Mr. Sherayzen Completes Immigration and International Tax Law Seminar

On February 18, 2016, Mr. Sherayzen, in cooperation with two lawyers (an immigration lawyer and a business lawyer) completed another immigration and international tax law seminar “Foreign Investment in the United States: Key Immigration, Business and Tax Considerations”.

During this immigration and international tax law seminar, the immigration lawyer, Mr. Streff, covered a wide range of topics including investors visas, such as E-2 and EB-5, and alternative options for entrepreneurs, such as L-1 intracompany transferees, EB-1 and O-1 extraordinary ability, and National Interest Waivers’ through the Entrepreneurs Pathways initiative.

While immigration and international tax law issues were at the center of the seminar, a substantial part of the seminar was also devoted to business issues associated with various immigration options. The business lawyer, Mr. Vollmers, covered relevant business issues of appropriate entity formation, business plans, international business relationships, investment due diligence, and funds tracing.

Mr. Sherayzen’s presentation focused on the intersection of immigration and international tax law, especially U.S. tax residency classification, disclosure of foreign income and foreign assets, and foreign business ownership compliance requirements. U.S. tax residency is a concept completely different from U.S. permanent residence or “green card” and it occupies the center of any tax inquiry that involves immigration to the United States.

A lot of attention was given to tax compliance requirements with respect to another common intersection of immigration and international tax law issues – business ownership tax compliance issues associated with L-1 visa structures. In particular, Mr. Sherayzen discussed Forms 5471, 5472, 8865 and 8858 as well as PFIC and Subpart F antideferral regimes.

During the seminar, Mr. Sherayzen spent a substantial amount of time to one of the most important points of convergence of immigration and international tax law – reporting of foreign financial assets. Here, he explained the importance of FBAR and Form 8938, as well as FATCA.

Another part of Mr. Sherayzen’s presentation was devoted to the importance of pre-immigration tax planning. It is important for persons who plan to immigrate to the United States to contact a U.S. international tax attorney before they actually become U.S. persons. The international tax attorney should review their existing asset structure and advise on how this structure should be modified in order to avoid the various U.S. tax landmines and maximize favorable treatment under U.S. tax law. Special attention should be paid not only to income tax rules, but also estate and gift tax laws.

Mr. Sherayzen ended his presentation with the emphasis that immigration lawyers are at the forefront of international tax compliance, because they are usually the first to deal with persons who immigrate to the United States. Therefore, it is highly important for the immigration lawyers to be able to identify the most common junctions of immigration and international tax law issues and timely advise their clients to seek professional international tax help.

Last Swiss Bank Program Category 2 Resolution

On January 27, 2016, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) declared the last Swiss Bank Program Category 2 Resolution. The Swiss Bank Program was proclaimed on August 29, 2013, and constituted an unprecedented triumph of US economic might over the most formidable bank secrecy bulwark (though, already a greatly weakened one since the 2008 UBS case) which Switzerland had been for hundreds of years.

Under the Swiss Bank Program, the Swiss banks were forced to turn over a large amount of information regarding foreign accounts held by US persons, cooperate with US information requests, and, in case of category 2 banks, pay a fine. In return, the Swiss banks were provided a guarantee against US criminal prosecution in the form of non-prosecution agreements.

The Swiss Bank Program was successful, though not every eligible Swiss bank actually chose to participate in the Program. The most profitable part of the Program consisted of the Category 2 banks, which had to pay fines as a condition of their participation in the Swiss Bank Program.

The first resolution with a Category 2 bank occurred on March 30, 2015. On January 27, 2016, the last Swiss Bank Program Category 2 resolution took place after reaching a Non-Prosecution Agreement with HSZH Verwaltungs AG (HSZH).

In total, the DOJ signed Non-Prosecution Agreements with about 80 banks and collected more than $1.36 billion in Swiss Bank Penalties, including $49 million from the last Swiss Bank Program Category 2 resolution. While this amount pales in comparison with the originally-projected amounts (due to penalty mitigation), the enormous impact the Program has had on the worldwide US tax compliance and convincing foreign governments to accept FATCA render this Program an important success for the US government.

