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US Tax Return Statute of Limitations and IRC Section 6501(c)(8)

Most tax practitioners are familiar with the general rules of assessment statute of limitation for US tax returns. However, very few of them are aware of the danger of potentially indefinite extension of the statute of limitations contained in IRC Section 6501(c)(8). In this article, I would like to do offer a succinct observation of the impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) on the US tax return Statute of Limitations as well as your offshore voluntary disclosure strategy.

Background Information

While IRC Section 6501(c)(8) has existed for a while, its present language came into existence as a result of the infamous HIRE act (the same that gave birth to FATCA) in 2010. The major amendments came from PL 111-147 and PL 111-226.

When IRC Section 6501(c)(8) Applies

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) applies when there has been a failure to by the taxpayer to supply one or more accurate foreign information return(s) with respect to reporting of certain foreign assets and foreign-related transactions under IRC Sections 1295(b), 1298(f), 6038, 6038A, 6038B, 6038D, 6046, 6046A and 6048. In essence, it means IRC Section 6501(c)(8) applies whenever the taxpayer fails to file Forms 8621, 5471, 5472, 926, 3520, 3520-A, 8865, 8858 and 8938 (and potentially other forms). In essence, this Section comes into play with respect to virtually all major international tax reporting requirements, with the exception of FBAR (which is governed by its own Title 31 Statute of Limitations provisions).

It is important to emphasize that it is not just the failure to file these international tax returns that triggers IRC Section 6501(c)(8). Rather, most international tax attorneys agree that, if the filed international tax returns are inaccurate or incomplete, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) still applies.

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) only applies to the returns filed after the date of the enactment of the provisions that amended the section – March 18, 2010. The Section also applies to returns filed on or before March 18, 2010 if the statute of limitations under Section 6501 (without regard to the amendments) has not expired as of March 18, 2010.

The Impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) On the Statute of Limitations

As amended by PL 111-147 and PL 111-226, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) may have a truly monstrous effect on the statute of limitations for the entire affected tax return – a failure to file any of the aforementioned international tax forms (including a failure to provide accurate and complete information) will keep the statute of limitations open indefinitely with respect to “any tax return, even, or period to which such information relates”.

Thus, a failure to file a foreign information return may keep the statute of limitations open forever for the entire tax return, not just that particular foreign information return. This means that the IRS can potentially audit a taxpayer’s return and assess additional taxes outside of the usual statute of limitations period; the IRS changes can affect any item on the US tax return, not just the items on the foreign information return.

Reasonable Cause Exception to the “Entire Case” Rule

IRC Section 6501(c)(8)(B) provides a limited exception to the “entire case” rule. Where a taxpayer establishes that the failure ot file an accurate international information return was due to a reasonable cause and not willful neglect, only the international tax forms will be subject to indefinite statute of limitations and not the entire return.

Impact of IRC Section 6501(c)(8) on Your Voluntary Disclosure Strategy

IRC Section 6501(c)(8) may have a significant impact on the voluntary disclosure strategy where multiple international tax forms need to be filed. In these cases, the taxpayers are more likely to go into Streamlined disclosures or 2014 OVDP rather than attempt doing a reasonable cause disclosure.

This is the case because this indefinite statute of limitations may undermine a reasonable cause strategy if the disclosure period does not coincide with the years in which the international tax returns were due. For example, let’s suppose that US citizen X owned PFICs during the years 2008-2014, but he never filed Forms 8621 even though they were required. If X decides to do a reasonable cause disclosure and files amended 2012-2014 tax returns only, then, the years 2008-2011 will still be open to an IRS audit (though, if X successfully establishes reasonable cause for the earlier non-filing, only Forms 8621 will be subject to an IRS audit). In this case, X may have to make a choice between an unpleasant filing of amended 2008-2011 tax return or doing a Streamlined disclosure.

Obviously, IRC Section 6501(c)(8) is just one factor in what could be a very complex maze of pros and cons of a distinct voluntary disclosure strategy. Other factors need to be taken into effect in determining, including whether the financials were disclosed on the FBAR and Form 8938 and the amounts of underreported income (which may actually keep the statute of limitations open for the years 2009-2011 as well).

These types of decisions need to be made carefully by a tax professional on a case-by-case basis with detailed analysis of the facts and potential legal strategies; I strongly recommend retaining an experienced tax attorney for the creation and implementation of your voluntary disclosure strategy.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Delinquent International Tax Forms

If you have not filed international tax forms and you were required to do so, you should contact the professional international tax team of Sherayzen Law Office. Our team is lead by an experienced international tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, and has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their US tax affairs into fully US tax compliance.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

DOJ Non-Prosecution Agreement with Bank Linth LLB AG

On June 19, 2015, the Department of Justice announced that Bank Linth LLB AG (Bank Linth) signed a Non-Prosecution agreement pursuant to the DOJ’s Swiss Bank Program.

