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2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options | US International Tax Lawyers

While the year 2021 has ended, numerous taxpayers continue to be substantially noncompliant with various US international tax laws. Hence, it is important for US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets to consider their 2022 offshore voluntary disclosure options. In this essay, I would like to provide an overview of these 2022 offshore voluntary disclosure options.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: What is Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

The term “offshore voluntary disclosure” refers to a series of legal processes established by the IRS to allow noncompliant US taxpayers to voluntarily come forward and disclose their prior US international tax noncompliance in exchange for more lenient IRS treatment. This leniency can express itself in various ways: avoidance of criminal prosecution, lower and even zero penalties, a shorter voluntary disclosure period, ability to make certain retroactive tax elections, et cetera.

In general, the benefits of a voluntary disclosure usually far outweigh the consequences of a disclosure during a potential IRS audit. There are exceptions, but they are usually limited to mishandled cases where either an improper voluntary disclosure path was chosen or the process of the disclosure was mishandled by the taxpayer (usually) or his tax attorneys. This is why it is important that you chose the right international tax attorney to help you with your offshore voluntary disclosure.

Let’s review the main 2022 offshore voluntary disclosure options and briefly describe them.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures

While Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”) was created already in 2012, it exists in its current form since June of 2014. It is a true tax amnesty program, because its participants do not pay IRS penalties of any kind, even on income tax due. The participants only need to pay the extra tax due on the amended tax returns plus interest on the tax.

Moreover, SFOP preserves SDOP’s non-invasive and limited scope of voluntary disclosure (see below). For example, you only need to amend the tax returns for the past three years and file FBARs for the past six years.

SFOP, however, is available to a limited number of US taxpayers who are able to satisfy its eligibility requirements, particularly those related to non-willfulness certification and physical presence outside of the United States. You should contact Sherayzen Law Office to help you determine whether you meet the eligibility requirements of SFOP.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) is currently the flagship voluntary disclosure option for US taxpayers who reside in the United States. While not as generous as SFOP, SDOP is still a very good voluntary disclosure option for non-willful taxpayers: it is simple, limited (in terms of the voluntary disclosure period for which tax returns and FBARs must be filed) and mild (in terms of its penalty structure). There are some drawbacks to SDOP, such as the potential imposition of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty on income-tax compliant foreign accounts, but the benefits offered by this option outweigh its deficiencies for most taxpayers.

The reason why the IRS is so generous lies in the fact that this voluntary disclosure option is open only to taxpayers who can certify under the penalty of perjury that they were non-willful with respect to their prior income tax noncompliance, FBAR noncompliance and noncompliance with any other US international information tax return (such as Form 3520, 5471, 8938 et cetera). It will be up to your international tax lawyer to make the determination on whether you are able to make this certification.

Moreover, a taxpayer cannot file a delinquent Form 1040 under the SDOP. SDOP only accepts amended tax returns (i.e Forms 1040X), not original late tax returns.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures

Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures (“DFSP”) is another voluntary disclosure option that fully eliminates IRS penalties. This is not a new option; in fact, in one form or another, officially or unofficially, it has always existed within the IRS procedures. Prior to 2019, it was even written into the OVDP (IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) as FAQ#17 (though in a modified version).

While DFSP is highly beneficial to noncompliant US taxpayers, it is available to even fewer number of taxpayers than those who are eligible for SDOP and SFOP. This is the case due to two factors. First, DFSP has a very narrow scope – it applies only to FBARs. Second, DFSP has extremely strict eligibility requirements; even de minimis income tax noncompliance may deprive a taxpayer of the ability to use this option if it is sufficient to require an amendment of a tax return. In other words, DFSP only applies where SDOP, SFOP and VDP (see below) are irrelevant due to absence of unreported income.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures

Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures (“DIIRSP”) has a similar history to DFSP. In fact, it was “codified” into OVDP rules as FAQ#18. Similarly to DFSP, DIIRSP also offers the possibility of escaping IRS Penalties. DIIRSP has a broader scope than DFSP and applies to international information returns other than FBAR, such as Form 8938, 3520, 5471, 8865, 926, et cetera.

