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International Personal Services Sourcing Rules | International Tax Lawyer

In a previous article, I explained that US tax law sources personal services to the place where these services are performed. What about a situation where such services are performed partially in the United States and partially outside of the United States (hereinafter, I will call such services “international personal services”)? In this article, I will address this situation and discuss the US international personal services sourcing rules.

I will specifically limit my discussion in this essay to international personal services sourcing rules concerning non-corporate independent contractors. In the future, I will discuss the income source rules for corporations and employees, including the source of income rules concerning fringe benefits and stock options.

International Personal Services Sourcing: Two Main Situations

The rules concerning the sourcing of international person services income depend on how a contracting agreement structures the payment for such services. In this context, there are two most common categories of contracts.

The first category of contracts specifically designates part of the payment to cover the services performed in the United States and part of the payment to compensate for services performed in a foreign country. In this situation, we can easily apply the general rule and source each part of the payment to the place where services are performed. In other words, the payment for US services will be US-source income and the payment for foreign services will be foreign-source income.

Unfortunately, contractors rarely structure their agreements in this way, because they often fail to retain an international tax lawyer to review their contracts for US international tax issues. Business lawyers also often make the same mistake, because they fail to see the need to involve a tax attorney.

Hence, most contracts fall within the second category of contracts, where a contract does not allocate the payment between services performed in the United States and those performed in a foreign country. The general rule is of little help for these contracts; hence, the IRS developed a supplementary legal process for income sourcing in this type of a situation.

International Personal Services Sourcing: the Two-Step Allocation Process

If the contract does not divide the payment between the countries where the services are performed, then the taxpayer will need to engage in a two-step process.

First, the taxpayer should determine if the terms of the contract allow to make an accurate allocation of payment between the United States and a foreign country. Sometimes, a contractor may perform services so specific to a country that the allocation of payment is obvious, even though the contract does not expressly allocate the payment to this country.

Second, if no such accurate allocation is possible, then the taxpayer should allocate the payment “on the basis that most correctly reflects the proper source of income on the facts and circumstances of the particular case.” Treas. Reg. §1.861-4(b)(1). This appears to be a very general rule that opens up possibilities for creative tax planning, but, once we look at the history of this rule, we will quickly realize that one method – the Time Rule (described below) – limits its flexibility.

The current flexible rule is in force only since 1976. Prior to that year, the IRS required the allocation of payment strictly based on the Time Rule. The impetus to changing to a more flexible rule was a 1973 case from the Tenth Circuit, Tipton & Kalmbach, Inc v US, 480 F2d 1118, 32 AFTR2d 73-5334 (10th Cir 1973). In that case, the IRS determined that a re-enlistment bonus was a compensation for services which the taxpayer performed on the day he re-enlisted. The paradoxical result was the fact that the location of the soldier on the day of his re-enlistment determined the sourcing of the entire re-enlistment bonus.

Hence, the IRS infused more flexibility into the Time Rule by adopting the language currently found in Treas. Reg. §1.861-4(b)(1). Nevertheless, given this history, there is no question that the Time Rule remains the most persuasive method of income allocation for non-corporate individual contractors.

It should be emphasized, however, that dominance of the Time Rule should not deter a taxpayer utilizing alternative methodology (for example, the value produced by specific services) if it is more accurate. In other words, the Time Rule is the default methodology which the IRS will use to allocate the payment between the countries, but a taxpayer may use other alternatives as long as he can persuade the IRS that his methodology represents a more accurate allocation of income.

International Personal Services Sourcing: the Time Rule

The time has come to define the Time Rule. According to Treas. Reg. §1.861-4(b)(2)(ii)(E), under the Time Rule, the amount of payment allocated to the United States “is the amount that bears the same relation to the individual’s total compensation as the number of days of performance of the labor or personal services by the individual within the United States bears to his or her total number of days of performance of labor or personal services.” Taxpayers should use fractions in determining the allocations.

