Seattle FBAR Lawyer | IRS FATCA International Tax Attorney

I recently received a phone call from a person who was looking for a Seattle FBAR lawyer online and found my website. He asked me whether I can help him even though Sherayzen Law Office is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I responded to him: “yes, I can help you”.

This conversation brought to light an important topic of who should be considered a Seattle FBAR Lawyer and why an international tax lawyer based in Minneapolis can help a client in Seattle with FBAR issues.

Seattle FBAR Lawyer Definition: Legal FBAR Services Provided in Seattle, Washington

There are two categories of lawyers that fit the term Seattle FBAR Lawyer. The first category consists of US international tax lawyers who reside in Seattle and offer FBAR services to the residents of Seattle. The second category is comprised of US international tax lawyers who reside outside of Seattle but offer FBAR services to the residents of Seattle.

The first category is clear – if a lawyer resides in Seattle and offers FBAR services, he is considered to be a Seattle FBAR Lawyer. The question is: why is a lawyer who resides outside of Seattle still considered a Seattle FBAR lawyer? The answer lies in the legal nature of FBARs. FBAR is a federal information return, not a local requirement of Seattle or the State of Washington. This means that any licensed US international tax lawyer can offer FBAR services in any of the 50 states and the District of Columbia irrespective of his physical location. This is why a lawyer who resides in Minneapolis can offer FBAR legal services in Seattle with the same ease as a lawyer who resides in Seattle.

Seattle FBAR Lawyer Must Be US International Tax Lawyer

It should be emphasized that, while the residence of a Seattle FBAR Lawyer is not relevant, his area of practice is highly important. A Seattle FBAR lawyer must be an international tax lawyer – i.e. a lawyer who not only knows how to complete FBARS, but who has profound knowledge of US international tax law and the place the FBARs occupy in this law.

This emphasis is based on the fact that FBAR is only a small part of a much larger area of US international tax law. Indeed, there is a deep and complex relationship between the FBAR and international tax law that determines the legal position of a client and the potential voluntary disclosure strategies associated with delinquent FBARs.

This is why your Seattle FBAR lawyer should have deep knowledge of and extensive experience in both FBARs and all related US international tax laws and regulations.

Sherayzen Law Office Can Be Your Seattle FBAR Lawyer

Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in FBARs and international tax law. Our legal and accounting team has both: a profound knowledge of this area of law and extensive experience in helping clients with international tax law issues, including offshore voluntary compliance with respect to delinquent FBARs. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide with their FBAR issues and we can help You!

Contact Sherayzen Law Office today to schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR PFIC Reporting | FBAR Tax Attorney

FBAR PFIC Reporting is an important issue for U.S. shareholders of passive foreign investment companies (“PFICs”). I will now briefly explore the FBAR PFIC Reporting requirement and when it applies to U.S. shareholders of a PFIC.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: FBAR Background

FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, commonly known as FBAR, originally came into existence as a result of the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act. FBAR is one of the main and arguably the most important international tax requirement in the IRS. The form must be filed by every U.S. tax resident who has foreign financial accounts the aggregate value of which exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. The aggregate value should be calculated based on all foreign bank and financial accounts in which this U.S. tax resident has financial interest or over which he has signatory or other authority.

Failure to file an FBAR may result in the imposition of draconian FBAR penalties, including criminal penalties in grave cases of willful noncompliance.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: PFIC Definition

PFIC (Passive Foreign Investment Company) is one of the most complex tax requirements of the U.S. tax system. In addition to the potentially tremendously burdensome tax compliance required for PFICs, PFICs may result in the imposition of a much higher income tax with PFIC interest on the PFIC tax.

The basic definition of a PFIC is any foreign corporation in which: “(1) 75 percent or more of the gross income of such corporation for the taxable year is passive income, or (2) the average percentage of assets (as determined in accordance with subsection (e)) held by such corporation during the taxable year which produce passive income or which are held for the production of passive income is at least 50 percent.” IRC Section 1297(a). While many types of companies may unexpectedly be classified as PFICs by the IRS, foreign mutual funds seem to be the most common trap for the unwary U.S. taxpayers.

If a U.S. taxpayer has PFICs, he/she is required to file a separate Form 8621Information Return by a Shareholder of a Passive Foreign Investment Company or Qualified Electing Fund” for each PFIC.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: Three Potential FBAR Requirements

There are three most common situations when an FBAR should be filed for a PFIC, assuming the statutory aggregate threshold of $10,000 is satisfied. First, FBAR PFIC reporting is required if a PFIC is held in a financial account; in this case, FBAR PFIC reporting will occur for the account itself (which, in India especially, may correspond to the folio number of a PFIC in any case). For example, if a U.S. person has an Assurance Vie account in France that contains PFICs, he would have to report the Assurance Vie account on the FBAR, including the value of the PFICs.

