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Amato Case: 5-Years in Prison for Secret Russian Bank Accounts | FBAR News

Failure to file FBARs for secret Russian bank accounts and income tax evasion led to the imposition of a five-year prison sentence on a New Jersey chiropractor. This is the essence of the new IRS victory in the Amato case. Let’s explore this case in more detail, because the case demonstrates the long reach of the FBAR requirement even in unusual jurisdictions, like Russia.

The Amato Case: Factual Background

Mr. Amato is a US citizen. He was a chiropractor who resided and worked in New Jersey. He practiced medicine through two corporate entities: Chiropractic Care Consultations, Inc. (“Chiropractic Care”) and Accident Recovery Physical Therapy, Inc. (“Accident Recovery”).

It appears that, between January 1, 2013 and December 7, 2016, Mr. Amato over-billed at least six insurance companies. In many cases, he was simply billing for services that he never actually rendered. For these crimes, he was separately charged by the US Department of Justice. On April 9, 2018, in his guilty plea, Mr. Amato admitted that his over-billings were over $1 million.

In order to hide these illegal proceeds, sometime between January 1, 2013 and December 7, 2016, Mr. Amato opened bank accounts in Russia and wired over $1.5 million to these accounts.

On September 14, 2015, Mr. Amato filed his 2014 tax return, stating that he had no taxable income and he owed no taxes. In reality, his 2014 taxable income was about $561,258.

At about the same time, Mr. Amato also deposited checks from his businesses into accounts owned by his minor children. He never disclosed these checks as part of his earnings on his US tax returns. Additionally, there were more funds deposited in his corporate accounts which he also never disclosed on his personal and corporate tax returns.

The Amato Case: IRS investigation and Criminal Prosecution

It appears that the 2014 return was the trigger and huge contributing factor to the commencement of the subsequent IRS investigation of Mr. Amato’s dealings. In 2018, the US Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) filed criminal charges against Mr. Amato with respect to two different types of violations.

The first charge was tax evasion pursuant to 26 USC 7201. It was directly tied to his 2014 tax return, stating that Mr. Amato knowing and willfully attempted to evade his income taxes due.

The second charge was made under 31 USC 5314 & 5322(b) – these are FBAR criminal penalties. Again, the DOJ chose to focus only on 2014 FBAR.

The Amato Case: Tax Evasion and FBAR Criminal Sentence

As part of his deal with the DOJ, Mr. Amato pleaded guilty to both counts. On May 7, 2019, as a result of his failure to pay a large amount in taxes and failure to file FBARs, the New Jersey federal court sentenced him to five years in prison.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Reporting of Your Undisclosed Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts

The Amato case is one more reminder of the legal dangers that US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts face. You do not want to be in Mr. Amato’s position.

This is why you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with the reporting of your undisclosed foreign bank and financial accounts. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with the voluntary disclosure of their foreign assets and foreign income, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Joint Account FBAR Reporting | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

As an FBAR tax attorney, I constantly deal with the issues of joint account FBAR reporting. In most cases, the joint account FBAR reporting goes relatively smooth, but problems may surface from time to time. In this essay, I would like to address the general issues concerning joint account FBAR reporting.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: FBAR Background

FBAR is the acronym for the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114. A US person has to file an FBAR if he has a financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts the aggregate value of which exceeds $10,000 at any point during the relevant calendar year.

It is important to emphasize that, with respect to joint accounts, each joint owner takes the entire value of the account in calculating whether he or she exceeded the $10,000 filing threshold.

A US person should file an FBAR separately from the tax return. Since 2016 FBAR, the Congress aligned the FBAR filing deadline with that of an income tax return (i.e. April 15). For example, the 2018 FBAR is due on April 15, 2019.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Joint Owners

If two or more persons jointly maintain or own a partial interest in a foreign bank or financial account, then each of these persons has a financial interest in that account. Hence, as long as they are US persons, each of these US persons has to report the account on his or her FBAR.

Moreover, each of the filers must also indicate the principal joint owner of the joint account, even if this owner is not a US person. I wish to repeat this important point: the joint owner must be disclosed on FBAR even if he is not a US person. Besides the name of the joint owner, the filer must report the joint owner’s address and tax identification number (US or foreign).

