Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer News: US v. Victor Lipukhin

On March 20, 2014, the politics and FBAR criminal enforcement met again in a new case, U.S. v. Victor Lipukhin – a case of continuous interest for a Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer. While the timing is most likely driven by politics, this case also resulted from the fallout of the UBS 2009 settlement; under the settlement, the UBS paid a fine and disclosed a large number of the secret Swiss bank accounts held by U.S. persons.

In U.S. v. Victor Lipukhin, Mr. Lipukhin was charged with an attempt to interfere with the administration of the internal revenue laws and filing false tax returns. Specifically, obstruction charges under IRC Section 7212(a) and filing of false tax returns charges under Section 7206(1) were mentioned. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the IRS, the “charges relate to Lipukhin hiding millions of dollars in several Swiss bank accounts held at UBS AG.” While it is not expressly spelled-out by the DOJ, it appears that there are multiple counts of violations under both IRC sections.

Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer News: Facts of the Case

According to the indictment, Mr. Lipukhin kept between $4,000,000 and $7,500,000 in assets in two bank accounts with UBS in Switzerland from at least 2002 through 2007. The first account was opened in 2002 under the name of a Bahamian entity, “Old Orchard”. The account was initially funded with over $47,000,000 transferred into the account from a previously maintained UBS account in the Bahamas. The second account was maintained at UBS in Switzerland in the name of another Bahamian entity, “Lone Star”.

DOJ alleges that Mr. Lipukhin directed virtually all transactions in the accounts, typically through a Bahamian national who served as the nominee director of the Old Orchard and Lone Star entities. The DOJ also alleges that, “in order to further conceal his ownership of the undisclosed UBS accounts, Lipukhin utilized fictitious mortgages through an entity called Dapaul Management, controlled by a Canadian attorney, to conceal his purchase of real estate in the United States with funds from the UBS accounts.” The assets include a purchase of a historic building for $900,000 in the name of Charlestal LLC, a domestic entity controlled by Lipukhin. He also transferred funds from his UBS accounts to the Canadian attorney for the ultimate transfer to a domestic Charlestal bank account in order to conceal the source of the funds. Mr. Lipukhin then used the funds in the Charlestal account to pay for various personal expenses and to withdraw cash for personal use.

The final charge in the indictment is a curious one: “Lipukhin impeded the administration of Internal Revenue laws by attempting to prevent an automobile dealer from filing a Form 8300 – which is required for certain cash transactions over $10,000 – with the IRS in order to report Lipukhin’s cash payment to purchase an automobile.”

According to DOJ, Mr. Lipukhin failed to report his ownership of these accounts (on Schedule B and the FBARs) and failed to report any income earned in these accounts on his tax returns.

Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer News: Potential Penalties

According to the indictment, Mr. Lipukhin is charged with committing a crime. He faces a potential maximum sentence of three years of imprisonment on each count.

Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer News: Peculiar Facts

Some of the facts of the case here are of a very high interest to a Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer and U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed Swiss accounts.

The first important feature of the case is the fact that Mr. Lipukhin was never a U.S. citizen. He is a citizen of the Russian Federation and a former lawful permanent U.S. resident. While it may be true that the current political context had a lot to do with the timing of the charges being filed by the DOJ, this is another example that negates the false myth that is being propagated by some tax preparers (especially in the ethnic communities – particularly Indian and Chinese) that IRS would not criminally charge a non-citizen permanent resident. Nothing in my practice suggests that the citizenship of a U.S. taxpayer has any serious impact on the IRS enforcement of FBAR criminal penalties.

The second important feature to notice are the years involved in the indictment: 2002 through 2007. This case is bound to have an interesting development with respect to the Statute of Limitations (although, it will be difficult to get around IRC Section 6501(c) except by negating the charge of the “false tax return”) and it partially explains why there were no FBAR charges filed against Mr. Lipukhin (see below).

Third, notice the use of third parties and the various offshore entities to conceal the ownership of UBS Swiss accounts. As any experienced Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer would confirm, this is a highly negative set of facts and has tremendously contributed to the filing of criminal charges against Mr. Lipukhin. U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed Swiss accounts owned by sham offshore entities should be aware of the criminal implications of such an action. On the other hand, if they were advised incorrectly to do so for purely asset protection purposes, this fact should be analyzed by their Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer.

Fourth, it is important to consider the circle of transactions that led the money back to the United States with the purchase of U.S. real estate. There are very important implications of these moves in the voluntary disclosure context, but, here, I just want to mention that this case is another example of the falsehood of another myth – that, as long as the money is back in the United States, the IRS will not conduct a criminal investigation of the formerly non-compliant U.S. taxpayers. I am not sure where this myth originated, but I have seen some foreign-born U.S. taxpayers being trapped in this misconception.

Finally, the last charge of impeding the filing of Form 8300 for cash purchase of a car is highly unusual for a Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer to see in this context. It also appears that Mr. Lipukhin’s attempt to prevent the filing of Form 8300 was not successful and Form 8300 was actually filed. If this is the case, it seems that this charge is probably more politically motivated; though, it could have been used to buttress the case for criminal non-compliance further. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that an interference with a third-party tax compliance is a federal crime and may be prosecuted by the DOJ.

Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer News: Why FBAR Charges Were Not Included

For a Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer, U.S. v. Lipukhin is also an interesting case from another perspective – the statute of limitations with respect to filing an FBAR. The statute of limitations can be found in IRC 5321(b)(1). Generally, it is six years from the date of transaction (i.e. the IRS has six years from the date of transaction to assess FBAR penalties). For the purposes of the FBAR filing violations, the date of the transaction is the due date for filing the FBAR (i.e. formerly June 30 of the calendar year following the year to be reported).

This explains why the FBAR charges were not filed by the IRS for the years 2002-2006; the assessment period has expired for these years. However, it should be noted that 2007 statute of limitations is still open until June 30, 2014; it is unclear why the IRS chose not to pursue the FBAR criminal penalties with respect to 2007 (perhaps, the accounts were already closed or had an insignificant balance by that time).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Respect to Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts

If you have undisclosed Swiss bank accounts; if you are facing civil FBAR penalties; or if you are facing other IRS penalties; contact Sherayzen Law Office experienced international tax law firm for professional help.