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2017 Tax Reform Seminar | U.S. International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On April 19, 2018, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an international tax lawyer, co-presented with an attorney from KPMG at a seminar entitled “The 2017 U.S. Tax Reform: Seeking Economic Growth through Tax Policy in Politically Risky Times” (the “2017 Tax Reform Seminar”). This seminar formed part of the 2018 International Business Law Institute organized by the International Business Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

The 2017 Tax Reform Seminar discussed, in a general manner, the main changes made by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to the U.S. international tax law. Mr. Sherayzen’s part of the presentation focused on two areas: the Subpart F rules and the FDII regime.

Mr. Sherayzen provided a broad overview of the Subpart F rules, the types of income subject to these rules and the main exceptions to the Subpart F regime. He emphasized that the tax reform did not repeal the Subpart F rules, but augmented them with the GILTI regime (the discussion of GILTI was done by the KPMG attorney during the same 2017 Tax Reform Seminar).

Then, Mr. Sherayzen turned to the second part of his presentation during the 2017 Tax Reform Seminar – the Foreign Derived Intangible Income or FDII. After reviewing the history of several tax regimes prior to the FDII, the tax attorney concluded that the nature of the current FDII regime is one of subsidy. In essence, FDII allows a US corporation to reduce its corporate income by 37.5% of the qualified “foreign derived” income (after the year 2025, the percentage will go down to 21.875%). Mr. Sherayzen explained that, in certain cases, there is an additional limitation on the FDII deduction.

Qualifying income includes: sales to a foreign person for foreign use, dispositions of property to foreign persons for foreign use, leases and licenses to foreign persons for foreign use and services provided to a foreign person. There are also a number exceptions to qualifying income.

Mr. Sherayzen concluded his presentation at the 2017 Tax Reform Seminar with a discussion of the reaction that FDII produced in other countries. In general this reaction was not favorable; China and the EU even threatened to sue the United States over what they believed to be an illegal subsidy to US corporations.

EU Tax Harmonization Initiative Stalled by Ireland and Hungary | Tax News

The EU Tax Harmonization initiative faced a joint opposition of Ireland and Hungary in early January of 2018. Both countries are vehemently opposed to any effort that would “tie their hands” in terms of their corporate tax policies.

The EU Tax Harmonization Initiative

Tax Harmonization is basically a policy that aims to adjust the tax systems of various jurisdictions in order to achieve one tax goal. The adjustment usually implies equalization of tax treatment.

In the past, the EU tax harmonization efforts were mostly limited to Value-Added Tax (“VAT”) and certain parent-subsidiary taxation issues. Since at least 2016, however, the EU Tax Harmonization policy seeks to regulate corporate income taxes among its members in order to limit intra-EU tax competition.

In 2016, the European Commission released two proposed directives addressing the issues of a common corporate tax base and a common consolidated corporate tax base. Neither directive establishes a minimum corporate tax rate. Neither directive passed the internal EU opposition.

Irish and Hungarian Opposition to the EU Tax Harmonization of Corporate Taxation

Today, the EU internal opposition to the EU tax harmonization initiatives consists of Ireland and Hungary. Both Hungary and Ireland have very low (by EU standards) corporate tax rates. The Irish corporate tax rate is 12.5% and the Hungarian corporate tax rate is only 9% (the EU average corporate tax rate is about 22%).

In early January of 2018, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar both stated that their countries have the right to set their corporate tax policies and that this area should not be subject to the EU tax harmonization efforts. “Taxation is an important component of competition. We would not like to see any regulation in the EU, which would bind Hungary’s hands in terms of tax policy, be it corporate tax, or any other tax,” Mr. Orbán said. He further added that “we do not consider tax harmonization a desired direction.”

Both countries view the aforementioned proposed 2016 European Commission directives as a threat, because harmonizing of the tax base could lead to corporate income tax rate harmonization.

Impact of Brexit on the EU Tax Harmonization Initiatives

The United Kingdom used to be in the same opposition camp as Ireland and Hungary. Given the size of its economy and its political influence, the United Kingdom was an almost insurmountable barrier to the proponents of greater EU unity (mainly France and Germany). In essence, the UK was enough of a counterweight to keep the balance of power within the European Union from tilting in favor of the EU unity proponents.

