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§318 Option Attribution | International Tax Lawyers United States

A previous article defined “option” for the purposes of the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §318(a)(4). Today, I will discuss the main §318 option attribution rule.

§318 Option Attribution: Main Rule

Under §318(a)(4), “if any person has an option to acquire stock, such stock shall be considered as owned by such person.” For the purposes of §318 option attribution rules, an option to acquire an option to acquire stock is also considered an option to acquire stock. Id. It does not matter whether the option to acquire an option is granted by the corporation or by a shareholder.

Additionally, a series of options to acquire an option to acquire stock is considered an option to acquire stock Id.; in other words, the owner of a series of options is the constructive owner of the stock. That is the subject of this series.

Let’s use the following example to illustrate §318 option attribution: A and B each own 10 shares in X, a C-corporation; A has an option to acquire 5 shares of X owned by B; A also has an option to acquire an option to acquire B’s other 5 shares of X; finally, A has an option to acquire 5 unissued shares of X. The issue is: how many shares does A own?

By applying the rules above, A would actually and constructively own a total of 25 shares: 10 shares that he actually owns and 15 shares the he constructively owns under §318(a)(4) (all 10 shares of X owned by B plus 5 unissued shares of X).

§318 Option Attribution: Special Case of Convertible Debentures

Pursuant to Rev. Rul. 68-601, an owner of a convertible debenture (i.e. a debenture that can be converted into stock of a corporation) is deemed to be in the same position as a an option owner for the purposes of §318(a)(4) as long as he has the right to obtain the stock at his election. In other words, an owner of such a convertible debenture is a constructive owner of the stock into which the debenture can be converted.

Moreover, by drawing an analogy to the main §318 option attribution rule, an option to acquire a convertible debenture would be treated in the same manner under §318 as an option to acquire an option to acquire stock. Hence, the owner of an option to acquire a convertible debenture is a constructive owner fo the stock into which this debenture can be converted.

§318 Option Attribution vs. §318 Family Member Attribution

There are certain situations where stocks may be attributed to an individual under both, §318(a)(1) (i.e. family attribution rules) and the §318(a)(4) (i.e. option attribution rules). Since there are differences in legal effect, it is important to understand which rule governs in such situations.

Under §318(a)(5)(D), §318 option attribution supercedes the §318 family attribution. In other words, where an individual is deemed to be a constructive owner of shares under both rules, only the §318 option constructive ownership rules will apply to him.

This primacy of option attribution over family attribution may have a highly important tax impact in certain situations, such as the tax treatment of redemption of stock by a corporation. Let’s analyze an example to illustrate the disparate impact of these two attribution rules in the context of the §302(c)(2) waiver.

Let’s use the following hypothetical situation: W, an individual, owns 10 shares of X, a C-corporation; her husband, H, owns the remaining 40 shares of X; W has an option to purchase all of H’s shares of X. W redeems all l0 shares of X with the idea to establish a complete termination of her interest in the corporation once she waives the attribution of H’s shares to her by using the §302(c)(2) waiver (we assume here that she also fulfills all other requirements under §302). Will this strategy work in this case?

The answer is no. The problem is that the waiver under §302(c)(2) is available only for attribution from a family member. While it is true that W is a constructive owner of H’s 40 shares by the operation of family attribution rules, she is also the constructive owner of the same shares under the §318 option attribution rules. Since option attribution supercedes family attribution, she cannot use the §302 waiver. This means that W cannot establish a complete termination of her interest in X and the redemption of her 10 stocks will be treated as a dividend (with no cost-basis offset against the proceeds) as opposed to a sale.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US International Tax Law

If you own foreign assets, including foreign business entities, you have the daunting obligation to meet all of your complex US international tax compliance requirements; otherwise, you may have to face the wrath of the IRS in the form of high noncompliance penalties. In order to successfully meet your US international tax compliance obligations, you need the professional help of Sherayzen Law Office.

We are an international tax law firm that specializes in US international tax compliance and offshore voluntary disclosures. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide with their US international tax compliance, and we can help you!

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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.

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FATCA Tax Lawyers Update: FATCA Financial Institution Definition

One of the key concepts in FATCA compliance is a “financial institution”. The definition of a financial institution (“FATCA Financial Institution”) is contained in the FATCA Model IGAs. In this article, I will explore some of the general concepts central to defining a FATCA Financial Institution.

Four Types of FATCA Financial Institutions

The concept of FATCA Financial Institution is defined in the Model IGA Agreements. Both Model 1 and Model 2 IGAs agree on the definition of FATCA Financial Institution: “The term ‘Financial Institution’ means a Custodial Institution, a Depository Institution, an Investment Entity, or a Specified Insurance Company.” Let’s go over each concept in more detail.