Bank Linth Background

Bank Linth, one of the largest regional banks in Eastern Switzerland, was founded in 1848. It is headquartered in Uznach, Switzerland, which is approximately 35 miles southeast of Zurich. Bank Linth provided private banking and asset management services to U.S. taxpayers through private bankers based in Switzerland. It opened, serviced and profited from accounts for U.S. clients with the knowledge that many were likely not complying with their tax obligations.

Bank Linth’s cross-border banking business aided and assisted U.S. clients in opening and maintaining undeclared accounts in Switzerland and concealing the assets and income they held in these accounts. Bank Linth provided this assistance to U.S. clients in a variety of ways, including the following:

Opening and maintaining accounts in the names of sham entities;

Providing U.S. taxpayers with numbered accounts that hid the taxpayers’ identities;

Facilitating U.S. taxpayers’ withdrawal of cash from undeclared accounts; and

Agreeing to hold bank statements and other mail relating to accounts rather than sending them to U.S. taxpayers in the United States.

On several occasions, Bank Linth opened accounts for U.S. taxpayers through an external asset manager, and one of these accounts was opened in the name of a sham foundation. In that instance, Bank Linth knowingly accepted and included in account records forms provided by the directors of the sham foundation that falsely represented the ownership of the assets in the account for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

Participation in the Swiss Bank Program and the Non-Prosecution Agreement

In accordance with the terms of the Swiss Bank Program, Bank Linth described in detail the structure of its banking business, including its management and supervisory structure, and provided the names of management and legal and compliance officials. Bank Linth further provided detailed and specific information related to its illegal U.S. cross-border business, including the bank’s misconduct, policies that contributed to that misconduct and the names of the relationship managers overseeing the bank’s U.S.-related business. Bank Linth also obtained affidavits from bank employees regarding the bank’s conduct and related matters.

According to the terms of the non-prosecution agreements signed today, Bank Linth agreed to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings, demonstrate its implementation of controls to stop misconduct involving undeclared U.S. accounts and pay penalties in return for the department’s agreement not to prosecute Bank Linth for tax-related criminal offenses.

Since August 1, 2008, Bank Linth held 126 U.S.-related accounts, with over $102 million in assets. Bank Linth will pay a penalty of $4.15 million (this is a post-mitigation penalty).

Consequences for US Taxpayers with Undisclosed Bank Linth Accounts

Most U.S. taxpayers who enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program to resolve undeclared offshore accounts will pay a penalty equal to 27.5 percent of the high value of the accounts. On August 4, 2014, the IRS increased the penalty to 50 percent if, at the time the taxpayer initiated their disclosure, either a foreign financial institution at which the taxpayer had an account or a facilitator who helped the taxpayer establish or maintain an offshore arrangement had been publicly identified as being under investigation, the recipient of a John Doe summons or cooperating with a government investigation, including the execution of a deferred prosecution agreement or non-prosecution agreement. This means that, starting June 19, 2015, noncompliant Bank Linth U.S. accountholders will now pay that 50 percent penalty to the IRS if they wish to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

Rothschild Bank AG Signs Non-Prosecution Agreement

On June 3, 2015, the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that Rothschild Bank AG (Rothschild bank) have reached resolution under the department’s Swiss Bank Program.

Rothschild Bank Facts

Rothschild Bank was founded in 1968 and is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. Rothschild Bank offered services that it knew could and did assist U.S. taxpayers in concealing assets and income from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), including code-named accounts, numbered accounts and hold mail service, where Rothschild Bank would hold all mail correspondence for a particular client at the bank. These services allowed certain U.S. taxpayers to minimize the paper trail associated with the undeclared assets and income they held at Rothschild Bank in Switzerland.

For a number of years, including after Swiss bank UBS AG announced in 2008 that it was under criminal investigation, and following instructions from certain U.S. taxpayers, Rothschild Bank serviced certain U.S. customers without disclosing their identities to the IRS. Some of Rothschild Bank’s U.S. clients had accounts that were nominally structured in the names of non-U.S. entities. In some such cases, Rothschild Bank knew that a U.S. client was the true beneficial owner of the account but nonetheless obtained a form or document that falsely declared that the beneficial owner was not a U.S. taxpayer.

Since August 1, 2008, Rothschild Bank had 66 U.S.-related accounts held by entities created in Panama, Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands or other foreign countries with U.S. beneficial owners. At least 21 of these accounts had false IRS Forms W-8BEN in the file, which are used to identify the beneficial owner of an account. Rothschild Bank knew it was highly probable that such U.S. clients were engaging in this scheme to avoid U.S. taxes but permitted these accounts to trade in U.S. securities without reporting account earnings or transmitting any withholding taxes to the IRS, as Rothschild Bank was required to do.

