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FATCA Compliance Presents Challenges for Hedge Funds

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.

Finally, the variations in IGAs to implement FATCA present an additional challenge. While this problem is not specific to hedge funds, it is the one that they still have to manage.

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.

Contact Us to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation Now!

Main Differences between Model FATCA IGAs

As FATCA is being adopted by more and more countries, it is important to understand that there are two types of model FATCA IGAs (i.e. intergovernmental agreements to implement FATCA) that are signed between various countries and the United States. Both model FATCA IGAs were issued by the US Treasury Department and both model FATCA IGAs are perfectly valid, but some countries prefer one model FATCA IGA over the other. In this article, I would like briefly discuss the main differences between the two model FATCA IGAs.

Model FATCA IGAs Background

FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) was enacted by US Congress in 2010 to target tax non-compliance of U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts. Since that time, this law has established the global standard for promoting tax transparency and has been adopted by a very large number of countries around the globe.

The adoption of FATCA usually occurs as a two-step process. First, a foreign jurisdiction signs one of the two model FATCA IGAs with the IRS. Second, the foreign jurisdiction’s legislature modifies domestic law to implement the provisions of whatever one of the two model FATCA IGAs that the country signed.

Model FATCA IGAs: Model 1

The first of the two Model FATCA IGAs is called “Model 1IGA”. Its principal feature is that it requires foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to report all information required under FATCA to their domestic government tax agencies. The domestic tax agencies would collect all of the FATCA information and turn it over of the IRS.

Since the FFIs would do all of their reporting domestically to their own agencies, Model 1 IGA is sometimes negotiated as a reciprocal agreement. This means that some Model 1 IGAs require the IRS to provide certain information with respect to the tax residents of the country that signed such a reciprocal Model 1 IGA.

Finally, the FFIs covered by a Model 1 IGA do not need to sign an FFI agreement. However, the FFIs will still need to register on the IRS’s FATCA Registration Portal or file IRS Form 8957.

Model FATCA IGAs: Model 2

The second of the two Model FATCA IGAs is called “Model 2 IGA”. Unlike the other model IGA, Model 2 IGA requires FFIs to report the FATCA-related information directly to the IRS and without any intermediaries.

Since the FFIs report all FATCA-related information directly to he IRS, they need to register with the IRS and sign an FFI agreement (which should reflect the specific changes to the model FATCA IGAs negotiated by the foreign jurisdiction).

Both Model FATCA IGAs Lead to Disclosure of Foreign Accounts Held by US Persons

Irrespective of the type of the agreement, it is important to remember that both model FATCA IGAs are designed to perform the same function – disclosure of foreign accounts held by US persons (directly or indirectly). This means that the spread of both types of model FATCA IGAs presents a direct threat to any undisclosed foreign accounts of US persons with potentially catastrophic consequences for these US persons, including potential criminal prosecution and willful FBAR penalties in excess of the balances of these secret accounts.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, please contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our international tax lawyers will first carefully review the facts of your case and identify the best voluntary disclosure options available to you.  Our international 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.

Contact Us Now to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!