Since it turned into an independent voluntary disclosure option in 2014, DIIRSP’s eligibility requirements became much harsher. US taxpayers are now required to provide a reasonable cause explanation in order to escape IRS penalties under this option. On the other hand, the fact that there may be unreported income associated with international information returns is not an impediment by itself to participation in DIIRSP.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: IRS Voluntary Disclosure Practice

The traditional IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure practice has existed for a very long time. However, it faded into complete obscurity once the IRS opened its first major OVDP option in 2009. The closure of the 2014 OVDP in September of 2018 has brought this option back to life.

On November 20, 2018, the IRS has completely revamped this traditional voluntary disclosure option, modified its procedural structure and imposed a new tough (but relatively clear) penalty structure. This new version of the traditional voluntary disclosure is now officially called IRS Voluntary Disclosure Practice (“VDP”).

The chief advantage of VDP is that it is specifically designed to help taxpayers who willfully violated their US tax obligations to come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and lower their civil willful penalties. In other words, VDP is now the main voluntary disclosure option for willful taxpayers.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Reasonable Cause Disclosure

Since 2014, the popularity of Reasonable Cause disclosure (also known as “Noisy Disclosure”) has declined substantially due to the introduction of SDOP and SFOP. Nevertheless, Reasonable Cause disclosure continues to be a highly important voluntary disclosure alternative to official IRS voluntary disclosure options. It is now primarily used when SDOP and SFOP are not available for technical reasons (i.e. some of their eligibility requirements are not met).

Reasonable Cause disclosure is based on the actual statutory language; it is not part of any official IRS program. Special care must be taken in using this option, because this is a high-risk, high-reward option. If a taxpayer is able to satisfy this high burden of proof, then, he will be able to avoid all IRS penalties. If the IRS audits the Reasonable Cause disclosure and disagrees, this taxpayer may face significant IRS penalties and, potentially, years of IRS litigation.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Analysis of Your 2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options

If you have undisclosed foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers from over 70 countries with their voluntary disclosures of foreign assets to the IRS, and we can help you!

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International Tax Planning Priorities for US Corporations

Sometimes, I encounter in my practice one particularly damaging belief concerning international tax planning for US corporations that engage in cross-border transactions and maintain a foreign subsidiary or a network of foreign subsidiaries. This is a belief that international tax planning for such corporations should only focus on the reduction of its US taxes above all other considerations. I reject this one-sided view and argue for balancing of international tax planning priorities for such US corporations. In this article, I will discuss the top priorities that are subject to balancing during proper international tax planning for US corporations who operate overseas.

International Tax Planning Priorities: Tax Planning Should Correspond to Dynamic Facts

Before we outline international tax planning priorities, we need to state a rule that seems very obvious but, unfortunately, is often overlooked – tax planning must correspond to the factual situation around which the planning is done. Since a factual situation of a business is prone to rapid changes, tax planning either needs to pro-actively respond to these dynamic facts or, in cases where it is not possible, adjust to these facts as soon as possible in order to avoid a negative tax impact in the future.

This means that engaging in business transactions that spread over multiple taxing jurisdictions requires continuous tax planning, continuous monitoring of the factual background in which these transactions take place and continuous assessment of tax consequences of these activities.

This rule also means that tax planning must respond to the facts generated by the required business transaction rather than create business transactions purely to save taxes. I should point out that such purely tax-motivated schemes are also unlikely to pass judicial review.

International Tax Planning Priorities: Lower US Tax Liability

There is no question that ethically lowering US tax liability based on the opportunities and incentives present in the Internal Revenue Code is one of the most important priorities of international tax planning. As I stated above, however, this is not the only priority.

International Tax Planning Priorities: Lower Foreign Tax Liability

It is not just the US tax liability of the head office that we should be concerned about. International tax planning should also seek to lower foreign tax liability of its subsidiaries. Moreover, if lowering US tax liability comes at the cost of increasing foreign tax liability or missing an opportunity to minimize it, this outcome may not be optimal for the overall corporate structure.

International Tax Planning Priorities: Maximizing Corporate Earnings

This is a key issue that many practitioners and business owners often miss in US international tax planning. Tax planning is not only about lowering taxes at any cost. If a business is continuously losing a significant amount of money (not strategically recognizing losses, but its profits are actually reduced) because of tax planning, then such tax planning may not be worth the effort.

