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Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Seminar | MSBA, February 22 2022

On February 22, 2022, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an international tax attorney and founder of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., presented at a seminar “IRS Voluntary Disclosure Options for U.S. Owners of a Foreign Business” (the “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Seminar”). The Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Seminar was sponsored by the International Business Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the seminar was conducted online.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Seminar: Focus on Business Lawyers’ Needs

The seminar’s structure was shaped by its audience’s needs. Since Mr. Sherayzen presented to a group of mostly international business lawyers, he adopted a relatively broad approach in his presentation in attempt to cover a large number of topics rather than discuss a few points in depth. The idea behind the seminar was to provide international business lawyers with analytical tools to understand if there was problem with a client’s US international tax compliance that would require a utilization of an offshore voluntary disclosure option.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Seminar: Three Main Parts

Mr. Sherayzen divided the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure seminar into three parts. In the first and smallest part, he discussed the link between Offshore Voluntary Disclosures and international business law. The second part focused on US international tax reporting requirements. Finally, in the third part, the international tax attorney provided a broad overview of the existing offshore voluntary disclosure options.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Seminar: Link between Offshore Voluntary Disclosures and International Business Law

In the first part of the seminar, Mr. Sherayzen discussed the potential relevance of the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure options and US international tax law in general to the audience’s international business law practice. The international tax attorney even described three main scenarios where international business lawyers will need to have awareness of: US international tax reporting requirements and IRS offshore voluntary disclosure options for US owners of a foreign business. At that point, Mr. Sherayzen gave an example from his own practice illustrating his main points.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Seminar: Overview of US International Tax Reporting Requirements for US Owners of a Foreign Business

In the next part of the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure seminar, Mr. Sherayzen provided a broad overview of two major categories of US international tax reporting requirements for individual US taxpayers: US international information returns and income tax recognition.

The international tax attorney first focused on international information returns. After defining the term “information return”, Mr. Sherayzen stated that the type of an information return one needs to file should correspond to the type of a foreign entity for which the return is filed. Then, he described three types of entities that may exist under US international tax law: corporations, partnerships and disregarded entities. Mr. Sherayzen proceeded with a discussion of the most common information returns associated with each of them.

Moreover, the attorney explained that FinCEN Form 114 or FBAR is the main form for reporting of foreign bank and financial accounts in a business context. He also warned the audience against a potential tax trap associated with FBAR reporting for foreign business entities.

Then, Mr. Sherayzen proceeded with an explanation of three major categories of income recognition: distributions, passthrough income and US anti-deferral tax regimes. The latter received the most attention due to their complexity. Three anti-deferral tax regimes were covered: PFICs, Subpart F rules and GILTI.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Seminar: Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options

Mr. Sherayzen began this last major part of his presentation with a definition of the term “offshore voluntary disclosure”. Then, he focused on explaining two critical factors in choosing a voluntary disclosure option: (a) willfulness vs. non-willfulness; and (b) reasonable cause.

After defining these highly-important terms, the attorney laid out all major offshore voluntary disclosure options available to US owners of a foreign business. The presentation covered: IRS Voluntary Disclosure Practice, Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures, Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures and Reasonable Cause (Noisy) Disclosure.

Mr. Sherayzen also discussed the concept of quiet disclosure and why it presented potentially huge risks to noncompliant taxpayers. He emphasized that the IRS stated in the past that it would specifically target this type of a disclosure.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Seminar: Conclusion

The international tax attorney concluded the seminar with a concise due diligence plan of action for business lawyers. He emphasized that, upon discovery of potential US international tax noncompliance, business lawyers should not attempt to fix it themselves. Rather, he argued, they need to contact an international tax attorney for professional help.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help

If you are a US owner of a foreign business and you have not properly complied with your US international tax reporting requirements, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US international tax law, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Florida Streamlined Disclosure Lawyer | International Tax Attorney

Florida is one of the most favorite destinations for immigrants as well as US citizens who do business overseas. Many of these taxpayers own assets in foreign countries and receive income generated by these assets. For this reason, Florida is also one of the leading states when it comes to individuals who wish to go through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (SDOP) or Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (SFOP). These individuals often look for a Florida streamlined disclosure lawyer for professional help, but they do not understand what this term really means. In this essay, I will explain who would be included within the definition of Florida streamlined disclosure lawyer.