Definition of a FATCA Financial Institution: Custodial Institution

FATCA Model Agreements provide a fairly straightforward definition of a Custodial Institution: “The term ‘Custodial Institution’ means any entity that holds, as a substantial portion of its business, financial assets for the account of others.” In this context “substantial” means that, during the specified period of time, twenty percent or more of the entity’s gross income is derived from holding of financial assets and related financial services.

The specified period of time is defined in Model 1 IGA as “the shorter of: (i) the three-year period that ends on the December 31 (or the final day of a non-calendar year accounting period) prior to the year in which the determination is being made; or (ii) the period during which the entity has been in existence.”

Definition of a FATCA Financial Institution: Depository Institution

According to FATCA Model IGAs, “The term ‘Depository Institution’ means any Entity that accepts deposits in the ordinary course of a banking or similar business.”

This definition is fairly self-explanatory, but it should be noted that interest-paying client money accounts operated by insurance companies are included within the definition of a depository institution.

Definition of a FATCA Financial Institution: Specified Insurance Company

According to FATCA Model IGAs, “the term ‘Specified Insurance Company’ means any entity that is an insurance company (or the holding company of an insurance company) that issues, or is obligated to make payments with respect to, a Financial Account.” This definition basically applies to all insurance companies that issue or must make payments with respect to an Insurance Cash-Surrender Value Contract or Annuity contract (which is similar to an FBAR).

For the purposes of this essay, I am not going to engage in the discussion of a Financial Account definition (this is an issue that I addressed in another article); suffice it to say that the definition of a Financial Account under FATCA closely follows the FBAR definition of the same concept.

Definition of a FATCA Financial Institution: Investment Entity

Finally, FATCA Model IGAs provide a detailed definition of what constitutes an “Investment Entity”. This concept includes any entity that conducts as a business one or more of the following activities or operations for or on behalf of a customer:
“(1) trading in money market instruments (cheques, bills, certificates of deposit, derivatives, etc.); foreign exchange; exchange, interest rate and index instruments; transferable securities; or commodity futures trading;
(2) individual and collective portfolio management; or
(3) otherwise investing, administering, or managing funds or money on behalf of other persons. This subparagraph 1(j) shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with similar language set forth in the definition of “financial institution” in the Financial Action Task Force Recommendations.”

Notice that this definition encompasses any entity that is managed by an Investment Entity. Further note that the definition of an Investment Entity should be interpreted in a manner consistent with the definition of a “financial institution” in the Financial Action Task Force Recommendations.

Implications if FATCA Financial Institution Definition on Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

The broad definition of a FATCA Financial Institution has a profound impact on US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts. The chief reason for this conclusion is the fact that as soon as an entity is classified as a FATCA Financial Institution, the entity must be FATCA compliant (unless it falls within a FATCA exemption) and should report all of its accounts owned (directly or indirectly) by US taxpayers.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

The consequences of the IRS discovery of an undisclosed foreign account can be disastrous for the US owner of this account, including extremely high monetary willful civil penalties as well as criminal penalties.

This is why, if you have an undisclosed foreign account, please contact Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an experienced international tax attorney of Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our team is well versed in FATCA compliance, FBARs and other foreign reporting issues. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe and we can help you.

So, Contact Us Now to Schedule Your Initial Consultation!

Boston International Tax Attorney: Retainer by Location

Retaining a Boston international tax attorney is a very important decision. One of the basic issues that taxpayers face is whether it is better to retain an international tax attorney in Boston or in Minneapolis if you live in Boston? If you were to search “international tax attorney Boston”, 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 Boston. 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 DUI attorney, 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 other end of the spectrum, if you are searching for a Boston international tax attorney because you have undeclared offshore accounts, 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 Boston, 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 Boston.

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.

What is a fairly unique feature about Sherayzen Law Office is that we can handle the entire case internally – both, the legal and the accounting sides of it. Most Boston international tax attorneys in this area of law do not do that and rely on the outside accountant to provide such additional services. The outsourcing approach has various disadvantages, including potential leak of information, lack of close coordination between both sides of the case, increased possibility of missed opportunities and absence of the unity of goal among the professionals who are preoccupied with their respective areas only. The approach adopted by Sherayzen Law Office is aimed to reduce and eliminate such problems.

So, the next time you search for a Boston international tax attorney, 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 to undeclared foreign assets, international tax compliance or international tax planning, contact an experienced international tax attorney at Sherayzen Law Office for comprehensive legal and tax help.