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US Bank Accounts Disclosed to Israel | FATCA Tax Lawyers Florida

Many persons have assumed that FATCA is a one-way street where only the United States is able to obtain tax information with respect to foreign accounts controlled by its citizens while the information about US bank accounts is never exchanged with other FATCA signatories. While, to some (or even to a large) degree this may be true due to the fact that US financial institutions do not generally collect certain information about nonresident aliens with financial accounts in the United States, there are exceptions.

Disclosure of US Bank Accounts held by US Tax Residents Under FATCA

One of such exceptions are US taxpayers who are also citizens or tax residents of another country. Generally, the information about US bank accounts owned by US tax residents is collected by US financial institutions and shared with the IRS. Then, the IRS may share this information with other countries, including Israel.

This is a fairly important exception, because it affects millions of US citizens who reside overseas, including those who reside in Israel.

2017 Disclosures of Owners of US Bank Accounts to Israel

The most recent example of such a disclosure occurred on February 28, 2017, when the Israeli Tax Authority (“ITA”) announced that it received a second batch of information from the IRS with respect to about 30,000 US bank accounts held by Israeli citizens in the year 2014. All of this information was provided pursuant to US-Israel FATCA Agreement.

Earlier this year, in January, the US transferred the first batch of financial information under FATCA to Israel. At that time, the IRS provided information about 35,000 Israelis who had bank accounts in the United States in 2015.

Disclosure of US Bank Accounts and Other Information Will Lead to Audits of Israeli Tax Returns

The ITA also stated that the IRS will continue to supply the ITA with FATCA information regarding US Bank Accounts in the future. Israel also expects to commence the exchange of information under CRS (OECD’s Common Reporting Standard) by September of 2018.

All of the information that the ITA collects under FATCA and CRS will be used to compare with the information reported by Israelis on their Israeli tax returns. In fact, the ITA created a special tax force dedicated to screening and comparing the data. Hence, one should expect an increase in tax audits and imposition of tax penalties in Israel.

US Bank Accounts

Swiss Bank Program Data Will Be Shared with Israel, Not Just US Bank Accounts

There is one important point that should be emphasized with respect to the future IRS disclosures to Israel. Not only will the IRS share with the ITA the information regarding US bank accounts held by Israelis, but it will also supply the data about Israeli-held Swiss bank accounts that the IRS obtained through the Swiss Bank Program. The ITA already declared that it expects to receive data regarding thousands of the Swiss bank accounts held by Israelis.

This development is something that Sherayzen Law Office has frequently warned about in the past. We have repeatedly stated our concerns that the information that a foreign country obtains regarding US-held accounts through FATCA or CRS will eventually be shared with the IRS through one of the tax information exchange agreements.

The recent ITA declaration is just another confirmation of the correctness of our prediction – only it works here to benefit the ITA, not the IRS. We should expect more confirmations in the future that benefit the IRS directly with respect to detection of noncompliant US taxpayers who might have escaped the direct detection through FATCA.

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.

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Berner Kantonalbank Non-Prosecution Agreement

On June 9, 2015, the Department of Justice announced that Berner Kantonalbank AG (Berner Kantonalbank), signed a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ pursuant to the department’s Swiss Bank Program.

Swiss Bank Program Background

The Swiss Bank Program, which was announced on August 29, 2013, provided a path for Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal liabilities in the United States. Swiss banks eligible to enter the program were required to advise the department by December 31, 2013, that they had reason to believe that they had committed tax-related criminal offenses in connection with undeclared U.S.-related accounts. Banks already under criminal investigation related to their Swiss-banking activities and all individuals were expressly excluded from the program.

Swiss banks which meet the requirements of the Program are eligible for a non-prosecution agreement.

Berner Kantonalbank Background

Berner Kantonalbank was founded in 1834 as Kantonalbank von Bern, the first Swiss cantonal bank. Berner Kantonalbank is based in the Canton of Bern and presently has 73 branches in Switzerland. Berner Kantonalbank knew or had reason to know that it was likely that some U.S. taxpayers who maintained accounts at Berner Kantonalbank were not complying with their U.S. reporting obligations. Berner Kantonalbank opened, serviced and profited from accounts for U.S. clients who were not complying with their income tax obligations.

Berner Kantonalbank provided services that facilitated some U.S. clients in opening and maintaining undeclared accounts in Switzerland and concealing the assets in those accounts and related income. These services included opening and maintaining numbered accounts, allowing clients to use code names rather than full account numbers and providing hold mail services. Berner Kantonalbank opened accounts for account holders who exited other Swiss banks and accepted deposits of funds from those banks. Berner Kantonalbank also processed standing orders from U.S. persons to transfer amounts under $10,000 from their U.S.-related accounts. In one instance, a relationship manager asked an accountholder, who was a dual Swiss-U.S. citizen living in the United States, about the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and voluntary disclosure. When the accountholder failed to execute FATCA-related documents, Berner Kantonalbank took steps to close the account. In connection with that closing, the accountholder withdrew $70,000 and approximately 500,000 Swiss francs in cash.

Berner Kantonalbank: Participation in the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks

Berner Kantonalbank committed to full cooperation with the U.S. government throughout its participation in the Swiss Bank Program. As part of its cooperation, Berner Kantonalbank provided a list of the names and functions of 16 individuals who structured, operated or supervised its cross-border business. These individuals served as the chairman of the board of directors, members of the executive board, regional managers, heads of departments or heads of divisions. Berner Kantonalbank additionally provided information concerning its relationship managers and external asset managers, and it described in detail the structure of its cross-border business with U.S. persons, including narrative descriptions of high-value U.S.-related accounts and U.S.-related accounts held by entities.

Berner Kantonalbank Non-Prosecution Agreement

According to the terms of the non-prosecution agreement, Berner Kantonalbank agrees to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings, demonstrate its implementation of controls to stop misconduct involving undeclared U.S. accounts and pay penalties in return for the department’s agreement not to prosecute these banks for tax-related criminal offenses.

Since August 1, 2008, Berner Kantonalbank held approximately 720 U.S.-related accounts, which included both undeclared and not undeclared accounts, with total assets of approximately $176.5 million. Berner Kantonalbank will pay a penalty of $4.619 million.

In accordance with the terms of the Swiss Bank Program, Berner Kantonalbank mitigated its penalty by encouraging U.S. accountholders to come into compliance with their U.S. tax and disclosure obligations.

Consequences for US Taxpayers With Bank Accounts At Berner Kantonalbank

While U.S. accountholders at Berner Kantonalbank who have not yet declared their accounts to the IRS may still be eligible to participate in the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, the price of such disclosure has increased.

Most U.S. taxpayers who enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program to resolve undeclared offshore accounts will pay a penalty equal to 27.5 percent of the high value of the accounts. On August 4, 2014, the IRS increased the penalty to 50 percent if, at the time the taxpayer initiated their disclosure, either a foreign financial institution at which the taxpayer had an account or a facilitator who helped the taxpayer establish or maintain an offshore arrangement had been publicly identified as being under investigation, the recipient of a John Doe summons or cooperating with a government investigation, including the execution of a deferred prosecution agreement or non-prosecution agreement. This means that the noncompliant U.S. accountholders at Berner Kantonalbank must now pay that 50 percent penalty to the IRS if they wish to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts at Berner Kantonalbank or any other bank outside of the United States, please contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options. Our professional experienced legal team has helped hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide to bring their US tax affairs in order. We can help you!

Contact Sherayzen Law Office NOW to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!