US–Hungary Totalization Agreement Enters Into Force

On September 1, 2016, the US–Hungary Totalization Agreement entered into force. In this article, I will briefly discuss the main benefits of this Agreement to US and Hungarian nations.

US–Hungary Totalization Agreement: What is a Totalization Agreement?

The Totalization Agreements are authorized by Section 233 of the Social Security Act for the purpose of eliminating the burden of dual social security taxes. In essence, these are social security agreements between two countries that protect the benefit rights of workers who have working careers in both countries and prevent such workers and their employers from paying social security taxes on the same earnings in both countries.

Usually, such a situation arises where a worker from country A works in Country B, but he is covered under the social security systems in both countries. In such cases, without a totalization agreement, the worker has to pay social security taxes to both countries A and B on the same earnings.

US–Hungary Totalization Agreement Background

The US–Hungary Totalization Agreement was signed by the United States and Hungary on February 3, 2015 and entered into force on September 1, 2016. This means that Hungary now joined 25 other countries – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – that have similar Totalization Agreements with the United States.

US–Hungary Totalization Agreement: Key Provisions

There are three key provisions of the US–Hungary Totalization Agreement which are relevant to Hungarian and US workers. First, protection of workers’ benefits and prevention of dual taxation. US workers who work in Hungary and are already covered under Hungarian social security system should be exempt from US social security payments, including health insurance (under FICA and SECA only), retirement insurance, survivors and disability insurance contributions. However, US–Hungary Totalization Agreement does not apply to the Medicare; US employees must still make sure that they have adequate medical insurance coverage. Similarly, Hungarian workers who work in the United States and are already covered by the US social security system should be exempt from Hungarian social security taxes.

The second key provision of the US–Hungary Totalization Agreement provides for a Certificate of Coverage. The Certificate can be used by an employee to remain covered under his home country’s social security system for up to 60 months. Additional extensions are possible upon approval by the host country.

Finally, under the US–Hungary Totalization Agreement, workers may qualify for partial US benefits or partial Hungarian benefits based on combined (or “totalized”) work credits from both countries. This means that, where there is insufficient number of periods (or credits in the United States) to claim social security benefits, the periods of contributions in one country can be added to the period of contributions in another country to qualify to these benefits.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for US Tax Issues Concerning Hungarian Assets and Income

If you have foreign accounts and other assets in Hungary and/or income from these Hungarian assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of clients throughout the world, including in Hungary, with their US tax issues and we can help you!

New IRS Regulations to Address Transactions to De-Control CFCs

On September 22, 2014, the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued Notice 2014-52, “Rules Regarding Inversions and Related Transactions” (“Notice”) in the wake of the recent wave of inversions. In a previous article, we covered the new regulations to be issued regarding Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) Section 956 so-called “Hopscotch loans” and related transactions. In this article, we will examine the new Treasury and IRS regulations to be issued to address transactions to de-control or significantly dilute controlled foreign corporations (“CFCs’”) under Notice Section 3.02.

This article is intended to provide explanatory material regarding the new inversion regulations as they relate to IRC Section Sections 954, 964, and 367 de-control aspects; the article does not convey legal or tax advice. Please contact the experienced international tax law practice of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. for questions about your tax and legal needs.

Transactions to De-Control or Significantly Dilute CFCs

In general, foreign subsidiaries of acquired U.S. corporations will continue to hold CFC status following most expatriation transactions; such status makes these CFCs subject to U.S. taxation under the IRC subpart F provisions. Prior to the Notice, however, companies could structure inversions so that the newly-formed foreign parent would purchase sufficient stock in order to remove control (or “de-control”) of an expatriated foreign subsidiary away from the former U.S. parent company so that the foreign subsidiary would no longer be treated as a CFC.

By ceasing to be a CFC, as noted in the Notice, companies could thus “Avoid the imposition of U.S. income tax, so as to avoid U.S. tax on the CFC’s pre-inversion earnings and profits. For example, after an inversion transaction, a foreign acquiring corporation could issue a note or transfer property to an expatriated foreign subsidiary in exchange for stock representing at least 50 percent of the voting power and value of the expatriated foreign subsidiary. The expatriated foreign subsidiary would stop being a CFC, and the U.S. shareholders would no longer be subject to subpart F of the Code with respect to the expatriated foreign subsidiary…” Such an effect could also be achieved if the foreign acquiring corporation acquired enough stock to substantially dilute a U.S. shareholder’s ownership of the CFC; U.S. taxation of the CFC’s pre-inversion earnings and profits could be avoided if the CFC later redeemed on a non-pro rata basis, its stock held by the foreign acquiring corporation. (The Notice also provides other similar examples of pre-Notice tax avoidance strategies).

Regulations to Address Transactions to De-Control or Significantly Dilute CFCs

In response to the concerns addressed in the previous paragraphs, under Notice Section 3.02, Treasury and the IRS will issue regulations under IRC Section 7701(l) to “Recharacterize certain transactions that facilitate the avoidance of U.S. tax on the expatriated foreign subsidiary’s pre-inversion earnings and profits”, and they also intend to issue new regulations to modify the application of IRC Section 367(b) in order to require, “[I]ncome inclusion in certain nonrecognition transactions that dilute a U.S. shareholder’s ownership of a CFC.”

