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The Pursley Case: Offshore Tax Evasion Leads to Criminal Conviction

On September 6, 2019, the Tax Division of the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced another victory against Offshore Tax Evasion. This time, a Houston lawyer, Mr. Jack Stephen Pursley, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and three counts of tax evasion. Let’s discuss this Pursley Case in more detail.

Facts of the Pursley Case

According to the evidence presented at trial, Mr. Pursley conspired with a former client to repatriate more than $18 million in untaxed income that the client had earned through his company, Southeastern Shipping. Southeastern Shipping had a business bank account located in the Isle of Man.

Knowing that his client had never paid taxes on these funds, Mr. Pursley designed and implemented a scheme whereby the untaxed funds were transferred from Southeastern Shipping’s foreign bank account to the United States. Mr. Pursley helped to conceal the movement of funds from the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) by disguising the transfers as stock purchases in domestic corporations in the United States, which Mr. Pursley owned and his client owned and controlled.

At trial, the DOJ proved that Mr. Pursley received more than $4.8 million and a 25% ownership interest in the co-conspirator’s ongoing business for his role in the fraudulent scheme. For tax years 2009 and 2010, Mr. Pursley evaded the assessment of and failed to pay the income taxes he owed on these payments by, among other means, withdrawing the funds as purported non-taxable loans and returns of capital. Mr. Pursley then used these funds for personal investments as well as purchase of properties, including a vacation home in Vail, Colorado and a property in Houston, Texas.

Potential Penalties in the Pursley Case

Judge Lynn Hughes has set sentencing for December 9, 2019. Mr. Pursley faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy count and five years in prison for each count of tax evasion. He also faces a period of supervised release, monetary penalties, and restitution.

Main Lesson from the Pursley Case

The main lesson from the Pursley case is for business lawyers. They should be very careful about involving themselves in schemes related to repatriation of overseas funds. These business lawyers should verify whether US taxes were paid on these funds and consult an international tax attorney concerning the legality of the proposed repatriation scheme.

Of course, if a business lawyer knows that his client never paid any US taxes on the funds, he should not participate in any stratagems which could be interpreted as conspiracy to defraud the United States. Otherwise, this lawyer would be at risk of finding himself in a situation similar to the Pursley case.

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

If a business lawyer finds out that he has a client with untaxed funds stored in an overseas account, he should urge the client to contact Sherayzen Law Office concerning the client’s offshore voluntary disclosure options. The main goal of such a voluntary disclosure would be to reduce and even eliminate the risk of a criminal prosecution.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Sherayzen Law Office Successfully Completes its 2019 Fall Tax Season

On October 15, 2019, Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., successfully completed its 2019 Fall Tax Season. It was a challenging and interesting tax season. Let’s discuss it in more detail.

2019 Fall Tax Season: Sherayzen Law Office’s Annual Compliance Clients

Annual tax compliance is one of the major services offered by Sherayzen Law Office to its clients. The majority of our annual compliance clients are individuals and businesses who earlier retained our firm to help them with their offshore voluntary disclosures. They liked the quality of our services so much that they preferred our firm above all others to assure that they stay in full compliance with US tax laws.

It is natural that this group of clients is the largest among all other groups, because the unique specialty of our firm is conducting offshore voluntary disclosures.

A smaller group of our annual compliance clients consists of tax planning clients who also asked Sherayzen Law Office to do their annual compliance for them.

Finally, the last group of our annual compliance clients consists of businesses and individuals who were referred to our firm specifically for help with their annual compliance. These are usually foreign businesses who just expanded to the United States and foreign executives and professionals who just arrived to the United States to start working here.

2019 Fall Tax Season: Sherayzen Law Office’s Annual Compliance Services

Virtually all of our clients have exposure to foreign assets and international transactions. Hence, in addition to their domestic US tax compliance, Sherayzen Law Office prepares the full array of US international tax compliance forms related to foreign accounts (FBAR and Form 8938), PFIC calculations (Forms 8621), foreign business ownership and Section 367 notices (Forms 926, 5471, 8858, 8865, et cetera), foreign trusts (Form 3520 and Form 3520-A), and other relevant US international tax compliance issues.

2019 Fall Tax Season: Unique Challenges and Opportunities

The 2019 Fall Tax Season was especially challenging because of the record number of deadlines that needed to be completed. During the season, Sherayzen Law Office filed hundreds of FBARs, US income tax returns and US international tax returns such as Forms 3520, 5471, 8865, 8621 and 926.

The great time pressure created opportunities for our firm to further streamline our tax preparation and scheduling processes, ultimately creating an even more efficient yet still comprehensive and detail-oriented organization.

The 2019 Fall Tax Season was unique in one more aspect – the implementation of the 2017 tax reform changes. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA” or “2017 tax reform”) introduced the most radical changes to the Internal Revenue Code since 1986. Form 1040 was greatly modified and numerous other US domestic tax laws and forms were affected.

The greatest change, however, befell the US international tax law, particularly US international corporate tax law. The introduction of GILTI (Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income) tax, FDII (Foreign-Derived Intangible Income) deduction, full participation exemption and many other rules and regulations has profoundly modified this area of law.

No form felt these changes greater than Form 5471. Due to the 2017 tax reform, it has almost tripled in size and has acquired a qualitatively new level of complexity. Many new questions appeared and only some of them were definitely resolved by the IRS in the summer of 2019 when it issued new regulations.

Since Sherayzen Law Office has a lot of clients who own partially or fully foreign corporations, Forms 5471 were a constantly-present challenge during the 2019 Fall Tax Season. Nevertheless, we were able to timely complete all Forms 5471 for all of clients. We were even able to develop and incorporate important strategic and tactical tax planning techniques, such as IRC Section 962 election, helping our clients lower their tax burden.