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Report the Entire Value of the Account

Even though the same joint account may be reported at least twice, FinCEN requires the FBAR filer to disclose the entire value of each jointly-owned foreign account on his FBAR.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Exception for Spouses

In certain circumstances, spouses may file a joint FBAR. This means that the spouse of an FBAR filer may not be required to file a separate FBAR, but she can join her husband in filing one FBAR for both of them.

In order to qualify for this exception, the spouses must meet the following three conditions. First and most important, all of the financial accounts that the non-filing spouse has to report are jointly owned with the filing spouse. The filing spouse may have additional accounts, but the non-filing spouse should not have any other foreign bank and financial accounts. Beware, however, that if one spouse is an owner of a foreign account, but the other spouse only has a signatory authority over the same account, then separate FBARs must be filed by each spouse.

Second, the filing spouse reports the jointly owned accounts on a timely filed FBAR and a PIN is used to sign item 44.

Third, both spouses must complete and sign Form 114a, a Record of Authorization to Electronically File FBARs (maintained with the filers’ records).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Joint Account FBAR Reporting

If you have foreign bank and financial accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with US international tax compliance and FBAR reporting. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their FBAR filings, including joint FBAR filings, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FinCEN Form 114 Filers | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney Minnesota Minneapolis

The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114 (a/k/a FBAR) is arguably the most important information return concerning foreign accounts. Its importance stems first and foremost from the extremely severe Form 114 penalties, which range from criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison to willful and even non-willful penalties that may exceed the value of the penalized accounts. Given these penalties, it is important to understand who the FinCEN Form 114 filers are – i.e. who is required to file Form 114?

For today’s purposes, I will concentrate only on the individual FinCEN Form 114 filers.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: General Definition

At the center of the definition of FBAR filer is a United States person (“US person”). A US person must file FinCEN Form 114 if he has a financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over any foreign financial accounts and the aggregate maximum value of these accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: Main Categories of US Persons

Under the 31 CFR 1010.350(b), the definition of a US Person is very specific and consists of five main categories: (1) a citizen of the United States; (2) a resident of the United States; (3) an entity created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States; (4) a trust formed under the laws of the United States; and (5) an estate formed under the laws of the United States. As I stated above, today, I will focus only on categories 1 and 2; I will deal with business, trust and estate FinCEN Form 114 filers in other articles.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: US Citizens

This is by far the easiest category of FinCEN Form 114 filers to analyze. If an individual is a US citizen and has foreign accounts that exceed the filing threshold, then, he must file Form 114.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: Definition of “Residents of the United States”

In the context of FBAR compliance, a “resident of the United States” has a special meaning which corresponds for the most part, but not exactly, to the US income tax definition of a tax resident. There are three distinct categories of individuals who fall within the definition of a “resident of the United States” for FBAR purposes: US permanent residents, persons who satisfy the Substantial Presence Test, and certain non-resident aliens who make the first-year election to be treated as US tax residents. Additionally, Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §7701(b)(2) contains a number of provisions that regulate when individuals are considered to be US residents for FBAR (as well as income tax) purposes during the first-year and the last-year of residency.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: US Permanent Residents

The first category of residents of the United States is not complex. All US Permanent are US persons and, if they have foreign accounts that exceed the FBAR filing threshold, also FinCEN Form 114 filers.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: Substantial Presence Test

The second category of residents of the United States for FBAR purposes are the individuals who satisfied the Substantial Presence Test described in IRC §7701(b)(3). Under the Substantial Presence Test, an individual is a US person if: (1) he was present in the United States (as defined under 31 CFR 1010.100(hhh)) for at least 31 days during the calendar year in question; and (2) the sum of the number of days on which such individual was present in the United States during the current year and the two preceding calendar years equals or exceeds 183 days. The amount of days in the two preceding years should multiplied by the applicable multiplier as follows: first preceding year – one-third; second preceding year – one-sixth.

For example, if we are trying to determine the tax residency for the tax year 2019, we will take all the sum of the days an individual was physically present in the United States in 2019, one-third of the days in 2018 and one-sixth of the days in 2017. If the total amount equals or exceeds 183 days, then this individual is a US person for FBAR purposes.

