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Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement Signed | FATCA Lawyer

On December 23, 2016, Argentina and the United States signed a Tax Informational Exchange Agreement (“Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement” or “Argentinian TIEA”) in Buenos Aires. Let’s explore the main points of the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement.

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Information to Be Exchanged

The information to be exchanged under the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement is described in its very first article. Article 1 states that the parties will provide information to each other that is “foreseeably relevant to the administration and enforcement of the domestic laws of the Contracting Parties concerning taxes covered by this Agreement”.

Article 1 then specifies that such information includes everything “foreseeably relevant to the determination, assessment and collection of such taxes, the recovery and enforcement of tax claims, or the investigation or prosecution of tax matters”.

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Taxes

What are these “taxes” mentioned in Article 1? Article 3 of the Argentinian TIEA explains that the focus is on information related to US federal taxes and all national taxes administered by the Federal Administration of Public Revenue. Obviously, the Argentinian TIEA will apply to any identical or substantially similar taxes that are imposed after the Agreement is signed in addition to, or in place of, the existing taxes. Both parties, Argentina and the United States, agreed to notify each other of any significant changes that have been made in their taxation laws or other laws that relate to the application of the Argentinian TIEA.

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Automatic Exchange, Spontaneous Exchange and Exchange Upon Request

The Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement prescribes three modes of exchange of information. First, Article 6 of the Argentinian TIEA provides for automatic exchange of certain information.

Second, Article 7 allows Argentina and the United States to spontaneously transmit to each other’s respective tax authorities any relevant information that has come to the attention of the either Party’s tax authorities. For example, if Argentinian tax authorities obtain information that points to US tax noncompliance of a dual citizen of Argentina and the United States, Argentina can provide this information to the IRS.

Finally, Article 5 allows Argentina and the United States to request relevant information from each other. There is an interesting clause in Article 5 that removes potential limitations on the exchange of information upon request: “such information shall be exchanged without regard to whether the requested Party needs such information for its own tax purposes or whether the conduct being investigated would constitute a crime under the laws of the requested Party if such conduct occurred in the requested Party.”

Article 5 of the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement is remarkable in another aspect. It states that, if the information possessed by the “requested Party (i.e. the country that received the request from another country) is insufficient to enable it to comply with the request for information, the requested Party needs to engage in information gathering measures in order to provide the other Party will the requested information. The requested Party needs to do these investigations even if it does not regularly collect this information or need it.

Under Article 5(3), the requested Party, if specially requested so by the applicant Party, has to provide the information in the form of depositions of witnesses and authenticated copies of original records.

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Foreign Bank and Beneficial Ownership Information in Focus

Article 5(4) also clarifies what is at the heart of the exchange of information upon request. First, information “held by banks, other financial institutions, and any person acting in an agency or fiduciary capacity including nominees and trustees.”

Second, the beneficial ownership information of “companies, partnerships, trusts, foundations, “Anstalten” and other persons”. This information should also include all persons in the ownership chain. In the case of trust, “information on settlors, trustees and beneficiaries”. In the case of foundations, “information on founders, members of the foundation council and beneficiaries”. Publicly-traded companies and public collective investment funds are excluded (unless the information can be obtained without giving rise to “disproportionate difficulties” to the requested Party).

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Tax Examinations Abroad

Article 8 of the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement grants each Party the right to conduct tax examinations abroad. Obviously, the written consent of the persons to be interviewed has to be secured first. However, once both Parties agree to the examination, “all decisions with respect to the conduct of the tax examination shall be made by the Party conducting the examination.”

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Entry Into Force

According to Article 14, the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement shall enter into force “one month from the date of receipt of Argentina’s written notification to the United States that Argentina has completed its necessary internal procedures for entry into force of this Agreement.”