Looking Forward to Completing Offshore Voluntary Disclosures, End-of-Year Tax Planning and 2020 Spring Tax Season

Having completed such a difficult 2019 Fall Tax Season, Sherayzen Law Office now looks forward to working on the offshore voluntary disclosures and IRS audits through the end of the year. We also have a sizeable portfolio of end-of-year tax planning cases. Finally, we look forward to the 2020 Spring Tax Season for the tax year 2019.

If you have foreign assets or foreign income, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our firm specializes in US international tax compliance. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to bring themselves into full compliance with US tax laws, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2019 Tax Filing Season Will Begin on January 28, 2019 | Tax Lawyer News

On January 7, 2019, the IRS confirmed that the 2019 tax filing season will begin on January 28, 2019. In other words, the 2019 tax filing season will begin on schedule despite the government shutdown.

2019 Tax Filing Season for 2018 Tax Returns and 2018 FBAR

During the 2019 tax filing season, US taxpayers must file their required 2018 federal income tax returns and 2018 information returns. Let me explain what I mean here.

One way to look at the US federal tax forms is to group them according to their tax collection purpose. The income tax returns are the tax forms used to calculate a taxpayer’s federal tax liability. The common example of this type of form is Form 1040 for individual taxpayers.

The information returns are a group of federal tax forms (and, separately, FBAR) which taxpayers use to disclose certain required information about their assets and activities. These forms are not immediately used to calculate a federal tax liability. A common example of this form is Form 8938. FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account, commonly known as FBAR, also belongs to this category of information returns even though it is not a tax form.

There is a third group of returns that consists of hybrid forms – i.e. forms used for both, income tax calculation and information return, purposes. Form 8621 for PFICs has been a prominent example of this type of a form since tax year 2013.

2019 Tax Filing Season Deadline and Available Extensions for Individual Taxpayers

Individual US taxpayers must file their required income tax and information returns by Monday, April 15, 2019. An interesting exception exists for residents of Maine and Massachusetts. Due to the Patriots’ Day holiday on April 15 in these two states and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, the residents of Maine and Massachusetts will have until April 17, 2019 to file their US tax returns.

Taxpayers who reside overseas get an automatic extension until June 17 , 2019, to file their US tax returns.  The reason why the deadline is on June 17 is because June 15 falls on a Saturday. The taxpayers still must pay their estimated tax due by April 15, 2019.

Taxpayers can also apply for an automatic extension until October 15, 2019, to file their federal tax returns. Again, these taxpayers must still pay their estimated tax due by April 15, 2019, in order to avoid additional penalties.

Finally, certain taxpayers who reside overseas may ask the IRS for additional discretionary extension to file their 2018 federal tax return by December 16 (because December 15 is a Sunday this year), 2019. These taxpayers should send their request for the discretionary extension before their automatic extension runs out on October 15, 2019.

2019 Tax Filing Season Refunds

In light of the ongoing government shutdown, one of the chief concerns for US taxpayers is whether they will be able to get their tax refunds during the 2019 Tax Filing Season. The IRS assured everyone that it has the power to issue refunds during the government shutdown.

The IRS has been consistent in its position that, under the 31 U.S.C. 1324, the US Congress provided a permanent and indefinite appropriation for refunds. In 2011, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) disagreed with the IRS and ordered it not to pay any refunds. It appears, however, that the OMB changed its position sometime after 2011.

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.

FACC Seminar (French-American Chamber of Commerce Seminar) | News

On October 19, 2017, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an owner of Sherayzen Law Office and a highly experienced international tax attorney, conducted a seminar titled “Introduction to U.S. International Tax Compliance for U.S. Owners of Foreign Businesses” at the French-American Chamber of Commerce in Minneapolis, Minnesota (the “FACC Seminar”). The audience of the FACC Seminar consisted of business lawyers and business owners.

The FACC Seminar commenced with the breakdown of the title of the seminar into various parts. Mr. Sherayzen first analyzed the tax definition of “owner” and contrasted it with the legal definition of owner. Then, he identified who is considered to be a “U.S. owner” under the U.S. international tax law.

During the second part of the FACC Seminar, Mr. Sherayzen discussed the definition of “foreign” (i.e. foreign business) and the definition of the concept of “business”, contrasting it with a foreign trust. At this point, the tax attorney also acquainted the attendees with the differences between the common-law and the civil-law definitions of partnership.

Then, the focus of the FACC Seminar shifted to the discussion of the U.S. international tax requirements. The tax attorney stated that he would discuss four major categories of U.S. international tax requirements: (1) U.S. tax reporting requirements related to ownership of a foreign business; (2) U.S. owner’s tax reporting requirements related to assets owned by a foreign business; (3) U.S. tax reporting requirements related to transactions between a foreign business and its U.S. owners; and (4) income recognition as a result of anti-deferral regimes.

Mr. Sherayzen first discussed the U.S. tax reporting requirement related to the ownership of a foreign business. In particular, he covered Forms 5471, 8865 and 8858. The tax attorney also introduced the catch-all Form 8938. In this context, he also explained the second category of U.S. international tax requirements concerning the assets owned by a foreign business.

The next part of the FACC Seminar was devoted to the U.S. tax reporting requirements concerning transactions between a foreign business and its U.S. owners. Mr. Sherayzen explained in detail Form 926 and Schedule O of Form 8865, including the noncompliance penalties associated with these forms. The tax attorney also quickly reviewed Form 8886 for participating in transactions related to tax shelters. The discussion of the complex penalty system of Form 8886 surprised the audience.

The last part of the FACC Seminar was devoted to the income tax recognition and other U.S. tax reporting requirements that arise by the operation of anti-deferral regimes. Both, the Subpart F and the PFIC regimes were covered by the tax attorney.