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Ukrainian FATCA IGA Enters Into Force | FATCA Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On November 18, 2019, the Ukrainian FATCA IGA entered into force. Sherayzen Law Office already wrote on this subject a little more than three years ago. This essay updates the status of the Ukrainian FATCA IGA.

Ukrainian FATCA IGA: Background Information

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enacted into law in 2010 and quickly caused a revolution in the area of international tax information exchange. While FATCA is very complex, its basic purpose is clear – improving US international tax compliance through new information reporting standards. The revolutionary aspect of FATCA was to force foreign financial institutions (“FFIs”) to comply these new information reporting standards through what essentially amounted to FATCA tax withholding penalties. In other words, FATCA turned FFIs throughout the world into IRS informants.

Using brutal economic force on the FFIs, however, may be considered by many foreign countries as a violation of their sovereignty, because FFIs are not US taxpayers. In order to enforce FATCA effectively, the United States has worked to enlist the cooperation of the FFIs’ home countries. The ultimate products of these negotiations have been FATCA implementation treaties, officially called FATCA IGAs (Intergovernmental Agreements). The Ukrainian FATCA IGA is just one example of such a treaty.

Ukrainian FATCA IGA: History and Current Status

On November 9, 2016, the Ukrainian government authorized the Ukrainian FATCA IGA for signature. On February 7, 2017, the IGA was signed. Since November 18, 2019, it has been in force.

Ukrainian FATCA IGA: Model 1 FATCA Agreement

The Ukrainian FATCA IGA is a Model 1 FATCA Agreement. In order to understand what this means, we need to explore the two types of FATCA IGAs – Model 1 and Model 2. The Model 2 FATCA treaty requires FFIs to individually enter into an FFI Agreement with the IRS in order to report the required FATCA information directly to the IRS (for example, Switzerland signed a Model 2 treaty).

On the other hand, the Model 1 treaty requires FFIs in a “partner country” (i.e. the country that signed a Model 1 FATCA agreement) to report the required FATCA information regarding US accounts to the local tax authorities. Then, the tax authorities of the partner country share this information with the IRS.

Thus, the Ukrainian FFIs will report FATCA information to the Ukrainian tax authorities first. Then, the Ukrainian IRS will turn over this information to the IRS.

Impact of Ukranian FATCA IGA on Noncompliant US Taxpayers

The implementation of the Ukrainian FATCA IGA means that the Ukrainian FFIs either have already implemented or will soon implement the necessary KYC (Know Your Client) procedures. Using these procedures, the FFIs will collect the required FATCA information concerning their US customers and send this information to the Ukranian tax authorities, which, in turn, will share this information with the IRS.

Then, the IRS will process this information in order to identify noncompliant US taxpayers. Once it reaches this point, the IRS will most likely investigate these persons and determine whether to conduct a civil audit or proceed with a criminal prosecution.

In other words, since November 18, 2019, US taxpayers who have undisclosed foreign accounts in Ukraine have been at an ever-increasing risk of the IRS detection. Once their noncompliance is verified by the IRS, these taxpayers, may face the imposition of draconian IRS penalties and potentially even a criminal prosecution.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help Undisclosed Ukrainian Foreign Accounts and Other Assets

If you have undisclosed Ukrainian assets (including Ukrainian bank accounts) and/or Ukrainian-source income, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe (including Ukrainians) to resolve their past US tax noncompliance issues, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Egyptian Law 174 of 2018 announced the 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty program that commenced on August 15, 2018. Egypt is no stranger to tax amnesties; in fact, the very first documented tax amnesty program in the world is believed to be the one announced by Ptolemy V Epiphanes in 197 B.C.

The 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty program is a continuation of the worldwide trend to fight tax noncompliance with amnesty programs. If they are structured well (such as the US OVDP) and combined with effective tax administration, these amnesty programs can be highly effective, generating large revenue streams for national governments. There are, however, numerous examples of failed amnesty programs (like the ones in Pakistan) due to either poor structuring or other factors. Let’s acquaint ourselves with the 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty program.

2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty: Term

The 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty program will last a total 180 days starting August 15, 2018.

2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty: Taxes and Penalties Covered

The 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty program will cover stamp duty, personal income tax, corporate income tax, general sales tax, and VAT liabilities that matured before August 15, 2018.

The interest and penalties on the outstanding tax liabilities related to the listed taxes will be reduced according to a fairly rigid schedule which benefits most taxpayers who go through the program within 90 days after the Program opens on August 15, 2018. These taxpayers can expect a whopping 90% reduction in penalties and interest!