Effective tax planning means that a tax practitioner should coordinate tax saving efforts with business priorities. Business planning will always see to utilize corporate cash and personnel in a way that maximizes profits. Moreover, business planning will also seek to creatively allocate and move excess cash flow between the corporate subsidiaries (and the head office) for the same purpose.

It is precisely the latter function of business planning that requires the most attention of international tax attorneys, because it may result in significant tax costs (which may more than offset the benefit of business planning). At the same time, tax planning must be done in such a way as to minimize the damage it can do to the business’ ability to move cash across the entire corporate structure.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for International Tax Planning Help

At Sherayzen Law Office, we understand these priorities and the need to balance them before finalizing international tax planning. We can help you!

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Foreign Partnership Definition | International Business Tax Lawyers

Defining a partnership as “foreign” or “domestic” can be highly important for US tax purposes. In this article, I will explain the foreign partnership definition and explain its significance.

Foreign Partnership Definition: Importance

There may be important US international tax law consequences that stem from whether a partnership is classified as “foreign” or “domestic”. These consequences may encompass not only income tax compliance, but also the type of information returns that may have to be filed. Even tax withholding requirements may be affected by this classification.

Let me give you a few examples of where foreign partnership directly appears in the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) in order for you to appreciate the significance of the foreign partnership definition. The term foreign partnership appears in such diverse provisions as IRC §6046A (filing of information returns by U.S. persons with regard to acquisition, disposition, or substantial change of interest in foreign partnership – this is the famous IRS Form 8865), §3401(d)(2) (wage withholding), §168(h)(5) (tax-exempt entity leasing rules) and even tax withholding rules for disposition of US real property under §1445.

The main reason for this significance of the foreign partnership definition lies in §7701(a)(30), which states that a foreign partnership is not a “US Person”, a highly important term of art in US international tax law. The implications of being a “foreign person” rather than a “US person” can be huge, extending as far as affecting anti-deferral tax regimes.

Foreign Partnership Definition: Formal Partnership

Let’s delve now into the foreign partnership definition. Our starting point is §7701(a)(5); it states that a partnership is considered to be foreign as long as it is “not domestic”. §7701(a)(4) defines domestic partnership as those which were “created or organized in the United States, or under the law of the United States or of any State.”

Under §7701(a)(9), the term “United States” includes only the states and the District of Columbia. In other words, if a partnership is formally organized in any place other than the fifty states of the United States and the District of Columbia, it is a foreign partnership.

What about partnerships created or organized in US possessions? The IRS and the courts have consistently stated that they are foreign (though there are more examples of these rulings with respect to corporations rather than partnerships).

What if a partnership is chartered both in the United States and another country? Without delving too deeply into legal analysis, pursuant to Treas. Reg. §301.7701-5(a), such a partnership would be classified as a domestic entity

Foreign Partnership Definition: Common Law/Private Agreement Partnerships

The above definition only works well in cases where a partnership is formally created or organized under the laws of a country. However, it is also possible for the IRS to classify a contractual relationship as a partnership for tax purposes. In these cases, the determination of whether a partnership is a foreign or domestic for US international tax purposes is a lot more difficult.

At this point, there is no absolute clarity provided by the IRS on this issue. However, there are two main approaches for determining whether a deemed partnership is domestic or foreign that may be acceptable to the IRS: (1) the contract’s governing law; and (2) primary location of the business of the deemed partnership. Let’s review these approaches.

Foreign Partnership Definition for Deemed Partnerships: Governing Law Approach

The governing law approach to classification of partnerships as foreign or domestic states that a partnership should be classified as foreign or domestic depending on the governing law which controls the agreement that gave rise to the deemed partnership.

The IRS often likes this approach, because it pretty much mimics the foreign partnership definition for formal partnerships described above. In other words, while in a formal partnership we look at the place of organization, the governing law approach for deemed partnerships basically looks at the jurisdiction which controls the legal enforcement of the partnership agreement. Both approaches are based on the premise that the foreign partnership definition should depend on whether the partners’ rights and duties are defined under domestic or foreign law.