Let’s use an example to demonstrate the application of the Time Rule. A US Corporation signs a contract with Mr. Hause, a tax resident of Germany, to provide professional advice concerning incorporation of German heavy machinery into a Chinese factory owned by the corporation. The total price paid is $900,000; the work is performed within 180 days. Out of these 180 days, Mr. Hause spends 60 days in the United States working on the implementation plans and 120 days in China overseeing the implementation process. Based on the Time Rule, Mr. Hause spent 1/3 of his time in the United States and 2/3 in China; hence, $300,000 will be considered US-source income and $600,000 will be sourced to China. Of course, if Mr. Hause can show that the value of his work in China was far more important to the contract than his work in the United states, he can use an alternative methodology (which may still have to survive the IRS scrutiny during an audit).

Based on this example, you can see why the IRS likes the Time Rule – it is a relatively straightforward, objective calculation that can be easily implemented in almost any case.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With International Personal Services Sourcing Rules and Other US International Tax Issues

Sherayzen Law Office can help you with all of your US international tax needs, including the international personal services sourcing rules. Our highly experienced international tax team has successfully helped US taxpayers around the globe to deal with their US international tax issues. We can help You!

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Cambata Case: IRS Wins Against Former U.S. Citizen on Offshore Income

In the Cambata case, the IRS successfully demonstrated once again that renunciation of U.S. citizenship will not protect a taxpayer from being pursued for unreported income from foreign accounts. On February 3, 2016, Mr. Albert Cambata pleaded guilty to filing a false income tax return with respect to his unreported Swiss account income.

Facts Related to Mr. Cambata’s Unreported Swiss account income

According to court documents, in 2006, Mr. Albert Cambata established Dragonflyer Ltd., a Hong Kong corporate entity, with the assistance of a Swiss banker and a Swiss attorney. Days later, he opened a financial account at Swiss Bank 1 in the name of Dragonflyer. Although he was not listed on the opening documents as a director or an authorized signatory, Mr. Cambata was identified on another bank document (which the IRS obtained most likely through the Swiss Bank program) as the beneficial owner of the Dragonflyer account. That same year, Mr. Cambata received $12 million from Hummingbird Holdings Ltd., a Belizean company. The $12 million originated from a Panamanian aviation management company called Cambata Aviation S.A. and was deposited to the Dragonflyer bank account at Swiss Bank 1 in November 2006.

On his 2007 and 2008 federal income tax returns, Mr. Cambata failed to report interest income earned on his Swiss financial account in the amounts of $77,298 and $206,408, respectively. In April 2008, Mr. Cambata caused the Swiss attorney to request that Swiss Bank 1 send five million Euros from the Swiss financial account to an account Mr. Cambata controlled at the Monaco branch of Swiss Bank 3. In June 2008, Cambata closed his financial account with Swiss Bank 1 in the name of Dragonflyer and moved the funds to an account he controlled at the Singapore branch of Swiss Bank 2.

In 2012, Mr. Cambata, who has lived in Switzerland since 2007, went to the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia, to renounce his U.S. citizenship and informed the U.S. Department of State that he had acquired the nationality of St. Kitts and Nevis by virtue of naturalization.

Link between the Cambata Case and Swiss Bank Program

It appears that the IRS was able to focus on Mr. Cambata due to information provided by one of the Swiss Bank that participated in the Swiss Bank Program. This led to the IRS investigation that unraveled the whole scheme constructed by Mr. Cambata. Additional information might have been provided to the IRS by one of the Category 1 banks as part of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

This affirms what the IRS has stated in the past about its determination to continue to pursue older fraud cases based on the information it already obtained from the Swiss banks. “IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to pursue those who do not pay the taxes they owe to the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas Jankowski of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office. “Today’s plea is a reminder that we are committed to following the money trail across the globe and will not be deterred by the use of sophisticated international financial transactions that hide the real ownership of income taxable by the United States.”

The Global Reach of the IRS Investigations Grows

Mr. Cambata’s accounts were spread out among the local branches of Swiss banks in Monaco, Singapore and Switzerland. The funds originated from companies based in Belize and Panama (the information regarding these companies was probably obtained through John Doe summons issued in 2015).

