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.

FATCA Letters

Following the implementation of Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) on July 1, 2014, foreign banks around the world started sending out FATCA Letters to their US (or suspected US) customers who had accounts on record prior to as well as on June 30, 2014. In a previous article, I discussed the reason for FATCA Letters and their impact on US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts. In this article, I would like to focus the discussion on what type of information is typically contained in FATCA Letters.

FATCA Letters: Background Information

FATCA is codified in the Internal Revenue Code Sections 1471 through 1474 and contains an unprecedented amount of new international tax requirements for US persons, foreign financial institutions (FFIs), and US withholding agents (USWAs).

For the purpose of this article, I will concentrate solely on the FATCA requirement to analyze pre-existing accounts and report them to the IRS. Currently, according to the new deadline extensions found in IRS Notice 2014-43, “pre-existing” accounts are those accounts that were maintained by FFIs prior to or on June 30, 2014.

These pre-existing accounts are the main target for FATCA letters sent out to their clients by foreign banks. Of course, FATCA letters may also apply to the accounts opened after July 1, 2014, but, in many cases, these accounts were already opened according to FATCA account opening procedures (hence, all of the questions that are usually contained in FATCA letters should have been asked at the point when the account was opened).

The purpose for FATCA letters is for the FFI to obtain the necessary information to comply with its own FATCA reporting requirements. Hence ,the content of the FATCA letters is going to be fairly uniform irrespective of the FFI that sends it, even though the format of FATCA letters may differ greatly among the countries and even FFIs within a country.

FATCA Letters: Typical Content

As I mentioned above, virtually every FATCA Letter is geared toward obtaining certain types of information which is necessary for the FFI’s own reporting to the IRS (either directly or through a national tax authority). The overall requested information can be divided into three categories:

1. Personal Information

FATCA letters first typically try to confirm the exact name, nationality and address of the account holder. Most FATCA letters will also ask for the date of birth, country of birth and the account holder’s telephone number.

2. Determination of US Status and Form W-9

This is the most critical part of FATCA Letters, because it aims at verifying whether the account holder is a US person in any common way. The exact format of this part differs greatly from bank to bank, but a typical FATCA letter would either request the account holder to fill-out a Form W-9 directly or first ask a few questions (such as “do you have US nationality”, “are you a US Lawful Permanent Resident”, or “Have you spent a substantial period of time in the USA”) and then ask to fill-out Form W-9 if any of these questions are answered positively.

Also, depending on a country, an FFI would also typically ask the taxpayer to sign some sort of a consent to the disclosure of FATCA data to the IRS. In Switzerland, it is always present.

3. Further Determination of Status Questions; Possible Forms W-8BEN and W-9

Once the first basic part of the US status determination is finished, FATCA letters go on to ask a second set of questions aimed at uncovering potential inconsistencies in the status claim and verify if the account holder may be a US person in some other way.

In this part, FATCA letters typically ask whether the account holder was born in the United States, is a US person for any other reason, has effectively connected US income, has US mailing address, and has a US telephone number.

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, FATCA letters would generally ask the taxpayer to provide further information. For example, where the account holder is a US person for any other reason or cannot prove that he is not a US person if he was born in the United States, then FATCA letters would request Form W-9 and a consent to the disclosure of FATCA data to the IRS.

On the other hand, if the account holder persists in being considered as a non-US person and can prove it, then FATCA letters would ask for Form W-8BEN and a non-US passport (or other similar documentation). In case the account holder was born in the United States but claims to be a non-US person, FATCA letters would demand a copy of the certificate of loss of US nationality.

W-8BEN may also be required if the account holder is not a US person but has US-source income.

Impact of FATCA Letters on US Account Holders

The basic purpose behind FATCA is to allow the IRS to easily identify a US person’s non-compliance with US tax laws concerning reporting of foreign-source income and foreign assets. FATCA letters allow the FFIs to quickly identify with a fair degree of certainty whether their account holders are US persons and ultimately relate this information to the IRS on Form 8966.

This means that US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts are currently facing an imminent risk of a third-party disclosure of their tax non-compliance to the IRS. If these taxpayers do not do anything, the risk of the IRS finding them has become unacceptably high.

Moreover, if the IRS commences an investigation of these US taxpayers before they engage in any type of voluntary disclosure, these taxpayers are not likely to be able to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program leaving them potentially unprotected to the draconian FBAR criminal and civil penalties as well as potentially large income tax penalties.

Thus, the receipt of FATCA letters is a critical legal event that starts the clock for these taxpayers in terms of their ability to voluntarily disclose their accounts. This means that these taxpayers need to act quickly and immediately consult an international tax attorney who specializes in this area to explore their voluntary disclosure options.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Received a FATCA Letter

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts and you received a FATCA letter from your foreign bank, contact Sherayzen Law Office immediately. Mr. Eugene Sherayzen is an experienced international tax attorney who has successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers like you to bring their affairs back into US tax compliance. Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. can help you!

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