The final Swiss Bank Program Category 2 resolution marked the end of the Category 2 part of the Swiss Bank Program, but an important question remains – will we see the re-appearance of the Swiss Bank Program with Category 2 banks in another country? While the implementation of FATCA reduces the probability of a chance of another program similar to Swiss Bank Program, one cannot fully discount this possibility. It is possible that the IRS will identify another important center (such as the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Isle of Mann, Singapore, et cetera) of US tax non-compliance based on the information collected in the Swiss Bank Program and attack this center.

On the other hand, one can also see the appearance of a global “Swiss Bank Program” which banks of any country can enter in order to prevent US criminal prosecution.

Whatever form the future voluntary disclosure program for foreign banks will take, one can be certain that the last Swiss Bank Program Category 2 Resolution with HSZH was not the last IRS enforcement effort with respect to foreign banks.

Swiss Bank Program Penalties Bring More than $1 Billion

On December 23, 2015, as US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it reached resolutions with Bank J. Safra Sarasin AG, Coutts & Co Ltd, Gonet & Cie and Banque Cantonal du Valais, it also announced that Swiss Bank Program Penalties reached a landmark – more than $1 Billion. At that time, in addition to Swiss Bank Program Penalties, DOJ also reached agreements with 75 Swiss Banks.

As a reminder to readers, the DOJ Swiss Bank Program was announced by DOJ on August 29, 2013 (per agreement with Swiss government). The Program provides a framework for Swiss Banks to resolve their US tax issues (or “cross-border criminal tax violations”) in exchange for information about the Banks’ US accountholders and, for Category 2 banks, Swiss Bank Program Penalties.

Moreover, according to the terms of the non-prosecution agreements signed by Swiss banks under the Program, Swiss Banks agree to cooperate in any related criminal and civil proceedings, show that the Banks implemented controls to avoid future misconduct with respect to US-held accounts.

While the percentages of Swiss Bank Program Penalties are firmly established, under the terms of the Program, the banks are allowed to mitigate their Swiss Bank Program Penalties if they can show that their US accountholders are either in compliance with their US tax obligations or they entered the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (and, later, Streamlined Procedures).

It should be noted that more Swiss banks reached resolutions with DOJ under the Program since December 23, 2015. This means that the DOJ has already collected even more Swiss Bank Program Penalties.

These resolutions under the Program concern not only Swiss Banks and Swiss Bank Program Penalties, but they also have direct relevance to US owners of undeclared Swiss bank accounts. Two major consequences arise for US taxpayers with undisclosed accounts from their Swiss Bank participation in the Program. First, there is a direct impact of information exchange between the participating Bank and the IRS which may lead to the discovery of the undisclosed accounts by US tax authorities. The subsequent IRS investigation is likely to render any future participation of the taxpayer in the OVDP impossible.

Second, if the participating bank reaches resolution and pays its Swiss Bank Program Penalties to the DOJ before the taxpayer enters OVDP (or, more precisely, files the Preclearance Request), the OVDP penalty on all (not just the taxpayer’s accounts in the participating Bank’s) of the taxpayer’s accounts will jump to 50% (from the normal 27.5%).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

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US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: General Overview

There is a common misconception among Green Card Holders (a common name for US permanent residents) that their US income tax obligations are limited in nature in comparison to US citizens. In this article, I seek to dispel this erroneous myth and provide some general outlines of the US income tax obligations of Green Card Holders.

US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: Worldwide Income Reporting

I receive a lot of phone calls from Green Card holders who believe that their US income tax reporting obligations are limited only to US-source income (sourcing of income, by the way, is also a very complex subject and I often see egregious mistakes committed even by experienced accountants).

This is not correct. In fact, US permanent residents and US citizens are both considered to be “tax residents of the United States.” US tax residents are required to report their worldwide income on US tax returns and pay US income taxes on foreign-source income (and, obviously, US-source income).

Thus, if you have a Green Card and you have foreign assets (such as foreign bank and financial accounts, foreign businesses, foreign trusts, et cetera), you must report the income from such foreign assets on your US tax returns.

Be careful! You must remember that all foreign income must be reported in US dollars and according to US tax laws. Leaving aside the issue of currency conversion (which is a topic for another article), the reporting of foreign income under US tax laws may be extremely challenging because foreign tax laws may treat this income in a different manner. Let me emphasize this point – the treatment of income under foreign local tax rules may not actually be the same as the treatment of the same income under US tax rules.

For example, Assurance Vie accounts in France may be completely tax-exempt if certain conditions are met. However, the annual income from these accounts must be reported on US tax returns.

Moreover, to make matters worse, these accounts may contain PFIC (Passive Foreign Investment Company) investments which are treated in a very complex and generally unfavorable manner under US tax laws. The calculation of US tax liability in this case may be extremely complex (especially since the French banks are not required to keep the kind of information that is necessary to properly calculation PFIC tax and interest).

US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: Reporting of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts

As US tax residents, the Green Card holders are also required to disclose their ownership of certain foreign bank and financial accounts to the IRS. Many US permanent residents are shocked to learn about these requirements and the draconian penalties associated with failure to file the required information reports.

The top two bank and financial account reporting requirements are FinCEN Form 114 (known as “FBAR” – the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) and Form 8938 (which was born out of FATCA). Other forms, such as Form 8621, may apply.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss these requirements in detail. However, it is impossible to overstate their importance, especially the FBAR, due to potentially astronomical non-compliance penalties (including criminal penalties). You can find more information about these requirements at

US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: Reporting of Foreign Business Ownership

Many US permanent residents are surprised to find out that they may be required to provide detailed reports about their foreign businesses – corporations, partnerships and disregarded entities. Indeed, Green Card holders may be subject to burdensome and expensive US reporting requirements on Forms 5471, 8865, 926, 8938, et cetera. These forms may require Green Card holders to provide foreign financial statements translated under US accounting standards, including US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices).

Again, you can find more information about these requirement at

US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: Reporting of Foreign Trusts

Another complex trap for Green Card Holders is reporting of an ownership or a beneficiary interest in a foreign trust (generally, on Form 3520). This complicated topic is beyond the scope of this article, but you can find more information about these requirements at

US Income Tax Obligations of Green Card Holders: Other Reporting Requirements

There are numerous other US income tax obligations of Green Card Holders that may apply. Moreover, US has multiple income tax treaties with various countries which may modify your particular tax situation. In order to fully determine your US tax obligations as a Green Card holder, it is best to consult with an experienced international tax attorney.

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Sherayzen Law Office is a specialized international tax law firm which is highly experienced in helping US Permanent Residents with their US income tax obligations and reporting requirements. One of the unique features of our firm is that our tax team provides both legal and accounting services to our clients throughout the world.

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Streamlined Domestic Offshore Compliance Process

In a previous article, I discussed the eligibility requirement with respect to the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. In this article, I would like to explore the specific filing requirements under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures.

As a side note, it is important to emphasize that this is just an educational article on the general overview of technical filing requirements. However, this article does not constitute legal advice and omits some very important complexities that may arise in individual cases. This is why I strongly discourage pro se (i.e. self-representation) disclosures under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. On the contrary, the decision to engage in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore option should only be handled by an experienced international tax lawyer.

The Streamlined Domestic offshore filings can be organized in the following seven parts. Note that not all of the discussed requirements may apply in some cases and additional documents may be required in other cases.

1. Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: U.S. Tax Returns

Very precise instructions were issued by the IRS with respect to filing U.S. tax returns under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore procedures. For each of the most recent 3 years for which the U.S. tax return due date (or properly applied for extended due date) has passed, the taxpayer must submit Form 1040X together with any of the required information returns (e.g., Forms 3520, 3520-A, 5471, 5472, 8938, 926, and 8621).

The taxpayer should include at the top of the first page of each delinquent or amended tax return and at the top of each information return “Streamlined Domestic Offshore” written in red to indicate that the returns are being submitted under these procedures. The IRS warns that this is critical to ensure that the taxpayer’s returns are processed through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. My practice is to apply the same stamp to each of the required information returns submitted under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, even if these returns are attached to the amended tax returns.

