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December 18, 2012


There is still time to save taxes prior to the end of 2012. It is very clear taxes are going up in 2013 and therefore taking steps now to recognize income and accelerate deductions may be of benefit.  There are numerous other things you can do now to reduce your taxes which are included in our newsletter. DOWNLOAD OUR YEAR END TAX PLANNING NEWSLETTER HERE.

December 7, 2012

US Expats in Mexico and Denmark on 1/1/13 Will Have Their Financial and Tax Information Disclosed to US

The United States has entered into its second and thir  bilateral exchange of financial and tax information agreements regarding the implementation of FATCA with  Mexico and Denmark.  This new agreements target non-compliant U.S. taxpayers owning foreign accounts.The agreemenst will be  become  on January 1, 2013.
The reciprocal nature of the United States' agreement with  Mexico and Denmark will allow the countries to use the automatic exchange of information to discover non-compliant taxpayers. The good old days of "what happens in Mexico, stays in Mexico" are almost over.
Now is the time to start reporting to the IRS all of your previously unreported Mexican and Denmark business and financial activities before these new programs are geared up.  If in the future the IRS discovers you have unreported income or assets in Mexico or Denmark, and you have not been filing the proper reporting forms with your tax return, it most certainly will impose high monetary penalties and will most likely also seek criminal penalties. The average prison sentence for tax evasion usually runs 3-4 years.  
We can help you catch up. Email us at or visit our website at  

December 4, 2012

Investment income tax under healthcare law- Explained

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has released new rules for investment income taxes on capital gains and dividends earned by high-income individuals that passed Congress as part of the 2010 healthcare reform law.

The 3.8 percent surtax on investment income, meant to help pay for healthcare, goes into effect in 2013. It is the first surtax to be applied to capital gains and dividend income.

The tax affects only individuals with more than $200,000 in modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), and married couples filing jointly with more than $250,000 of MAGI.
The tax applies to a broad range of investment securities ranging from stocks and bonds to commodity securities and specialized derivatives.

The 159 pages of rules spell out when the tax applies to trusts and annuities, as well as to individual securities traders.

The  new regulations include a 0.9 percent healthcare tax on wages for high-income individuals.
Both sets of rules will be published on Wednesday in the Federal Register. The proposed rules are effective starting Jan. 1. 

Together, the two taxes are estimated to raise $317.7 billion over 10 years, according to a Joint Committee on Taxation analysis released in June.

To illustrate when the tax applies, the IRS offered an example of a taxpayer filing as a single individual who makes $180,000 in wage income plus $90,000 from investment income. The individual's modified adjusted gross income is $270,000. The 3.8 percent tax applies to the $70,000, and the individual would pay $2,660 in surtaxes, the IRS said.

The IRS plans to release a new form for taxpayers to fill out for this tax when filing 2013 returns.
The new rules leave some questions unanswered, tax experts said. It was unclear how rental income will be treated under the new rules at this time.

This new tax will definitely increase the compliance burden on individuals as taxes become even more complex.

November 25, 2012

How The IRS will find you Abroad When you Have Not Been Filing US Tax Returns

We are often asked by expatriates living abroad who have not filed their US tax returns for many years (and have seemed to have dropped of any IRS list)  how the IRS could ever find them or determine they are not filing their US tax return each year.  Here are just  some of the ways:

1.  Applying for social security benefits or pension benefits
2. Opening US bank and financial accounts
3. Inheriting money from their parents or others and failing to report income generated by those funds.
4. A Whistle blower. The IRS pays finders fees for those who turn in tax evaders whether the snitch is a US person or a foreign person.  The largest whistle blower fee paid to date  is $104 million.
5. Renew a passport (you now must give the Government your social secuirty number) which is then sent to the IRS.
6. From a foreign countries tax agency exchanging information with the IRS under treaties or  FATCA.
7. Form public domain information on the internet, websites, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
8. Registering the birth of a child born abroad with the US Embassy.
9. Marriages or divorces (that are public record) that reveal your existence.
10. By entering the US with a foreign passport that shows you were born in the USA
11. Stolen information from foreign banks and financial institutions given to the IRS
12. When your older children apply to US colleges or learning institutions and list information about their payments who long ago dropped out filing tax returns.
13. From other Americans in the US or abroad who do business with you
14. From suspicious activities forms filed with the IRS (yes this is an actual IRS form often filed by Banks or other financial institutions, car dealers, etc ).
15. As a result of information provided to it by the Serious Organised Crimes Office (SOCA) or   the US Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
16. From data provided the IRS by other taxpayers entering the Offshore Disclosure Program.
17. Forming a corporation or LLC in a foreign country that requires you register yourself as the owner your US  citizenship.

An ever increasing number of countries are agreeing with the IRS (over 50 currently) that the best way for each of them to collect more taxes is to share information about their residents with other countrys' tax agencies.  Computers and the internet are making it easier to gather data and locate those who previously could successfully disappear into the world.  It is difficult to guess exactly when in the near future, but for sure within the next 5 to 10 years  there  will be no where to run and no where to hide.