Once the Argentinian TIEA is in force, its provisions will apply for requests “made on or after the date of entry into force, concerning information for taxes relating to taxable periods beginning on or after January 1 of the calendar year next following the year in which this Agreement enters into force or, where there is no taxable period, for all charges to tax arising on or after January 1 of the calendar year next following the year in which this Agreement enters into force.”

Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement: Impact on US Taxpayers

The Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement will have a profound impact on US taxpayers with undisclosed Argentinian income and Argentinian assets. First, the combination of three different disclosure modes – automatic, spontaneous and upon request – greatly increases the risk of the IRS detection of undisclosed Argentinian assets and unreported Argentinian income. The spontaneous exchange of information may be especially dangerous because it increases the probability of indirect (and unpredictable) detection. For example, if information about US tax noncompliance is obtain through an audit of an Argentinian tax return, such information may be turned over to the IRS.

Second, the Argentinian Tax Information Exchange Agreement allows the IRS to obtain witness depositions and other evidence against noncompliant US taxpayers at a relatively low cost. Furthermore, the Argentinian TIEA grants the IRS the ability to conduct examinations in Argentina, greatly enhancing the IRS reach in that country. In other words, the chances of successful imposition of civil penalties and even criminal prosecution by the IRS of noncompliant US taxpayers is substantially increased by the Argentinian TIEA.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Have Undisclosed Foreign Assets and Foreign Income in Argentina

If you have undisclosed Argentinian assets and income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Once the IRS detects your noncompliance or even just commences an investigation to verify whether you were not tax compliant, then you may lose all of your voluntary disclosure options.

Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures of undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws while reducing their penalties and, in many cases, even their tax liabilities. We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

First Conviction of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions For Tax Evasion Conspiracy

On March 9, 2016, the IRS announced the first conviction of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions for tax evasion conspiracy. At Sherayzen Law Office, we have been predicting now for years that the IRS would expand its prosecution of financial institutions far beyond the Swiss borders, specifically pointing to tax shelters such as Cayman Islands. Now that our strategic analysis has been confirmed, it is important to analyze this first conviction of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions and its impact on U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts.

Factual Background of the First Conviction of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions

The first conviction of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions concerned two Cayman Island Financial Institutions, Cayman National Securities Ltd. (CNS) and Cayman National Trust Co. Ltd. (CNT). CNS and CNT were Cayman Island affiliates of Cayman National Corporation, which provided investment brokerage and trust management services to individuals and entities within and outside the Cayman Islands, including citizens and residents of the United States (U.S. taxpayers).

According to the IRS and documents filed in Manhattan federal court, from at least 2001 through 2011, CNS and CNT assisted certain U.S. taxpayers in evading their U.S. tax obligations to the IRS and otherwise hiding accounts held at CNS and CNT from the IRS (hereinafter, undeclared accounts). CNS and CNT did so by knowingly opening and maintaining undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers at CNS and CNT. Specifically, and among other things, CNS and CNT opened and encouraged many U.S. taxpayer-clients to open accounts held in the name of sham Caymanian companies and trusts (collectively, structures), thereby helping U.S. taxpayers conceal their beneficial ownership of the accounts. Furthermore, CNS and CNT treated these sham Caymanian structures as the account holders and allowed the U.S. beneficial owners of the accounts to trade in U.S. securities without ever requiring these U.S. persons to submit Form W-9. CNS failed to disclose to the IRS the identities of the U.S. beneficial owners who were trading in U.S. securities, in contravention of CNS’s obligations under its Qualified Intermediary Agreement (QIA) with the IRS.

At their high-water mark in 2009, these two Non-Swiss Financial Institutions (CNS and CNT) had approximately $137 million in assets under management relating to undeclared accounts held by U.S. taxpayer-clients. From 2001 through 2011, CNS and CNT earned more than $3.4 million in gross revenues from the undeclared U.S. taxpayer accounts that they maintained.