If a taxpayer misses the 90-day deadline, but settles his outstanding tax debts within 45 days after the deadline, he will be entitled to a waiver of 70% of the tax debt and interest.

If a taxpayer misses both, the 90-day deadline and the 45-day deadline, but settles his outstanding tax debts within 45 days after the 70%-waiver deadline (i.e. 135 days after August 15, 2018), he can still benefit from a 50% reduction in tax penalties and interest.

US Tax Amnesty & 2018 Egyptian Tax Amnesty

US taxpayers who participate in the Egyptian Tax Amnesty should also consider pursuing a voluntary disclosure option in the United States with respect to their unreported Egyptian income and Egyptian assets. There is a risk that the information disclosed in the Egyptian Tax Amnesty may be turned over to the IRS, which may lead to an IRS investigation of undisclosed Egyptian assets and income for US tax purposes.

While the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program closes on September 28, 2018, there is still a little time left to utilize this option. Additionally, US taxpayers should consider other relevant voluntary disclosure options, such as Streamlined Offshore Compliance Procedures.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Offshore Voluntary Disclosure of Egyptian Assets in the United States

If you have undisclosed Egyptian assets and/or Egyptian income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to successfully settle their US tax noncompliance, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2018 FSI Ranks United States as Second Largest Secrecy Haven | FATCA

Paradoxically, while demanding that other countries comply with FATCA, the United States itself has become the second largest secrecy haven in the world according to the Financial Secrecy Index (“FSI”) released by the Tax Justice Network (“TJN”) at the end of January of 2018. Let’s explore why the 2018 FSI considers the United States a Tax Haven.

What is 2018 FSI?

The TJN’s FSI is considered to be one of the most comprehensive assessments of secrecy of financial centers. It is published every two years using independently verifiable data. Its methodology is based on the European Commission’s Joint Research Center. The 2018 FSI, however, is not considered to be influenced by any political considerations.

The FSI is based on various criteria which is updated with each publication. The assessment of a country’s financial secrecy includes such consideration as: requirement to identify beneficial owners of companies, trusts and foundations; whether annual registries are made available to the public in an online format; the extent to which the countries’ financial secrecy rules are forced to comply with the anti-money laundering standards, and so on.

In order to create the index, a secrecy score is combined with a figure representing the size of the offshore financial services industry in each country. This is expressed as a percentage of global exports of financial services. The responsibility for bigger transparency increases with the size of the financial services industry of a country.

In 2018, new indicators where added to what are now considered 20 Key Financial Secrecy Indicators “KFSI”. The 2018 FSI new factors ask whether a jurisdiction in question provides for public register of ownership and annual accounts of limited partnerships; public register of ownership of real estate; public register of users of freeports for the storage of high value assets; protection against prison for banking whistleblowers; harmful tax residency and citizenship rules; and other factors.

2018 FSI Placed United States as Second Largest Secrecy Haven Among the Top 10 Countries

Based on the consideration of all of these factors, including KFSI, the 2018 FSI placed United States as the second largest secrecy haven among the top ten countries. Here is the full list of top ten countries:

1. Switzerland
2. United States
3. Cayman
4. Hong Kong
5. Singapore
6. Luxembourg
7. Germany
8. Taiwan
9. UAE
10. Guernsey

What this means is that the United States is now the country that, with the exception of Switzerland, most contributes to financial secrecy in the world.

Reasons Behind the US Rise in the 2018 FSI Ranking

The second rank of the United States was assigned due to its growing share of the offshore financial services industry. According to 2018 FSI, the US market share of the offshore financial services industry is 22.3%. It was 19.6% in 2015. In fact, in order to occupy the second place in the 2018 FSI, the United States displaced such a notorious offshore haven as the Cayman Islands.

There are other objective reasons and comparative reasons for the US rise to the second place of the 2018 FSI. The main comparative reason is the European Union’s lead in the transparency initiatives. The EU is now the definite leader in combating financial secrecy.

The objective reasons are various. The United States does not have any beneficial ownership registries. It also lacks the country-by-country reporting of corporate profits (although, this may change). Finally, the United States continues to refuse to join the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (“CRS”).

The Second Place in the 2018 FSI Points to Dubious Cost-Benefit Analysis

The second place in the 2018 FSI is not accidental. Rather, there is a cold, though morally dubious, cost-benefit calculation behind it. On the one hand, the United States was the country that really propelled the global fight against bank secrecy in the years 2008-2014. It trampled all over the vaulted Swiss Bank Secrecy laws when it came to its pursuit of US tax evaders, enacted the revolutionary FATCA legislation, forced the vast majority of foreign financial institutions to share information (including beneficial ownership information) with the IRS concerning US owners of foreign accounts, and engaged in a number of other activities to increase the worldwide financial transparency with respect to US taxpayers.