We can help you surface with the IRS before its too late. Write for more information to and our website at 

November 18, 2012

US Tax Treaties May Allow Nonresidents to be Taxed at Lower Rates

Tax treaties may allow residents of foreign countries to be taxed at a reduced rate, or to be exempt from U.S. income taxes on certain items of income they receive from sources within the United States.  Whenever you are a US Nonresident and the US has a tax treaty with your resident country, you MUST review that treaty to determine if it has benefits.

Treaties rarely benefit US Citizens or Green Card Holders due to the savings clause contained in almost all treaties which state that the IRS can still continue to tax its US tax residents and Citizens under the regular tax law regardless of what a treaty might state.  A US taxpayer residing in a treaty country may be able to use the treaty to avoid adverse tax consequences in that country. There is no standard treaty so each applicable treaty must be reviewed to determine its consequences.  Unfortunately the language used in the treaties if often vague and unclear. The IRS has not done much to clear up the ambiguities and to explain those parts which are unclear.

Look here for the complete texts of many of the tax treaties in force and their accompanying Treasury Technical Explanations. For further information on tax treaties refer also to the Treasury Department’s Tax Treaty Documents page.

November 15, 2012

Why US Expats and Residents May want to give gifts or do Estate Planning Before Year End

It might be wise for everyone to consider making gifts before year end to their children or other loved ones and consider other estate planning strategies. Previously its was thought Congress might extend the currently generous annual gift tax exclusion and the lifetime estate and gift tax exemption which is until the end of 2012 over $5 million.  In 2013 the exclusion will go back to $1 million.

Nonresidents (not a US Citizen or permanent resident) only get a $60,000 exclusion with respect to estate taxes on their assets located in the US.

If Congress decides the funds are needed next year due to the "Fiscal Cliff" they may not extend the current exemptions and now is the time to act.  Read more in the following Forbes Article Will the Estate and Gift Tax Boomerang?

We can help you with revise or amend your living trust, wills, and successfully make last minute gifts to tax advantage of the current rules which may end 12/31/12. Email us at 

November 10, 2012

U.S. engages with more than 50 jurisdictions to curtail offshore tax evasion

The US Treasury, announced that it is engaged with more than 50 foreign country jurisdictions to improve international tax compliance as part of efforts to implement the information reporting and withholding tax provisions under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

 The U.S. has already signed a bilateral agreement with the government of the U.K. Treasury is in the process of finalizing intergovernmental agreements and hopes to finish negotiations in this respect with: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Norway.                                                                                                       
Treasury is also maintaining an active dialog with several countries to conclude an intergovernmental agreement. Jurisdictions include: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, the Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Israel, Korea, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Malta, New Zealand, the Slovak Republic, Singapore, and Sweden. The government expects to finalize the agreements with many of the listed countries by the end of the year.
Additionally, Treasury is discussing viable options for intergovernmental cooperation with: Bermuda, Brazil, the British Virgin Islands, Chile, the Czech Republic, Gibraltar, India, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Romania, Russia, Seychelles, Saint Maarten, Slovenia, and South Africa.
The government stated it will continue exploring ways of engaging other interested jurisdictions in intergovernmental cooperation including at a meeting of senior government officials and financial institutions.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO US TAXPAYERS LIVING ABROAD? Now is the time to file all past unfiled US tax returns and report all foreign bank accounts, financial accounts, foreign corporations and partnerships, foreign mutual funds, etc.  If you wait until the IRS gets your information from a foreign source, the risk of high monetary penalties and criminal prosecution increases dramatically.  We can help you get compliant and avoid these problems before it is too late.  Email us at for further assistance or with questions.

November 7, 2012


The California voters have spoken. They passed 
Proposition 30  which retroactively increases income taxes effective January 1, 2012 for those with high incomes. The following rate increases are effective for seven years:

Governor's Ballot Initiative
10.3% (1% increase) on income of:$250,001–$300,000 for single/MFS;
$340,001–$408,000 for HOH; and
$500,001–$600,000 for MFJ.
11.3% (2% increase) on income of:$300,001–$500,000 for single/MFS;
$408,001–$680,000 for HOH; and
$600,001–$1,000,000 for MFJ.
12.3% (3% increase) on income of:More than $500,000 for single/MFS;
More than $680,000 for HOH; and
More than $1,000,000 for MFJ.

(Note: Income in excess of $1 million is also subject to the 1% mental health surcharge.)

November 4, 2012

Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation Divisions Comes After Those No Disclosing Foreign Accounts and Assets

 On October 18th, the chief of the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division, Richard Weber, stated that his 4000 special agents will continue to focus on unreported foreign bank accounts.

You do not want to see one
of these in person
The requirement to file FBARs (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) dates back to the Bank Secrecy Act in the 1970′s. No attempts were made to enforce this until until the last 4 to 5 years.  Failure to report a foreign account is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Civil penalties can include the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the high account balance for each year an account is unreported. Even “innocent” violations can result in penalties of up to $10,000 per year.

The  IRS has been looking at banks outside of Switzerland (where they originally began their enforcement efforts). Those banks includes several Israeli banks as well as financial institutions in the Bahamas, India, China, Australia,  Hong Kong, Liechtenstein and others not yet announced.

