June 2009 Archives

FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report TD 90-22.1) Tax Audits

June 30, 2009,

I have been speaking a lot lately to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) tax amnesty hotline to obtain answers to the many practical questions that have arisen under the IRS FBAR Tax Amnesty a.k.a. Voluntary Disclosure Program. One question I have had is, “Where in the country will the civil tax audits under the tax amnesty program take place?” The agent that I spoke with at the tax amnesty hotline told me the current belief among IRS employees is that the tax audits will be centralized. Twenty revenue agents have undergone tax amnesty training in New York, and additional revenue agents will be trained — probably in California.

According to what I was told, the tax amnesty revenue agents have only just begun looking at civil tax audits, and these are for voluntary disclosures that were made before the IRS issued its tax amnesty guidelines. My guess is that voluntary disclosures being filed now will not undergo a civil tax audits by the IRS for another 6 months.

If you are considering a voluntary disclosure under the IRS tax amnesty program, contact the tax attorneys at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C. for a consultation. No one should consider contacting the IRS without first having spoken with a qualified tax litigation attorney who understands all of the details of your case.

New Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) FAQs Issued

June 25, 2009,

The IRS has just issued new FAQs related to the tax amnesty for failing to file Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBAR). There are 21 new FBAR FAQs. I wanted to make them available as quickly as possible so haven’t had much time to think through all of their implications. However, a major disappointment is FBAR FAQs # 34 and 35. They say that the IRS will not negotiate the 20 percent offshore financial account penalty as part of the FBAR voluntary disclosure process. The IRS says that if any part of the penalty structure is unacceptable, the case will follow the standard audit process. According to the IRS, “At the conclusion of the examination all applicable penalties (including information return and FBAR penalties will be imposed)…” For a recap of potential FBAR and other penalties see my prior post. If the taxpayer disagrees with the imposition of the penalties then the taxpayer may go to the IRS Appeals Division.

It is unfortunate that the IRS has chosen to take this draconian stance with respect to the FBAR amnesty. It makes the decision to come forward much more difficult.

Our tax litigation attorneys are currently advising clients with FBAR problems on how to best proceed. If you would like a consultation contact the tax attorneys at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C.

Swiss Treaty Aims to Limit Offshore Tax Evasion

June 22, 2009,

The U.S. Treasury has announced an agreement with Switzerland to amend the Swiss U.S tax treaty to allow the U.S. to more easily locate those engaged in tax fraud and tax evasion. The Swiss – U.S. treaty would be amended to comply with Article 26 of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Model Income Tax Convention. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner stated "This Administration is committed to reducing offshore tax evasion to help ensure that all U.S. taxpayers are playing by the same rules. "This treaty 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."

The treaty must still be approved by the Swiss Parliament. At this point it is not known what effect this will have on the UBS summons enforcement action in Florida in which the Internal Revenue Service is attempting to obtain the names of over 50,000 UBS customers with offshore accounts who may have committed tax fraud or tax evasion.

If you have a Swiss financial account or other offshore bank account, the deadline is June 30th for filing an FBAR with the IRS. If you need to make a voluntary disclosure under the IRS Tax Amnesty, contact the tax controversy attorneys at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C.

International Tax Fraud and Tax Evasion Top IRS Priority List

June 16, 2009,

In an address to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) on June 2, 2009, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman announced renewed IRS efforts to combat international tax fraud and tax evasion.

Shulman promised to create an inhospitable climate for tax evasion and offshore secrecy by continuing and expanding cooperation with G-20 heads of state, who pledged in unity this April to act against tax havens that impede legitimate tax enforcement. He hopes to enhance information reporting on offshore account holders, increase tax withholding on U.S. citizens with foreign bank accounts in countries deemed "tax havens," double tax penalties for failure to file FBARs, and allow the IRS more time for investigation by increasing the statute of limitations from three years to six years.

The IRS’ effort to eliminate tax fraud and tax evasion is supported by the expansion of President Obama’s 2010 budget. The budget provides funds for increased reporting on cross-border wire transfers, which would allow the IRS to gather information and target individuals who transfer money to and from offshore accounts. Also included is funding for 800 new employees who will deal specifically with international tax enforcement.

In his address to OECD, Commissioner Shulman promised, “If you are a U.S. taxpayer holding overseas assets, you must pay your taxes or we will be very focused on finding you. It’s as simple as that.”

If you have an offshore bank account and have not filed an FBAR, you may wish to consult with a tax attorney at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C. to understand whether or not you have a tax problem.

IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) Issues Penalty Guidelines

June 11, 2009,

In May, the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) issued penalty guidelines, sometimes referred to as a “penalty grid” for imposing penalties on tax preparers, and others who are tax attorneys, CPAs, or enrolled agents who fail to file timely income tax returns. The late filing of an income or employment tax return by a CPA, tax attorneys, or enrolled agent is considered a violation of IRS Circular 230, punishable by suspension from practice before the IRS. The guidelines issued by OPR first point out that sanctions are determined on a fact specific basis, and the penalty grid is not intended to establish a rigid standard. The guidelines including the actual penalty grid made be found at the OPR website.

The penalty grid imposes a guideline penalty of two to four months for each late filed tax return, even though no tax was due. If the tax return is still not filed at the time OPR contacts the tax preparer then the guideline is four to six months for each non-filed tax return. If the late filings continue for four or more years than the baseline can be doubled! Thus a simple late filing of tax returns for four years can result in a suspension from practice for 32 months even though no tax is due.

If you are CPA, tax lawyer, or enrolled agent who has not filed his tax returns you have a serious tax problem, and you may wish to contact the tax controversy attorneys at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C.

New Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) FAQs for Tax Amnesty Expected Shortly

June 10, 2009,

In conversations with the IRS Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) hotline, I have been told that the IRS plans on issuing a second FBAR FAQ to supplement the first FBAR FAQ which was issued by the IRS only last month. As readers of this blog know, the first FBAR FAQ was issued to answer questions required the IRS Tax Amnesty program for unreported offshore financial accounts. Once the new FBAR FAQ has been issued by the IRS I will be posting a link to it here on our blog.

If you have an offshore tax problem contact the tax controversy lawyers at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C. to have a consultation which will be covered by the attorney client privilege.

Tax Fraud Results in 22 Years and $181 Million

June 9, 2009,

Frank L. Amodeo has serious criminal tax problems. The U.S. Department of Justice announced that he has been convicted in one of the biggest employment tax fraud cases in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) history. The penalties for these criminal tax charges exceed 22 years and he will be required to pay a judgment of $181 million dollars.

Amodeo collected federal withholding taxes through his numerous payroll tax companies, and then knowingly neglected to forward this tax money to the IRS. Consequently, he was charged and convicted with five felonies: willful tax evasion (totaling $181 million); obstructing an agency proceeding (by intentionally defrauding the IRS in their attempt to collect payroll tax); and conspiring to commit wire fraud, to obstruct an agency investigation, and to impede the IRS. Amodeo was forced to surrender more than $1 million cash, three homes, several luxury automobiles, commercial real estate, a Lear Jet, and his corporations in attempt to fulfill his outstanding tax debt.

While this may have been one of the larger tax fraud cases on record, people have gone to jail for tax evasion for much smaller cases.

If you have any tax problems, including potential tax fraud or payroll tax problems, contact the tax controversy lawyers at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C.