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Offshore Bank Accounts Remain on the IRS 2019 Dirty Dozen List

On March 15, 2019, the IRS announced that it will keep undisclosed offshore bank accounts on its 2019 Dirty Dozen list.

2019 Dirty Dozen List: Background Information

The “Dirty Dozen” list is complied annually by the IRS. It consists of common tax scams and noncompliance schemes that the IRS prioritizes in its enforcement efforts. Many of these scams and schemes peak during the tax filing season, but offshore evasion is present throughout the year.

2019 Dirty Dozen List: Offshore Evasion Remains a Priority for the IRS

Despite many years of an intense focus on this area, the IRS still priorities its enforcement efforts in the area of offshore evasion. “Offshore evasion remains a primary focal point of overall IRS enforcement efforts,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Our Criminal Investigation and civil enforcement teams work closely with the Justice Department in the international arena to ensure our nation’s tax laws are followed. Taxpayers considering hiding funds or assets offshore should think twice; the civil penalties and criminal sanctions can be severe.”

2019 Dirty Dozen List: Undisclosed Offshore Bank Accounts May Lead to Criminal Prosecution and Imposition of Huge Civil Penalties

This is very much true. Over the years, the IRS has conducted thousands of offshore-related audits that resulted in the imposition of multimillion-dollar civil penalties as well as additional tax liability. Moreover, the IRS has also been very active in pursuing criminal penalties, which resulted in the collection of billions of dollars in criminal fines and restitution.

Many of these cases involved undisclosed offshore bank accounts. In fact, the IRS has expressly warned noncompliant taxpayers that hiding income in undisclosed offshore bank accounts may result in significant penalties as well as criminal prosecution.

2019 Dirty Dozen List: Common Schemes Involving Undisclosed Offshore Bank Accounts

The IRS has identified numerous schemes that involve undisclosed offshore bank accounts. The most simple of them (and the one that is becoming increasingly rare) is the direct ownership of secret offshore bank accounts and brokerage accounts. The more sophisticated schemes use nominee entities and prepaid debit cards. The most complicated schemes often involve foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities and insurance plans.

The IRS has emphasized that it is not illegal to have offshore bank accounts, foreign business entities and foreign trusts. All of these foreign assets, however, must be disclosed and the appropriate US taxes must be paid.

2019 Dirty Dozen List: How the IRS Finds Out About Schemes In order to Prosecute Noncompliant Taxpayers

There are many different ways for the IRS to find out about undisclosed offshore accounts and schemes that involve such accounts. Let’s briefly review the top four of them. First, the IRS has built up a significant pile of information from prior prosecutions of taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts as well as bankers and other financial experts suspected of helping clients hide their assets overseas. Each new audit and prosecution continues to bring in more information.

Second, the IRS also received a huge amount of information from US taxpayers who participated in the different versions of the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) during 2004-2018 as well as Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. OVDP has been particularly helpful, because it involved a large number of taxpayers who could be classified as willful in their prior noncompliance.

Third, the IRS has also obtained very sophisticated information concerning offshore schemes from the Swiss Bank Program. As part of this program, Swiss banks disclosed their strategies for using undisclosed offshore bank accounts to hide income overseas.

Finally, as a result of the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) and the network of Intergovernmental Agreements (“IGAs”), there is a continuous and automatic flow of information concerning US-owned accounts from third parties to the IRS.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Undisclosed Foreign Assets

The fact that undisclosed offshore bank accounts remain on the 2019 Dirty Dozen list demonstrates the IRS commitment to fighting tax noncompliance in this area. As a result of the information collection efforts by the IRS, US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts are at a severe risk of discovery by the IRS.

This is why, if you have undisclosed foreign assets or foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their offshore voluntary disclosures, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Cyprus-Saudi Arabia Tax Treaty Signed | International Tax Lawyers

On January 3, 2018, the “Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation with respect to Taxes on Income and for the Prevention of Tax Evasion between the Republic of Cyprus and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” or the Cyprus-Saudi Arabia Tax Treaty was signed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The Cyprus-Saudi Arabia Tax Treaty was signed during the official visit of the President of Cyprus to Saudi Arabia. On behalf of Cyprus, the treaty was signed by Mr. Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus. On behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the treaty was signed by Mr. Mohammad Abdullah Al-Jadaan, Minister of Finance of Saudi Arabia.

