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The Tinkov Case: Concealment of Foreign Assets During Expatriation

On March 5, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that Mr. Oleg Tinkov was arrested in London in connection with an indictment concerning concealment of about $1 billion in foreign assets and the expatriation income in connection with these assets. Let’s discuss the Tinkov case in more detail.

The Tinkov Case: Alleged Facts

According to the indictment, Oleg Tinkov was the indirect majority shareholder of a branchless online bank that provided its customers with financial and bank services. The indictment alleges that, as a result of an initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, Tinkov beneficially owned more than $1 billion worth of the bank’s shares. He allegedly owned these shares through a British Virgin Island (“BVI”) structure.

The indictment further alleges that three days after the IPO, Mr. Tinkov renounced his U.S. citizenship or expatriated. Expatriation is a taxable event subject to the expatriation tax. As a an expatriated individual, Mr. Tinkov should have reported to the IRS the gain from the constructive sale of his worldwide assets and pay the expatriation tax on such a gain to the IRS. Yet, he allegedly never did it.

Instead, Mr. Tinkov filed an allegedly false 2013 tax return with the IRS that reported income of less than $206,000. Moreover, the IRS further alleges that he filed a false 2013 Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement reporting that his net worth was $300,000.

The Tinkov Case: Potential Noncompliance Penalties

If convicted, Mr. Tinkov faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison on each count. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties. Other penalties (including Form 5471, Form 8938 and FBAR penalties) may be imposed.

The Tinkov Case: Presumption of Innocence

The readers should remember that an indictment is a mere allegation that crimes have been committed. The defendant (in this case, Mr. Tinkov) is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Tinkov Case: Lessons from This Case

The Tinkov Case offers a number of useful lessons concerning US international tax compliance, particularly U.S. expatriation tax laws. Let’s concentrate on the three most important lessons.

First, a U.S. citizen or a long-term U.S. permanent resident must carefully consider all tax consequences of expatriation. Such a taxpayer must engage in careful, detailed tax planning prior to expatriation. Mr. Tinkov did not do such planning and renounced his U.S. citizenship merely three days before the IPO. By that time, the value of his assets was already easily established beyond reasonable dispute.

Second, one must be very careful and accurate with one’s disclosure to the IRS. Mr. Tinkov’s 2013 U.S. tax return and the Expatriation Statement contained information vastly different from the one that the IRS was able to acquire during its investigation. It is no wonder that the IRS concluded that he willfully filed false returns to the IRS, especially since it does not appear that his submissions to the IRS attempted to explain the gap between the returns and the information that IRS had or acquired later during an investigation.

Finally, expatriation cases involving sophisticated tax structures, especially those incorporated in an offshore tax-free jurisdiction, are likely to face a closer scrutiny and even a criminal investigation by the IRS. We have seen the confirmation of this fact in many cases already. In this case, Mr. Tinkov’s BVI corporation, which protected his indirect ownership of his online bank, was a huge red flag. His attorneys should have predicted that this structure alone would invite an IRS investigation of his expatriation.

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If you are a U.S. taxpayer with assets in a foreign country, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your U.S. international tax compliance. If you have already violated U.S. international tax laws concerning disclosure of your foreign assets, foreign income or expatriation, then you need to secure help as soon as possible to conduct an offshore voluntary disclosure to lower your IRS penalties.

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§318 Entity-Member Attribution Summary | International Tax Lawyer

In a previous article, I discussed the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §318 sidewise attribution limitation. This limitation was the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle of the §318 entity-member attribution rules; now, we are ready to summarize these rules in light of this exception. This is the purpose of this article – state the §318 Entity-Member Attribution summary.

§318 Entity-Member Attribution Summary: Definition of Member

For the purpose of this §318 Entity-Member Attribution summary, I am using the word “member” to describe partners, shareholders and beneficiaries.

§318 Entity-Member Attribution Summary: Limitations

This summary of §318 entity-member attribution rules is limited only to situations where a member owns at 50% of the value of stock (in case of a corporation) and a beneficiary of a trust does not hold a remote and contingent interest in a trust. The readers need to keep these limitations in mind as they apply the summary below to a particular fact pattern.

Moreover, the readers must remember that this summary of the §318 Entity-Member attribution rules may be altered when one applies it within the context of a specific tax provision. Hence, the readers must check for any modification of these §318 attribution rules contained in that specific tax provision.

§318 Entity-Member Attribution Summary

Now that we understand the limitations above, we can state the following summary of the §318 Entity-Member attribution rules:

  1. All corporate stock is attributed to an entity from its member irrespective of whether the member owns this stock actually or constructively;
  2. If corporate stock is attributed from an entity to its member, such attribution will be done on a proportionate basis; and
  3. The following corporate stock is attributed from an entity to its member on a proportionate basis:
    (a). Corporate stock which the entity actually owns;
    (b). Corporate stock which the entity constructively owns under the option rules; and
    (c). Corporate stock which the entity constructively owns because it is a member of some other entity.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US International Tax Law Compliance

US international tax law is incredibly complex and the penalties for noncompliance are exceptionally severe. This means that an attempt to navigate through the maze of US international tax laws without assistance of an experienced professional will most likely produce unfavorable and even catastrophic results.

This is why you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with US international tax law. We are a highly experienced, creative and ethical team of professionals dedicated to helping our clients resolve their past, present and future US international tax compliance issues. We have helped clients with assets in over 70 countries around the world, and we can help you!

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Family Re-Attribution Limitation Under §318 | International Tax Lawyers

This article explores the second limitation on the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) §318 re-attribution rule – family re-attribution limitation.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: General §318 Re-Attribution Rule

The general §318 re-attribution rule states that a constructively-owned corporate stock should be treated as actually owned for the purpose of further re-attribution of stock to other persons. §318(a)(5)(A). This re-attribution should occur with respect to other persons considered related persons under §318.

As I stated in another article, unless checked, the general §318 re-attribution rule may ultimately cause persons completely unrelated to the actual owners of corporate stock to be considered as constructive owners of this stock. For this reason, the IRS imposed a number of limitations on this re-attribution rule. One of the limitations concerns specifically §318 family attribution rules.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: No Family Re-Attribution

Under §318(a)(5)(B), corporate stock constructively owned by a person pursuant to the §318 family attribution rules is not considered as owned by this person for the purpose of re-attributing stock ownership to another family member.

This rule is clear: stock attributed to one family member cannot be re-attributed for the second time to another family member. The idea of this rule is also very clear – to prevent re-attribution of stock to remote family members.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: Examples

Let’s look at a couple of hypothetical examples to gain deeper understanding of the family re-attribution limitation.

First hypothetical: grandfather GF owns 100 shares of X corporation. Under the family attribution rules, this ownership is attributed to GF’s son, A. However, due to §318(a)(5)(B), this constructively-owned stock cannot be attributed for the second time to A’s wife and A’s son.

Second hypothetical: X, a C-corporation has 200 shares outstanding; A owns 100 shares, S (A’s son) owns 40 shares and D (A’s daughter) owns 60 shares. Under §318(a)(1)(A)(ii): A actually owns 100 shares and constructively owns his children’s 100 shares; S actually owns 40 shares and constructively owns his mother’s 100 shares; D actually owns 60 shares and constructively owns her mother’s 100 shares.

However, due to the re-attribution limitations under §318(a)(5)(B), the shares A constructively owns are not re-attributed from one child to another. Hence, 40 shares of S are not re-attributed to D through their father’s constructive ownership of shares actually owned by S. Similarly, D’s 60 shares are not re-attributed to S through A’s constructive ownership of D’s shares.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: Interaction with the §318 Option Attribution Rule

It is important to understand that §318(a)(5)(B) does not per se prohibit the re-attribution of stock to another family member. Rather, this re-attribution limitation only applies to stock constructively owned under the §318 family attribution rules. However, the stock may still be re-attributed to another family member through the operation of another rule such as the §318 option attribution rule.

The most prominent example of such a situation is situations where ownership of stock is imputed under both §318 family attribution rule and §318 option attribution rule at the same time. Under §318(a)(5)(D), if a stock is attributed under both, §318 family attribution rules and §318 option attribution rules, then the option rules take priority. This means that, if both rules apply, the option rule governs and the person is deemed to own stock under the option rule rather than under the family rule.