Foreign Partnership Definition for Deemed Partnerships: Business Location Approach

The primary location of business approach, on the other hand, seeks to classify a deemed partnership not based on where the partners’ rights and duties are defined, but based on where the business of the partnership is actually conducted. The advantage of this approach is that it is closer to business reality and does not artificially classify a partnership based on which law governs it.

There are, however, problems with this approach which make the IRS like it a lot less. First of all, it is very difficult to apply this approach to a partnership with extensive business operations within and outside of the United States. Second, the classification of the same partnership may often switch depending on the shift in the volume of its US operations versus foreign operations.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Foreign Partnership Definition

If you are unclear about the classification of your partnership for US tax purposes or you wish to change the existing classification for US tax planning purposes, contact the US international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We Can Help You!

Inbound Transactions Tax Framework | US International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Inbound transactions deal with Non-US persons who operate in and/or derive income from the United States. This introductory essay opens a series of articles concerning US taxation of inbound transactions. Today, I will set forth the general inbound transactions tax framework; in future articles, I will explore in more detail each element of this framework.

Inbound Transactions Tax Framework: General Guiding Principals

US taxation of inbound transactions is mainly based on the following guiding principle – nexus to the United States. In other words, the US government taxes Non-US persons in a different manner depending on the level and extent of a Non-US person’s activities in the United States.

The more extensive and regular these activities are, the more likely the income derived from these activities to be taxed by the IRS on a net-income basis (as opposed to gross income) at graduated tax rates. On the other hand, if a Non-US person’s activities are limited, less frequent and more passive, then they are likely to be subject to a completely different type of taxation – the one based on gross income at a set rate.

This “US nexus” principal is subject to numerous exceptions due to the fact that the inbound transactions tax framework incorporates two additional goals. The first goal is the US government’s attempt to design the framework in a manner which would attract foreign investments into the United States. For this reason, the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) may exclude entire categories of income from US taxation either directly or by altering the source-of-income rules (i.e. excluding certain income from the definition of “US-source income”).

Second, as a counter to the “attraction of foreign investments” principal, the US government wishes to make sure that all income of Non-US persons that needs to be taxed is actually taxed and there is no inappropriate non-taxation of US-source income. As a result of the IRS efforts to ensure the effectiveness of this principal, certain types of income are subject to special regimes of taxation. The most prominent example is the taxation of foreign investments in US real property.

Finally, one should remember to consult US income tax treaties for country-specific exceptions. In particular, treaties often modify tax-withholding provisions with respect to various categories of US-source income.

Inbound Transactions Tax Framework: Main Test

The analytical framework for the taxation of inbound transactions is comprised of a test with seven critical questions. The answers to each question will point us to the right sections of the Internal Revenue Code and establish the correct tax treatment for specific types of income.

  1. Is the person who derives the income is a US person or a Non-US person?

Obviously, if the answer to the question is “US person”, then we are not dealing with an inbound transaction, but a domestic investment. Hence, the taxation of a transaction or investment should be examined under a different tax framework (the one that applies to US persons) than the inbound transactions tax framework.

The difference between these tax frameworks is huge. A US person is subject to worldwide income taxation, whereas a Non-US person is generally taxed only on the income derived from US business activities and US investments.

2. Is it a US-source income?

The question whether a Non-US person derives US-source income or foreign-source income is of huge importance and complexity. The answer to this question involves the analysis of relevant source-of-income rules as modified by a relevant tax treaty.

Generally, Non-US persons are taxed only on their US-source income. This means that if it is determined that the income is derived from a foreign-source, none of it is likely to be subject to US taxation. However, certain types of foreign-source income deemed “effectively connected” with US business activities may still be taxed in the United States. Hence, even if the answer to this question #2 is “no”, you must still continue your analysis by answering question #4 below.

3. Does the Non-US person engage in US trade or business activities?

The determination of whether a Non-US person engages in “trade or business within the United States” depends highly on the facts of a case. In a future article, I will discuss in more detail what the IRS and the courts have determined this term of art to mean.