On the other hand, all of the US efforts to combat bank secrecy were not a fight for transparency ipso facto. Rather, the US government was only interested in fighting bank secrecy in so far as it concerned US taxpayers. With respect to its own bank secrecy laws concerning foreigners who wish to invest in the United States, the US government is on par and even exceeds some of the most secretive tax havens.

In other words, when it comes to fighting US tax evasion, the US government is an innovative champion. With respect to attracting investment in the United States, the same US government seems to do everything possible to turn the United States into a tax haven. This is precisely why it never joined the CRS.

While the US government seems to be acting in the name of the national self-interest, there is one huge problem that this policy creates. Currently, the elites of the most corrupt regimes, mafias and cartels of all stripes, narcotics dealers and other criminals can see the advantage of using the United States as a haven for illicit financial flows, including money laundering and funding of terrorism. There is also an increased danger that the corruption created by one part of the US financial policy may spread to other aspects of our society.

In other words, the current US bank secrecy policy seems to be in contradiction with other stated policies which attempt to specifically target the aforementioned criminal activities. This contradiction is an easy target for critics of the US financial policy and may contribute in the future to potential reversals of the current gains in international financial transparency.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue the monitor the developments in the US bank secrecy laws.

IRS Prioritizes Combating Offshore Tax Cheating | Offshore Tax Lawyer

On March 20, 2018, the IRS announced that offshore tax cheating – i.e. hiding money and other assets in unreported foreign accounts – remains on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for the year 2018.

Offshore Tax Cheating: What is the “Dirty Dozen” List?

The IRS uses the “Dirty Dozen” list to describe various scams that a taxpayer may encounter and which form the focus of the IRS enforcement efforts. Some of these schemes peak during the tax filing season.

Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and even possible criminal prosecution. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division works closely with the Department of Justice to shut down scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

What is Offshore Tax Cheating?

In its most basic form, offshore tax cheating is a long-running scheme that uses foreign accounts to hide money in order to avoid paying US taxes. The taxpayers then use debit cards, credit cards or wire transfers to access the hidden accounts. More complex schemes include the usage of foreign corporations, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities, insurance plans and other third-parties to conceal the real US owner of foreign accounts.

The most modern offshore tax cheating scheme has involved cryptocurrencies traded overseas and exchanged into a foreign currency by using an offshore account. The IRS has already begun addressing tax evasion based on virtual currencies, but we have not yet seen a fully-developed IRS enforcement in this area.

Offshore Tax Cheating is the Long-Standing Focus of the IRS

The IRS warns that taxpayers should be wary of these schemes, especially given the continuing focus on this issue by the IRS and the Justice Department.

In fact, since mid-2000s, offshore tax cheating has been one of the primary targets of the IRS. The IRS already conducted thousands of offshore-related civil audits that resulted in the payment of tens of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes. The IRS has also pursued criminal charges leading to billions of dollars in criminal fines and restitutions.

Every investigation yields important information that is used to learn about noncompliance patterns and commence other investigations. Some of these investigations may focus on bankers and financial advisors who helped set up a scheme that led to offshore tax cheating.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure as a Way to Settle Prior Tax Noncompliance

If a taxpayer participated in scheme that the IRS may characterize as offshore tax cheating, he should consider doing a voluntary disclosure as soon as possible. It is very likely that the IRS will consider tax noncompliance associated with such a scheme as willful. Hence, the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) may be the primary choice for such taxpayers.

In fact, according to the IRS, more than 56,400 disclosures were made through various versions of OVDP since 2009. The IRS collected more than $11.1 billion from the OVDP during that time period.

Additionally, more than 65,000 taxpayers who claimed that they were non-willful in their prior tax noncompliance participated in the Streamlined Compliance Procedures. As I stated above, however, a taxpayer should be very careful about participating in the Streamlined Compliance Procedures if he participated in a scheme that the IRS may classify as offshore tax cheating.

OVDP Will Close on September 28, 2018

Taxpayers who wish to participate in the OVDP should consult Sherayzen Law Office as soon possible. The IRS recently announced that the OVDP will close on September 28, 2018.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Wish to do an Offshore Voluntary Disclosure That Involves a Scheme Classified as Offshore Tax Cheating

If you participated in a scheme that the IRS may classify as offshore tax cheating, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office to explore your voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leading international tax law firm that specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures, including OVDP and Streamlined Compliance Procedures. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!