South Korean Inheritance Leads to Criminal Sentence for FBAR Violations

On January 25, 2018, a South Korean citizen and a US Permanent Resident, Mr. Hyong Kwon Kim, was sentenced to prison for filing false tax returns and willful FBAR violations; additionally, he had to pay over $14 million in FBAR willful civil penalties. I already discussed Mr. Kim’s guilty plea and the main facts of his case in an earlier article last year, but I would like to come back to another aspect of this case: South Korean inheritance. In particular, I would like to trace how a South Korean inheritance led to Mr. Kim’s guilty plea and a criminal sentence for FBAR violations.

From South Korean Inheritance to Swiss Account FBAR Violations

According to the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Mr. Kim became a US permanent resident in 1998. The DOJ describes him as a sophisticated business executive who ran family businesses with operations in the United States and internationally.

At some point after he became a US tax resident, Mr. Kim inherited tens of millions of dollars from his family in South Korea. Instead of properly reporting his South Korean inheritance (which would not have been subject to US taxation at that time), he decided to hide it in foreign accounts. You can find the details of his efforts to hide his accounts in this article.

In the end, despite his ingenuous efforts, the IRS was able to identify Mr. Kim as a willfully noncompliant taxpayer who deliberately failed to file FBARs and filed false income tax returns for the years 1999 through 2010. As a result of his willful FBAR and income tax noncompliance and as part of Mr. Kim’s guilty plea, U.S. District Court Judge Brinkema sentenced Mr. Kim to six months to prison, imposed a fine of $100,000 and ordered him to pay $243,542 in restitution to the IRS. Moreover, Mr. Kim already paid $14 million in willful FBAR penalties.

In other words, as a result of his actions, Mr. Kim lost the majority of his South Korean inheritance and all earnings on that inheritance in addition to going to be jail.

Failure to Report South Korean Inheritance Was the First Step that Led to Criminal FBAR Violations

While, undoubtedly, the entire history of willful failures to file FBARs and report foreign income on tax returns is the primary cause of Mr. Kim’s imprisonment in 2018, it is important to understand that his noncompliance was only possible because Mr. Kim did not properly report his South Korean inheritance.

In other words, had Mr. Kim disclosed on Form 3520 that he had received an inheritance from South Korea in the last 1990s, he would not have been tempted to hide his inheritance from the IRS. In fact, the disclosure of his South Korean inheritance, would have made it impossible for him to hide his foreign assets in Swiss banks afterwards.

Primary Lesson from Mr. Kim’s South Korean Inheritance Case

This is an important lesson from this case that many observers and tax attorneys have missed – Mr. Kim’s noncompliance began with failure to report South Korean inheritance, not from the failure to file FBARs and foreign income (even though, he was sentenced and penalized for the latter two activities).

In fact, a very high number of my offshore voluntary disclosure clients came from a similar background – they received an inheritance from a foreign country (and it could be any foreign country: Australia, Canada, China Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, et cetera) and they failed to report the foreign inheritance first (usually, due to lack of knowledge about proper reporting of foreign inheritance). This failure to report foreign inheritance later led to significant US tax noncompliance that could have only been corrected through a voluntary disclosure.

Starting in 2013-2014, I have also seen the steady rise in the “reverse discovery” inheritance cases – i.e. clients would receive a foreign inheritance and would come to me to discuss on how to best disclose it. Then, as a result of my due diligence checklist, we would uncover prior FBAR or other tax noncompliance with respect to other foreign assets my clients had prior to their foreign inheritance.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Proper Reporting of Your Foreign Inheritance

If you received a foreign inheritance, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in US tax reporting of a foreign inheritance. We can Help You!

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Experienced International Tax Law Firm of Sherayzen Law Office

Most U.S. taxpayers who need international tax services look for an experienced international tax law firm to help them. Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. is a highly experienced international tax law firm. In this essay, I will conduct the analysis explaining why Sherayzen Law Office is considered such an experienced international tax law firm.

Areas of Law Covered by an Experienced International Tax Law Firm

In order for a firm to be considered an experienced international tax law firm, it must have sufficient breadth of coverage of international law – i.e. a firm cannot be considered experienced if it only operates on the margins of international tax law. Sherayzen Law Office covers the full range of areas of international tax law, including: Offshore Voluntary Disclosures (all types – OVDP (now closed),  Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures, Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures, Noisy Disclosures and Reasonable Cause Disclosures); Annual International Compliance with respect to PFICs (Form 8621), foreign business ownership (5471, 8865, 8858, et cetera), foreign business transactions (926 and other related forms) and ownership of foreign accounts (FBAR, Form 8938, et cetera); Foreign Gifts and Inheritance (Form 3520), Beneficiary and/or Owner of a Foreign Trust (Form 3520 and 3520-A); Anti-Deferral Regimes (PFICs, Subpart F rules, et cetera); full domestic compliance (1040, 1065, 1120, et cetera); tax withholding; International Tax Planning; FATCA compliance; and numerous other areas and sub-areas of international tax law.

Furthermore, Sherayzen Law Office helps clients with IRS audits (including FBAR audits), IRS Appeals, and tax court appeals.

The expertise developed by Sherayzen Law Office covers both legal and accounting aspects of international tax law. This means that this is one of the few law firms in the United States where a client’s U.S. legal and accounting needs are fully met without the expense and inconvenience of involving third parties.

Experienced International Tax Law Firm and its Clients

Sherayzen Law Office is an experienced international tax law firm not only because it is in this business for more than 10 years, but also because, during this period of time, it has helped hundreds of U.S. taxpayers throughout the world to resolve their U.S. international tax matters. While a minority of our clients belong to middle class, the majority of our clients consist of the upper middle-class and high-net-worth individuals (including owners of foreign and domestic businesses) with highly complex international tax issues.

Countries Covered by an Experienced International Tax Law Firm

The breadth of the geographical experience is one of the most important characteristics of an experienced international tax law firm. Sherayzen Law Office is proud to state that it has worked with U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts and/or assets in countries in all continents inhabited by humans: North America (Canada, Mexico and the United States), Central America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama – geographically, part of the North American continent), South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia), the Caribbean region (Bahamas, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Cayman Islands), Europe (Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom), Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Turkey and United Arab Emirates – geographically part of Asia), Australia, New Zealand, Africa (Cote D’Ivore, Ethiopia, Morocco and Nigeria), and Asia (Bangladesh, China, India, Hong Kong, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand).

Such a broad geographical spread qualifies Sherayzen Law Office as one of the most experienced international tax law firms in the United States.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your International Tax Issues

U.S. international tax law is extremely complex with numerous reporting requirements and traps for the unwary. This is why you need to make sure that you have the right team of international tax professionals on your side, especially for the purpose of voluntary disclosure of your foreign accounts and income. Sherayzen Law Office is your best choice; our international tax firm is highly knowledgeable and experienced in international tax law and we can help you!

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