IRS FBAR Audit and IRC Section 6103 | FBAR Tax Attorney Minneapolis

This article explores a certain relationship between tax returns and an IRS FBAR Audit. In particular, the critical question that I seek to answer in this writing is when the IRS is able to use US tax returns as evidence to support and/or commence an IRS FBAR Audit.

IRS FBAR Audit and the IRS Examination of US tax Returns

In discussing the relationship between the US tax returns and IRS FBAR Audit, the focus is on the information uncovered by the IRS during the examination of US tax returns that may be used to commence or advance an IRS FBAR Audit. It is possible, however, for the IRS to use a taxpayer’s tax returns in other contexts, not just examinations, to further an IRS FBAR Audit.

In a previous article, I already discussed the enormous amount of useful information that US tax returns contain and that can be used by the IRS to commence an IRS FBAR Audit. In addition to the obvious Schedule B, the tax returns contain foreign income documents, tax fraud evidence, patterns of noncompliance and other useful evidence that can be used in an IRS FBAR Audit.

This means that, in a lot of cases, there is a direct relationship between tax returns and the subsequent IRS FBAR Audits.

Tax Return Confidentiality Under IRC §6103(a) Prevents Automatic Disclosure for the IRS FBAR Audit Purposes

Despite their utility, there is one problem with the ability of the IRS to use tax return information in an IRS FBAR audit – US tax return information is confidential and protected from disclosure under IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §6103(a). This protection extends to the disclosure of tax returns and tax return information within the IRS, especially for use in investigating a Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) violation. Why are we discussing the BSA? The reason is simple – BSA is the legislation that created FBAR.

In other words, the tax return information (which is collected under U.S.C. (United States Code) Title 26 cannot be automatically shared within the IRS for the purposes of Title 31 FBAR violation. Rather, the IRS has to find a legal justification for the disclosure of this information. The usual proper statutory basis for this justification can be found in IRC §6103(h).

IRC §6103(h) and Authorization to Share Tax Return Information for the IRS FBAR Audit Purposes

The exploration of §6103(a) exceptions under §6103(h) leads us into a complicated world of tax analysis. I will try to simplify this analysis while reducing as much as possible the risk of leaving out important details.

In general, under IRC §6103(h), disclosure of returns and return information is authorized without written request to officers and employees of the Treasury Department as long as these officers’ and employees’ official duties require such disclosure for tax administration purposes. “Tax administration” is a term of art in this context – it is a fairly broad term that covers the administration, management and supervision of the Internal Revenue Code and “related statutes”, including assessment, collection and enforcement under the IRC and these “related statutes.” See §6103(b)(4).

The key question then is whether BSA is a “related statute”. If it is, then the IRS employees can use tax return and return information to commence an IRS FBAR Audit.

IRS FBAR Audit: Is BSA a “Related Statute”?

From the outset, it is important to emphasize that the IRS does not treat BSA as a “per se” related statute, because BSA reports are required a variety of purposes, not just tax compliance. For example, FBARs can be used for such government purposes as counter-terrorism, money-laundering investigations and law enforcement in general.

Therefore, the IRS will deem the BSA as a related statute only if there is a good-faith determination that a BSA violation was committed in furtherance of a Title 26 violation or if such violation was part of a patter of conduct that violated Title 26. See IRM (07-24-2012). In lay terms, the FBAR violation has to be related to a tax violation in order for the IRS to be able to utilize the taxpayer’s tax returns and tax return information in an IRS FBAR Audit.

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut straightforward answer to when the FBAR is related to a tax violation. Rather, this determination should be made based on the facts and circumstance of each case.

IRS FBAR Audit vs. DOJ Criminal Investigation: IRC §6103(i)

It is important to emphasize that the “related-statute” limitation applies only to IRS examiners in a civil IRS FBAR Audit. If, however, a taxpayer is the subject of a criminal Department of Justice (“DOJ”) grand jury investigation, then the DOJ prosecutors are not subject to §6103(h). Instead they can use §6103(i) to access the taxpayer’s tax returns and tax return information.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with an IRS FBAR Audit

If you are subject to an IRS FBAR Audit, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible for professional help. Without proper representation, an IRS FBAR Audit can lead to disastrous consequences to the taxpayer’s financial life due to imposition of the draconian FBAR Penalties.

Our experienced and highly-knowledgeable legal team, headed by Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, can help you! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Houston FBAR Lawyer | OVDP FATCA Tax Attorney

The main thesis of this essay is that the designation of a Houston FBAR Lawyer should be applied based on the geography of services of an FBAR lawyer rather the physical location of a lawyer.

Houston FBAR Lawyer Definition: Legal FBAR Services Provided in Houston, Texas

The old designation where a Houston FBAR Lawyer designation was limited only to lawyers who reside in Houston was incorrect from the very beginning for two reasons.

First, it was based basically on the premise that an out-of-state lawyer cannot effectively provide any legal services to a client who resides in Houston, Texas. Perhaps, to a certain degree, this premise could have been applicable to the time when there were no telephones, emails or other forms of modern communication. However, since the appearance of telephone and Internet-based communications, a modern lawyer can provide services efficiently and effectively at almost any point around the globe as long as he is licensed to do so. Even the face-to-face meetings can now be replaced with video conferences over the Internet (for example, video Skype conferences).

Second, some credence should be given to this old designation in situation where the subject matter is based on local Texas law or required appearance in a Texas court. In these situations, a local attorney indeed appears to have an advantage over an out-of-state attorney (although, even this advantage may be nullified if this is a one-time court appearance or the out-of-state attorney is actually licensed to practice in the State of Texas).

However, a Houston FBAR lawyer deals strictly with just federal subject-matter, because FBAR is a federal law and any US international tax lawyer can practice it irrespective of his physical location as long as this attorney is licensed to practice law in any of the 50 states or District of Columbia. This means that, as long as an international tax lawyer offers his legal FBAR services in Houston, he should be considered a Houston FBAR lawyer even if he resides in Minneapolis.

Houston FBAR Lawyer’s Knowledge of US International Tax Law is the Key Factor

While the physical location of a lawyer is not important in determining whether he is a Houston FBAR lawyer, it is necessary that this lawyer be an international tax lawyer experienced in FBAR issues.

This emphasis on competence in US international tax law is based on the fact that FBAR is just a part of a much bigger area of US international tax law. In fact, the FBAR and international tax law are so completely interrelated this interaction between FBAR and other international tax issues is crucial to determining a taxpayer’s legal position. This is why your Houston FBAR lawyer should have a profound understanding of both FBARs and all other relevant US international tax compliance requirements.

Sherayzen Law Office Should Be Your Houston FBAR Lawyer

Sherayzen Law Office is a highly experienced international tax law firm with profound knowledge of FBARs and all other relevant US international tax compliance requirements. Our team consists of highly-experienced international tax professionals headed by the founder of the firm, attorney Eugene Sherayzen. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide with their FBAR issues and we can help you!

This is why, if you are looking for a Houston FBAR lawyer, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. today to schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Remember to File Your 2015 FBARs | FBAR Tax Attorney

On June 17, 2016, the IRS again reminded U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts to file their 2015 FBARs by Thursday, June 30, 2016. U.S. taxpayers have to file 2015 FBARs if they had financial interest in or signatory authority (or other authority) over foreign accounts with values which, in the aggregate (i.e. all accounts added together), exceeded $10,000 at any time during the calendar year 2015. The taxpayers who satisfied the FBAR threshhold, should e-file their 2015 FBARs through the BSA E-Filing System website.

It is important to note that the number of FBAR filings has grown exponentially. According to FinCEN data, on average, there has been a seventeen percent increase per year during the last five years. In fact, in 2015, FinCEN received a record high 1,163,229 of 2014 FBARs. We can reasonably expect that the number of 2015 FBARs will beat last year’s record.

The growth in the number of FBARs is mainly caused by two factors. First, the greater awareness of the FBAR requirement is due to a series of IRS legal victories against foreign banks and offshore jurisdictions, starting with 2008 UBS case through a complete destruction of the Swiss bank secrecy in the Swiss Bank Program and even more recent criminal conviction of two Caymanian banks.

Second and probably the most important reason is the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) which requires foreign financial institutions to report foreign accounts owned by U.S. persons. Additionally, FATCA created a new filing requirement, IRS Form 8938. Unlike the FBAR, Form 8938 has to be filed with U.S. individual tax returns (the implementation of Form 8938 for business returns still has not occurred). This new requirement created a much greater awareness of the FBAR among the accountants who generally do not file FBARs for their clients due to the fact that FBARs carry criminal penalties.