Speaking before a New York CPA group, Weber said that the IRS and Department of Justice would soon be announcing a new round of indictments involving unreported accounts. These prosecutions will involve banks outside of Switzerland.   The IRS has posted CID special agents around the world.  One indication is that they now have a field office in Panama which was a popular place for US taxpayers to hide their money and income.

There is presently an amnesty program to help taxpayers with unreported accounts. This includes those with foreign hedge funds, investments, bank accounts, CD’s and the like. The program, called the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program offers greatly reduced penalties and a promise of no criminal prosecution.  This program may not work for everyone. Some taxpayers may achieve lower or no penalties by negotiating directly with the IRS outside of the Disclosure program.  The important part is not to wait until the IRS discovers you first because it will then be too late to avoid higher penalties and criminal prosecution.

The procedures and rules for entering the program or surfacing with the IRS outside of the program are complicated.  You should speak with  a tax lawyer right away if you are one of the millions with unreported accounts (and other foreign assets that require reporting on your tax return such as foreign corporations, foreign partnerships and LLCS, passive foreign investment companies, etc.)

Don D. Nelson, Attorney, CPA with over 20 years of expatriate and international tax experience has represented or advises hundreds of clients with a wide variety of offshore reporting issues. His  clients include dual nationals, US permanent residents, taxpayers with offshore accounts, and expatriates who have businesses abroad or who have retired in other countries.

For more information, contact him at  All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept in strict confidence.

November 1, 2012

US Nonresidents Must Pay Tax on Their US Income

If you are a US nonresident (this is someone who does not have a green card or is not a US Citizen) and come to the US to work for a few months, you are obligated file a US tax return on your US source earnings (whether paid by a US company or a foreign company).  Your earnings might be exempt from tax under US tax treaty with your home country, but you still need to file the return to claim that  treaty exemption. Depending on the social security agreements in effect, it might even be subject to US self employment tax (social security) if you are an independent contract.

If you as a nonresident are going to file a US tax return, you need to secure a taxpayer identification number also. That process has recently become somewhat cumbersome and difficult.

A nonresident working in the US may under the laws of the state in which he or she works also be required to file a state tax return.

Failure to file a tax return will result in the statute of limitations for later requiring a return or tax to never run out.  Therefore, when in doubt you should as a nonresident always file a return.

The good news is that US nonresidents are not subject to tax on their interest income from banks, savings and loans and US treasury bills or on their capital gains from the sale of US stocks (so long as theses are investments and not connected with their US business).

Learn more about the US taxation of nonresidents at 

October 30, 2012

List of IRS Tax Resources

The following IRS resources  listed on our website including  tax publications for US expatriates, US nonresidents,  US tax treaties, etc should answer most of your tax questions.  CLICK HERE TO GO TO RESOURCE PAGE.

If you have other questions, please email us at  Don D. Nelson, Attorney at Law, CPA.

October 29, 2012


New Zealand will negotiate a FATCA agreement with the US. This means bank, stock broker and other financial information on US Citizens and green card holders living in New Zealand or with accounts there will be sent to the US IRS.

There will be no way to avoid extreme penalties and possible criminal prosecution once this agreement becomes effective. Now is the time to file all past due US tax returns and foreign account reporting forms. The IRS will not be as lenient once they receive the information from New Zealand and discover you have not filed these forms.  Dual Citizens and Green Card holders must still file a US tax return on their worldwide income regardless of their status.  Let us know if you need help.  We offer the privacy and confidentiality of  Attorney client privilege to all clients. Write us a  Visit our website at  for more information on your US filing requirements.


Avoiding California State Income Taxes Moving Abroad

It is often difficult to give up your obligation to pay California taxes when starting to work abroad.  California is an "Intent State."  That California wants to continue to tax you until you show the intent of moving your tax domicile to another country or state.  They  look at all of the facts and circumstances in retrospect years later to determine if you actually had the "intent" to move your tax residency to another country.

There is a solution to the ambiguities involved with successfully giving up your California residency for tax purposes. That is the Safe Harbor Rule which can be used. Under that rule:
  • You must remain living and working outside of California for at least 546 days under a contract of employment;
  • You do not have more than $200,000 in investment income;
  • You do not return to California more than 45 days during any calendar year.
If you meet these criteria, you are automatically deemed to be a California nonresident for the period you work abroad even though you may still have a California drivers license, voter registration, etc.

It is important to successfully avoid California tax domicile status when living abroad since California does not allow the foreign earned income exclusion or foreign tax credits. If means if you remain a California tax resident a lot of taxes may be due.

Some states make it even tougher to give up the obligation to pay state taxes when working abroad. Virigina and New Mexico are just a few.