Under IRC Section 7701(l), Treasury and the IRS intend to issue regulations providing that a “specified transaction” will be recharacterized under the procedures of the Notice. A specified transaction is defined to be a, “[T]ransaction in which stock in an expatriated foreign subsidiary… is transferred (including by issuance) to a ‘specified related person.’” A specified person is defined to mean a, “[N]on-CFC foreign related person… a U.S. partnership that has one or more partners that if completed during is a non-CFC foreign related person, or a U.S. trust that has one or more beneficiaries that is a non-CFC foreign related person.”

Under the Notice, “if an expatriated foreign subsidiary issues specified stock to a specified related person, the specified transaction will be recharacterized as follows: (i) the property transferred by the specified related person to acquire the specified stock (transferred property) will be treated as having been transferred by the specified related person to the section 958(a) U.S. shareholder(s) of the expatriated foreign subsidiary in exchange for instruments deemed issued by the section 958(a) U.S. shareholder(s) (deemed instrument(s)); and (ii) the transferred property or proportionate share thereof will be treated as having been contributed by the section 958(a) U.S. shareholder(s) (through intervening entities, if any, in exchange for equity in such entities) to the expatriated foreign subsidiary in exchange for stock in the expatriated foreign subsidiary.” (See Notice for further information).

Further, under IRC Section 367(b), Treasury and the IRS also intend to amend the section’s regulations, in general, to require that “an exchanging shareholder described in §1.367(b)-4(b)(1)(i)(A) will be required to include in income as a deemed dividend the section 1248 amount attributable to the stock of an expatriated foreign subsidiary exchanged in a “specified exchange”. A specified exchange is defined to mean an exchange “in which a shareholder of an expatriated foreign subsidiary exchanges stock in the expatriated foreign subsidiary for stock in another foreign corporation pursuant to a transaction described in §1.367(b)-4(a).” Exceptions may be applicable in certain cases under the Notice. (See Notice for more details).

Effective Date for Notice Section 3.02(e)

The effective dates of Notice Section 3.02(e) will apply to specified transactions and specified exchanges (see definitions above) completed on, or after, September 22, 2014 (but only if the inversion transaction is completed on, or after, September 22, 2014). The Notice is currently in the comment period.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Complex International Tax Planning

With the new Treasury and IRS Notice, the need for successful international tax and legal planning will only increase. If you need legal and tax assistance, please contact Attorney Eugene Sherayzen at Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. for questions about your tax and legal needs.

Liechtenstein Offshore Accounts After the Non-Prosecution Agreement

Liechtenstein offshore accounts no longer offer to U.S. taxpayers the bank secrecy protection for which they were famous for a very long time prior to 2008. In fact, after the Non-Prosecution Agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG, after the passage of the 2012 tax law in Liechtenstein, and after achieving the agreement in substance with respect to the implementation of FATCA on April 2, 2014, one can say that Liechtenstein offshore accounts are no longer the tax haven for U.S. taxpayers.

This article explores the substance of the Non-Prosecution Agreement between the DOJ and Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG with respect to Liechtenstein Offshore Accounts, the FATCA triumph in Liechtenstein, and the generally recommended course of action for the U.S. taxpayers with still undisclosed Liechtenstein offshore accounts.

Non-Prosecution Agreement with Respect to Liechtenstein Offshore Accounts

On July 30, 2013, the DOJ and the IRS Criminal Investigation until announced that they reached a non-prosecution agreement (“NPA”) with Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG, a bank based in Vaduz, Liechtenstein (“LLB-Vaduz”). Under the Agreement, LLB-Vaduz agreed to pay more than $23.8 million to the United States (a sum of forfeiture of $16,316,000, representing the total gross revenues that it earned in maintaining these undeclared accounts, and $7,525,542 in restitution to the IRS) and turned over more than 200 files of U.S. taxpayers who held undeclared Liechtenstein offshore accounts at LLB-Vaduz, directly or through sham corporations, foundations or trusts (“structures”).

Moreover, as part of the NPA, LLB-Vaduz admitted various facts concerning its wrongful conduct and the remedial measures that it took to cease that conduct. Specifically, LLB-Vaduz admitted that it knew certain U.S. taxpayers were maintaining undeclared accounts at LLB-Vaduz in order to evade their U.S. tax obligations, in violation of U.S. law. In addition, LLB-Vaduz admitted that it knew of the high probability that other U.S. taxpayers who held undeclared Liechtenstein offshore accounts did so for the same unlawful purpose because significant numbers of U.S. taxpayers employed structures to hold their Liechtenstein offshore accounts , instructed LLB-Vaduz to use code names or numbers to refer to them on account statements and other bank documents, instructed LLB-Vaduz not to mail such documents to them in the United States, and instructed LLB-Vaduz not to disclose their identity to the IRS, among other things. According to the DOJ, at the end of 2006, LLB-Vaduz held more than $340 million of undeclared assets on behalf of U.S. taxpayers in more than 900 Liechtenstein offshore accounts .