4. Is the income effectively connected to these US trade or business activities?

The term “effectively connected income” or ECI is one of the most important concepts in US international tax law. It may include not only US-source income generated by a US trade or business, but also certain foreign-source income closely related to a US trade or business. In a future article, I will explore ECI in more detail.

5. Is the ECI subject to a special tax regime such as BEAT or Branch Tax?

The ECI of a foreign person may be subject to a special tax regime related to US companies owned by a foreign person or US branches of a foreign corporation. I will discuss each of these regimes in more detail in the future.

6. If the Non-US person is not engaged in US trade or business activities, is his US-source income classified as FDAP (Fixed, Determinable, Annual or Periodic) income?

FDAP income typically includes passive investment income, such as interest, dividends, rents and royalties. Unless modified by a treaty, FDAP income is subject to a 30% tax withholding on gross income. I will cover FDAP income in more detail in the future.

7. Is this FDAP income subject to an IRC or Treaty Exemption?

In order to promote foreign investment into the United States, certain types of FDAP income are entirely exempted rom US taxation. These exemptions can be found in the IRC or a relevant tax treaty. Again, I will discuss FDAP exemptions in more details in a future article.

Inbound Transactions Tax Framework: Information Returns

In addition to income tax considerations, it is important to remember that the answers to the questions above may lead to the determination of additional compliance requirements in the form of information returns. For example, if a Non-US person engages in a US trade or business through a foreign-owned US corporation, then this corporation may likely have to file Form 5472. A failure to file relevant information returns may lead to an imposition of significant IRS penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US Tax Compliance and Planning

If you are a Non-US person who has income from the United States or engages in business activities in the United States, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US tax compliance. We have helped hundreds of taxpayers around the world and we can help you!

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26 U.S.C. Subpart A: Taxation of Recipients of Corporation Distributions

This article is a second installment of our series of articles on corporate distributions. Today’s topic is the description of 26 U.S.C. Subpart A, which contains the most important tax provisions for our subsequent discussions of this subject.

26 U.S.C. Subpart A: Purpose

26 U.S.C Subpart A is the first part of Part I of Subchapter C, which deals with corporate distributions and adjustments. The main purpose of Subpart A is to establish the rules for taxation of recipients of corporate distributions. In other words, this section of the Internal Revenue Code deals with a situation where a corporation distributes or is deemed to have distributed something – a property, stocks, et cetera – to its shareholders. The focus here is not on the corporation, but on how its shareholders should be taxed.

26 U.S.C. Subpart A: §§301-307

26 U.S.C. Subpart A contains seven tax sections: IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §§301-307. All of these provisions are very important for both US domestic and international tax purposes.

IRC §301 establishes a general tax framework for corporate distributions and specifically deals with the distributions of property classified as dividends under IRC §316.

IRC §§302-304 describe the tax rules related to redemptions of stock (as defined in §317(b)), including some very specific situations. For example, §303 deals with distributions in redemption of stock to pay death taxes. The main provision, however, is §302 with its four tests which are highly important for determining whether a redemption of stock will be treated as a sale under §1001 or a corporate distribution under §301.

IRC §305 focuses on the special tax rules concerning stock dividends. It establishes the general rule that stock dividends are not taxable, but it also contains numerous exceptions to the general rule. More exceptions to the general rule may be found in §306.

IRC §306 deals with dispositions of “§306 stock” as defined in §306(c). §306 is very important to taxpayers because, with a few exceptions, it treats a disposition of §306 stock as ordinary income. This section also contains a loss non-recognition provision.

Finally, IRC §307 explains the calculation of cost-basis of stock received by shareholders as a result of a §305(a) distribution. This section has very important implications not only to stock dividends in general, but also to stock dividends made by a PFIC (Passive Foreign Investment Company). The calculation of PFIC tax and PFIC interest with respect to a disposition of such PFIC stock dividends are directly influenced by §307.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Tax Help Concerning Corporate Distributions

Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm highly-experienced in US and foreign corporate transactions, including corporate distributions. We have helped our clients around the world not only to engage in proper US tax planning concerning cash, property and stock distributions from US and foreign corporations, but also resolve any prior US tax noncompliance issues (including conducting offshore voluntary disclosures). We can help you!

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