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October 27, 2011

US Nonresidents with Assets in the US will have their US Estates Subject to US up to 34% estate taxes

US nonresidents with certain assets located in the United States will cause their estates to have to file US Estate Tax returns on the value of their assets (with some exceptions) located in the USA. The tax is based on the Fair Market Value of their Assets and can be up to 35%. Nonresidents only get an exemption from this tax equal to the first $60,000 value of the fair market value of their assets in the US. The balance  of the estate's assets are subject to the estate tax.  Real estate which was owned by a deceased nonresident is subject to this tax.  The estate can only deduct the mortgage balance due from the fair market value if the estate agrees to report to the IRS the value an details of the decedents worldwide assets including those in Mexico.

Due to the large chunk this estate tax can take out of a nonresident's estate, it is best to do some advance planning to attempt to reduce it.  Email us if you want help. Read more about the nonresident  estate tax here

October 26, 2011

10/31/11 Last Day to Enter California Voluntary Compliance Program

Taxpayers have until Monday, October 31, to participate in California’s Voluntary Compliance Initiative 2 (VCI 2). Taxpayers who participate in VCI 2 benefit from penalty waiver and protection from criminal prosecution on underreported tax liabilities from abusive tax avoidance transactions and offshore financial arrangements.
To participate, taxpayers must provide amended returns, participation agreements, and payments to the FTB by the October 31 deadline. Extensions cannot be given. Mail postmarked and faxes received on or before October 31 will be accepted.
For more information on this program and eligibility requirements, visit the FTB’s Web site or call the VCI 2 hotline at            (888) 825-9868      .

October 25, 2011

Tax Rules for Contractors in Afghanistan, Iraq and Middle East

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Concerns for Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan and Middle East
The IRS has issued Memorandum Number AM2009-0003 regarding the availability of the FEIE to contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan. It states that IRS will be looking closely at contractors who claim to meet the bona fide residence test, but whose family and home are back in the US and who travel there often on leave.  Unfortunately there is not a lot of case law on the subject and the IRS rules and legislative history leave a lot of room for interpretation. However, contractors should understand the rules may have changed, and they may have to defend their claim to the FEIE.

October 22, 2011

Costa Rica Banks Will Report US Taxpayers Holdings to IRS

The Tico Times reports that in 2013, Costa Rica Banks will start reporting US Citizen Bank Accounts and holdings to the Internal Revenue Service (read article here). If this applies to your situation as a resident of Costa Rica or property owner, you should immediately begin to report all financial accounts located outside of the US using the IRS FBAR form TDF 90-22.1.  Failure to file this form each year (it is due on 6/30 following the end of each calendar year) can result in IRS penalties of $10,000 or more per year and possible criminal prosecution.

Another IRS requirement is that you report your Costa Rica Corporation, whether active or dormant, using form 5471 attached to your US tax return each year.  Some years you may also have to file form 926 also. There are no exceptions to this rule. The penalty for not filing that form is also $10,000 per year.

In most situations, these forms are just reporting forms, and do not result in any additional tax due. Best to file now to avoid bigger problems in another year when the IRS will get the lists from the Costa Rica Banks. We can help. 

October 17, 2011

Transferring You Taxable Profits Offshore to Reduce Taxes

If you are a US person or company and do business abroad, you may be able to follow Google's strategy by  setting up foreign corporations in certain low tax or no tax jurisdictions. This has  reduced their effective income tax rate to slightly more than 18% which is one half the rate paid by most US businesses. Google utilizes Ireland, The Netherlands and Bermuda to accomplish this tax reduction. Read the Bloomberg article and find out how.  Perhaps you can follow their lead.  Contact us for a mini-consultation to find out if this strategy will work for your business if you are doing business outside of the US.

October 13, 2011

Special Extended Filing Date for pre-2010 FBAR Signatory Powers IS November 1, 2011

November 1, 2011 is the deadline for persons whose relationship to foreign accounts is as signatory only (i.e., those persons who have no ownership or title interest in any foreign accounts but serve as signatory only) to file FBARs for pre-2010 years. See Notice 2011-54, 2011-29 IRB 53. Those who qualify for this extended deadline should take action to file immediately.

The problem for such signatories, of course, is that U.S. owners (title or beneficial) may have their own FBAR filing requirements and, unless the owners filed (or will file) pursuant to a voluntary disclosure (OVDI or regular (quiet or noisy)), the signatory FBARs will not match to owner FBARs.  For those U.S. taxpayer owners who decided to go forward without correcting the past, their signatories (usually family members or friends) are at risk if they choose not to file the signatory FBARs within this extended deadline.  If they file, their FBARs could be the last link in the chain in identifying the U.S. taxpayer owners who have not gotten right with the IRS and, if they don't file, they are at risk of huge penalties.   This choice is not a good one for family or friends.  Owners of the accounts should consider now getting right with the IRS (however they do so, whether by quiet or noisy disclosure) so as to mitigate the  potential damage all signatories.

October 12, 2011

Swiss Bankers Charged with Helping 180 US clients hide assets abroad

Two Julius Baer Group Ltd. (BAER) client advisers were charged with helping U.S. customers of the Zurich- based bank evade taxes, according to an indictment and a person with knowledge of the matter.
Daniela Casadei and Fabio Frazzetto conspired with more than 180 U.S. clients and others at the bank to hide at least $600 million in assets from the Internal Revenue Service, according to the indictment in federal court in New York and the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak about the matter. The indictment refers to the bank as Swiss Bank No. 1. Read more in Bloomberg

October 2, 2011

If You Failed to Enter the IRS Offshore Disclosure Program (At Risk Taxpayers)

You should immediately seek competent legal and tax advice on how best to proceed  with filing your past tax returns and IRS foreign asset reporting forms now that the September 9, 2011 deadline has passed, if you failed to enter the Program.

Most delinquent t taxpayers  that have not disclose their foreign assets, filed the special IRS Offshore Forms, or have not filed their tax returns for past years probably do not face criminal action, but may incur horrendous penalties which grow worse the longer they wait to come forward.  You alternatives are now fewer than they used to be but there are still steps you can take.

There are no clear preferable courses of action but if you talk with a professional and learn your alternatives, it will help you make a decision on planning your future course of action.  Best to talk with an  experienced  tax attorney in any event to give yourself the privacy and confidentiality of attorney-client privilege. Contact us to make an appointment for a phone or skype consultation to discuss your individual situation and create a strategy to proceed.  Offshore Disclosure Email.

To read more about the IRS General Disclosure Program click here.

October 1, 2011

The 75% Fraud Penalty (Plus Possible Prison Time)

If you get audited, and the IRS decides your tax return fraudulently understates your tax bill, you are in really big trouble. You will be hit with a penalty equal to 75% of the understatement. Plus you will be charged interest. And you could face criminal charges and possible prison time. In the next few years audits of expatriates and form 2555 (foreign earned income exclusion) will increase substantially due to recent discoveries about how many such forms were incorrect and were being filed by expats not eligible for the exclusion.
Committing tax fraud takes some work, because it goes beyond simple ignorance of the tax rules and regulations. You have to intentionally do really bad things like keep two sets of books, alter or destroy documents, hide unreported income overseas, or fail to report income from illegal activities (this is not a complete list by any stretch). Bottom line: You can't commit tax fraud without knowing it.
Anyone accused of tax fraud should hire an attorney who specializes in big-time IRS problems. A CPA or Enrolled Agent can't provide the equivalent of the attorney-client privilege, and those accused of tax fraud will need that privilege. Also, non-attorneys are not competent to deal with the criminal charges that will often go along for the ride with tax fraud cases.