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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!

How IRS Can Get $718 Billion in Tax Revenue | International Tax Lawyer

On October 4, 2016, the US Public Interest Research Group, Citizens for Tax Justice, and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy issued a report called “Offshore Shell Games 2016: the Use of Offshore Tax Havens by Fortune 500 Companies”. The report calculates that eliminating all tax deferral on Fortune 500 US companies’ foreign earnings would allow the IRS to collect almost $718 Billion in additional US tax revenue.

Where does the Amount of $718 Billion Come From?

This amazing report targets the estimated $2.5 trillion in offshore earnings which are assumed to be mostly help by the US companies’ foreign subsidiaries in tax havens. The report calculates that the top 30 (meaning top 30 companies by the amount of offshore holdings) of the Fortune 500 companies account for two-thirds of the total, with Apple ($215 billion), Pfizer ($194 billion), and Microsoft ($124 billion) topping the list. It should be noted that some of the other estimates calculate the amount of total offshore earnings of US companies to be in excess of $5 trillion, i.e. double the amount used by the report.

The number of foreign subsidiaries owned by US multinationals is also impressive – the estimate runs as high as 55,000 subsidiaries owned just by Fortune 500 companies. The report states that, although many offshore subsidiaries do not show up in companies’ SEC filings, at least 367 of the Fortune 500 companies maintain subsidiaries in tax havens and the top 20 account for 2,509 of those entities. Subsidiaries of US multinationals reported profits of more than 100 percent of national GDP for five tax havens, including 1,313 percent for the Cayman Islands and 1,884 percent for Bermuda.

The most popular country for organizing the subsidiaries remains the Netherlands. However, Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Bermuda and Cayman Islands closely follow Netherlands in terms of their popularity among US multinationals.

How is $718 Billion Calculated?

The report sets forth its methodology for the calculation of $718 Billion. In essence, the report focuses on the data from 58 Fortune 500 companies to estimate the additional tax all of the companies would owe upon repatriation of funds to the United States. The final tax rate amount to about 28.8% of the repatriated income; the rest (i.e. the difference between the 35% US statutory rate and the 28.8%) is assumed to be the foreign tax rate that the companies will be able to use as a foreign tax credit to offset their US tax liability. Once 28.8% rates is applied to $2.5 trillion, the total amount of additional tax due to the IRS by the Fortune 500 companies is estimated to be close to $718 Billion.

This methodology, however, is not without its flaws. First, as I already referenced above that the amount of funds in foreign subsidiaries may be substantially higher than the estimated $2.5 trillion. Second, the report’s assumption of 6.2% of foreign tax rate may be too generous, especially for foreign companies owned by US persons for generations; in reality, a lot of companies are able to escape all taxation on a substantial amount of their income. Hence, the $718 Billion amount may actually be an understatement.

How Does the Report Propose to Collect the $718 Billion?

The report offers three approaches to the problem of collecting the $718 billion. The first approach is deceptively simple – end all tax deferral. The problem that I see with this approach is that it essentially expands US tax jurisdiction to foreign entities (which are non-resident alien business structures) to the extent that these entities automatically become US persons as soon as any US person becomes an owner of all or any part of them. In addition to the obvious legal problems with such an approach, there is also a potential to create a real chilling effect to the US activities overseas. At the very least, the proposed course of action should be modified to include only controlled foreign entities and large US corporations.

The second approach is less radical; the report suggests tighter anti-inversion rules, elimination of the check-the-box election and the elimination of aggressive tax planning through intellectual property transfers. While many of these rules may be effective to combat future aggressive tax planning, they are unlikely to influence the current IRS inability to collect the $718 billion in additional tax revenue.

Finally, the report also lends support to the Obama administration’s (which is actually not a resurrection of older proposals) tax proposal to treat as subpart F income excess profits earned by a controlled foreign corporation from US-developed intangibles. The administration’s proposal is to expand the definition of Subpart F income to all excess income taxed at 10% or less (later expanded to 15%) would be included in subpart F. While a sensible proposal, it also seems to fall short of the expected $718 billion in additional tax revenue.

Also, it seems strange that all of the proposals seems to put foreign companies owned by small US firms and those owned by large US firms on the same footing. This kind of seemingly non-discriminatory approach has had a disproportionally heavy impact on small US firms’ ability to conduct business overseas due to lower resources that small firms can devote to the same type of tax compliance as that required of the Fortune 500 companies.

Does Location Matter? Retaining Orlando International Tax Attorney

Retaining an international tax attorney is a very important decision. One of the frequent issues that my clients in Florida face is whether it is better to retain an international tax attorney in Orlando or in Minneapolis if you live in Orlando, Florida? If you were to search “Orlando international tax attorney”, Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. (which is based in Minneapolis) is likely to come out on the first page together with other international tax attorneys in Orlando. The question is: should the geographical proximity of an international tax attorney play a role in the retainer decision?

The answer is “NO”! Obviously, in a case that involves a local matter, such as Florida sales tax issues, you may not have a choice but to find a local attorney. This is because local law and procedure would govern in this case, and an attorney familiar with local sales tax issues would be the best choice for handling a sales tax case. Of course, even in this case, there are exceptions because, sometimes, the unique qualities of an outside attorney are so desirable by the client that the court may accede in temporarily admitting this outside lawyer to practice just for one case.

However, if you are searching for an Orlando international tax attorney because you have undeclared offshore accounts, then the knowledge of local law and procedure are likely to be of very little value. Instead, the experience and knowledge of an attorney in his area of offshore voluntary disclosures will become the most important factors in retaining an international tax attorney.

What if you have an international tax lawyer in Orlando, do you still want to consider an attorney in Minneapolis? The answer is “yes” – for two reasons. First, international tax attorneys differ in their natural ability to identify problems and find solutions, creativity, advocacy and many other factors. Therefore, there is no reason to stay away from a better international tax attorney in Minneapolis even if there is a lawyer in Orlando. Sherayzen Law Office provides professional legal expertise in international tax law that may be more helpful to you than a local attorney in Orlando.

Second, in addition to differences in personal qualities, the experience of the international tax attorney in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures and the ability to analyze the specific subject matter of the undisclosed accounts in the broader context of the voluntary disclosure (including potential strategies that may become available due to client’s specific facts) are very important factors in retaining the attorney and should override the attorney’s particular geography.

One of the most unique features about Sherayzen Law Office is that we can handle the entire case internally – both, the legal and the accounting sides of it. Most Orlando international tax attorneys in this area of law do not do that and rely on the outside accountant to provide such additional services. The outsourcing approach has various disadvantages, including potential leak of information, lack of close coordination between both sides of the case, increased possibility of missed opportunities and absence of the unity of goal among the professionals who are preoccupied with their respective areas only. The unique business model adopted by Sherayzen Law Office is aimed to reduce and eliminate such problems.

So, the next time you search for a Orlando international tax attorney, keep these issues in mind while retaining an attorney from Minneapolis or any other city.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With International Tax Issues

If you have any international tax issues with respect to undeclared foreign financial accounts or international tax compliance in general, please contact Sherayzen Law Office for comprehensive legal and tax help.