Rothschild Bank also opened accounts for U.S. taxpayers who had left other Swiss banks that the Department of Justice was investigating, including UBS. Since August 1, 2008, Rothschild Bank had 332 U.S.-related accounts with an aggregate maximum balance of approximately $1.5 billion. Of these 332 accounts, 191 accounts had U.S. beneficial owners and an aggregate maximum balance of approximately $836 million.

Rothschild Bank Penalties and Disclosures

In accordance with the terms of the Swiss Bank Program, the Rothschild bank mitigated its penalty by encouraging U.S. accountholders to come into compliance with their U.S. tax and disclosure obligations. Nevertheless, Rothschild Bank will pay a penalty of $11.51 million.

Rothschild Bank also made numerous disclosures of various information regarding US-held accounts.

Consequences of Rothschild Bank Non-Prosecution Agreement for US Taxpayers

The most immediate impact of Rothschild Bank Non-Prosecution Agreement will be felt by US accountholders who wish to enter OVDP after June 3, 2015 – their penalty rate will go up from 27.5 percent of the highest value of their foreign accounts and other assets included in the OVDP penalty base to a whopping 50 percent penalty rate.

Furthermore, the US taxpayers with undisclosed accounts which were related in any way to Rothschild Bank face an increased risk of IRS detection due to transfer information turned over to the DOJ by Rothschild Bank. “The days of safely hiding behind shell corporations and numbered bank accounts are over,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division. “As each additional bank signs up under the Swiss Bank Program, more and more information is flowing to the IRS agents and Justice Department prosecutors going after illegally concealed offshore accounts and the financial professionals who help U.S. taxpayers hide assets abroad.”

Finally, the rest of the US taxpayers with undisclosed accounts must contemplate a potential future that their accounts maybe subject to IRS discovery if the Program for Swiss Banks is extended to other countries. This possibility is increasingly real when one takes into account the impact FATCA has had on the global international tax reporting landscape.

What Should US Taxpayers with Undisclosed Foreign Accounts Do?

If you have undisclosed foreign account and other foreign assets, you should immediately commence the review of your voluntary disclosure options. Since the introduction of the Streamlined Procedures, the IRS has opened up a world of reduced penalties to various non-willful taxpayers. Willful taxpayers should realize that, the longer they wait, the worse their tax position may become.

In order to do your voluntary disclosure properly, please consult Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an experienced international tax lawyer of Sherayzen Law Office. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide and we can help you.

Contact Us to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation Now!

Vadian Bank AG Signs Non-Prosecution Agreement with DOJ

On May 8, 2015, Vadian Bank AG (Vadian) became the second bank to sign a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) pursuant to the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks.

Program for Swiss Banks: Background Information

On August 29, 2013, the DOJ announced the creation of the “The Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks (Program)”. The basic goal of the program was to allow Swiss banks to purge themselves of the prior US tax non-compliance (or complicity with such non-compliance) in exchange for providing DOJ with detailed description of their illegal activities, bank accounts owned by US persons and, in many cases, the payment of monetary penalties.

The Program is a really a version of the 2014 OVDP for foreign banks. However, it was not open to all banks. The banks already under criminal investigation related to their Swiss-banking activities and all individuals were expressly excluded from the program.

As of the time of this writing, the application process has already been completed for the great majority of the Swiss banks, and the Program has entered into the resolution phase (i.e. the review of the banks’ disclosure and penalty calculation).

Vadian bank’s case was the second such case that completed the resolution phase (BSI SA was the first bank to do so).

Vadian Bank Background

Vadian has one office and 26 employees. Prior to 2008, Vadian’s business predominantly consisted of savings accounts, residential mortgage lending and small business loans. In 2007, Vadian hired a marketing firm to assist with its planned growth into private banking, and focused its efforts on attracting external asset managers. In 2008, after it became publicly known that UBS was a target of a criminal investigation, Vadian accepted accounts from U.S. persons who were forced out of other Swiss banks. At this time, Vadian’s management was aware that the U.S. authorities were pursuing Swiss banks that facilitated tax evasion for U.S. accountholders in Switzerland, but was not deterred because Vadian had no U.S. presence. As a result of its efforts, after August 2008, Vadian attracted cross-border private banking business and increased its U.S. related accounts from two to more than 70, with $76 million in assets under management.

Through its managers, employees and/or other individuals, Vadian knew or believed that many of its U.S. accountholders were not complying with their U.S. tax obligations, and Vadian would and did assist those clients to conceal assets and income from the IRS. Vadian’s services included: “hold mail” services; numbered accounts, where the client was known to most bank employees only by a number or code name; opening and maintaining accounts for U.S. taxpayers through non-U.S. entities such as corporations, trusts or foundations; and accepting instructions from U.S.-based accountholders to prevent investments from being made in U.S.-based securities that would require disclosure to U.S. tax authorities.

