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Attribution Rules: Introduction | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

One of the most popular tax reduction strategies is based on shifting an ownership interest in an entity or property to related persons or related entities. In order to prevent the abuse of this strategy, the US Congress has enacted a large number of attribution rules. In this brief essay, I will introduce the concept of attribution rules and list the most important attribution rules in the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”).

Attribution Rules: Definition and Purpose

The IRC attribution rules are designed to prevent taxpayers from shifting an ownership interest to related persons or entities. They achieve this result through a set of indirect and constructive ownership rules that shift the ownership interest assigned to third parties back to the taxpayer. In other words, the rules disregard the formal assignment of an ownership interest to a related third party and re-assign the ownership interest back to the assignor for specific determination purposes.

For example, in the context of determining whether a foreign corporation is a Controlled Foreign Corporation, all shares owned by the spouse of a taxpayer are deemed to be owned by the taxpayer if both spouses are US persons.

Attribution Rules: Design Similarities and Differences

The IRC contains a great variety of attribution rules. All of them are very detailed and have achieved a remarkable degree of specificity. Behind this specificity, all of the rules are always concerned with the substance of a transaction rather than its form. Hence, there always lurks a general question of whether there was a tax avoidance motive when a taxpayer entered into a transaction.

In spite of the fact that they share similar goals, the rules differ from each other in design. Most of these differences can be traced back to legislative history.

List of Most Important Attribution Rules

Here is a list of the most important attribution rules in the IRC (all section references are to the IRC):

1. The constructive ownership rules of §267, which apply to disallow certain deductions and losses incurred in transactions between related parties;

2. The constructive ownership rules of §318, which apply in corporate-shareholder transactions and other transactions, including certain foreign transactions expressly referenced in §6038(e).

3. The constructive ownership rules of §544; these are the personal holding company rules which apply to determine when a corporation will be subject to income tax on undistributed income.

3a. While they are now repealed, the foreign personal holding company rules of §554 are still important. In the past, they applied to determine whether US shareholders of a foreign corporation would be taxed on deemed distributions which were not actually made;

4. Highly important Subpart F constructive ownership rules of §958, which apply to determine when US shareholders of a Controlled Foreign Corporation should be taxed on deemed distributions which are not actually made;

5. The PFIC constructive ownership rules of §1298, which apply to determine whether a US shareholder is subject to the unfavorable rules concerning certain distributions by a PFIC and sales of PFIC stock; and

6. The controlled group constructive ownership rules of §1563 which determine whether related corporations are subject to the limitations and benefits prescribed for commonly controlled groups.

This is not a comprehensive list of all attribution rules, there are other rules which apply in more specific situations.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Attribution Rules

The rules of ownership attribution are highly complex. A failure to comply with them may result in the imposition of high IRS penalties.

This is why you need to contact the highly experienced international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office. We have helped US taxpayers around the globe to deal with the US tax rules concerning ownership attribution, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2020 First Quarter IRS Interest Rates | International Tax Lawyers

On December 6, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) announced that the 2020 First Quarter IRS underpayment and overpayment interest rates will not change from the 4th Quarter of 2019. This means that, the 2020 First Quarter IRS underpayment and overpayment interest rates will be as follows:

  • five (5) percent for overpayments (four (4) percent in the case of a corporation);
  • two and one-half (2.5) percent for the portion of a corporate overpayment exceeding $10,000;
  • five (5) percent for underpayments; and
  • seven (7) percent for large corporate underpayments.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, the rate of interest is determined on a quarterly basis. The IRS used the federal short-term rate for October of 2019 to determine the 2020 First Quarter IRS interest rates. The IRS interest is compounded on a daily basis.

2010 First Quarter IRS interest rates are important to US international tax lawyers and taxpayers. The IRS uses these rates to determine how much interest a taxpayer needs to pay on an additional tax liability that arose as a result of an IRS audit or an amendment of his US tax return. The IRS also utilizes these rates with respect to the calculation of PFIC interest on Section 1291 tax.

As an international tax law firm, Sherayzen Law Office keeps track of the IRS underpayment interest rates on a regular basis. We often amend our client’s tax returns as part of an offshore voluntary disclosure process. For example, both Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures require that a taxpayer amends his prior US tax returns, determines the additional tax liability and calculates the interest on this liability.

Moreover, we very often have to do PFIC calculations for our clients under the default IRC Section 1291 methodology. This calculation requires the usage of the IRS underpayment interest rates in order to determine the amount of PFIC interest on the IRC Section 1291 tax.

Finally, it is important to point out that the IRS will use the 2020 First Quarter IRS overpayment interest rates to determine the amount of interest that needs to be paid to a taxpayer who is due a tax refund as a result of an IRS audit or amendment of the taxpayer’s US tax return. This situation may often arise in the context of offshore voluntary disclosures.

Foreign Income Reporting Without Forms W-2 or 1099 | Tax Lawyer

There is a surprisingly large number of US taxpayers who believe that reporting foreign income that was not disclosed on a Form W-2 or 1099 is unnecessary. Even if they honestly believe it to be true, this erroneous belief exposes these taxpayers to an elevated risk of imposition of high IRS penalties. In this article, I will discuss the US tax rules concerning foreign income reporting which was never disclosed on a Form W-2 or 1099 and how the IRS targets tax noncompliance in this area.

Foreign Income Reporting: Worldwide Income Reporting Requirement

If you are a US tax resident, you are subject to the worldwide income reporting requirement. In other words, you are required to disclose your US-source income and your foreign-source income on your US tax return.

This requirement applies to you irrespective of whether this income was ever disclosed to the IRS on a Form W-2 or Form 1099. It is important to understand that Forms W-2 and 1099 are only third-party reporting requirements. They do not impact your foreign income reporting on your US tax return in any way, because such a disclosure is your personal obligation as a US tax resident.

This means that, if your foreign employer pays you a salary for the work performed in a foreign country, you must disclose it on your US tax return. Similarly, if you are a contractor who receives payments for services performed overseas, you are obligated to disclose these payments on your US tax return. The fact that neither your foreign employer nor your clients ever filed any information returns, such as Forms W-2 or 1099, with the IRS is irrelevant to your foreign income reporting obligations in the United States.

Foreign Income Reporting: Many US Taxpayers Are Noncompliant

Unfortunately, many US taxpayers are not complying with their foreign income reporting obligations. Some of them are doing it willfully, taking advantage of the absence of third-party IRS reporting (such as Forms W-2 and 1099). Others have fallen victims to numerous online false claims of exceptions to the worldwide income reporting.

Foreign Income Reporting: Noncompliant Taxpayers at Elevated Risk of IRS Penalties

The noncompliance in this area is so great that it drew the attention of the IRS. In July of 2019, the IRS announced a specific compliance campaign that targets high-income US citizens and resident aliens who receive compensation from overseas that is not reported on a Form W-2 or Form 1099.

The IRS has adopted a tough approach to noncompliance with the worldwide income reporting requirement – IRS audits only. The IRS did not mention any other, more lenient treatment streams for this campaign.

This means that we will see an increase in the number of IRS audits devoted mainly to discovering unreported foreign income and punishing noncompliant US taxpayers. Of course, these audits may further expand depending on other facts that the IRS discovers during these audits. For example, if foreign income comes from a foreign corporation owned by the taxpayer, the IRS may also impose Form 5471 penalties. If this corporation owns undisclosed foreign accounts, then the taxpayer may also face draconian FBAR civil as well as criminal penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Foreign Income Reporting Obligations and Your Voluntary Disclosure of Unreported Foreign Income

If you are a US taxpayer who earns income overseas, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US tax compliance. Furthermore, if you have not reported your overseas income for prior years, you should explore your voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible in order to reduce your IRS civil penalties and avoid potential IRS criminal prosecution. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers like you to resolve their US tax noncompliance issues, including those concerning foreign income reporting, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

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!

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.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!