Cyprus authorities have stated that the Cyprus-Saudi Arabia Tax Treaty is based on the OECD Model Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation on Income and on Capital, and it includes the exchange of financial and other information in accordance with the relevant Article of the Model Convention.

The signing of the Cyprus-Saudi Arabia Tax Treaty comes at a very special time for Saudi Arabia as another eleven princes were arrested. It should be remembered that there were numerous arrests for corruption in November of 2017.

The signing of the Cyprus-Saudi Arabia Tax Treaty will strengthen the treaty networks of both countries. The exchange of information will also help Saudi Arabia to exercise better control the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia to Cyprus.

Moreover, the exchange of information between Saudi Arabia and Cyprus may also inadvertently lead to this information being turned over to the IRS through FATCA (i.e. this information may be disclosed to the IRS by Cyprus or any other FATCA-compliant country that obtains it from Cyprus through another exchange of information arrangement). Hence, there is an increased potential of the IRS discovery of noncompliance with US international tax provisions by Saudi Arabian citizens who are also US tax residents.

It should be noted that the Cyprus-Saudi Arabia Tax Treaty was only signed and it has not yet been ratified by either country.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to monitor new developments with respect to the Treaty.

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement Authorized for Signature

On November 9, 2016, the Ukrainian government authorized the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement for signature. Let’s explore this new development in more depth.

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement and FATCA Background

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is one of the many bilateral FATCA implementation agreements signed by the great majority of jurisdictions around the world. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enacted into law in 2010 and quickly became the new standard for international tax information exchange.

FATCA is extremely complex, but its core purpose is very clear – increased US international tax compliance (with higher revenue collection) by imposing new reporting requirements on US taxpayers and especially foreign financial institutions (FFIs). Since FFIs are not US taxpayers, the United States has been working with foreign governments to enforce FATCA through negotiation and implementation of FATCA treaties. The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is just one more example of these bilateral treaties.

Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is a Model 1 FATCA Agreement

There are two types of FATCA treaties – Model 1 and Model 2. Model 2 FATCA treaty requires FFIs to individually enter into a FFI Agreement with the IRS to report the required FATCA information directly to the IRS (for example, Switzerland signed a Model 2 treaty).

On the other hand, Model 1 treaty requires FFIs in the “partner country” (i.e. the country that signed a Model 1 FATCA agreement) to report the required FATCA information regarding US accounts to the local tax authorities. Then, the tax authorities of the partner country share this information with the IRS.

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement is a Model 1 FATCA Agreement.

When will the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement Enter into Force?

The Ukrainian FATCA Agreement will enter into force once Ukraine notifies the US government that it has completed all of the necessary internal procedures for the ratification of the Agreement.

What is the Impact of Ukranian FATCA Agreement on Noncompliant US Taxpayers?

The implementation of the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement will mean that the Ukrainian government will force its FFIs to identify all of the FATCA information regarding their US accountholders and share this information with US government.

This further means that any US taxpayers who are currently noncompliant with the US tax reporting requirements (such as FBAR, Form 8938, foreign income reporting, et cetera) are now at an ever increasing risk of detection by the IRS and the imposition of draconian IRS penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With US Tax Compliance in light of the Ukrainian FATCA Agreement

If you have undisclosed Ukrainian assets (including Ukrainian bank accounts) and Ukrainian foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for help as soon as possible. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe (including Ukrainians) to bring their US tax affairs in order and we can help you!

Hapoalim Prepares for Settlement with DOJ | FATCA Tax Attorney

On October 6, 2016, Israeli bank Hapoalim Ltd. announced that, in order to cover the costs of a future settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), it will add a $70 million charge to an existing $50 million provision in its third-quarter results. The expected settlement will cover Hapoalim’s role in helping US tax residents to evade their US tax obligations.

In its news release, Hapoalim stated that its representatives held an initial discussion with the DOJ on September 30, 2016, to discuss the future settlement. The bank did not indicate whether $120 million in charges that it booked to date is the actual amount that Hapoalim will pay under its settlement with the DOJ. Rather, the news release emphasizes the uncertainty that still exists with respect to the actual amount.

The issue of the DOJ investigation dates back to the year 2011. In its recent (June 30, 2016) financial statements Hapoalim confirmed that its Swiss subsidiary Bank Hapoalim (Switzerland) Ltd. had been notified by Swiss authorities in 2011 that it was being investigated by the US government as a result of the DOJ’s suspicions that the bank had assisted US clients in evading federal taxes. The Swiss subsidiary could not resolve this issue in 2013 in the DOJ’s Swiss Bank Program due to the fact that it could not be classified as a Category 2 bank.