It should be pointed out that this is the general rule. There are numerous exceptions to the Substantial Present Test, including the famous “closer connection exception” and certain visa exemptions. Hence, you should retain an international tax attorney to analyze your specific set of facts in order to determine whether you should be considered a US person for FBAR purposes.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: First-Year Residency Election

The third category of residents of the United States for FBAR purposes includes all individuals who made a first-year election on their US tax returns to be treated as residents pursuant to IRC §7701(b)(4). Generally, we are talking about a situation where a person does not have a green card, does not meet the Substantial Presence Test and comes sometime during a year. In other words, this person is not a US person under any other category, but decides to make an election to be treated as a US tax resident.

In order to make this election, the person must satisfy certain requirements outlined in IRC §7701(b)(4). Failure to meet any of these requirements will result in a person becoming a non-resident alien for the entire year.

It is also important not to confuse the IRC §7701(b)(4) election with the IRC §6013(g) or (h) election. In the latter cases, the elections do not affect the residency status for FBAR purposes.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: First- and Last-Year Residency Provisions of IRC §7701(b)(2)

IRC §7701(b)(2) is not technically a fourth category of a resident of the United States. Rather, this section regulates when US residency actually starts or ends once it is acquired or lost under other categories. Nevertheless, it is important to understand and be aware of these provisions.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: Tax Treaties & FBAR Residency Status

Most tax treaties contain what are known as “tie-breaker provisions” for determining a person’s tax residency. Sometimes, a person can use these provisions to escape the income tax residency rules. The IRS has specifically stated that, as long as one of the residency test of IRC §7701(b) is met, the tax treaty non-residency determination does not affect the residency status of a person for FBAR purposes.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for the Determination of Whether You and Your Family Should Be Considered FinCEN Form 114 Filers

If you have foreign bank accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help concerning whether you need to file an FBAR. Sherayzen Law Office is a highly-experienced international tax law firm which has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their FBAR issues. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR United States Definition | FBAR Lawyer & Attorney Minneapolis MN

The United States is defined differently with respect to different parts (and, sometimes even within the same part) of the United States Code. There is a specific definition of the United States for FBAR Purposes. In this brief essay, I would like to discuss the FBAR United States Definition and explain its importance to FBAR compliance.

Importance of FBAR United States Definition to FinCEN Form 114

Before we discuss the FBAR United States Definition, we need to the context in which it is used and why it is important for US international tax purposes. FBAR is a common acronym for the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114. It used to be known under a different name – TD F 90-22.1.

FBAR is part of Title 31, Bank Secrecy Act, but the IRS has administered FBAR since 2001. The IRS primarily uses FBAR not to fight financial crimes (which was its original purpose), but for tax enforcement. In particular, the IRS found that FBAR is an extremely useful tool for combating tax evasion associated with a strategy of hiding money in secret foreign bank accounts.

FBAR’s draconian penalties is what makes this form the favorite with the IRS, but much hated by US taxpayers. The penalties range from a jail sentence to civil willful penalties and even civil non-willful penalties which may exceed a taxpayer’s net worth.

It is precisely these penalties which make it absolutely necessary for US taxpayers to understand when they need to file FBARs. One of the aspects of this understanding is the FBAR United States Definition, which allows one to determine two things. First, the FBAR United States Definition is used to define the United States for the purposes of the Substantial Presence Test. Second, the FBAR United States Definition allows one to classify bank accounts as foreign or domestic for FBAR compliance purposes.

FBAR United States Definition

31 CFR 1010.100(hhh) contains the FBAR United States Definition. Under this provision, the United States is defined as: the States of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Indian Lands (as defined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) and the territories and insular possessions of the United States. As of February 3, 2019, the US territories and insular possessions refer to: Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands and Northern Mariana Islands.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional FBAR Help

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their FBAR issues, and We can help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Colombian Bank Accounts | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney Miami

Even today many US owners of Colombian bank accounts remain completely unaware of the numerous US tax requirements that may apply to them. The purpose of this essay is to educate these owners about the requirement to report income generated by these accounts in the United States as well as the FBAR and FATCA obligations concerning the disclosure of ownership of Colombian bank accounts to the IRS.