We can help you avoid continuing having to pay state taxes when you move abroad to work or retire. Contact us if you have questions or concerns at


  • The foreign earned income exclusion will go from $95,100 to $97,600 for 2013.  Remember if both spouses work they can each claim up to that amount on their separate foreign wages on form 2555.
  • The gift tax exclusion (threshold after which you must file a gift tax return) is increased from $13,000 to $14,000.  If a husband and wife both give the gift (and both are US taxpayers) they can claim a combined exclusion of $28,000 in 2013.  Gifts for education costs and health care are not subject to gift tax.
  • The maximum contribution limits by an employee to a 401K plan increases to $17,500 in 2013.
  • The social security ceiling for wages subject to that tax increases to $113,700 in 2013 from the current $110,100. Their is no ceiling on the 2.3 percent medicare tax.

October 3, 2012


If you sign your return and check "No" on schedule B indicating you have no foreign bank accounts that need to be reported (when you actually did have accounts) the Court has held that act alone shows willful failure to file the FBAR form. The taxpayer was fined $200,000 for failing to file the FBAR for tax year 2000.  READ MORE HERE           

Another issue we are often asked about if how far back will the IRS go to seek information from Foreign Banks on US holders of accounts. The IRS is now asking Liechtenstein Landesbanks for records going back to 2004. This is the first announcement that clearly indicates if you have not been filing FBAR forms for past years it is best to go back and file those forms now. The statute of limitations is six years on FBAR forms for the IRS to seek civil and criminal penalties.

We recommend if you are required to file the form all taxpayers immediately file their FBARs before the IRS gets lists from foreign banks.  They will be cross-checking the information on the banks lists with those who have filed FBARs.  Anyone who has not filed is subject to criminal penalties and monetary penalties up to 1/2 the highest balance in each account for each year that the FBAR is not filed.

September 28, 2012

Expats Can Extend Tax Return Due Date Up Until 12/15/12 If Previous Extension Filed

All taxpayers are generally entitled to an automatic 6-month extension of time to file their returns by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, , with the Internal Revenue Service.

In addition to this 6-month extension, taxpayers who are out of the country (as defined in the Form 4868 instructions) can request a discretionary 2-month additional extension of time to file their returns (to December 15 for calendar year taxpayers).

To request this additional 2 month  extension, you must send the Internal Revenue Service a letter explaining the reasons why you need the additional 2 months to complete your tax return. Send the letter by the previously  extended due date (October 15 for calendar year taxpayers) to the following address:

Internal Revenue Service CenterAustin, TX 73301-0215USA

You will not receive any notification from the Internal Revenue Service unless your request is denied for being untimely.  Therefore it is best to send this letter extension request by Certified Mail Return Receipt or another method where you have proof the request was sent in timely.  If you are sending your request by DHL, UPS or Fed Exp from abroad, the street address for delivery is on our website at

The discretionary 2-month additional extension is not available to taxpayers who have an approved extension of time to file on Form 2350 (for U.S. citizens and resident aliens abroad who expect to qualify for special tax treatment).

September 22, 2012

UAE to Join the Network to Exchange Tax Data with US and Other Countries

The UAE is expected shortly to join the  OCED which is the network of countries that join have joined together to share economic data which includes tax data on residents of those countries with other members of the OCED.  The USA is a member of the OCED which means US expats living in those other countries will have their income and other  financial information reported to the US International. Do not make the mistake of thinking because the United Arab Emirates has no income taxes information on your will not be sent to the IRS.. READ MORE HERE ABOUT THE UAE tax information sharing arrangement.

For an up to date list of the OCED members who are sharing tax information with each other CLICK HERE.  If you live and work on one of these countries, your income and financial information will ultimately or may have already been shared with the IRS.

September 20, 2012


One Taxpayer who opted out of the administrative nightmare of the IRS Offshore Disclosure Program has been assessed no penalties for late filed FBAR forms.  The taxpayer was a 12 year US resident with unreported  offshore assets equal to about $120,000 at the peak. The taxpayer was ignorant of the special forms required to report offshore assets and the requirement he needed to report the income from these offshore accounts.

This may provide some guidance to those expatriates who are still trying to decide whether to enter the 2012  IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program or just proceed with a regular disclosure.  READ MORE DETAILS  ON JACK TOWNSEND (CRIMINAL TAX ATTORNEY) BLOG.

Another Tax Professional reports the following:  One of the  firm’s clients opted out and received no penalties whatsoever and another is opting out and may receive just one $10,000 penalty over 8 years even though the taxpayer had $1M+ overseas financial accounts .This professional fees the reason for these successes is  that OVDI penalties are mandated by the National Office and agents are mandated to assess penalties, whereas if someone opts out then the local office has the authority to close the case (and is typically motivated to do so to clear inventory).

September 17, 2012

New 2013 IRS Figures Of Interest to all Nonresident and Expatriate Taxpayers

Some of the new figures for 2013 which will come into play if you are a US expatriate, nonresident, or have international tax concerns are as follows:

Unified estate and gift tax exclusion amount. Under the sunset provisions of EGTRRA, for gifts made and estates of decedents dying in 2013, due to a law change, the exclusion amount will be $1,000,000 (down from $5,120,000 for gifts made and estates of decedents dying in 2012).

Gift tax annual exclusion. For gifts made in 2013, the gift tax annual exclusion will be $14,000 (up from $13,000 for gifts made in 2012).

