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August 28, 2009

TAX AGENCIES TRACING TAX DODGERS ON LINE

It has been released that many State tax agencies are using social media and other on line social sites to successfully track down individuals who owe taxes and have failed to pay or file their returns.  Though the IRS may not be doing this yet (they are often slow), the success various States have had with this technique will no doubt result in the IRS doing the same in the future.  The Wall Street Journal Article on the techniques used can be found here.

August 15, 2009

Taxpayers Struggle to Come Clean After IRS To Get Secret accounts of UBS


Taxpayers are starting to pay attention to the existing IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program described in earlier postings on this blog. The program expires on 9/23/09. Click on title to this piece and go to the most current article on Yahoo. Even if your undisclosed accounts are not with UBS, it is predicted many other offshore and foreign banks will start revealing their US account holders to the IRS soon. Failure to disclose your offshore activities, accounts, etc. can result in huge monetary and criminal penalties. One individual on the list from Malibu California just pleaded guilty for a Swiss account he slowly built up over the years without showing it on his tax return for FBAR annual report of only $ 1 million.

August 12, 2009

Swiss Reach Deal with IRS - How Many Accounts will be Revealed is Unknown

The Swiss Government reached a deal today with the IRS to reveal an unknown number of the secret bank accounts with UBS AG which are owned by US Citizens. Click on the title to this article to read further information. It is said they have approximately 52,000 Americans with Secret accounts held in that Swiss Bank. The IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Amnesty Program ends 9/23/09.

August 10, 2009

IRS ANNOUNCES FURTHER CHANGES IN TDF 90-22.1 FILING REQUIREMENTS

On August 7, 2009, the IRS announced as follows:

1. Persons (individuals and entities) with signature authority over, but no financial interest in, a foreign account will have until June 30, 2010, to file IRS Form TD F 90-22.1 for 2008, 2009, and earlier years, with respect to those accounts.

2. Persons (individuals and entities) with a financial interest in, or signature authority over, a foreign commingled fund (e.g. a mutual fund) will have until June 30, 2010, to file IRS Form TD F 90-22.1 for 2008, 2009, and earlier years, with respect to those accounts.

(See IRS Notice 2009-62).

For these two categories of persons, the June 30, 2010 filing deadline supplements the September 23, 2009 deadline for penalty free disclosure of foreign financial accounts established by the Internal Revenue Service for taxpayers who were unaware of the FBAR filing obligation and who did not have sufficient time to gather the information necessary to file by the annual June 30 deadline. All persons with an interest in a foreign financial account who are not covered by Notice 2009-62 must report such account by September 23, 2009.

The Treasury Department intends to issue regulations clarifying the FBAR filing requirements. The administrative relief granted by Notice 2009-62 provides time for the Treasury Department to consider comments, that are solicited in the Notice, on specific issues related to such filing requirements. Please access a copy of Notice 2009-62

OUR OBSERVATION: This would leave one to assume after that date if you have not filed your TDF forms for earlier years, the IRS may no longer accept a reasonable excuse and start imposing the $10,000 or more penalty per year for non-filing if they discover you have not filed. Therefore everyone has a short grace period to file all past unfiled TDF 90-22.1 forms.

August 5, 2009

IRS OFFSORE VOLUNTARY DISLCOSURE DEAL ENDS 9/23/09

More on the offshore disclosure program

A lot of Gringos living and working in Mexico have not been filing their US Income Tax Returns as required by U.S. Tax law. The Brits, Canadians and many those from many other countries in world, the U.S. Requires you file returns yearly no mater where you live or work in the world so long as you are a U.S. Citizen.



Some have put off their returns so long, that they are now afraid to surface and file them. Often that is an unfounded concern since due to the US foreign earned income exclusion and foreign tax credits, when many years past due returns are filed, no tax is found to be due anyway.


To try to bring U.S. Expatriates out of the closet, in March the IRS announced the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program which allows those who have not filed returns or who have filed returns and not included their foreign source income to correct these errors and have some certainty of what might happen when they do file those returns. Entering this program will avoid criminal action and will also set a predetermined limit on the amount of penalties which may be imposed.