In situations where corporate stock is deemed to be owned under both, family and option attribution rules, the option rule will allow the re-attribution of stock to another family member. In such cases, §318(a)(5)(B) is powerless to stop the application of re-attribution due to the precedence of the option rules.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: Example of the Option Rule Family Re-Attribution

Let’s look at an example to illustrate the §318 option attribution rule and the §318 family attribution rules interaction with respect to family re-attribution limitation. Let’s suppose that S, son of F, directly owns 100 shares of X, a C-corporation; F has an option to buy all 100 shares from S; D, F’s daughter and S’ sister, does not actually own any shares of X or a contract to buy any shares of X. The issue is whether D is deemed to own any shares of X.

F constructively owns all of his son’s shares of X under the family attribution rules and the option attribution rules. Normally, no shares would be attributed to D due to the family re-attribution limitations, but, in this case, F actually owns an option to buy all 100 shares. The option attribution rule holds preeminence over the family re-attribution limitation. Hence, F is deemed to own S’ shares under the option rule first and foremost; as a consequence, these shares are then re-attributed to D. Thus, D is treated as an owner of all of S’ 100 shares of X.

Family Re-Attribution Limitation: Advanced Summary of Family Attribution Rules

Now that we have a more advanced understanding of the family attribution rules and the limits placed on the family re-attribution limitations, we can modify our earlier definition of the §318 family attribution rules in the following manner: where A and B are family members within the meaning of §318(a)(1), A is deemed to own: (1) all corporate stocks actually owned by B; (2) all corporate stocks constructively owned by B under the §318 option attribution rules; and (3) all stocks constructively owned by B pursuant to §318(a)(2) – i.e. due to the fact that he is a beneficiary of a trust, a partner in a partnership or a shareholder of a corporation.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US International Tax Law Compliance

US international tax law is incredibly complex and the penalties for noncompliance are severe. This means that an attempt to navigate through the maze of US international tax laws without assistance of an experienced professional will most likely produce unfavorable and even catastrophic results.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with US international tax law. We are a highly experienced, creative and ethical team of tax professionals dedicated to helping our clients resolve US international tax compliance issues. Led by our founder, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen (an international tax attorney), we have helped hundreds of clients with assets in over 70 countries around the world, and we can help you!

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US Information Returns: Introduction | International Tax Lawyer Minnesota

In this article, I would like to introduce the readers to the concept of US information returns; I will also explore the differences between US information returns and US tax returns.

US Information Returns: Two Types of Returns

The US tax system is a self-assessment system where taxpayers must file certain forms or returns developed by the IRS in order to report information required by the Internal Revenue Code and the Treasury Regulations. The Internal Revenue Code specifies the due date for these returns.

There are two primary types of returns: tax returns and information returns. A tax return is a form that a taxpayer uses to compute the tax that he owes to the IRS. A tax return requires the taxpayer to set forth the relevant information and amounts for this computation.

On the other hand, the IRS requires US taxpayers to file information returns in order to obtain information on transactions and payments to taxpayers that may affect the information reflected on tax returns. In other words, the IRS uses information returns not to compute the tax liability, but to obtain information (or verification of information) to make sure that the tax returns were properly filed.

US Information Returns: Hybrid Returns

This ideal distinction between the two types of returns is often not preserved. Instead, there are many hybrid returns which possess the features of both, tax returns and information returns. For example, Part III of Form 1040 Schedule B is an information return which forms part of the overall tax return (i.e. Form 1040). Similarly, Form 8621 is a US international information return that is a hybrid return for the reporting of ownership of PFICs and calculation of PFIC tax at the same time.

US Information Returns: Domestic vs. International

The information returns are subdivided into two categories: domestic and international. The domestic information returns are usually filed by third parties with respect to US-source income or income under the supervision of a domestic financial institution. For example, US brokers provide Forms 1099-INT to report US-source interest income and foreign interest income that the taxpayer earned by investing through a domestic financial institution.

It should be mentioned that, due to the implementation of FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act), some foreign subsidiaries of US banks also began to issue Forms 1099 to US taxpayers with respect to foreign income from their foreign accounts. The most prominent example is Citibank. However, this is a tiny minority of foreign financial institutions at this point.

On the other hand, international information returns primarily report information concerning foreign assets, foreign income and foreign transactions; there are even information returns concerning foreign owners of US businesses. Usually, these returns are filed not by third parties, but by taxpayers directly – individuals, businesses, trusts and estates. For example, Form 5471 is an international tax return which US taxpayers must file to report their ownership of a foreign corporation, its financial statements and its certain transactions.

US Information Returns: High Civil Penalties

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of information returns are high noncompliance civil penalties. This is very different from tax returns.