Everything has changed with Brexit. The exit of the United Kingdom from the EU automatically led to the shift of the balance of power in favor of Germany. Brexit also means that Ireland and Hungary are now alone in their resistance against the Franco-German efforts to achieve greater EU unity. The political pressure of these outliers is now enormous.

In fact, it appears that, rather than suspending the unanimity requirement by invoking the so-called “passerelle clauses” (which would be a highly controversial step), the proponents of the EU Tax Harmonization initiative will simply wait until this political pressure forces Ireland and Hungary to modify their positions on this issue.

UK FATCA Letters

While the United Kingdom signed its FATCA implementation treaty in 2014, UK FATCA letters (i.e. FATCA letters from UK financial institutions) continue to pour into the mailboxes of U.S. taxpayers. In this article, I would like to discuss the purpose and impact of UK FATCA Letters.

UK FATCA Letters

UK FATCA Letters play an integral role in the FATCA Compliance of UK financial institutions. Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the UK foreign institutions are obligated to collect certain information regarding U.S. owners of UK bank and financial accounts and provide this information to the IRS. The collected information must include the name, address and social security number (or, EIN number) of U.S. accountholders.

In order to collect the required information and identify who among their clients is a US person for FATCA purposes, the UK financial institutions send UK FATCA Letters to their clients, asking them to provide the information by the required date. If there is no response within the required period of time (which may be extended), the UK financial institutions report the account to the IRS with the classification as a “recalcitrant account”.

UK FATCA Letters and Undisclosed UK Bank and Financial Accounts

While UK FATCA Letters are important to FATCA compliance of UK financial institutions, they also may have important impact on U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank and financial accounts in the United Kingdom, particularly on the ability of such U.S. taxpayers to timely disclose their foreign accounts.

Once a U.S. taxpayer receives UK FATCA Letters, he should be aware that the clock has started on his ability to do any type of voluntary disclosure. This is the case because UK FATCA Letters demand a response within certain limited period of time. Then, the UK financial institutions will report the account to the IRS, which may prompt IRS examination which, in turn, may deprive the taxpayer of the ability to take advantage of any type of a voluntary disclosure option.

Furthermore, UK FATCA Letters start the clock for the taxpayers to do their voluntary disclosure in an indirect way. If the taxpayers do not complete their voluntary disclosure within reasonable period of time (which may differ depending on circumstances) after they receive the letters, the IRS may proceed based on the assumption that prior noncompliance with U.S. tax requirements by the still noncompliant taxpayers was willful.

Finally, UK FATCA Letters may impact a U.S. taxpayer’s legal position with respect to current and future tax compliance, because UK FATCA Letters can be used by the IRS as evidence to prove awareness of U.S. tax requirements on the part of noncompliant U.S. taxpayers. This is particularly relevant for taxpayers who receive these letters right before the tax return and FBAR filing deadlines.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Received UK FATCA Letters

If you received one or more UK FATCA Letters from foreign financial institutions, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Attorney Eugene Sherayzen is one of the world’s leading professionals in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures and he will personally analyze your case and create the appropriate voluntary disclosure strategy. Then, under his close supervision, his legal team will implement this strategy, including the preparation of all required tax forms.

Call Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Title 26 Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty under SDOP

The Title 26 Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty (“Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty”) is one of the most critical aspects of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”). In this article, I want to conduct a general overview of how the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is calculated.

As a side note, it is important to keep in mind that this is an educational article which aims to provide a general overview of the calculation of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty in common situations. In providing this general overview of the SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, the article necessarily glosses over some complex issues that may change the determination of Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty in a particular case.  In order to calculate your Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty properly, the readers should contact an experienced international tax attorney for a legal advice based on their specific facts and circumstances.

What is Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty?

A taxpayer who enters SDOP is required to pay a 5% Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty as part of the SDOP requirements. The Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is paid in lieu of the penalties associated with the delinquent filings of FBARs, Forms 8938 and other information returns.

The calculation of SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is very different from 2014 OVDP calculation in terms of the relevant time period and the penalty base. Let’s explore each of these factors.