Florida Streamlined Disclosure Lawyer: International Tax Lawyer

From the outset, It is important to understand that both SDOP and SFOP are part of US international tax law, because these options deal with US international tax compliance concerning foreign assets and foreign income. In order to be more precise, I should say that SDOP and SFOP fall within a very specific sub-area of US international law – IRS offshore voluntary disclosures.

The knowledge that SDOP and SFOP are part of US international tax law makes you better understand what kind of a lawyer you are looking for when you search for a Florida streamlined disclosure lawyer. In reality, when you are seeking help with the SDOP and SFOP filings, you are searching for an international tax lawyer.

Florida Streamlined Disclosure Lawyer: Specialty in Offshore Voluntary Disclosures

As I stated above, SDOP and SFOP form part of a very specific sub-area of offshore voluntary disclosures. This means that not every international tax lawyer would be able to conduct the necessary legal analysis required to successfully complete an offshore voluntary disclosure, including Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. Only a lawyer who has developed expertise in a very narrow sub-field of offshore voluntary disclosures within US international tax law will be fit for this job.

This means that you are looking for an international tax lawyer who specializes in offshore voluntary disclosure and who is familiar with the various offshore voluntary disclosure options. Offshore voluntary disclosure options include: SDOP (Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures), SFOP (Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures), DFSP (Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures), DIIRSP (Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures), VDP (IRS Voluntary Disclosure Practice) and Reasonable Cause disclosures. Each of these options has it pros and cons, which may have tremendous legal and tax (and, in certain cases, even immigration) implications for your case.

Florida Streamlined Disclosure Lawyer: Geographical Location Does Not Matter

While the expertise and experience in offshore voluntary disclosures are highly important in choosing your international tax lawyer, the geographical location (i.e. the city where the lawyer lives and works) does not matter. I already hinted at why this is the case above: offshore voluntary disclosure options were all created by the IRS and form part of US international (i.e. federal) law. In other words, the local law has no relation whatsoever to the SDOP and SFOP.

This means that you are not limited to Florida when you are looking for a lawyer who can help you with your streamlined disclosure. Any international tax lawyer who specializes in this field may be able to help you, irrespective of whether this lawyer resides in Florida or Minnesota.

Moreover, the development of modern means of communications has pretty much eliminated any communication advantages that a lawyer in Florida might have had in the past over out-of-state lawyers. This is especially true in our world today where the pandemic has greatly reduced the number of face-to-face meetings.

Sherayzen Law Office May Be Your Florida Streamlined Disclosure Lawyer

Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. is a highly-experienced international tax law firm that specializes in all types of offshore voluntary disclosures, including SDOP, SFOP, DFSP, DIIRSP, VDP and Reasonable Cause disclosures. Our professional tax team, led by attorney Eugene Sherayzen, has successfully helped our US clients around the globe, including in Florida, with the preparation and filing of their Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures disclosure. We can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2022 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Pros and Cons

As the year 2021 winds down, US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income need to consider their 2022 offshore voluntary disclosure options. As it has been the case since the second half of 2014 (really the year 2018 when the 2014 OVDP was closed), I expect that Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures will continue to be the flagship voluntary disclosure option in 2022 for US taxpayers who reside in the United States. This is why noncompliant US taxpayers should understand well the main advantages and disadvantages of participating in the 2022 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures.

2022 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Background Information and Purpose

The IRS created the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (usually abbreviated as “SDOP”) on June 18, 2014, though the Certification forms became available only a few months later. Since its introduction, Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures quickly eclipsed the then-existing IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) and became the most popular offshore voluntary disclosure option for US taxpayers who reside in the United States. As we discuss the advantages of the 2022 SDOP, you will quickly understand the reason for this meteoric rise in popularity of the SDOP.

The main purpose of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is to encourage non-willful US taxpayers to voluntarily resolve their prior noncompliance with US international tax reporting requirements in exchange for a reduced penalty, simplified disclosure procedure and a shorter disclosure period. Pretty much any non-willful US international tax noncompliance can be resolved through SDOP: foreign income, FBAR, Form 8938, Form 5471, Form 8621, Form 926, et cetera.

2022 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Main Advantages

In exchange for a voluntary disclosure of their prior tax noncompliance through SDOP, US taxpayers escape income tax penalties and pay only a one-time Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty with respect to their prior failures to file the required US international information returns. It is important to emphasize that the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty replaces not only FBAR penalties, but also penalties for noncompliance with respect to other US international information returns, such as Forms 5471, 8865, 926, et cetera. Depending on the specific circumstances of a case, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is usually below the combined potential penalties normally associated with failure to file these forms. In other words, noncompliant taxpayers can greatly reduce their IRS noncompliance penalties through their participation in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. This is one of the most important SDOP benefits.

Another advantage of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is the limited procedural scope of this voluntary disclosure option. What I mean by this is that the taxpayers should only submit the forms covered by the general statute of limitations unless they choose (i.e. not required, actually choose to do so) to do otherwise. The taxpayers only need to file three (sometime even less) amended US tax returns and six FBARs (sometimes seven and sometimes less than six). This limited disclosure stands in stark contrast with other major voluntary disclosure initiatives, such as 2014 OVDP (which required filings for the past eight years).

Moreover, despite the limited scope of the SDOP filings, taxpayers who utilize the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures are usually able to fully resolve their prior US international tax noncompliance issues even if these years are not included in the actual SDOP filings. This means that the participating taxpayers are able “wipe the slate clean” – i.e. to erase their prior US international tax noncompliance from the time when it began. I should warn, however, that this is not necessarily always the case; I have already encountered efforts from the IRS to open years for which amended tax returns were not submitted (there were specific circumstances, however, in all of these cases that resulted in this increased IRS interference).

The last major advantage of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is that this option only requires to establish non-willfulness rather than reasonable cause. Non-willfulness is a much easier legal standard to satisfy (be careful, this is NOT an “easy standard”, just an easier one) than reasonable cause.

2022 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Main Disadvantages

Usually, participation in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is highly advantageous to noncompliance taxpayers. However, there are some disadvantages and shortcomings in this program. In this article, I will concentrate only on the three most important of them.

First, this voluntary disclosure option is open only to taxpayers who filed their US tax returns for prior years. This requirement is the exact opposite of the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”) which allows for the late filing of original returns.

The problem is that there is a large segment of taxpayers who were perfectly non-willful in their prior US international tax noncompliance, but they never filed their US tax returns either due to special life circumstances (such as death in the family, illness, unemployment, et cetera), they were negligent or they believed that they were not required to file them (especially in situations where all of their income comes from foreign sources). These taxpayers would be barred from participating in the SDOP.

Second, when they participate in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, the taxpayers have the burden of proof to establish their non-willfulness with respect to their inability to timely report their foreign income as well as file FBARs and other US international information returns. Outside of the SDOP, the IRS has the burden of proof to establish willfulness; if it cannot carry this burden, then the taxpayer is automatically considered non-willful.

The problem is that most cases have positive and negative facts at the same time. This means that a lot of taxpayers are actually in the “gray” area between willfulness and non-willfulness. In many of these cases, the burden of proof may play a critical role in determining whether a taxpayer is eligible to participate in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. By the way, this decision should be made only by an experienced international tax attorney who specializes in this area of law, such as Mr. Eugene Sherayzen of Sherayzen Law Office.

Finally, participation in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures does not provide a definitive closure to its participants. Unlike OVDP, SDOP does not offer a Closing Agreement without an audit; there may be a follow-up audit after the IRS processes your voluntary disclosure package This means that going through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures may not be the end of your case; the IRS can actually audit you over the next three years. If this happens, the audit of your voluntary disclosure will focus not only on the correctness of your disclosure, but also on the truthfulness and correctness of your non-willfulness certification.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With 2022 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts or any other foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your offshore voluntary disclosure. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their offshore voluntary disclosures, including Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. We can also help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure: Problems & Opportunities

The advancement of coronavirus in the United States and around the world has significantly disrupted the normal conditions and assumptions for a US taxpayer who engages in an offshore voluntary disclosure of his unreported foreign income and foreign assets. I will refer to a voluntary disclosure conducted in this context of the coronavirus disruptions as Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure. In this essay, I would like to discuss the most unique problems and opportunities that arise in the context of a Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure.

Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure: Most Important Problems

The spread of coronavirus created two important problems to conducting an offshore voluntary disclosure of foreign assets and foreign income.

The first and most significant problem is the ability of taxpayers to obtain the information necessary for the correct completion of US international information returns such as FBAR (FinCEN Form 114), Form 8938, Form 8865, Form 5471, et cetera. Oftentimes, in order to complete these returns, taxpayers have to retrieve information from many years ago.

This is a difficult task even without the coronavirus, because electronic access is often limited to just a few years. In cases that involve small and regional banks, the electronic access to information may simply not exist. Hence, a taxpayer often has to engage in a long process of mailing letters to banks requesting information; it is also a standard practice for taxpayers to personally travel to a foreign financial institution to obtain the necessary information.