In 2008, after learning about the investigation of Swiss bank UBS AG (UBS) for assisting U.S. taxpayers to evade their U.S. tax obligations, these two Non-Swiss Financial Institutions (i.e. CNS and CNT) continued to knowingly maintain undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayer-clients and did not begin to engage in any significant remedial efforts with respect to those accounts until 2011 and 2012.

In or about June 2011, CNT hired a new president, who spearheaded a review of CNT’s files. In the course of that review, not a single file was found to be complete and without tax or other issues. Moreover, with respect to the structures that had U.S. beneficial owners, CNT’s files contained little, if any, evidence of tax compliance.

Guilty Pleas of these Two Non-Swiss Financial Institutions

On March 9, 2016, both Non-Swiss Financial Institutions, CNS and CNT pleaded guilty to a criminal Information charging them with conspiring with many of their U.S. taxpayer-clients to hide more than $130 million in offshore accounts from the IRS and to evade U.S. taxes on the income earned in those accounts. CNS and CNT entered their guilty pleas pursuant to plea agreements.

As part of their plea agreements, CNS and CNT have agreed to cooperate fully with the IRS investigation of the companies’ criminal conduct. The IRS states that, to date, CNS and CNT have already made substantial efforts to cooperate with that investigation, including by: (1) facilitating interviews of CNS and CNT employees, including top level executives; (2) voluntarily producing documents in response to the IRS requests; (3) providing, in response to a treaty request, unredacted client files for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. taxpayer-clients who maintained accounts at CNS and CNT; and (4) committing to assist in responding to a treaty request that is expected to result in the production of unredacted client files for approximately 90 to 95 percent of the U.S. taxpayer-clients who maintained accounts at CNS and CNT.

In connection with their guilty pleas, CNS and CNT have also agreed to pay the United States a total of $6 million, which consists of the forfeiture of gross proceeds of their illegal conduct, restitution of the outstanding unpaid taxes from U.S. taxpayers who held undeclared accounts at CNS and CNT, and a fine.

Impact of the Guilty Pleas of Non-Swiss Financial Institutions on U.S. Taxpayers with Undeclared Foreign Accounts

The impact of the guilty pleas of these two Cayman Island Non-Swiss Financial Institutions is difficult to overstate. First, it becomes clear that the IRS feels confident that it can replicate its success in Switzerland in every offshore jurisdiction and there is no limit to their ability to uncover undeclared foreign accounts of U.S. taxpayers.

“Today’s convictions make clear that our focus is not on any one bank, insurance company or asset management firm, or even any one country,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “The Department and IRS are following the money across the globe – there are no safe havens for U.S. citizens engaged in tax evasion or those actively assisting them.”

Second, it is evident that the IRS strategy is to first force Non-Swiss Financial Institutions to reveal information about their U.S. clients and, then, using the information provided by these institutions, pursue noncompliant U.S. taxpayers. As part of their guilty pleas, CNS and CNT are required to turn over extensive materials about their U.S. clients and these noncompliant U.S. taxpayers should be preparing to face the full wrath of the IRS.

“The guilty pleas of these two Cayman Island companies today represent the first convictions of financial institutions outside Switzerland for conspiring with U.S. taxpayers to evade their lawful and legitimate taxes,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “The plea agreements require these Cayman entities to provide this office with the client files, because we are committed to finding and prosecuting not only banks that help U.S. taxpayers evade taxes, but also individual taxpayers who find criminal ways not to pay their fair share. We will follow them no matter how far they go to hide their accounts, whether it is Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, or some other tax haven.”

In essence, between FATCA and the constant IRS pressure on Non-Swiss Financial Institutions, the noncompliant U.S. taxpayers are in the constant danger of discovery, which now becomes more of a question of “when”, rather than “if”.

What Should U.S. Taxpayers With Undeclared Foreign Accounts Do?

In light of this development, U.S. taxpayers with undeclared foreign accounts in Non-Swiss Financial Institutions should explore their voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible. For this purpose, they should contact an experienced international tax law firm that specializes in this field.

