On May 26, 2017, the IRS scored another victory against Offshore Accounts in Panama and again against a senior citizen. This time, Ms. Joyce Meads, a 73-year old Texas resident, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States by using offshore accounts in Panama to conceal more than $1.3 million in royalty income that she earned from oil wells.
Offshore Accounts in Panama: Facts of the Meads Case
According to documents and information provided to the court, from approximately April of 1997 through April of 2010, Ms. Meads conspired with offshore promoters to disguise more than $1.3 million in royalty income (from oil wells) as scholarships and loans from a foreign corporation that she set up.
In particular, Ms. Meads set up nominee companies in Delaware and Panama in the name of W.G. Holdings Corporation. Then, she transferred her interest in the oil wells to the nominee entity in Delaware, which resulted in all of the royalty checks to be issued to W.G. Holdings and sent to a Miami post office box. The checks were picked up there and sent by a courier to Panama to be deposited into Ms. Meads’ nominee accounts. Later, as it was mentioned above, the funds were repatriated as scholarships or loans from W.G. Holdings to herself. Ultimately, the funds ended up on her bank accounts and the accounts that were opened in her mother’s name.
During all of the relevant years, Ms. Meads never reported her income on her tax returns. Nor did she ever file an FBAR with respect to her offshore account in Panama. As part of the guilty plea, Ms. Meads admitted that she caused a tax laws of more than $250,000.
The IRS identified the promoters who helped Ms. Meads in her conspiracy to evade taxes. They are Marc Harris of The Harris Organization, Republic of Panama, and Boyce Griffin of Offshore Management Alliance Ltd., Republic of Panama. Both of them have already been convicted of conspiracy and other charges and were previously sentenced to prison.
Offshore Accounts in Panama: Potential Jail Time and FBAR Penalties
The sentencing of Ms. Meads is scheduled for August 4, 2017. Ms. Meads faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison, a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. The penalties will likely include not only income tax fraud penalties, but also FBAR penalties.
Offshore Accounts in Panama: Lessons from the Meads Case
The Meads case is a classic example of a situation that leads to an IRS criminal investigation. Let’s focus on three main factors here.
First, Ms. Meads was diverting pre-tax US-source income from the United States to an offshore tax shelter. Based just on this fact, the IRS has sufficient incentive to make an example of her. In fact, diverting US-source income to a tax shelter might be the most important factor that led to criminal penalties in this case.
Second, Ms. Meads utilized a shell corporations to hide her income. Involving foreign companies in a tax evasion scheme is a very common factor that leads to an IRS criminal investigation.
Finally, Ms. Meads utilized secret offshore accounts in Panama in her tax evasion scheme – accounts that she never disclosed on her FBARs. By doing so, she granted to the IRS a very powerful weapon in the form of draconian FBAR penalties, not just criminal but also civil. This means that the IRS had a trump card in court to force Ms. Meads to agree to a guilty plea. In other words, with FBAR penalties as a major negotiation weapon, the IRS feels confident to press with the criminal charges for the entire case. While in the Meads case proving the rest of the charges might not have been very difficult, this is not the situation in a lot of other cases.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Disclosing Your Offshore Accounts in Panama and Any Other Foreign Country
If you have undisclosed foreign accounts or any other foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Time may be of the essence, because an IRS investigation may prevent you from participating in any of the main Offshore Voluntary Disclosure initiatives (now closed).
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