Second, FBAR PFIC reporting is required if a PFIC shareholder has signature authority over foreign financial accounts owned by a PFIC. In this case, FBAR PFIC reporting will occur for these foreign financial accounts in Section IV of the FBAR.

Finally, the third most common situation where FBAR PFIC reporting is required is a scenario where a U.S. person owns more than 50% of a PFIC and this PFIC has foreign financial accounts. In such case, the U.S. person is assumed to have a financial interest in the foreign financial accounts of this PFIC and he needs to disclose these accounts on his FBAR.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: Filing Form 8621 does NOT Satisfy the FBAR Filing Requirement

It is important to emphasize that filing form 8621 for a PFIC does not relieve the filer from his FBAR obligations. Even if Form 8621 is filed, the filer must also file the FBAR.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with FBAR PFIC Reporting

FBAR PFIC reporting can be extremely complex and it is very easy to make mistakes with respect to what needs to be disclosed and how. These mistakes, however, can be expensive to remedy and may result in imposition of various large penalties.

This is why, if you have PFICs that require FBAR and Form 8621 disclosure, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our team of experienced tax professionals will help you properly disclose your PFICs on your FBAR and report your PFIC income on your personal or business tax returns. If you have not complied with your FBAR PFIC reporting requirement in the past and wish to remedy this situation, Sherayzen Law Office will also help you with the voluntary disclosure of your FBARs and PFICs, including the preparation of all necessary tax forms and legal documents.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Guilty Plea for Failure to Report Income from Undeclared UBS Account

On October 20, 2014, the Justice Department and the IRS announced that Menashe Cohen pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire to filing a false federal income tax return for tax year 2009. In addition, Mr. Cohen has agreed to resolve his civil liability for failure to report his financial interest in the undeclared UBS account on a FBAR by paying a 50 percent civil penalty to the IRS based on the high balance of his ownership of the undeclared UBS account.

Main Facts of the Case

According to court documents, Mr. Cohen, an oriental carpet dealer, and his sister maintained an undeclared UBS account in Switzerland that had a balance of approximately $1.3 million. Mr. Cohen also maintained bank accounts in Israel and in Jersey, a British Crown dependency located in the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy, France. It appears that the defendant did report the Israeli and Jersey account on his 2009 FBAR, but he failed to report his financial interest in the undeclared UBS account in Switzerland. In total, for tax years 2006 through 2009, Cohen failed to report approximately $170,000 in income earned from offshore bank accounts.

The actual guilty plea, however, is related only to the 2009 tax return where Mr. Cohen reported only $350 in interest income, when in fact he had received approximately $66,500 in interest from his undeclared UBS account.

Mr. Cohen faces a statutory potential maximum sentence of three years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 at his January 26, 2015, sentencing.

Case Highlights

Mr. Cohen’s case is actually quite troubling because it involves a criminal pursuit of an owner with an undeclared UBS account even though many of the usual criminal facts are not present in the case.

There was no complex tax planning with an intention to conceal the ownership of the undeclared UBS account. The balance on the undeclared UBS account is on the milder side ($1.3 million is not a small amount of money, but the criminal cases tend to concentrate in the amount higher than $3 million); in this case, half of the undeclared UBS account was not even owned by Mr. Cohen, but his sister. Finally, the under-reported amount of interest from the undeclared UBS account was not such a large amount as to normally warrant criminal prosecution.

It appears that two factors steered this case toward criminal prosecution. First, partial FBAR reporting – the fact that Mr. Cohen reported two out of three accounts gave rise to the inference that he acted willfully with respect to his undeclared UBS account.

Second, it appears that the under-reporting of income might have involved all three accounts, not just the undeclared UBS account. If this was the case, then it might have a been a contributory factor in favor of the prosecution as well.

The Importance of the Case to Other Taxpayers With Undeclared Foreign Accounts

Mr. Cohen’s case with respect to his undeclared UBS account contains a strong warning to other US taxpayers with undeclared foreign accounts – it appears that the IRS is now willing to prosecute cases involving lower dollar amounts than in the past. While an undeclared UBS account has its special negative connotations in US tax enforcement, it does appear that there is a growing trend toward criminal prosecution of under-reported foreign income as long as the IRS is comfortable with being able to establish willfulness with respect to FBAR non-reporting.

This means that the taxpayers with balances under $1 million on their undeclared foreign accounts should not take the risk of criminal prosecution lightly. The exact probability of a criminal prosecution should be determined by an international tax lawyer based on the particular facts of a taxpayer’s case.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Accounts

If you have undeclared foreign accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for legal and tax help. We are a team of highly experienced tax professionals who will thoroughly analyze, determine the proper path of your voluntary disclosure, and prepare all of the necessary legal and tax documents. Once your voluntary disclosure is filed, our international tax firm will be there to defend your case against the IRS.

Contact Us Now to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation.