Archive for the ‘Offshore Accounts’ Category
Monday, September 21st, 2009
WASHINGTON ─ The Internal Revenue Service today announced a one-time extension of the deadline for special voluntary disclosures by taxpayers with unreported income from hidden offshore accounts. These taxpayers now have until Oct. 15, 2009. See http://tinyurl.com/mv9oub and NY Times http://tinyurl.com/nleozr
Under special provisions issued in March, taxpayers with these hidden accounts originally had until Sept. 23, 2009 to come forward. Those taxpayers who do not voluntarily disclose their hidden accounts by the new deadline face much harsher civil penalties, where applicable, and possible criminal prosecution.
IRS officials decided to extend this deadline after receiving repeated requests from tax practitioners and attorneys around the country following an influx of taxpayer requests. By extending the deadline for a short period of time, the IRS is providing relief for those taxpayers who had intended to come forward prior to the deadline, but faced logistical and administrative challenges in meeting it. The extension will allow tax preparers and attorneys the necessary time to interview and advise their backlog of taxpayers with these hidden accounts, and prepare the necessary paperwork to qualify for the special penalty provisions.
The IRS also announced that there will be no further extensions.
No legal opinion here.
Monday, June 22nd, 2009
The U.S. Treasury Department announced on June 19 (see Treasury Press Releases) that Switzerland will agree to more exchange of financial information for tax enforcement purposes. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the new accord “will increase our ability to enforce our tax laws and will help bring an end to an era of offshore accounts and investments being used for tax evasion.”
Officials said the protocol would revise the existing US-Switzerland income tax treaty to allow for the exchange of information for income tax purposes “to the full extent permitted by Article 26 of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Model Income Tax Convention.”
Article 26 of the OECD Model Income Tax Convention is the “exchange of information” clause that most countries use as their “exchange of information” paragraph in International Tax Treaties. The change in the US–Swiss Tax Treaty means that the Switzerland definition of “tax fraud” will not control the information that may be given to the US authorities under the US - Swiss Tax Treaty. In the past, Switzerland would not give information to the US under a tax treaty request unless the information led to “tax fraud” as defined by the Swiss law. “Tax fraud” under Swiss law is very narrow and does not meet the US standard of “tax evasion” that most US tax treaty requests encompass.
Article 26 of the OECD Model Income Tax Convention states:
“The competent authorities of the Contracting States shall exchange such information as is foreseeably relevant for carrying out the provisions of this Convention or to the administration or enforcement of the domestic laws concerning taxes of every kind and description imposed on behalf of the Contracting States, or of their political subdivisions or local authorities, insofar as the taxation thereunder is not contrary to the Convention.”
Now, the question will become, after the US - Swiss change, what if “foreseeably relevant” in the Switzerland’s opinion. This may be a whole new area for litigation in Switzerland and the US for the collection of financial information from Switzerland.
Hey, no tax opinon here.
Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Here are a couple of the FAQs the IRS published yesterday on its web site regarding offshore accounts:
1. Why did the IRS issue internal guidance regarding offshore activities now?
The IRS has had a voluntary disclosure practice in its Criminal Manual for many years. Once IRS Criminal Investigation has determined preliminary acceptance into the voluntary disclosure program, the case is referred to the civil side of IRS for examination and resolution of taxes and penalties. Recent IRS enforcement efforts in the offshore area have led to an increased number of voluntary disclosures. Additional taxpayers are considering making voluntary disclosures but are reportedly reluctant to come forward because of uncertainty about the amount of their liability for potentially onerous civil penalties. In order to resolve these cases in an organized, coordinated manner and to make exposure to civil penalties more predictable, the IRS has decided to centralize the civil processing of offshore voluntary disclosures and to offer a uniform penalty structure for taxpayers who voluntarily come forward. These steps were taken to ensure thattaxpayers are treated consistently and predictably.
3. Why should I make a voluntary disclosure?
Taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts or entities should make a voluntary disclosure because it enables them to become compliant, avoid substantial civil penalties and generally eliminate the risk of criminal prosecution. Making a voluntary disclosure also provides the opportunity to calculate, with a reasonable degree of certainty, the total cost of resolving all offshore tax issues. Taxpayers who do not submit a voluntary disclosure run the risk of detection by the IRS and the imposition of substantial penalties, including the fraud penalty and foreign information return penalties, and an increased risk of criminal prosecution.
Remember the IRS deadline for this voluntary disclosure deal is September 23, 2009.
Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Yesterday, May 6, 2009, the IRS posted on its website FAQs on more details of the settlement offer for unreported offshore income. The FAQs discuss the recently announced program for voluntary disclosure to the IRS of offshore bank accounts. The official Voluntary Disclosure can be found Click Here.
Those meeting the terms of the disclosure program will have to pay back-taxes and interest for six years, and pay either an accuracy or delinquency penalty on all six years. They will also pay a penalty of 20% of the amount in the foreign bank accounts in the year with the highest aggregate account or asset value, but will avoid criminal prosecution. The FAQs provide examples of what it would cost to take the settlement offer, spell out the potential civil and criminal penalties for those that don’t take the offer, and address the consequences of attempted “quiet disclosure” (i.e., filing amended returns). See FAQs Click Here.
If you have an unreported offshore bank account, it is important to consider the Voluntary Disclosure program. Coming forward and disclosing your information may save you a lot of money in penalties and, more importantly, may avoid criminal prosecution. In my practice, we offer legal expertise in this area along with accounting expertise. A former IRS International Revenue Agent works exclusively for me on my client’s cases. We analyze your entire situation including foreign transactions, amended returns, reporting requirements and meeting and negotiating with the IRS.
As always, my practice is client focused.
Lowrance Law LLC
703 506 1600
No Legal Opinion Here
Friday, March 13th, 2009
Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg agreed to share secret banking information in cases of tax evasion on Friday. Basically, these havens are agreeing to the OECD standards on financial information sharing. Of course, this is not an open season on the bank and financial information. These countries will consider various requests from other countries for banking information on a case by case basis.
The IRS has information sharing agreements with many tax havens, or as they like to call themselves–offshore financial centers. None of the countries, however, automatically turn over bank or financial upon a request from the IRS. There is a lot more to the process and procedure. Using various laws and procedures, the person or business subject of the request can delay or stop the requests. When I was a trial attorney for the Office of Chief Counsel, IRS, International Division I was involved in many local countries court proceeding challenging the IRS request. Some challenges are successful.
Anyway, read the NY Times story on the recent Swiss agreement:
The Swiss government bowed to pressure on Friday and agreed to conform to international standards on exchanging information in suspected cases of tax evasion, but it maintained that its principle of banking secrecy was in tact.
Two other countries, Austria and Luxembourg, announced steps to fend off a global crackdown on tax evasion by offering concessions before a meeting of leaders from the Group of 20 nations in London at the start of next month.
Read the whole story Click Here NYT
In another story, the Cayman Islands “Leader of Government Business,” Kirk Tibbets, announced that he and others from the Caymans met with US Congress to brief new members about the Cayman’s laws, positions and cooperation in sharing information under various agreements:
Part of the press release said: “[Purpose] to brief new members of key House and Senate committees about the quality of Cayman’s regulatory and international cooperation regimes, with specific reference to our longstanding and effective arrangements with the United States, and to glean any available intelligence on the US position in relation to the April G20 Summit.
My colleagues and I covered, between us, 30 meetings over two days. The people we met were receptive to what we had to say and appeared to have no particular ‘anti-Cayman’ - or even ‘anti- offshore’ - agenda. That is not to say that there are not those members of Congress who do, but they do not appear to reflect the majority sentiment. What came through most forcefully was that the policy environment in Washington is very fluid at the moment, and most of people’s energies and attentions are, understandably, taken up with the US economy, budget and financial system.”
Read the whole press release: Click Here
No legal opinion here
Sunday, January 11th, 2009
According to the NYT, the Swiss Bank UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager, is going to return about $18 billion dollars to more than 19,000 account holders most of whom are US citizens. The US citizens holding the accounts, according to the IRS and Justice Department, have evaded at least $300 million a year in taxes, and that does not count penalties and interest.
In its article, “What to Do if UBS is Outing Your Secret Account,” NYT lists possible strategies to take in dealing with the IRS – see also NYT artcle about UBS’ plan to disclose accounts. If you have held such an account, your best choice to try and avoid criminal prosecution is to voluntarily disclosure your situation to the IRS. You may not be prosecuted, the choice is up to the Justice Department and the IRS, but you will have to report all your accounts and income and pay taxes, penalties and interest. Of course, paying money is better than sitting in a prison cell.
When I worked as an attorney in the Office of Chief Counsel, IRS, I specialized in criminal and civil tax matters involving offshore tax havens and hidden money. We had to decide how to investigate cases, get the money back and determine civil or criminal steps to take. We often collected millions of dollars in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.
If you have the offshore account that has not been reported, do not wait for the IRS to knock on your door.
Monday, January 5th, 2009
Accounting Web posted a great article about famous tax cheats for 2008—sort of a looking back for tax cheaters.
The list: Wesley Snipes, Joe Francis (Girls Gone Wild), Nicholas Cage, Helio Castroneves and Paul Hogan (Crocodile) among others.
Read the whole story Click Here
Monday, December 15th, 2008
The IRS announced that it is hiring senior level Economists and Internal Revenue Agents (International Examiner, Financial Products & Transactions Examiner, and Team Member/Domestic Agents for entry on duty in March and April 2009. This is another indicator that the IRS will be stepping up enforcement efforts in 2009 and subsequent years. Special emphasis will be on international transaction including offshore bank accounts, offshore trusts, offshore income and other cross border transactions.
IRS Announcement: See Whole Article Here
“Do you have a specialty in tax administration? Do you have family, friends, or neighbors with this expertise who might be interested in joining the Internal Revenue Service? If so, look no further—the Large and Mid-Size Business (LMSB) Division of the Internal Revenue Service has challenging positions available now!
LMSB is seeking to fill 100 technical GS-11, GS-12, and GS-13 positions nationwide, including Economists and Internal Revenue Agents (International Examiner, Financial Products & Transactions Examiner, and Team Member/Domestic Agent) with entry on-duty dates planned for March and April 2009. To view more details and apply for these vacancies, visit the Office of Personnel Management Web site for IRS jobs at: http://jobsearch.usajobs.opm.gov/a9trirs.asp . Select “Economist” or “Internal Revenue Agent” under Occupational Series and click on Search for Jobs.”
Lowrance Law LLC
Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Thanks to Tax Prof Blog for A NYT Story on the expanded US Justice Department and IRS investigation of foreign banks, Credit-Suisse and HSBC and their private banking services.
The new investigation relates to the present investigation into UBS Bank in Switzerland See See Prior Post. The IRS and US Department of Justice (DOJ) are really looking for US citizens who are stashing money and assets in foreign accounts without reporting such accounts in filings with the IRS. This investigation will come to fruition in the next several months to a year or more. In this type of investigation, the government moves forward slowly and methodically. The IRS and DOJ have to conduct the investigaitons using various international information gathering treaties and agreements.
Don’t worry, however, the wheels of justice grind slowly. The IRS and DOJ will eventually get some information about US citizens putting money in foreign bank accounts. The information will be used to identify the people, find their tax filings, updated contact information and reported financial holdings. The resulting case will go through either the civil or criminal process. If you have a foreign account you have reported to the IRS, carefully plan your future.
Your Virginia Tax Attorney
Lowrance Law LLC
Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
Some US citizens who have secret, offshore Swiss bank accounts are hiring attorneys and going to the IRS to disclose the unreported accounts. All this activity stems from the prior indictment of a UBS bank executive for providing some US citizens with aggressive, advanced tax avoidance (evasion?) schemes. See prior post Click Here. Various news accounts report that over 20,000 US citizens have secret Swiss accounts at UBS. Of course, foreign accounts must be reported when you file your tax return. Not reporting the foreign accounts is a separate criminal tax violation.
A Reuters story reports that some USB clients are hiring tax lawyers to pursue amnesty using the IRS voluntary disclosure program. See Reuters Article
The IRS voluntary disclosure program is a little known method to disclose to the IRS any tax violations so that you can, hopefully, avoid criminal prosecution. See IRS Disclosure Announcement. The voluntary disclosure program is utililzed by tax attorneys in assiting clients before a criminal tax investigation starts. Just so you know, when a Special Agent of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CID) knocks on your door, you are in serious trouble. A “voluntary disclosure” does not automatically guarantee immunity from prosecution; however, a voluntary disclosure may result in prosecution not being recommended. This practice does not apply to taxpayers with illegal source income.
If you have one of the UBS accounts, find a good tax attorney and consider alternatives, including voluntary disclosure, to take before the CID agents come to your door.
Your Virginia Tax Attorney