Increased annual exclusion for gifts to noncitizen spouses. For gifts made in 2013, the annual exclusion for gifts to noncitizen spouses will be $143,000 (up from $139,000 for 2012).

Reporting foreign gifts. If the value of the aggregate “foreign gifts” received by a U.S. person (other than an exempt Code Sec. 501(c) organization) exceeds a threshold amount, the U.S. person must report each “foreign gift” to IRS. (Code Sec. 6039F(a)) Different reporting thresholds apply for gifts received from (a) nonresident alien individuals or foreign estates, and (b) foreign partnerships or foreign corporations. For gifts from a nonresident alien individual or foreign estate, reporting is required only if the aggregate amount of gifts from that person exceeds $100,000 during the tax year. For gifts from foreign corporations and foreign partnerships, the reporting threshold amount will be $15,102 in 2013 (up from $14,723 for 2012).

Expatriation, Citizenship and Green Card Surrender. For 2013, an individual with “average annual net income tax” of more than $155,000 for the five tax years ending before the date of the loss of U.S. citizenship is a covered expatriate (up from $151,000 for 2012). Under a mark-to-market deemed sale rule, all property of a covered expatriate is treated as sold on the day before the expatriation date for its fair market value. However, for 2013, the amount that would otherwise be includible in the gross income of any individual under these mark-to-market rules is reduced by $668,000 (up from $651,000 for 2012).

Foreign earned income exclusion. The foreign earned income exclusion amount increases to $97,600 in 2013 (up from $95,100 in 2012).

September 11, 2012


A question we often get from expats living aboard is, "How can the IRS ever find out about my foreign assets or income?"  We always tell them that it is entirely possible the IRS will find out and we recommend they disclose all income and assets as required by US tax law.  Both US and foreign third parties can make a lot of money by turning in US taxpayers that are hiding their foreign assets and income from the IRS..

A UBS banker in Switzerland will receive $104 million as finders fee from the IRS in return for giving it names of US taxpayers that had secret accounts in Switzerland.  He is the banker that helped his US clients hide the money in Switzerland. .  In the course of his disclosures to the IRS he misrepresented some information and  had to spend a few years in prison for that crime.  He will still (despite his time in prison) collect his fee from the IRS which is a percentage of the taxes the IRS will collect from the US taxpayers he gave up to the IRS. READ MORE HERE

The IRS expects a lot more Whistleblowers to come forward and reveal the information they know about US taxpayers not complying with the law.  This is good reason to only discuss  your potential tax problems with a reputable US Attorney where all communication is protected from disclosure by "Attorney-client privilege." The law forbids an attorney from revealing any client information to the IRS unless that specific information goes into preparing a tax return for that client.  Do not discuss any problematic tax  information   to anyone but an attorney. Under most state laws, information given to Enrolled Agents and CPAs is not protected and those professionals can be forced to disclose client's disclosures by the IRS and the Courts.

August 31, 2012

Instructions for New Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures for Non-Resident, Non-Filer U.S. Taxpayers (Expatriates)

On June 26, 2012, the IRS announced new streamlined filing compliance procedures for non-resident U.S. taxpayers to go into effect on September 1, 2012. These procedures are being implemented in recognition that some U.S. taxpayers living abroad have failed to timely file U.S. federal income tax returns or Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs), Form TD F 90-22.1, but have recently become aware of their filing obligations and now seek to come into compliance with the law. These new procedures are for non-residents including, but not limited to, dual citizens who have not filed U.S. income tax and information returns.

Description of the New Streamlined Procedure

This streamlined procedure is designed for taxpayers that present a low compliance risk. All submissions will be reviewed, but, as discussed below, the intensity of review will vary according to the level of compliance risk presented by the submission. For those taxpayers presenting low compliance risk, the review will be expedited and the IRS will not assert penalties or pursue follow-up actions. Submissions that present higher compliance risk are not eligible for the streamlined processing procedures and will be subject to a more thorough review and possibly a full examination, which in some cases may include more than three years, in a manner similar to opting out of theOffshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.
Taxpayers utilizing this procedure will be required to file delinquent tax returns, with appropriate related information returns (e.g. Form 3520 or 5471), for the past three years and to file delinquent FBARs (Form TD F 90-22.1) for the past six years. Payment for the tax and interest, if applicable, must be remitted along with delinquent tax returns. For a summary of information about federal income tax return and FBAR filing requirements and potential penalties, see IRS Fact Sheet FS-2011-13. (December 2011).
Read the rest of the details of the program HERE

Download IRS Submission Questionnaire Used to Enter Program HERE

For Details of the 2012 Voluntary Offshore Disclosure Initiative click HERE.  This program is for those who wish to avoid criminal prosecution and have more complex returns and owe more than 1,500 for any of the past unfiled tax years.