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty: Time Period

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is equal to 5 percent of the highest aggregate balance/value of the taxpayer’s foreign financial assets that are subject to the miscellaneous offshore penalty during the years in the covered tax return period and the covered FBAR period. Generally, this means that the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on the past six years covered by the FBAR statute of limitations.

However, there is an exception where the three-year tax covered tax return period does not completely overlap with the six-year covered FBAR period. For example, the SDOP disclosure for tax returns covers years 2012 and 2014 because the due date for the 2014 tax return is passed, but the FBAR period is 2008-2013 because the due date for the 2014 FBAR has not passed. In such cases, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on the highest aggregate value of the foreign financial assets for the past seven years.

In most cases, six years will be the standard time period for the calculation of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, which is a lot better than the 2014 OVDP eight-year disclosure period.

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty: Penalty Base

SDOP introduced a new way to calculate Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty which mixed the old FBAR-focused penalty orientation of the 2014 OVDP with the new FATCA-focused Form 8938.

In general, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on any foreign financial asset in a given year within the covered SDOP time period if one of the following is true:

1. The asset should have been, but was not, reported on an FBAR (FinCEN Form 114) for that year;

2. The asset should have been, but was not, reported on a Form 8938 for that year; or

3. If the asset was properly reported for that year, but gross income in respect of the asset was not reported in that year.

Two important features of this calculation of the penalty base under SDOP must be emphasized. First, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty should be calculated not only on the foreign bank and financial accounts listed on the FBAR, but also on “other specified assets” required to be listed on Form 8938. This means that many more assets outside of a foreign financial account can now be subject to the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty . Examples of such assets include but not limited to: foreign stocks not held in a financial account, a capital or profits interest in a foreign partnership, certain forms of indebtedness issued by a foreign person (such as a note, bond, debenture, an interest in a foreign trust, foreign swaps, foreign options, foreign derivatives and other assets. It should be remembered, though, that this is a generalization and, in certain circumstances, an international tax attorney may except certain such assets from Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty base.

The second critical difference between SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty and 2014 OVDP Offshore Penalty is the inclusion in the calculation of the penalty base the assets for which no additional income needs to be reported. There are a lot of nuances with respect to the exclusion and inclusion of assets under the 2014 OVDP which are beyond the scope of this article. For the purposes of the present discussion, I will ignore them and concentrate on the general rule only (again, this is an area that should be explored with an international tax attorney based on the specific facts of a client’s case) that if an asset should have been reported on Forms 8938 and FinCEN Form 114 and it was not, then, it should be included in the penalty base.

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty: Calculation of Highest Aggregate Value of Assets

As it was mentioned above, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is calculated based on the highest aggregate balance/value of the taxpayer’s foreign financial assets that are subject to the miscellaneous offshore penalty during the years in the covered tax return period and the covered FBAR period. The issue is how this “highest aggregate balance/value of assets” is calculated.

For the purposes of SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, the highest aggregate balance/value is determined by a two-step process. First, you need to aggregate the year-end account balances and year-end asset values of all the foreign financial assets subject to the miscellaneous offshore penalty for each of the years in the covered tax return period and the covered FBAR period. Then, you select the highest aggregate balance/value from among those years and calculate the 5% value of this balance.

It is the first step that is radically different from the 2014 OVDP Offshore Penalty determination process, and it can produce very interesting results especially in the case of bank accounts. The most surprising result is that an account that was closed in one of the covered years is likely to produce a zero end-of-year balance irrespective of how much money was on it prior to December 31.

This factor can be a very important consideration when one decides to participate in SDOP. For this reason, I highly encourage the readers to consult an experienced international tax lawyer in these matters.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Undisclosed Foreign Assets

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts and any other assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional legal and tax help. Our team of experienced international tax attorneys and accountants will thoroughly analyze your case, estimate your current penalty exposure, identify the offshore voluntary disclosure options available to you, prepare all legal documents and tax forms (including amended tax returns) needed in your case, rigorously defend your interests in front of the IRS, and guide you through the entire voluntary disclosure process.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!