Colombian Bank Accounts: Individuals Who Must Report Them

Before we discuss the aforementioned requirements in more detail, we need to determine who is required to comply with them. In other words, is every Colombian required to file FBAR in the United States? Or, does this obligation apply only to certain individuals?

The answer is very clear: only Colombians who fall within one of the categories of US tax residents must comply with these requirements. US tax residents include US citizens, US Permanent Residents, an individual who satisfies the Substantial Presence test and an individual who properly declares himself a US tax resident. There are important exceptions to this general rule, but, if you fall within any of these categories, you need to contact an international tax attorney as soon as possible to determine your US tax obligations concerning your ownership of Colombian bank accounts.

Colombian Bank Accounts: Income Reporting

All US tax residents are subject to the worldwide income reporting requirement. In other words, they must disclose on their US tax returns not only their US-source income, but also their foreign income. The latter includes all bank interest income, dividends, royalties, capital gains and any other income generated by Colombian bank accounts.

The worldwide income reporting requirement also requires the disclosure of PFIC distributions, PFIC sales, Subpart F income and GILTI income. These are complex requirements which are outside the scope of this article, but US owners of Colombian bank accounts need to be aware of the existence of these requirements.

Colombian Bank Accounts: FinCEN Form 114 (FBAR)

FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (commonly known as “FBAR”) mandates US tax residents to disclose their ownership interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over Colombian bank and financial accounts if the aggregate highest balance of these accounts exceeds $10,000. Every part of this sentence has a special significance and contains a trap for the unwary.

The most dangerous of these traps is the definition of an “account”. The FBAR definition of account is much broader than how this word is generally understood by taxpayers. For the purposes of FBAR compliance, this term includes checking accounts, savings accounts, fixed-deposit accounts, investments accounts, mutual funds, options/commodity futures accounts, life insurance policies with a cash surrender value, precious metals accounts, earth mineral accounts, et cetera. In fact, it is very likely that the IRS will find that an account exists whenever there is a custodial relationship between a foreign financial institution and a US person’s foreign asset.

FBAR has its own intricate penalty system which is widely known for its severity. The FBAR penalties range from incarceration to willful and even non-willful penalties which may easily exceed the value of the penalized accounts. In order to circumvent the potential 8th Amendment challenges and make the penalty imposition more flexible, the IRS has implemented a system of self-imposed limitations, but it is a completely voluntary system (i.e. the IRS can, and in fact already did several times, disregard these limitations).

Colombian Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938

While Form 8938 is a relative newcomer (since tax year 2011), it has occupied a special place among the US international tax requirements. In fact, one could argue that it is currently as important as FBAR for US taxpayers with Colombian bank accounts.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) gave birth to Form 8938, making it part of a taxpayer’s federal tax return. This means that a failure to file Form 8938 may render the entire federal tax return incomplete, and the IRS may be able to audit the return. Immediately, we can see the profound impact Form 8938 has on the Statute of Limitations for the entire tax return.

Given the fact that it is a direct descendant of FATCA, it is not surprising Form 8938’s primary focus is on foreign financial assets. Form 8938 requires a US taxpayer to disclose all Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”) as long as he satisfies the relevant filing threshold. The filing thresholds differ depending on the filing status and the place of residence (i.e. inside or outside of the United States) of the taxpayer.

SFFA includes an enormous variety of foreign financial assets, including foreign bank and financial accounts. In fact, with respect to bank and financial accounts, Form 8938 is very similar to FBAR, which often results in double-reporting of the same assets. It is important to emphasize that Form 8938 does not replace FBAR, both forms must still be filed. In other words, US taxpayers should report their Colombian bank accounts on FBAR and disclose them again on Form 8938.

Form 8938 has its own penalty system which contains some unique elements. In addition to its own $10,000 failure-to-file penalty, Form 8938 directly affects the accuracy-related income tax penalties and the ability of a taxpayer to use foreign tax credit.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the US Tax Reporting of Your Colombian Bank Accounts

US international tax compliance is extremely complex. It is very easy to get yourself into trouble, and much more difficult and expensive to get yourself out of this trouble. This is why, if you have Colombian bank accounts, you should contact the experienced international tax attorney and owner of Sherayzen Law Office, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen. Mr. Sherayzen has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their US international tax issues, and He can help You!

Contact Mr. Sherayzen Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!