August 24, 2012

Why You Need Expert Tax CPAs and Attorneys

The following items are some of the reasons you need expert tax help with your return and tax  planning:
  • The US tax code and explanatory rulings and regulations has grown from   400  pages in 1913           to  73,608  pages today.
  • The IRS by its own admission only answers 75% of the phone calls it receives from taxpayers.
  • The IRS has over 100,000 employees and therefore has become a very complex and sometimes disorganized bureaucracy. 
  • 4,428 changes have been made to the US Tax Code during the past 10 years. That averages over 1 change per day.
  • Businesses and individuals spend 6.1 Billion hours each year complying with US tax filing requirements.
  • Sixty percent of all individual taxpayers hire someone to do their tax returns.
  • The IRS estimates each taxpayer in 2001 paid an average of $2,200 each year to make up for the taxes owed by those who did not file, or cheated on the tax return they did file.
  • The US Expatriate and International tax forms, laws and regulation are so complex that most CPAs and Enrolled Agents do not know enough to help taxpayers with Expatriate or International Tax Deeds.


For the first time ever the IRS has made pronouncement concerning whether a Mexican Fideicomiso beneficiary has to file US tax forms 3520 and 3520A.

The bad news is that it made this pronouncement by way of a Private Letter Ruling which is only binding on the IRS with respect to the taxpayer who applied for the ruling. The IRS  IS NOT bound by the holdings in the ruling with respect to other taxpayers. Other taxpayers also by law can not cite a Private Letter Ruling as authority for their position.

The Private Letter Ruling held that in the particular factual situation of the Taxpayer who applied for the ruling that the US Taxpayer was not required to file the Forms 3520 for that Taxpayer's Fideicomiso.

Whether referring to this private letter ruling will cause the IRS to eliminate penalties for not filing Forms 3520 for a Fideicomiso cannot be determined at this time.  For any filer to be completely certain they did not have to file these forms, the IRS would need to make a written public announcement that such filing was not required.  For the last 7-9 years the IRS has been requested to make such a public written holding, and has not done so to date.   SEE THE REDACTED RULING HERE. THE IRS HAS NOT YET PUBLISHED IT.

August 14, 2012

IRS Requires Reporting of Foreign Gifts Received from Abroad

If you as a US Citizen, Green Card Holder, or even a resident of the US living here on a visa received  gifts of more than $100,000 (cumulative amounts per calendar year) in gifts or inheritances from a nonresident  foreign individual or gifts of $14,375 from a foreign corporation or partnership (cumulative amounts per calendar year), you must report these amounts to the IRS by filing Form 3520.  Failure to file this form can result in penalties up to  35% of the amount of the gift or inheritance.

The IRS does track large sums transferred from abroad to US residents and will often audit these individuals fail to report these transfers on their tax returns to try to determine if they are not paying US taxes on taxable income from abroad. It is best you have complete documentation for all amounts arriving from abroad which are not taxable  in the event you are audited If the transfer is a  gift or inheritance and fail to file Form 3520, the IRS may impose the penalty.

We have helped hundreds of taxpayers file Form 3520 and we can help you avoid these possible huge penalties and the cost of defending your position in the event you are audited on transfers of funds from abroad.

August 6, 2012

If you Owe the IRS Back Taxes, you may be detained at the Border when Entering the USA

It is believed that the IRS has established procedures to facilitate tax collection from taxpayers who live outside the United States. If such a  taxpayer has an unpaid tax liability and is subject to a resulting Notice of Federal Tax Lien, the IRS is probably submitting  identifying taxpayer information to the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), a database maintained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The database allows the DHS to identify taxpayers with unpaid tax assessments who are traveling to the United States for business, employment, or personal reasons . Therefore, it appears  taxpayers traveling to the United States with unpaid tax assessments increasingly are being detained at the border by the DHS.

July 26, 2012

FBAR (TDF 90-22.1) - When is there willful failure to file which leads to highest penalties?

The  4th District Federal Court has just held that there is willful failure to file an FBAR (TDF 90-22.1) form when you check the box "NO" on schedule B with reference to foreign bank and finanical accounts when you know you have combined highest balances in foreign accounts of $10,000 or more during the year. They stated this is sufficient showing of willfulness whether or not you know the FBAR (TDF 90-22.1) existed or was required to be filed.

If you willfully fail to file an FBAR form the penalties can be the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the highest balance in your accounts for each year. There are also criminal penalties  for willful failure to file of up to five years in Jail and a $250,000 fine.

The penalties for non-willful failure to file the Form can be $10,000 or less.

July 8, 2012

Passive Foreign Investment Companies -Form 8621

One of the most overlooked forms for US expatriates making investments abroad, or any US taxpayer living in the US that invests in foreign mutual funds is Form 8621.  If you do not file this form and make certain elections allowed by that form (SEE INSTRUCTIONS TO FORM HERE) you may incur extremely adverse US tax consequences  when you finally sell your foreign investment.  This form is complex and often difficult to complete due to the elections you must make and the information which must be included in the form.  Most taxpayers overlook this form and its important elections because they assume a foreign mutual fund will  be treated the same as a US mutual fund.  It is not!

WHEN MUST THIS FORM BE FILED?  It should be filed when you own a foreign mutual fund (not sold in the US securities market) or you own a foreign corporation that as a major portion of its activities invests in foreign equities, foreign mutual funds and other foreign investments.  This form does not need to be filed is you merely own actual foreign stock certificates, or shares in a foreign corporation that does not produce passive investment income.