Contact the Experienced International Tax Law Firm of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. for Professional Help With Your Undeclared Accounts

If you have undeclared foreign accounts, foreign income or foreign business entities, you are encouraged to contact the international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our team of experienced tax professionals specializes in this area of law, including the preparation of all necessary legal documents and tax forms. We have helped hundreds of U.S. taxpayers around the world and we can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

UK FATCA Letters

While the United Kingdom signed its FATCA implementation treaty in 2014, UK FATCA letters (i.e. FATCA letters from UK financial institutions) continue to pour into the mailboxes of U.S. taxpayers. In this article, I would like to discuss the purpose and impact of UK FATCA Letters.

UK FATCA Letters

UK FATCA Letters play an integral role in the FATCA Compliance of UK financial institutions. Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the UK foreign institutions are obligated to collect certain information regarding U.S. owners of UK bank and financial accounts and provide this information to the IRS. The collected information must include the name, address and social security number (or, EIN number) of U.S. accountholders.

In order to collect the required information and identify who among their clients is a US person for FATCA purposes, the UK financial institutions send UK FATCA Letters to their clients, asking them to provide the information by the required date. If there is no response within the required period of time (which may be extended), the UK financial institutions report the account to the IRS with the classification as a “recalcitrant account”.

UK FATCA Letters and Undisclosed UK Bank and Financial Accounts

While UK FATCA Letters are important to FATCA compliance of UK financial institutions, they also may have important impact on U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank and financial accounts in the United Kingdom, particularly on the ability of such U.S. taxpayers to timely disclose their foreign accounts.

Once a U.S. taxpayer receives UK FATCA Letters, he should be aware that the clock has started on his ability to do any type of voluntary disclosure. This is the case because UK FATCA Letters demand a response within certain limited period of time. Then, the UK financial institutions will report the account to the IRS, which may prompt IRS examination which, in turn, may deprive the taxpayer of the ability to take advantage of any type of a voluntary disclosure option.

Furthermore, UK FATCA Letters start the clock for the taxpayers to do their voluntary disclosure in an indirect way. If the taxpayers do not complete their voluntary disclosure within reasonable period of time (which may differ depending on circumstances) after they receive the letters, the IRS may proceed based on the assumption that prior noncompliance with U.S. tax requirements by the still noncompliant taxpayers was willful.

Finally, UK FATCA Letters may impact a U.S. taxpayer’s legal position with respect to current and future tax compliance, because UK FATCA Letters can be used by the IRS as evidence to prove awareness of U.S. tax requirements on the part of noncompliant U.S. taxpayers. This is particularly relevant for taxpayers who receive these letters right before the tax return and FBAR filing deadlines.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Received UK FATCA Letters

If you received one or more UK FATCA Letters from foreign financial institutions, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Attorney Eugene Sherayzen is one of the world’s leading professionals in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures and he will personally analyze your case and create the appropriate voluntary disclosure strategy. Then, under his close supervision, his legal team will implement this strategy, including the preparation of all required tax forms.

Call Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Hiding Assets and Income in Offshore Accounts Again Made the IRS “Dirty Dozen” List

On February 5, 2016, the IRS again stated that avoiding U.S. taxes by hiding money or assets in unreported offshore accounts remains on its annual list of tax scams known as the “Dirty Dozen” for the 2015 filing season.

The problem with offshore accounts is two-fold. On the one hand, there are numerous con-artists who use offshore accounts to lure taxpayers into scams and schemes. The second and a much larger problem for the IRS is the fact that many U.S. taxpayers used offshore account to hide assets and income from the IRS.

Fighting the strategy of using offshore accounts to hide assets and income has been one of the top priorities of the IRS since the early 2000s. The problem has been complicated by the fact that there are many legitimate reasons for having an offshore account – a fact that, unfortunately, has been largely ignored by journalists and the public opinion in the United States. Therefore, it is necessary for the IRS to approach the problem of offshore accounts carefully in order to avoid hurting innocent people.