Vadian Bank: Terms the DOJ Non-Prosecution Agreement

According to the terms of the non-prosecution agreement that was signed on May 20, 2015, Vadian agreed to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings, demonstrate its implementation of controls to stop misconduct involving undeclared U.S. accounts and pay a $4.253 million penalty in return for the department’s agreement not to prosecute Vadian for tax-related criminal offenses.

In resolving its criminal liabilities under the program, Vadian also provided extensive cooperation and encouraged U.S. accountholders to come into compliance.

Consequences of Vadian Non-Prosecution Agreement for Vadian US Accountholders

If you have (or had at any point since the year 2008) undeclared foreign accounts at Vadian, you may still be eligible to participate in the OVDP (assuming that you can pass the IRS-CI Preclearance process). However, the price of participating in the OVDP has almost doubled from the pre-Agreement 27.5% to the current 50% of the highest value of your undisclosed foreign assets.

Of course, if the behavior was non-willful, Streamlined options remain available at the same penalty rates.

What Should Vadian US Accountholders Do?

If you are a US person and an accountholder at Vadian, please contact the experienced international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office to explore your voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible.

Cayman Islands FATCA Registration Portal

On March 20, 2015, the Cayman Islands FATCA Registration Portal was launched by the Department for International Tax Cooperation (which is a department within Cayman Islands Tax Information Authority).

Cayman Islands FATCA Background 

The Cayman Islands FATCA Registration Portal is part of the long process of Cayman Islands FATCA compliance. Cayman Islands FATCA IGA (Model 1) was signed with the United States on November 29, 2013. At the same time, Cayman Islands signed the amended Tax Information Exchange Agreement. Both of these developments led to the creation of the Portal as a way to automatically exchange information required by FATCA between Cayman Islands and the United States.

It is also important to point out that Cayman Islands FATCA compliance was not only driven by the US considerations, but also by the UK considerations. As an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, Cayman Islands had to come to an agreement with the United States that could not have been better the terms negotiated between the UK and Cayman Islands with respect to the exchanges of tax-related information.

Purchase of the Portal

The Portal plays a critical role in Cayman Islands FATCA compliance, because it allows Cayman’s financial institutions (including the investment funds based in Cayman islands) to report information required by FATCA to the Cayman Islands Tax Information Authority, which, as it is mandated by Model 1 FATCA agreement, will turn over the required information to the IRS.

Registration

As part of Cayman Islands FATCA compliance, the Cayman Islands Tax Information Authority warned the island’s financial institutions that they much must register via the Portal by April 30, 2015 and provide their names, FATCA classification, principal point of contact and other information.

Reporting Deadline by May 31, 2015

The deadline for reporting the 2014 (calendar year) information by the Cayman’s financial institutions must be done by May 31, 2015. The information that will have to be submitted through the Portal is the one usually required by FATCA, including:

1. US person’s name, address and tax identification number (and date of birth, where applicable);
2. US person’s account number or its equivalent;
3. Name and ID of the reporting financial institution; and
4. Year-End Balance of the account.

Interestingly enough, the UK FATCA requirement for Cayman Islands is much later – May 31, 2016.

Caymans Islands FATCA Compliance Is Not Unique

Cayman Islands FATCA compliance through a Portal is now a common theme throughout the world. In fact, it is expected that most of the Model 1 FATCA countries around the world have either complied with 2014 US FATCA requirements or will do so soon, and they are likely to be using a Portal of some kind.

For example, it is expected that the following jurisdictions will do their FATCA reporting through an information reporting system (deadlines in parenthesis): Ireland (June 30, 2015), Luxembourg (June 30, 2015), United Kingdom (May 31, 2015), Canada (May 2, 2015), and so on.

What Portal Means for US Persons with Undisclosed Cayman Islands Accounts

If you are a US person with undisclosed foreign accounts in Cayman Islands (any many other jurisdictions around the world), you are very likely to have very little time left before your account will be disclosed to the IRS. The penalties (especially FBAR and Form 8938 penalties) for failure to report foreign accounts can be draconian, including potential incarceration. Moreover, once the IRS learns about the existence of your account and initiates an invest, you may not be able to do a voluntary disclosure to reduce your penalties.

This means that US persons with undisclosed foreign accounts need to immediately contact an experienced international tax lawyer to explore their voluntary disclosure options in order to timely file their request for Preclearance.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Disclosing Your Foreign Accounts

Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. is the experienced international tax firm that can help you with the voluntary disclosure of your foreign accounts. We have already successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to conduct various types of voluntary disclosures (OVDP, SDOP (Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures), SFOP (Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures), Delinquent Information Returns, Delinquent FBAR Submission, and Noisy/Reasonable Cause disclosures), and We can help You!

Contact Us to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!