Both of these factors will continue to play a great role in 2016 when the 2015 FBARs have to filed. Additionally, by June 30, a much greater of foreign banks will have delivered FATCA letters, further promoting FBAR awareness among U.S. persons who have to file 2015 FBARs.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for FBAR Help

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts for which delinquent FBARs have to be filed or you need help with determining what needs to be filed for 2015 FBAR, contact the experienced international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office. Our talented team of tax professionals, headed by a highly-experienced FBAR tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, has helped hundreds of U.S. taxpayers around the world and we can help you!

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Foreign Life Insurance Policies – FBAR Reporting

Foreign Life Insurance Policies are very popular around the world, especially in India, Germany and France (Assurance Vie accounts). Yet, very few U.S. taxpayers (especially H-1B holders and U.S. permanent residents) are aware of the fact that these policies may be subject to numerous and complex IRS tax reporting requirements in the United States. In this article, I would like to generally discuss the FBAR requirements applicable to foreign life insurance policies.

I will not be discussing here the requirements for a qualified foreign life insurance policy, because it is mostly irrelevant since the great majority of foreign life insurance policies would not be qualified policies.

Types of Foreign Life Insurance Policies

Before we start exploring which foreign life insurance policies (also known as Life Assurance Policies) are subject to the FBAR requirement, it is important to distinguish three general categories of foreign life insurance policies.

In the order of rising complexity, the first category of foreign life insurance policies consists of simple, straightforward life insurance policies with no cash surrender value, no income payments and no income accumulations. The taxpayer simply makes the required premium payments and he expects a fixed-amount payout at death.

The second category of foreign life insurance policies has a cash-surrender value, but no income. The taxpayer pays a premium and expects a certain payout when the policy is surrendered or matures. The cash surrender value grows over time mostly through premiums and bonuses which would be paid out when the policy is surrendered. There is also a potential death benefit.

Finally, the third category of foreign life insurance policies has a cash-surrender value with investments and/or income. There is a large variety of investment life insurance policies. The most common arrangement, though, is where the taxpayer pays a relatively large initial premium which is invested in foreign mutual funds; the growth in mutual funds will usually determine the cash-surrender value. Oftentimes, the cash-surrender value in these policies is tax-free if certain requirements are met (for example, Assurance Vie policies in France or certain life insurance policies in India).

In some cases (for example, in Malaysia), an investment foreign health insurance policy may be tied into a life insurance policy.

FBAR – FinCEN Form 114

FinCEN Form 114 – Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (commonly known as FBAR) is the most important US tax information return. FBAR must be filed by a US tax resident if the aggregate value of foreign financial accounts (in which this US person has financial interest and/or over which this US person has signatory authority) exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. The 2015 FBAR must be received by the IRS by June 30, 2016 without any extension possible; however, starting the reporting for the calendar year 2016 (i.e. 2016 FBAR) the FBARs are due on April 15 with an extension possible.

The importance of FBAR stems from the draconian FBAR penalties. Unlike many other information returns, FBAR imposes penalty not only on the willful non-filing, but also on the non-willful failure to file the FBAR. The willful FBAR penalties range from criminal penalties with up to 5 years in prison to up to $100,000 penalty per account per year. The FBAR statute of limitations is six years, which means that up to six years maybe subject to a penalty (though, usually it would be 2-4 years).

Foreign Life Insurance Policies and FBAR Reporting

Foreign life insurance policies must be reported on the FBAR if they have a cash-surrender value. Therefore, foreign life insurance policies that fall into categories two and three described above are always reportable. Investment foreign life insurance policies promoted by national governments (such as Assurance Vie accounts in France) are reportable even if they are considered to be held by a foreign trust (such as Superannuation Accounts in Australia).

The first category of foreign life insurance policies I listed above (i.e. life insurance policies without any cash-surrender value) are not likely to be reportable, but there are exceptions.

The determination of whether your foreign life insurance policies are reportable on the FBAR should be made by an international tax attorney; I strongly discourage any attempt by US taxpayers to make this determination without legal assistance.

Foreign Life Insurance Policies and Other Reporting Requirements

It is important to note that other US reporting requirements may apply to foreign life insurance policies. Examples include FATCA Form 8938, PFIC compliance, foreign trust reporting, et cetera.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Foreign Life Insurance Policies

If you have foreign life insurance policies, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for assistance as soon as possible. Foreign life insurance policies can be extremely complex and the US reporting requirements associated with them vary from country to country. Sherayzen Law Office has accumulated tremendous experience in dealing with foreign life insurance policies from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Europe and Asia. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!