It is important to remember that the DOJ is not the only institution that is going after Hapoalim. The State of New York is conducting its own review. In its news release, Hapoalim indicated that the $120 million charge is not related to the New York investigation.

While all of this legal uncertainty makes it difficult for Hapoalim to assess its future liability under any deferred prosecution agreement, one can compare its situation with Bank Leumi. In 2014, Bank Leumi Group entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ under which it paid $270 million ($157 million of this penalty was allocated to Bank Leumi’s Swiss accounts held by US taxpayers).

If we rely on this precedent, it appears that Hapoalim is greatly underestimating its penalty, because Bank Leumi and Hapoalim are fairly similar in size as well as their actions in soliciting US clients. One also must not forget about the possible future indictments of Hapoalim’s employees (at least in the United States) by the DOJ.

Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters

As FATCA continues its triumphant march across the globe, banks from more and more countries continue to send out FATCA letters to their US customers. Recently, the banks in the Kingdom of Jordan sent out additional FATCA letters (hereinafter, “Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters”). Jordanian Bank FATCA letters caught many U.S. taxpayers by surprise; some even refuse to believe that they are obligated to provide this type of information to their banks. Yet, noncompliance with the requests of Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters may have grave consequences for US taxpayers.

FATCA Background

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enacted in 2010 to target tax noncompliance of U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts. Since its enaction, this law established a new global standard for tax information exchange. More than 110 jurisdictions today operate under the worldwide reach of FATCA.

In essence, FATCA is used by U.S. authorities to obtain information regarding foreign accounts held by U.S. persons directly from foreign financial institutions by forcing these institutions to collect and send to the IRS information required by FATCA. Hence, FATCA effectively turns all FATCA-compliant foreign banks into IRS informants.

Additionally, FATCA requires U.S. taxpayers to report “Specified Foreign Assets” (this is a term of art in international tax law) on Forms 8938. Forms 8938 should be attached to the taxpayers’ U.S. tax returns and filed with the IRS.

Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters

FATCA is implemented worldwide through a network of bilateral treaties, which are divided in to Model 1 and Model 2 treaties. However, individual banks can also comply with FATCA without Model 1 and Model 2 treaties. A minority of countries follow this path, and the Kingdom of Jordan is one of them.

This means that Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters are sent out by Jordan banks not due to any Model 1 or Model 2 treaties between the United States and Jordan, but, rather, through direct FATCA compliance (i.e. Jordanian banks register with the IRS and provide the required information directly to the IRS).

The purpose of the Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters are similar to all other FATCA Letters – obtain the information required to be reported under FATCA by foreign financial institutions to the IRS. In particular, this includes information relevant to the account owner’s U.S. tax residency.

Impact of Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters on U.S. taxpayers with Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters may have very important impact on U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts. In this article I want to emphasize the timing aspects of such letters.

By requesting FATCA information, Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters create a timetable for timely voluntary disclosure of the concerned U.S. taxpayers. First of all, the taxpayers who receive Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters have a deadline (ranging usually between 30-45 days, and, occasionally, 90 days) to file the letter with the bank. Since the bank sends the information supplied by U.S. taxpayers to the IRS, these U.S. taxpayers have a limited window of opportunity to timely disclose their foreign accounts. If a taxpayer refuses to provide the required information, the bank may still report him to the IRS as a “recalcitrant taxpayer” and even close his accounts.

Additionally, there is a more subtle impact of Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters on U.S. taxpayers – a notice of existence of FATCA and other U.S. tax reporting requirements. A lot of U.S. taxpayers are able to utilize Streamlined Procedures due to the fact that they did not know about the U.S. tax reporting requirements with respect to foreign accounts and foreign income. However, once U.S. taxpayers receive Jordanian Bank FATCA Letters, they can only claim their lack of knowledge with respect to prior years. It will be very difficult to sustain this argument with respect to current and future tax years.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Received a FATCA Letter (from Jordan or from Any Other Country)

If you received a FATCA Letter from a foreign bank, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our experienced legal team will thoroughly analyze your situation, propose the best strategy with respect to responding to the FATCA Letter, review your voluntary disclosure options and prepare all legal and tax documents to complete your voluntary disclosure.

Call Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!