12.5% penalties of the 2012 OVDP and replaced them with milder and more flexible Streamlined Domestic Offshore Penalty of 5% and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Penalty of 0%. On the other hand, the old default 25% penalty of the 2012 OVDP evolved into a new stringent system of dual penalty structure: 27.5% default Offshore Penalty and 50% Offshore Penalty.

FAQ 7.2 and 50% Offshore Penalty

The 27.5% default Offshore Penalty applies unless the participating US taxpayer has foreign accounts in a bank on a special IRS list as described in FAQ 7.2.

FAQ 7.2 states that, starting August 4, 2014, any taxpayer who enters OVDP will be subject to a 50% Offshore Penalty if, at the time the Preclearance letter is submitted to the IRS-CI (Criminal Investigation), a “public disclosure” has already occurred.

FAQ 7.2. further states that a “public disclosure” has occurred if one of the following three events occurs. First, if the foreign financial institution (FFI) where the undisclosed foreign account is held or another “facilitator who assisted in establishing or maintaining the taxpayer’s offshore arrangement” (“facilitator”) is under IRS or US DOJ investigation. The investigation should be the one that is related to accounts that are beneficially owned by a US person.

Second, the FFI or facilitator is cooperating with the IRS or the Department of Justice in connection with accounts that are beneficially owned by a U.S. person. In other words, where a foreign bank signs a Non-Prosecution Agreement with US DOJ; this means every Swiss bank that reached resolution with the DOJ under the Swiss Bank Program; OR

Third, the FFI or facilitator has been identified in a John Doe Summons seeking information about U.S. taxpayers who may hold financial accounts at this FFI or have accounts established or maintained by the facilitator.

FAQ 7.2 provides an example of when a public disclosure occurs: “a public filing in a judicial proceeding by any party or judicial officer; or public disclosure by the Department of Justice regarding a Deferred Prosecution Agreement or Non-Prosecution Agreement with a financial institution or other facilitator.

It is easy to see now why the 50% Offshore Penalty has been increasing in influence – every Non-Prosecution Agreement, every DOJ investigation, every John Doe summons automatically expands the application of the 50% Offshore Penalty to another FFI or even a set of FFIs.

Entire Penalty Base is Subject to 50% Offshore Penalty

If a public disclosure occurs with respect to the FFI or facilitor where the US taxpayer has one or more foreign accounts, the 50% Offshore Penalty applies not only to these accounts but to all of the taxpayer’s assets included in the penalty base. For example, if a US taxpayer has one account at UBS, ten accounts in an Australian bank (for which no public disclosure occurred) and a foreign rental property that generated unreported foreign income, the 50% Offshore Penalty will apply to all of these assets.

List of FFIs and Facilitators

The IRS published the list of all FFIs and Facilitators for which public disclosure has occurred with the dates when the 50% penalty is activated with respect to these FFIs and Facilitators. Here, I am only providing the list up to date through January 7, 2016:

UBS AG
Credit Suisse AG, Credit Suisse Fides, and Clariden Leu Ltd.
Wegelin & Co.
Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG
Zurcher Kantonalbank
swisspartners Investment Network AG, swisspartners Wealth Management AG, swisspartners Insurance Company SPC Ltd., and swisspartners Versicherung AG
CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank Limited, its predecessors, subsidiaries, and affiliates
Stanford International Bank, Ltd., Stanford Group Company, and Stanford Trust Company, Ltd.
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited in India (HSBC India)
The Bank of N.T. Butterfield & Son Limited (also known as Butterfield Bank and Bank of Butterfield), its predecessors, subsidiaries, and affiliates
Sovereign Management & Legal, Ltd., its predecessors, subsidiaries, and affiliates (effective 12/19/14)
Bank Leumi le-Israel B.M., The Bank Leumi le-Israel Trust Company Ltd, Bank Leumi (Luxembourg) S.A., Leumi Private Bank S.A., and Bank Leumi USA (effective 12/22/14)
BSI SA (effective 3/30/15)
Vadian Bank AG (effective 5/8/15)
Finter Bank Zurich AG (effective 5/15/15)
Societe Generale Private Banking (Lugano-Svizzera) SA (effective 5/28/15)
MediBank AG (effective 5/28/15)
LBBW (Schweiz) AG (effective 5/28/15)
Scobag Privatbank AG (effective 5/28/15)
Rothschild Bank AG (effective 6/3/15)
Banca Credinvest SA (effective 6/3/15)
Societe Generale Private Banking (Suisse) SA (effective 6/9/15)
Berner Kantonalbank AG (effective 6/9/15)
Bank Linth LLB AG (effective 6/19/15)
Bank Sparhafen Zurich AG (effective 6/19/15)
Ersparniskasse Schaffhausen AG (effective 6/26/15)
Privatbank Von Graffenried AG (effective 7/2/15)
Banque Pasche SA (effective 7/9/15)
ARVEST Privatbank AG (effective 7/9/15)
Mercantil Bank (Schweiz) AG (effective 7/16/15)
Banque Cantonale Neuchateloise (effective 7/16/15)
Nidwaldner Kantonalbank (effective 7/16/15)
SB Saanen Bank AG (effective 7/23/15)
Privatbank Bellerive AG (effective 7/23/15)
PKB Privatbank AG (effective 7/30/15)
Falcon Private Bank AG (effective 7/30/15)
Credito Privato Commerciale in liquidazione SA (effective 7/30/15)
Bank EKI Genossenschaft (effective 8/3/15)
Privatbank Reichmuth & Co. (effective 8/6/15)
Banque Cantonale du Jura SA (effective 8/6/15)
Banca Intermobiliare di Investimenti e Gestioni (Suisse) SA (effective 8/6/15)
bank zweiplus ag (effective 8/20/15)
Banca dello Stato del Cantone Ticino (effective 8/20/15)
Hypothekarbank Lenzburg AG (effective 8/27/15)
Schroder & Co. Bank AG (effective 9/3/15)
Valiant Bank AG (effective 9/10/15)
Bank La Roche & Co AG (effective 9/15/15)
Belize Bank International Limited, Belize Bank Limited, Belize Corporate Services Limited, their predecessors, subsidiaries, and affiliates (effective 9/16/15)
St. Galler Kantonalbank AG (effective 9/17/15)
E. Gutzwiller & Cie, Banquiers (effective 9/17/15)
Migros Bank AG (effective 9/25/15)
Graubundner Katonalbank (effective 9/25/15)
BHF-Bank (Schweiz) AG (effective 10/1/15)
Finacor SA (effective 10/6/15)
Schaffhauser Kantonalbank (effective 10/8/15)
BBVA Suiza S.A. (effective 10/16/15)
Piguet Galland & Cie SA (effective 10/23/15)
Luzerner Kantonalbank AG (effective 10/29/15)
Habib Bank AG Zurich (effective 10/29/15)
Banque Heritage SA (effective 10/29/15)
Hyposwiss Private Bank Genève S.A. (effective 10/29/15)
Banque Bonhôte & Cie SA (effective 11/3/15)
Banque Internationale a Luxembourg (Suisse) SA (effective 11/12/15)
Zuger Kantonalbank (effective 11/12/15)
Standard Chartered Bank (Switzerland) SA, en liquidation (effective 11/13/15)
Maerki Baumann & Co. AG (effective 11/17/15)
BNP Paribas (Suisse) SA (effective 11/19/15)
KBL (Switzerland) Ltd. (effective 11/19/15)
Bank CIC (Switzerland) Ltd. (effective 11/19/15)
Privatbank IHAG Zürich AG (effective 11/24/15)
Deutsche Bank (Suisse) SA (effective 11/24/15)
EFG Bank AG (effective 12/3/15)
EFG Bank European Financial Group SA, Geneva (effective 12/3/15)
Aargauische Kantonalbank (effective 12/8/15)
Cornèr Banca SA (effective 12/10/15)
Bank Coop AG (effective 12/10/15)
Crédit Agricole (Suisse) SA (effective 12/15/15)
Dreyfus Sons & Co Ltd, Banquiers (effective 12/15/15)
Baumann & Cie, Banquiers (effective 12/15/15)
Bordier & Cie Switzerland (effective 12/17/15)
PBZ Verwaltungs AG (effective 12/17/15)
PostFinance AG (effective 12/17/15)
Edmond de Rothschild (Suisse) SA (effective 12/18/15)
Edmond de Rothschild (Lugano) SA (effective 12/18/15)
Bank J. Safra Sarasin AG (effective 12/23/15)
Coutts & Co Ltd (effective 12/23/15)
Gonet & Cie (effective 12/23/15)
Banque Cantonal du Valais (effective 12/23/15)
Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (effective 12/23/15)
Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd (effective 12/31/15)
DZ Privatbank (Schweiz) AG (effective 12/31/15)
Union Bancaire Privée , USP SA (effective 1/6/16)

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with Your Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, including those FFIs and Facilitators for which public disclosure has occurred, you should contact the experienced international tax team of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. Our international tax law firm has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws, while reducing their penalty exposure.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Initial Consultation!