Over the years, the IRS (with the help of Congress) has chosen five different and interrelated strategies to fight tax evasion through offshore accounts.

1. IRS Civil and Criminal Enforcement

IRS examinations, audits, subpoenas, and criminal enforcement play a central role in the IRS war against using offshore accounts to hide assets and income. The ability of the IRS to enforce U.S. tax laws is amazingly broad and the IRS will use it whenever it wishes.

Since 2009, the IRS conducted thousands of offshore-related civil audits that have produced tens of millions of dollars. The IRS has also pursued criminal charges leading to billions of dollars in criminal fines and restitutions.

Hence, brute force still looms large in fighting tax evasion through offshore accounts and creates enormous (and fully justified) fear in the hearts of many U.S. taxpayers. This fear is also central to the IRS ability to use the other four strategies listed below.

2. Extensive Reporting Requirement for Owners of Offshore Accounts

As owners of offshore accounts have already noticed, the number of reporting requirements with respect to offshore accounts has risen dramatically. In addition to FBAR (which has existed since the 1970s), FATCA introduced Form 8938 in 2011. Furthermore, Form 8621 and Schedule B to Form 1040 have been modified to require additional reporting with respect to offshore accounts. Other forms also indirectly require reporting of foreign accounts (through reporting of ownership or a beneficial interest in a foreign entity or a foreign trust).

By forcing U.S .taxpayers to do extensive reporting with respect to their offshore accounts, the IRS has achieved two goals at the same time. First, it has collected an enormous amount of information with respect to U.S. offshore accounts and their owners. This information can be used in a later investigation to track fund and identify patterns of behavior. In a short while, due to the implementation of FATCA in many jurisdictions around the world, this information will also be used to compare the banks’ information with the information provided by the taxpayers on their information returns.

Second, the enormous fines associated with offshore accounts reporting can create huge tax liabilities for noncompliant taxpayers. This provides the IRS with a financial incentive to pursue these taxpayers. These potentially disastrous noncompliance fines also serve to deter many taxpayers from engaging in risky tax evasion schemes.

Of course, one of the biggest problems associated with these reporting requirements is that the majority of persons, including tax accountants, never heard of them until they were already in trouble. When the IRS pressure started to rise, it was already too late for a lot of U.S. taxpayers to do simply current compliance and they had to pay fines to the IRS. It is important to emphasize that the process is by no means over – on the contrary, as the complexity of U.S. tax compliance continues to rise, a lot of taxpayers (and their accountants) still do not know about a lot of these requirements.

3. Voluntary Disclosures

In order to alleviate the reporting noncompliance nightmares for U.S .taxpayers, the IRS created a number of voluntary disclosure programs. The early programs were not very successful; however, after the IRS stunning victory in the 2008 UBS case, the 2009 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI) turned out to be a huge success. The 2011 OVDP, 2012 OVDP and 2014 OVDP with 2014 Streamlined Compliance Procedures followed in quick succession and with even bigger success. Since 2009, more than 54,000 OVDP disclosures took place and the IRS has collected more than $8 billion; this is not taking into account the huge surge in Streamlined disclosures since 2014.

The information that has been collected through OVDP is used to identify noncompliant individuals and entire schemes to evade U.S. taxes through offshore accounts. The IRS then uses this information to pursue taxpayers with undeclared offshore accounts, as well as the banks and bankers suspected of helping clients hide their assets overseas using offshore accounts. The IRS works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute these tax evasion cases.

4. Swiss Bank Program

In addition to the voluntary disclosure program for individuals, the IRS also created a voluntary disclosure program for Swiss banks. Such voluntary disclosure program is, of course, an unprecedented event – never in history did one country force another country’s entire bank system to do a voluntary disclosure on the territory of that other country.

While the debate over this breach of Swiss sovereignty (although, technically, the Swiss government agreed to the Swiss Bank Program) is interesting, for the purposes of this article, it is important to note that Swiss Bank program was a huge step forward in attacking the usage of offshore accounts to hide assets and income.

