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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!

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!

The Long Reach of the FATCA Letter Notice

The FATCA Letter Notice is a critical component of a FATCA Letter that is causing significant problems for millions of US owners of foreign financial accounts. Yet, a lot of the FATCA letter recipients are completely unaware of the full impact of the FATCA Letter Notice. In this article, I will provide a general explanation of the FATCA Letter Notice and its importance to US owners of foreign bank and financial accounts.

What is a FATCA Letter?

When FATCA was implemented in July of 2014, foreign banks and financial institutions (“FFIs”) started to mail letters to their clients aimed to verify information required for the FFI reporting under FATCA. These letters are called “FATCA Letters”.

The FATCA Letters serve two important functions for the FFIs. First, the questions contained in or referred to by a FATCA Letter are designed to help FFIs verify whether the account holder is a US person. Second, the FATCA Letter is designed to give notice to the US account holders that their accounts will be disclosed to the IRS.

In this article, I will concentrate only on the FATCA Letter Notice and its most significant impact on US taxpayers.

The FATCA Letter Notice

Very few people understand that the there is not just one FATCA Letter Notice, but two different FATCA Letter Notices that serve different functions – the express FATCA Letter Notice and the implicit FATCA Letter Notice. The express FATCA Letter Notice is the official notice with respect to the FFI’s own FATCA compliance. The implicit FATCA Letter Notice is the notice forced upon the US account holders with respect to their US tax compliance.

The Express FATCA Letter Notice

The express FATCA Letter Notice is very simple – the FFI puts the US account holder on notice that his or her account will disclosed to the IRS. This means that the FFI has complied with its due diligence requirements for the US tax purposes as well as the local bank privacy purposes.

The express FATCA Letter Notice is the one that most US taxpayers understand and the one that they are most concerned about. This is understandable because the express FATCA Letter Notice tells US account holders that their accounts will be disclosed to the IRS irrespective of whether the account holders want this disclosure and whether the timing of this disclosure is convenient to them.

The Implicit FATCA Letter Notice

The implicit FATCA Letter Notice consists of the forcing upon the US account holder the knowledge of their past non-compliance with US tax laws. This “forcing” element is accomplished by the FATCA Letter’s statements that all foreign accounts owned by US persons must be disclosed to the IRS by these very persons. As soon as he receives a FATCA Letter, the US person is on notice that his foreign accounts are subject to complex US tax compliance rules and, if it turns out that these accounts were never properly disclosed, he is non-compliant with respect to past filings. In essence, this is a “shock therapy” method of inducing US tax compliance.

This implicit FATCA Letter Notice of past US tax non-compliance is very dangerous for three interrelated reasons. First, it forces the US recipient of a FATCA Letter to conduct current year’s tax compliance to avoid willful non-compliance designation. The current year’s compliance is done irrespective of the recipient’s circumstances and his ability to do so. At the same time, it provides the IRS with the information that this US person owns foreign financial accounts that were never reported previously.

Second, the receipt of the FATCA letter means that the US account holder should promptly take the necessary steps to conduct some form of an offshore voluntary disclosure. Failure to take these steps or a significant delay in conducting a voluntary disclosure may result in the IRS investigation and the account holder’s inability to conduct voluntary disclosure. Moreover, the delayed reaction to the FATCA Letter Notice may strengthen the IRS case for arguing willful non-compliance with respect to any delinquent FBARs and any other information returns.

Finally, since the US taxpayer is forced to react swiftly to the implicit FATCA Letter Notice (due to the other two factors described above), his ability to choose the right path of his voluntary disclosure may be constrained by the lack of the necessary documentation or knowledge of other important facts. With the changes that the IRS implemented with respect to the 2014 OVDP (now closed), SDOP and SFOP, it is important to remember that engaging in one form of a voluntary disclosure may result in the subsequent inability to switch to another voluntary disclosure path.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your FATCA Letter

As you can see, receiving a FATCA Letter Notice is an event of potentially important implications. An inadequate response to a FATCA Letter Notice may have a highly deleterious effect on the US account holder’s ability to conduct voluntary disclosure (which means facing the draconian FBAR civil and criminal penalties) or choose the right type of a voluntary disclosure.

This is why, if you received a FATCA Letter, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for help immediately. Our experienced international tax law firm has helped hundreds of US taxpayers like you to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws, and we can help you as well.

So, Contact Us Now to Schedule Your Initial Consultation! Remember, contacting Sherayzen Law Office is Confidential.