The tax return civil penalties are calculate based on a taxpayer’s unpaid income tax liability. The worst case scenario is a civil fraud penalty of 75% of unpaid tax liability. This is followed by negligence, failure-to-file and accuracy penalties.

The noncompliance penalties for information returns, however, do not depend on whether there was ever any tax liability connected with the failure to file an accurate information return; in fact, many information return penalties are imposed in a situation where there is no income tax noncompliance at all. This is logical, because pure information returns would never have any income tax noncompliance directly related to them.

Hence, in order to enforce compliance with information returns, the IRS imposes objective noncompliance penalties per each unfiled or incorrect information return. This divorce between income tax noncompliance and information return penalties, however, may produce extremely unjust results. For example, failure to file a Form 5471 for a foreign corporation which never produced any revenue may result in the imposition of a $10,000 penalty.

It should be emphasized that the domestic information return penalties are much smaller in size than those imposed for noncompliance with international information returns. Again the logic is clear: since the temptation to avoid compliance with US international tax laws is much greater overseas, Congress wanted to raise the stakes for such noncompliant taxpayers in order to make the risk of noncompliance intolerable for most taxpayers.

US Information Returns: Special Case of FBAR

The IRS may impose the most severe penalties out of all information returns for a failure to file a correct FinCEN Form 114, commonly known as “FBAR”. The paradox of these penalties is that FBAR is not a tax form, but a Bank Secrecy Act information return. FBAR was created to fight financial crimes, not for tax enforcement. Its penalties were originally meant to deter and punish criminals, not induce self-compliance with US tax laws – this is precisely why FBAR penalties may easily exceed the penalties imposed with respect to any other US international information return.

So, why is the IRS able to use FBAR as a tax information return and impose FBAR penalties? The reason is that the US Congress turned over FBAR enforcement to the IRS after September 11, 2001. Since then, even though FBAR is not part of the Internal Revenue Code, the IRS has used this form as an information return for tax purposes.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US International Information Return Compliance and Penalties

If the IRS imposed penalties on your noncompliance with US international information returns, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

We are a highly experienced US international tax law firm dedicated to helping US taxpayers around the world with their US international tax compliance. In particular, we have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to avoid or lower their IRS penalties with respect to virtually all types of US international information returns, including FBARs, Forms 8938, 8865, 8621, 5471, 3520, 926, et cetera. We can help you!

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PLR TAM Comparison | IRS International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

The IRS Private Letter Rulings (“PLR”) and the IRS Technical Advice Memoranda (“TAM”) often get confused by non-practitioners. In this small essay, I will engage in a brief PLR TAM comparison in order to clarify the similarities and differences between both types of IRS administrative guidance.

PLR TAM Comparison: Similarities

Let’s begin our PLR TAM comparison with the similarities. The similarities are great between both types of the IRS administrative guidance; this is why so many taxpayers cannot tell the difference between PLR and TAM. Both, PLR and TAM are written determinations issued by the IRS National Office. Also, PLR and TAM both interpret and apply US tax law to a taxpayer’s specific set of facts. Finally, both PLR and TAM are written IRS determinations which are binding on the IRS only in relation to the taxpayer who requested them.

PLR TAM Comparison: Differences

The differences between PLR & TAM are more nuanced but highly important. The two main differences are: (a) the requesting party and (b) timing of the request.

PLR is requested by a taxpayer; i.e. the IRS issues its opinion to the taxpayer, based on the taxpayer’s pattern of facts and at his request. The request for TAM, however, is made by a district IRS office. Oftentimes, though, the district IRS office makes this request at the urging of a taxpayer to seek technical advice from the IRS National Office.

With respect to the timing of the request, a taxpayer requests a PLR before he files his tax return. The taxpayer wishes to know the IRS position (or he is seeking IRS permission to do something, like a late election) in order to prevent the imposition of IRS penalties by filing an incorrect or late return.

TAM, however, deals with refund claims and examination issues after a tax return has been filed. In fact, oftentimes, a TAM is issued in response to a question concerning a specific set of facts uncovered during an IRS audit.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Experienced US International Tax Help

If you have questions concerning US international tax law and procedure, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We are a highly experienced US international tax law firm that has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe with their US international tax compliance issues, including offshore voluntary disclosures, IRS audits and various annual tax compliance issues.

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