Furthermore, under the NPA, LLB-Vaduz was obligated to continue to cooperate with the United States for at least three years from the date of the agreement.

Finally, though it does not appear to be part of the formal Agreement, LLB-Vaduz has decided to close its wholly-owned Swiss subsidiary, Liechtensteinische Landesbank (Switzerland) Ltd. and has also decided to sell another wholly-owned subsidiary, Jura Trust AG.

In return, under the NPA, the DOJ and the IRS promised that LLB-Vaduz will not be criminally prosecuted for opening and maintaining undeclared Liechtenstein offshore accounts for U.S. taxpayers from 2001 through 2011, when LLB-Vaduz assisted a significant number of U.S. taxpayers in evading their U.S. tax obligations, filing false federal tax returns with the IRS and otherwise hiding Liechtenstein offshore accounts held at LLB-Vaduz from the IRS.

Lesson of the NPA for the Foreign Banks

The NPA with LLB-Vaduz contains a lot of lessons for foreign banks on how to deal with past misconduct with respect to undeclared foreign accounts. The DOJ specifically acknowledged the following factors:

LLB-Vaduz’s voluntary implementation of various remedial measures beginning in June 2008, before the investigation of its conduct began;

LLB-Vaduz’s voluntary cooperation with this Office and the government of Liechtenstein after becoming aware of this Office’s investigation;

LLB-Vaduz’s willingness to continue to cooperate with this Office and the IRS to the extent permitted by applicable law;

LLB-Vaduz’s substantial support for the 2012 Law, which has already permitted the production to the Department of Justice of more than 200 account files of U.S. taxpayers who held undeclared accounts at LLB-Vaduz;

LLB-Vaduz’s representation, based on an investigation by external counsel, that the misconduct under investigation did not, and does not, extend beyond that described in the statement of facts;

The point of cooperation was emphasized by the Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally: “this non-prosecution agreement addresses the past wrongful conduct of LLB-Vaduz in allowing U.S. taxpayers to evade their legal obligations through the use of undisclosed Liechtenstein bank accounts, while also acknowledging the extraordinary efforts of the bank in bringing about significant changes in Liechtenstein law.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara concurred in the following statement: “Today’s agreement with Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG reflects the unprecedented nature of the bank’s cooperation… .”

In its press release, the DOJ recognized that, in 2008, before the IRS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office began the investigation, LLB-Vaduz voluntarily implemented a series of remedial measures to stop assisting undeclared U.S. taxpayers in evading federal income taxes. The DOJ also emphasized LLB-Vaduz’s extraordinary cooperation in the form of its support and assistance in 2012 to obtain a change in law by the Liechtenstein Parliament that permitted the Department of Justice to request and obtain the bank files of non-compliant U.S. taxpayers from Liechtenstein without having to identify the taxpayers by name (the “2012 Law”).

So, a foreign bank that discovers potential U.S. tax non-compliance should be proactive in its conduct, document well its efforts to do due diligence, use an independent counsel to investigate the potential non-compliance, and report such non-compliance to the IRS to the extent permitted by the local law.

Impact of the NPA on US Taxpayers with Liechtenstein Offshore Accounts

The DOJ and the IRS have made it clear – the NPA applies only to LLB-Vaduz and not to any of its subsidiaries or any individuals. Therefore, U.S. Taxpayers with undeclared Liechtenstein Offshore Accounts are not protected by the NPA.

Developments Since the NPA Relevant to US Taxpayers with Liechtenstein Offshore Accounts

Two developments since the NPA are particularly relevant to U.S. Taxpayers with undeclared Liechtenstein Offshore Accounts. First, pursuant to the 2012 Law in Liechtenstein, the Department of Justice submitted a second request to the Liechtenstein government for records relating to various Liechtenstein firms that provided trust administration and other fiduciary services that enabled U.S. taxpayers to hold undeclared accounts through structures at banks in Liechtenstein, Switzerland and elsewhere.

Second, on April 2, 2014, the DOJ and the IRS confirmed that Liechtenstein and the United states have reached an agreement in substance with respect to the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”).

US Taxpayers with Liechtenstein Offshore Accounts Should Immediately Consider Their Voluntary Disclosure Options.

The NPA, combined with the second request for records and FATCA implementation agreement, presents a potentially highly damaging threat to U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed Liechtenstein offshore accounts. At this point, these taxpayers are under a very high probability of detection and are well-advised to consider their voluntary disclosure options in order to reduce the possibility of criminal prosecution.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

If you have undeclared foreign accounts in Liechtenstein or any other foreign country, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our experienced team of international tax professionals can help you with its thorough analysis of your case and the available voluntary disclosure options. We can then implement these voluntary disclosure strategies for you and vigorously defend your case against the IRS.

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