By the end of February of 2016, about 80 Swiss banks went through Category 2 voluntary disclosure and paid penalties to the U.S. government. They also turned over enormous amount of information regarding their U.S. accountholders and the various schemes that Swiss bankers developed to hide assets and funds from the IRS. In essence, the Swiss bankers turned over to the IRS substantially all of the blueprints for tax evasion that they had created.

5. FATCA

The final major strategy for fighting the practice of using offshore accounts to hide assets and income from the IRS is the famous Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act or FATCA. Ever since FATCA entered into force, it has changed the global landscape of international tax compliance. One of the most salient features of FATCA is the fact that it forces foreign banks to report to the IRS all of the offshore accounts that they can identify as owned by U.S. persons.

This groundbreaking piece of legislation has had an enormous impact on the ability of the IRS to identify noncompliance by U.S. persons, because foreign banks now act as its agents and voluntarily disclose U.S. persons and their offshore accounts.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Offshore Accounts

If you have undisclosed offshore accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. We have helped hundreds of U.S. taxpayers to bring their U.S. tax affairs in order while saving millions of dollars in potential penalty reductions. We furthermore help to reduce your income tax liability as a result of your voluntary disclosure and post-voluntary disclosure tax planning.

Contact Us NOW to Schedule Your Initial Consultation!

Mr. Sherayzen Completes Immigration and International Tax Law Seminar

On February 18, 2016, Mr. Sherayzen, in cooperation with two lawyers (an immigration lawyer and a business lawyer) completed another immigration and international tax law seminar “Foreign Investment in the United States: Key Immigration, Business and Tax Considerations”.

During this immigration and international tax law seminar, the immigration lawyer, Mr. Streff, covered a wide range of topics including investors visas, such as E-2 and EB-5, and alternative options for entrepreneurs, such as L-1 intracompany transferees, EB-1 and O-1 extraordinary ability, and National Interest Waivers’ through the Entrepreneurs Pathways initiative.

While immigration and international tax law issues were at the center of the seminar, a substantial part of the seminar was also devoted to business issues associated with various immigration options. The business lawyer, Mr. Vollmers, covered relevant business issues of appropriate entity formation, business plans, international business relationships, investment due diligence, and funds tracing.

Mr. Sherayzen’s presentation focused on the intersection of immigration and international tax law, especially U.S. tax residency classification, disclosure of foreign income and foreign assets, and foreign business ownership compliance requirements. U.S. tax residency is a concept completely different from U.S. permanent residence or “green card” and it occupies the center of any tax inquiry that involves immigration to the United States.

A lot of attention was given to tax compliance requirements with respect to another common intersection of immigration and international tax law issues – business ownership tax compliance issues associated with L-1 visa structures. In particular, Mr. Sherayzen discussed Forms 5471, 5472, 8865 and 8858 as well as PFIC and Subpart F antideferral regimes.

During the seminar, Mr. Sherayzen spent a substantial amount of time to one of the most important points of convergence of immigration and international tax law – reporting of foreign financial assets. Here, he explained the importance of FBAR and Form 8938, as well as FATCA.

Another part of Mr. Sherayzen’s presentation was devoted to the importance of pre-immigration tax planning. It is important for persons who plan to immigrate to the United States to contact a U.S. international tax attorney before they actually become U.S. persons. The international tax attorney should review their existing asset structure and advise on how this structure should be modified in order to avoid the various U.S. tax landmines and maximize favorable treatment under U.S. tax law. Special attention should be paid not only to income tax rules, but also estate and gift tax laws.

Mr. Sherayzen ended his presentation with the emphasis that immigration lawyers are at the forefront of international tax compliance, because they are usually the first to deal with persons who immigrate to the United States. Therefore, it is highly important for the immigration lawyers to be able to identify the most common junctions of immigration and international tax law issues and timely advise their clients to seek professional international tax help.