Form 8621 is filed annually with your personal tax return. A separate Form must be filed for each separate foreign mutual that you own.  If the foreign mutual fund is held in your US  stock brokerage account, you do not need to file this form.  See The Form 8621 here.  Though it appears simple, this form is difficult to complete correctly. Let us know if you need help.

US Taxpayers Must Report Foreign Gifts Received

If you receive over $100,000 a year in foreign gifts (given to you from an individual abroad who is not a US Citizen) or over $14,375 per year in gifts from foreign corporations, partnerships, etc. you must file Form 3520 in order to avoid a possible 25% penalty being imposed by the IRS.  If you fail to file this form when receiving such gifts you also risk the IRS later claiming the gift was taxable income and attempting to collect income taxes, penalties and interest for failing to report it on your US tax return.

This form is informational and does not cause you to pay any tax on the foreign gift.  You just list certain information about the gift and file.  Many fail to file this form thinking it will cause them problems, but the problem will only arise when you fail to file it. The 3520 is filed separately from your tax return but is due on the due date of your 1040. If you can show reasonable cause the penalty for not timely filing this return may be waived by the IRS.

June 28, 2012

IRS releases new FAQs for Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, announces other rules

The IRS just revised and released new guidance on its 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program Initiative.  The revised guidance is located  HERE.     Read this article from the Journal of Accountancy  which explains  in general some of the revised guidelines for entering the program and another new program starting 9/1/12 for those who owe little taxes, live abroad, and did not know about filing US tax returns or Foreign Financial Account Reporting Forms (TDF 90-22.1)

We have advised and/or represented over one hundred clients in connection with these programs with great success.

June 26, 2012

IRS Announces Efforts to Help U.S. Citizens Overseas, Including Dual Citizens and Those with Foreign Retirement Plans

The Internal Revenue Service today announced a plan to help U.S. citizens residing overseas, including dual citizens, catch up with tax filing obligations and provide assistance for people with foreign retirement plan issues.
"Today we are announcing a series of common-sense steps to help U.S. citizens abroad get current with their tax obligations and resolve pension issues," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.

Shulman announced the IRS will provide a new option to help some U.S. citizens and others residing abroad who haven’t been filing tax returns and provide them a chance to catch up with their tax filing obligations if they owe little or no back taxes. The new procedure will go into effect on Sept. 1, 2012. (Click the previous link to go to the current information on the new procedure)

The IRS is aware that some U.S. taxpayers living abroad have failed to timely file U.S. federal income tax returns or Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs).  Some of these taxpayers have recently become aware of their filing requirements and want to comply with the law.

To help these taxpayers, the IRS offered the new procedures that will allow taxpayers who are low compliance risks to get current with their tax requirements without facing penalties or additional enforcement action. These people generally will have simple tax returns and owe $1,500 or less in tax for any of the covered years.

The IRS also announced that the new procedures will allow resolution of certain issues related to certain foreign retirement plans (such as Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plans).  In some circumstances, tax treaties allow for income deferral under U.S. tax law, but only if an election is made on a timely basis.  The streamlined procedures will be made available to resolve low compliance risk situations even though this election was not made on a timely basis.

Taxpayers using the new procedures announced today will be required to file delinquent tax returns along with appropriate related information returns for the past three years, and to file delinquent FBARs for the past six years. Submissions from taxpayers that present higher compliance risk will be subject to a more thorough review and potentially subject to an audit, which could cover more than three tax years.

The IRS also announced its offshore voluntary disclosure programs have exceeded the $5 billion mark, released new details regarding the voluntary disclosure program announced in January and closed a loophole used by some U.S. citizens.  See IR-2012-64 for more details.

June 20, 2012

IRS Adds 9 More Questions and Answers on Form 8938 - Reporting Foreign Financial Assets

Basic Questions and Answers on Form 8938 (rev 6/7/12)