It becomes obvious from this case that our earlier warnings about the spread of the IRS investigations beyond Switzerland were correct. The IRS now reaches far beyond Switzerland and focuses more and more on jurisdictions like Belize, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Monaco, Panama, Singapore and other favorite offshore jurisdictions. The Cambata case is a grave warning to U.S. taxpayers who still operate in offshore jurisdictions to hide assets from the U.S. government.

The Cambata Case is a Warning to Taxpayers Who Pursued Quiet Disclosure to Cover-Up Past Tax Noncompliance

One of the most curious aspects about the Cambata case is that the IRS never imposed any FBAR penalties or tax return penalties with respect to the later years. While it is not clear from the documents, it appears that Mr. Cambata probably did a quiet disclosure in the year 2009 and has properly filed his FBARs and tax returns ever since.

The FBAR statute of limitations probably did not allow the IRS to impose the FBAR penalties, but the IRS still ignored the quiet disclosure and pursued criminal penalties for the 2006 and 2007 fraudulent tax returns (in addition to restitution of $84,849 – presumable the tax Mr. Cambata would have owed had he filed his 2006 and 2007 returns correctly).

Therefore, U.S. taxpayers who filed quiet disclosure should heed one of the main lessons of the Cambata case – quiet disclosure will not protect you from the IRS criminal prosecution.

The Cambata Case is also a Warning to Taxpayers Who Renounced U.S. Citizenship to Hide Past Tax Noncompliance

The Cambata case also dispels another myth common to U.S. taxpayers: renouncing citizenship somehow prevents the IRS criminal prosecution for past noncompliance. On the contrary, U.S. taxpayers who renounce citizenship may draw the IRS attention because they have to certify that they are fully compliant with the tax laws of the United States.

If the IRS is able to prove that these taxpayers are not fully tax-compliant, then, as the Cambata case clearly demonstrates, the IRS can pursue criminal penalties against former U.S. citizens. It is possible that one of the chief purposes of the IRS in this case was to scare other U.S. citizens who renounced their citizenship to hide their past tax noncompliance.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help with Your Foreign Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Whether your case involves complex beneficial ownership structures or you own your foreign accounts personally, our highly experienced team of tax professionals can help you!

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International Tax Attorney Austin: Geography & Retainer Choice

Is it is better to retain an international tax attorney in Austin or in Minneapolis if you live in Austin? If you were to search “international tax attorney Austin”, Sherayzen Law Office, PLLC (which is based in Minneapolis) is likely to come out on the first page together with other international tax attorneys in Austin. The question is: should the geographical proximity of an attorney play a role in the retainer decision?

The answer depends on many factors. On the one extreme, if you are looking for a criminal law attorney in an involuntary manslaughter case, then you may not have a choice but to find a local attorney. This is because local law and procedure would govern in this case, and only an attorney admitted to practice before the court of a local jurisdiction should handle the case. Of course, even in this case, there are exceptions because, sometimes, the unique qualities of an outside attorney are so desirable by the client that the court may accede in temporarily admitting this outside lawyer to practice just for one case.

One the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are searching for international tax attorney Austin because you have undeclared offshore assets, then the knowledge of local law and procedure are likely to be of very little value. Instead, the experience and knowledge of an attorney in his area of practice (i.e. international tax law) will become the overriding factors in retaining an international tax attorney.

What if you have an international tax attorney in Austin, do you still want to consider an attorney in Minneapolis? The answer is “yes” – for two reasons. First, international tax attorneys differ in their natural ability to identify problems and find solutions, creativity, advocacy and many other factors. Therefore, there is no reason to stay away from a better international tax attorney in Minneapolis even if there is an attorney in Austin.

Second, in addition to differences in personal qualities, the experience of the international tax attorney in the international tax sub-area that you need and the ability to analyze the specific subject matter in the broader context are very important factors in retaining the attorney and should override the attorney’s particular geography.

The next time you search for international tax attorney Austin, keep these issues in mind while retaining an attorney from Minneapolis or any other city.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With International Tax Issues

If you have any international tax issues with respect ot undeclared foreign assets, international tax compliance or international tax planning, contact the experienced international tax firm of Sherayzen Law Office for comprehensive legal and tax help.