The IRS Onslaught Against Bank Leumi Clients Continues: The Fogel Case

On February 2, 2015, one of Bank Leumi clients, Dr. Baruch Fogel of Laguna Beach, California, pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to willfully failing to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) for tax year 2009. In this article, I would like to explore some of the most pertinent facts of the Fogel Case and analyze this case in the context of the continuous IRS onslaught against Bank Leumi clients.

The Facts and Outcome of the Fogel Case

According to court documents, Fogel, a U.S. citizen, maintained an undeclared bank account held in the name of a foreign corporation at the Luxembourg branch of Bank Leumi. The undeclared foreign bank account and foreign corporation were set up with the assistance of David Kalai, a tax return preparer who owned United Revenue Service (URS). In December 2014, David Kalai and his son, Nadav Kalai, were convicted in the Central District of California of conspiracy to defraud the United States for helping certain URS clients set up foreign corporations and undeclared bank accounts to evade U.S. income taxes and for willfully failing to file FBARs for an undeclared foreign account that they controlled.

According to court documents and evidence introduced at the trial of David and Nadav Kalai, Fogel was a doctor who operated several managed health care businesses. David Kalai suggested to Fogel that he could reduce his taxes by transferring money to a foreign bank account held in the name of a foreign corporation. David Kalai advised Fogel to open up the bank account that was set up in the name of a British Virgin Islands corporation. At a meeting facilitated and attended by David Kalai at the Beverly Hills branch of Bank Leumi, Fogel executed documents to open his Luxembourg bank account at Bank Leumi, becoming one of the many Bank Leumi clients to do so. According to court documents, Fogel diverted at least $8 million to his undeclared bank account at Bank Leumi’s branch in Luxembourg.

Fogel has agreed to pay a civil penalty in the amount of approximately $4.2 million to resolve his civil liability with the IRS for failing to file FBARs. Fogel faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss to any person, whichever is greater.

IRS Recent Onslaught Against Bank Leumi Clients Continues

The Fogel Case is another example of the recent IRS series of victories against former Bank Leumi clients. It is also a direct fallout of the Kalai Case (David Kalai worked with a number of Bank Leumi clients). Bank Leumi itself already admitted late last year to helping its US customers evade income taxes and hide assets.

Bank Leumi Clients and Clients from Other Israeli Banks Should Expect Continuous Pressure from the IRS

With the information already disclosed by other Bank Leumi clients to the IRS as part of their voluntary disclosures through 2011 OVDI, 2012 OVDP and 2014 OVDP, it becomes clear that the IRS has gathered sufficient evidence to investigate and successfully prosecute other Bank Leumi clients, current and former. Bank Leumi itself also agreed to help DOJ efforts against its Bank Leumi clients. It appears that this IRS onslaught against Bank Leumi clients is likely to affect disproportionately the Jewish communities in New York, California and Florida.

However it is not only the Bank Leumi clients that should be worried; as part of its deal with the US Department of Justice, Bank Leumi is required to help the DOJ investigations of other Israeli banks. Given the fact that Bank Leumi is the second largest bank in Israel, one can expect that the information provided by Bank Leumi and Bank Leumi clients is likely to affect all major banks in Israel.

Voluntary Disclosure Options Should Be Explored by Bank Leumi Clients and Clients of Other Israeli Banks

The Fogel case is a somber reminder to Bank Leumi clients that time is running out. For Bank Leumi clients with undisclosed foreign accounts, there is now a high chance of an IRS investigation, imposition of civil penalties and even of criminal prosecution.  Hence, it appears that the best course of action of the Bank Leumi clients and customers of other Israeli banks is to explore their voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Undisclosed Israeli Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign financial accounts and other foreign assets in Israel or through an Israeli bank (and especially if you are one of the Bank Leumi clients), contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional legal and tax help as soon as possible.

Once our experienced international tax law firm will review the facts of your case and recommend the voluntary disclosure options available in your case; you will be able to choose the voluntary disclosure option that best appeals to you. We will then prepare all of the necessary legal documents and tax forms, and Mr. Sherayzen will personally negotiate the final settlement of your case with the IRS, bringing you into full US tax compliance.

So, Contact Us Now to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure of Swiss Accounts and the Program for Banks

Since September, an increasing number of my clients come to me with respect to the offshore voluntary disclosure of Swiss accounts. No doubt that the increase in the offshore voluntary disclosure of Swiss accounts comes from The Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks (the “Program”) initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) on August 29, 2013. In this article, I will try to trace the precise influence of the Program on the offshore voluntary disclosure of Swiss accounts.

The Program

At the end of August of 2013, the DOJ, in cooperation with the Swiss government, instituted the Program. What is the Program? I describe it in detail in this article; for the purpose of the present writing, it is sufficient to state that the Program is essentially a voluntary disclosure program for Swiss Banks, not that dissimilar from the OVDP (the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) now closed.

Essentially, in return for turning over very detailed information about their cross-border operations and U.S. accountholders with accounts over $50,000 (going back to August 1, 2008), the banks receive either a Non-Prosecution Letter or a Non-Target Letter which basically promises that the U.S. government is not going to criminally prosecute or target the participating banks. As in the OVDP, the Program excludes banks currently under the DOJ investigation from participating in the Program. Another similar with the OVDP feature – category 2 banks will pay a hefty penalty.

The Program Increases Pressure on the U.S. Taxpayers to Disclose

U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank accounts in Switzerland cannot personally participate in the Program. Nevertheless, the Program has a tremendously deep impact on these taxpayers.

First, under the Program, the Swiss banks should send out letters to all U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed accounts urging them to do the offshore voluntary disclosure of Swiss accounts. The Swiss banks are not only required to do so, but may actually benefit if the U.S. taxpayers enter the OVDP (due to potential penalty reductions).

Second, the participating Swiss banks should turn over very detailed information with respect to U.S. taxpayers and their Swiss accounts. Hence, there is a tremendously high risk of exposure for all U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed Swiss accounts. Moreover, if the IRS receives the information from the Swiss banks about a U.S. taxpayer’s accounts before such taxpayer enters the OVDP, then the IRS is likely to disqualify such U.S. taxpayer from participating in the OVDP.

Finally, because the participating Swiss banks should further disclose various information related to how they obtained business from U.S. taxpayers in the past, it is likely that the IRS will be able to identify the non-compliant accounts indirectly (i.e. even if a taxpayer is not directly identified by the participating Swiss Bank). This means that U.S. taxpayers who indirectly own undisclosed accounts in Switzerland are also at high risk of detection, investigation and, ultimately, criminal prosecution.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure of Swiss Accounts

As the number of options narrow for U.S. taxpayers, they should seriously consider doing an offshore voluntary disclosure of Swiss accounts.

Be careful, however, not to fall into the trap of thinking that OVDP is the only way to disclosure your Swiss accounts. The exact route of Offshore Voluntary Disclosure of Swiss accounts is likely to depend on the individual circumstances of your case and other venues may be open to you, even though they are not described in the letter that you may have received from a Swiss bank. You should consult an experienced international tax attorney in this matter.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Guidance on the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure of Swiss Accounts

If you are thinking about conducting an Offshore Voluntary Disclosure of Swiss Accounts, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our law firm specializes in helping people like you!