Two important issues must be kept in mind when submitting tax returns under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. First, the information returns mentioned above (e.g. Forms 3520, 3520-A, 5471, 5472, 8938, 926, and 8621) should be submitted with the amended U.S. income tax returns even if these information returns would normally not be submitted with the Form 1040 had the taxpayer filed a complete and accurate original return.

Second, the taxpayer may not file delinquent income tax returns (including Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) using Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. This is one of the most critical differences between the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.

2. Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Payment of Tax Due

Together with the U.S. tax returns, the taxpayer should submit the payment of all tax due as reflected on the tax returns and all applicable statutory interest with respect to each of the late payment amounts. The taxpayer’s taxpayer identification number must be included on each check. Under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, the taxpayer is not required to pay any failure-to-pay penalties and accuracy-related penalties,

3. Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: FBARs

The Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures follow the FBAR statute of limitations and require the taxpayer to file delinquent FBARs for each of the most recent 6 years for which the FBAR due date has passed. The FBARs should be filed according to the FBAR instructions and they should include a statement explaining that the FBARs are being filed as part of the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures.

All FBARs must be e-filed at FinCen. On the cover page of the electronic form, select “Other” as the reason for filing late. An explanation box will appear. In the explanation box, enter “Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures.” While not required, it may be beneficial to include a more expanded statement to briefly state the circumstances – it is the job of an international tax attorney to critically look at his client’s case and see if this is the right strategy.

4. Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Payment of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty

In a stark contrast to Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures option requires the participating taxpayers to pay the Title 26 Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty of 5%. The definition of the Title 26 Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is beyond the scope of this article; however, you can read this article I posted earlier for a more elaborate discussion of this penalty and how it is calculated.

The check for the payment of the Miscellaneous Offshore penalty should be made payable to the “United States Treasury” and the taxpayer’s taxpayer identification number must be included on the check.

5. Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Certification of Non-Willfulness (IRS Form 14654)

This is the most critical part of the voluntary disclosure package under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. The taxpayer must complete and sign Form 14654, “Certification by U.S. Person Residing in the United States for Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures”. The taxpayer must submit the original signed Form 14654 to the IRS. Furthermore, he must also attach copies of the statement to each tax return and information return being submitted through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures.

The IRS warns that failure to submit this statement, or submission of an incomplete or otherwise deficient statement, will result in returns being processed in the normal course without the benefit of the favorable terms of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures.

At this point, the IRS does not currently require the attachment of copies of Form 14654 to FBARs, but this may change in the future.

6. Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Late Deferral Requests

The taxpayer may also use the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures to make retroactive elections requests. If the taxpayer seeks relief for failure to timely elect deferral of income from certain retirement or savings plans where deferral is permitted by an applicable treaty, he should submit the following items as part of his disclosure package under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures:

a). A statement requesting an extension of time to make an election to defer income tax and identifying the applicable treaty provision;

b). A dated statement signed by you under penalties of perjury describing: (i) the events that led to the failure to make the election; (ii) the events that led to the discovery of the failure, and (iii) if the taxpayer relied on a professional advisor, the nature of the advisor’s engagement and responsibilities; and

c). For relevant Canadian plans, a Form 8891 for each tax year and each plan and a description of the type of plan covered by the submission.

7. Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Mailing Address as of January 29, 2015

Once the above-described documents are gathered into one package (together with the payments), this package should be sent in paper format to the following address:

Internal Revenue Service
3651 South I-H 35Stop 6063 AUSC
Attn: Streamlined Domestic Offshore
Austin, TX 78741

This address may only be used for returns filed under Streamlined Offshore Domestic Procedures and may change over time; so an international tax lawyer should verify any changes to the address prior to submission of any documents under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help with Your Voluntary Disclosure Under Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

If you have undisclosed foreign financial accounts and other assets, please contact Mr. Eugene Sherayzen an experienced tax attorney, owner of Sherayzen Law Office for legal and tax help. Our experienced international tax firm specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures and we can help you.

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