Though the IRS envisions the program will mostly be used by wealthy taxpayers hiding assets and income abroad, unfortunately due to the its requirements it does immediately affect the average American working or operating a small business in Mexico.

The program is extremely complex and therefore cannot be fully explained with this article, but we will try to cover some of the major points. More details are available using the internet links set forth later below.

The general requirements:

File last six years previously unfiled tax returns or amend your last six years tax returns to include all foreign source income.

These returns should include all previously unfiled foreign tax forms required under us tax law such as those for foreign bank and financial accounts (TDF 90-22.1), foreign corporations (Form 5471), foreign partnerships, foreign LLCS, foreign investment companies, and foreign trusts or fideicomisos (Form 3520 and 3520A)(Mexican real estate trusts required by Mexican law). There are other US foreign tax forms too numerous to mention which also have high penalties for non filing.


Pay all taxes, penalties and interest due on unpaid taxes

Follow certain filing procedures requiring an anouncement you plan to participate in the program.

In lieu of paying the extremely high penalties for failure to file the special foreign tax forms mentioned above, pay a penalty of 20% of the highest balance in all foreign bank and financial accounts during the year with the highest combined balances during that 6 year period. This is often much less than the year penalty for failing to file the form. For example the penalty for failure to file the foreign bank and financial account form (TDF 90-22.1) is $10,000 per year or more.

If you have reported all foreign income (including interest, dividends, corporate income, rents, etc) in your previously filed your tax returns for the past six years, but failed to include all of the special foreign forms (some of which are mentioned above) you are required to now file those forms with an amended return, and also include a reasonable excuse for your failure to file those forms and in most situations no penalties or additional taxes will be imposed. The IRS has failed to define what an acceptable reasonable excuse would be.

If your foreign activities have produced no taxable income during the past six years and you now file all required foreign forms that were previously omitted with amended returns for those years, no additional tax or penalties will be charged if you attach a reasonable excuse for failing to file the required foreign bank account report, foreign corporation report, foreign trust form (fideicomiso), etc.


Also if you failed to file your tax returns, but need to file returns for the period you lived and or worked abroad, and due to the nature of your income and activities have none of the special foreign income tax forms previously mentioned or on the the complete list are required to be filed, you can now file without any fear of the 20% penalty. All that would be owed is any tax due plus normal penalties and interest on that tax due. Form 2555 (to claim the foreign earned income exclusion) and form 1116 (Foreign tax credits) do not trigger the 20% penalty if filed late. However, in certain situations, the IRS can disallow the foreign earned income exclusion if a tax return is filed more than 18 months late and taxes are due with that return.


The IRS has indicated that it is possible after the 9/23/09 deadline for the Program, it will impose all civil, monetary and full criminal penalties against those who have not filed the required foreign income forms or who have failed to report their foreign source income by that deadline. Anyone who thinks they might have problems with nonreported foreign source income, unfiled returns, or unfiled special foreign tax forms should immediately consult with their legal and tax advisors to determine whether they should be participating in the Voluntary Disclosure Program or to file all past unfiled returns.


It should be noted that the IRS has currently been very successful with their program to force foreign banks and other financial institutions to disclose the names, etc. and all US citizens who have accounts. It is presumed they will be matching that data against the tax returns filed by those citizens.

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Relevant Web Links:

Wall Street Journal Article:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124804796387763807.html

IRS Information:http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=105689,00.html

Frequently Asked Questions: http://www.taxmeless.com/IRS%20Disclosure.htm

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Don D. Nelson, Attorney, C.P.A has been assisting US Citizens living abroad with their U.S. Income taxes for the past 20 years. His email is donnelsonattycpa@yahoo.com. His website includes a lot more information on the Offshore Disclosure Program and is located at www.TaxMeLess.com . His blog which includes the most current expat developments is at www.usexpatriate.blogspot.com. US phone number is 949-481-4094.