US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: General Overview

There is a common misconception among Green Card Holders (a common name for US permanent residents) that their US income tax obligations are limited in nature in comparison to US citizens. In this article, I seek to dispel this erroneous myth and provide some general outlines of the US income tax obligations of Green Card Holders.

US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: Worldwide Income Reporting

I receive a lot of phone calls from Green Card holders who believe that their US income tax reporting obligations are limited only to US-source income (sourcing of income, by the way, is also a very complex subject and I often see egregious mistakes committed even by experienced accountants).

This is not correct. In fact, US permanent residents and US citizens are both considered to be “tax residents of the United States.” US tax residents are required to report their worldwide income on US tax returns and pay US income taxes on foreign-source income (and, obviously, US-source income).

Thus, if you have a Green Card and you have foreign assets (such as foreign bank and financial accounts, foreign businesses, foreign trusts, et cetera), you must report the income from such foreign assets on your US tax returns.

Be careful! You must remember that all foreign income must be reported in US dollars and according to US tax laws. Leaving aside the issue of currency conversion (which is a topic for another article), the reporting of foreign income under US tax laws may be extremely challenging because foreign tax laws may treat this income in a different manner. Let me emphasize this point – the treatment of income under foreign local tax rules may not actually be the same as the treatment of the same income under US tax rules.

For example, Assurance Vie accounts in France may be completely tax-exempt if certain conditions are met. However, the annual income from these accounts must be reported on US tax returns.

Moreover, to make matters worse, these accounts may contain PFIC (Passive Foreign Investment Company) investments which are treated in a very complex and generally unfavorable manner under US tax laws. The calculation of US tax liability in this case may be extremely complex (especially since the French banks are not required to keep the kind of information that is necessary to properly calculation PFIC tax and interest).

US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: Reporting of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts

As US tax residents, the Green Card holders are also required to disclose their ownership of certain foreign bank and financial accounts to the IRS. Many US permanent residents are shocked to learn about these requirements and the draconian penalties associated with failure to file the required information reports.

The top two bank and financial account reporting requirements are FinCEN Form 114 (known as “FBAR” – the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) and Form 8938 (which was born out of FATCA). Other forms, such as Form 8621, may apply.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss these requirements in detail. However, it is impossible to overstate their importance, especially the FBAR, due to potentially astronomical non-compliance penalties (including criminal penalties). You can find more information about these requirements at sherayzenlaw.com.

US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: Reporting of Foreign Business Ownership

Many US permanent residents are surprised to find out that they may be required to provide detailed reports about their foreign businesses – corporations, partnerships and disregarded entities. Indeed, Green Card holders may be subject to burdensome and expensive US reporting requirements on Forms 5471, 8865, 926, 8938, et cetera. These forms may require Green Card holders to provide foreign financial statements translated under US accounting standards, including US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices).

Again, you can find more information about these requirement at sherayzenlaw.com.

US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: Reporting of Foreign Trusts

Another complex trap for Green Card Holders is reporting of an ownership or a beneficiary interest in a foreign trust (generally, on Form 3520). This complicated topic is beyond the scope of this article, but you can find more information about these requirements at sherayzenlaw.com.

US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: Other Reporting Requirements

There are numerous other US income tax obligations of Green Card Holders that may apply. Moreover, US has multiple income tax treaties with various countries which may modify your particular tax situation. In order to fully determine your US tax obligations as a Green Card holder, it is best to consult with an experienced international tax attorney.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your US Income Tax Obligations

Sherayzen Law Office is a specialized international tax law firm which is highly experienced in helping US Permanent Residents with their US income tax obligations and reporting requirements. One of the unique features of our firm is that our tax team provides both legal and accounting services to our clients throughout the world.

Contact Us Now To Secure Professional Help and Avoid (or Rectify) Costly Mistakes!