The coronavirus prohibitions have made such travel virtually impossible due to cancellation of flights between countries. Even traveling within a country has been severely impacted. Moreover, there have been significant disruptions to ability of taxpayers to access financial institutions in the quarantined areas, such as northern Italy. Many financial institutions have simply closed their branches and ceased to operate in a normal way.

The combination of all of these factors has significantly curtailed taxpayers’ ability to collect the vital information necessary for the completion of an offshore voluntary disclosure.

The second most important problem caused by the coronavirus panic are communication disruptions. During a voluntary disclosure, taxpayers need to have access to their financial advisors and their international tax attorney. I’ve already explained above how the coronavirus bank closures have affected such communications.

The most significant communication issue between a taxpayer and his international tax attorney has been limited to mailing documents, particularly securing an original signature for Certifications of Non-Willfulness, Reasonable Cause Statements, amended tax returns and certain other IRS documents (such as Extension of Statute of Limitations in the context of an IRS audit). The coronavirus containment procedures have affected the flow of regular mail around the world and have caused significant delays in obtaining signed documents from clients.

It should mentioned that the normal communications between a client and his attorney were not significantly impacted. If there were any communication problems, this is most likely the result of the attorney’s failure to take advantage of modern means of communication.

Sherayzen Law Office’s usage of email, phone, Skype, Viber and certain other platforms for information exchange and other modern means of communication has assured continuous and uninterrupted communication between our firm and our clients. We have also encouraged and helped our clients to adopt certain procedures to mitigate other problems that have risen as a result of the coronavirus panic.

Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure: Unique Opportunities

The coronavirus panic created not only unusual problems, but also unique opportunities for taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income. I will discuss here the two most important coronavirus opportunities.

First, the spread of this virus has given more time for noncompliant US taxpayers to bring their tax affairs into compliance with US tax laws. Not only has the IRS ability to pursue new international tax cases has been impacted by the virus, but the IRS moved the tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020. This means that taxpayers suddenly have three more months to work on their offshore voluntary disclosures without any interruption with respect to current tax compliance.

Second, more time means that taxpayers now can plan for and adopt more complex and beneficial strategies with respect to their offshore voluntary disclosures. For example, taxpayers who were planning to file extensions can now adopt a strategy to shift their voluntary disclosure period by timely filing their 2019 tax returns and 2019 FBARs.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

If you have undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

The Booker Case: ex-CPA Indicted for FBAR violations | FBAR Lawyer News

On August 27, 2019, the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Mr. Brian Booker, a former resident of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, whose business specialized in international trade, with failing to file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBARs”) and filing false documents with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Let’s discuss the Booker case in more detail.

Facts of the Booker Case According to Indictment

Mr. Booker was a Certified Public Accountant who owned a Panamanian cocoa trading company. He allegedly operated that company from Venezuela, Panama, and his former residence in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The superseding indictment alleges that, for calendar years 2011 through 2013, Mr. Booker failed to disclose his interest in financial accounts located in Switzerland, Singapore, and Panama on annual Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs) as required by law. Booker also allegedly filed false individual income tax returns for tax years 2010 through 2012 that failed to report to the IRS all of his foreign bank accounts.

Moreover, the indictment alleges that Mr. Booker filed a false offshore voluntary disclosure under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. The superseding indictment claims that Mr. Booker’s Streamlined submission falsely claimed that his failure to report all income, pay all tax and submit all required information returns, such as FBARs, was due to non-willful conduct.

The Booker Case: Potential Criminal Penalties

If convicted, Mr. Booker faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for each count related to his failure to file an FBAR. He also faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison for each of the counts related to filing false tax documents.

The Booker Case: Mr. Booker is Presumed Innocent Until Proven Guilty

The readers should remember than an indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The Booker Case: Potential Lesson for Streamlined Filers

The Booker case contains two valuable lessons for other US taxpayers who utilize the Streamlined Compliance Options, such as Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”).

First, SDOP and SFOP are reserved for non-willful taxpayers only. If you were willful in your noncompliance, utilizing these options can result in a criminal investigation. It is not known if the IRS commenced the investigation of Mr. Booker due to his SDOP filing, but it is very possible that this was the case.

Second, the IRS does not simply “rubber-stamp” all SDOP and SFOP submissions. Taxpayers should expect a rigorous review of their cases.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

If you are a taxpayer who has not filed his required FBARs, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to utilize various offshore voluntary disclosure options, including SDOP and SFOP, to bring themselves into full compliance with US tax laws, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!