Q&A   1-14, posted 02-29-12
Q&A 15-23, posted 06-07-12

1. What are the specified foreign financial assets that I need to report on Form 8938?
If you are required to file Form 8938, you must report your financial accounts maintained by a foreign financial institution.  Examples of financial accounts include:
  • Savings, deposit, checking, and brokerage accounts held with a bank or broker-dealer.
And, to the extent held for investment and not held in a financial account, you must report stock or securities issued by someone who is not a U.S. person, any other interest in a foreign entity, and any financial instrument or contract held for investment with an issuer or counterparty that is not a U.S. person.  Examples of these assets that must be reported if not held in an account include:
  • Stock or securities issued by a foreign corporation;
  • A note, bond or debenture issued by a foreign person;
  • An interest rate swap, currency swap, basis swap, interest rate cap, interest rate floor, commodity swap, equity swap, equity index swap, credit default swap or similar agreement with a foreign counterparty;
  • An option or other derivative instrument with respect to any of these examples or with respect to any currency or commodity that is entered into with a foreign counterparty or issuer;
  • A partnership interest in a foreign partnership;
  • An interest in a foreign retirement plan or deferred compensation plan;
  • An interest in a foreign estate;
  • Any interest in a foreign-issued insurance contract or annuity with a cash-surrender value. 
The examples listed above do not comprise an exclusive list of assets required to be reported.
2. I am a U.S. taxpayer but am not required to file an income tax return.  Do I need to file Form 8938?
Taxpayers who are not required to file an income tax return are not required to file Form 8938.
3. Does foreign real estate need to be reported on Form 8938?
Foreign real estate is not a specified foreign financial asset required to be reported on Form 8938.  For example, a personal residence or a rental property does not have to be reported.
If the real estate is held through a foreign entity, such as a corporation, partnership, trust or estate, then the interest in the entity is a specified foreign financial asset that is reported on Form 8938, if the total value of all your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you.  The value of the real estate held by the entity is taken into account in determining the value of the interest in the entity to be reported on Form 8938, but the real estate itself is not separately reported on Form 8938. 
4. I directly hold foreign currency (that is, the currency isn’t in a financial account).  Do I need to report this on Form 8938?
Foreign currency is not a specified foreign financial asset and is not reportable on Form 8938.
5.  I am a beneficiary of a foreign estate.  Do I need to report my  interest in a foreign estate on Form 8938?
Generally, an interest in a foreign estate is a specified foreign financial asset that is reportable on Form 8938 if the total value of all of your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you.
6. I acquired or inherited foreign stock or securities, such as bonds.  Do I need to report these on Form 8938?
Foreign stock or securities, if you hold them outside of a financial account, must be reported on Form 8938, provided the value of your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you.  If you hold foreign stock or securities inside of a financial account, you do not report the stock or securities on Form 8938.  For more information regarding the reporting of the holdings of financial accounts, see FAQs 8 and 9.
7. I directly hold shares of a U.S. mutual fund that owns foreign stocks and securities.  Do I need to report the shares of the U.S. mutual fund or the stocks and securities held by the mutual fund on Form 8938? 
If you directly hold shares of a U.S. mutual fund you do not need to report the mutual fund or the holdings of the mutual fund.
8.  I have a financial account maintained by a U.S. financial institution that holds foreign stocks and securities.  Do I need to report the financial account or its holdings? 
You do not need to report a financial account maintained by a U.S. financial institution or its holdings.  Examples of financial accounts maintained by U.S. financial institutions include:
  • U.S. Mutual fund accounts
  • IRAs (traditional or Roth)
  • 401 (k) retirement plans
  • Qualified U.S. retirement plans
  • Brokerage accounts maintained by U.S. financial institutions
9.  I have a financial account maintained by a foreign financial institution that holds investment assets.  Do I need to report the financial account if all or any of the investment assets in the account are stock, securities, or mutual funds issued by a U.S. person?
If you have a financial account maintained by a foreign financial institution and the value of your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you, you need to report the account on Form 8938.  A foreign account is a specified foreign financial asset even if its contents include, in whole or in part, investment assets issued by a U.S. person.  You do not need to separately report the assets of a financial account on Form 8938, whether or not the assets are issued by a U.S. person or non-U.S. person.    
10.  I have a financial account with a U.S. branch of a foreign financial institution.  Do I need to report this account on Form 8938?
A financial account, such as a depository, custodial or retirement account, at a U.S. branch of a foreign financial institution is an exception to the general rule that a financial account maintained by a foreign financial institution is specified foreign financial asset.  A financial account maintained by a U.S. branch or U.S. affiliate of a foreign financial institution does not have to be reported on Form 8938 and any specified foreign financial assets in that account also do not have to be reported.
11. I own foreign stocks and securities through a foreign branch of a U.S.-based financial institution.  Do I need to report these on Form 8938?
If a financial account, such as a depository, custodial or retirement account, is held through a foreign branch or foreign affiliate of a U.S.-based financial institution, the foreign account is not a specified foreign financial asset and is not required to be reported on Form 8938
12. I have an interest in a foreign pension or deferred compensation plan. Do I need to report it on Form 8938?
If you have an interest in a foreign pension or deferred compensation plan, you have to report this interest on Form 8938 if the value of your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you.
13. How do I value my interest in a foreign pension or deferred compensation plan for purposes of reporting this on Form 8938?
In general, the value of your interest in the foreign pension plan or deferred compensation plan is the fair market value of your beneficial interest in the plan on the last day of the year.   However, if you do not know or have reason to know based on readily accessible information the fair market value of your beneficial interest in the pension or deferred compensation plan on the last day of the year, the maximum value is the value of the cash and/or other property distributed to you during the year.  This same value is used in determining whether you have met your reporting threshold.
If you do not know or have reason to know based on readily accessible information the fair market value of your beneficial interest in the pension plan or deferred compensation plan on the last day of the year and you did not receive any distributions from the plan, the value of your interest in the plan is zero.  In this circumstance, you should also use a value of zero for the plan in determining whether you have met your reporting threshold.  If you have met the reporting threshold and are required to file Form 8938, you should report the plan and indicate that its maximum is zero.
14. I am a U.S. taxpayer and have earned a right to foreign social security.  Do I need to report this on Form 8938?
Payments or the rights to receive the foreign equivalent of social security, social insurance benefits or another similar program of a foreign government are not specified foreign financial assets and are not reportable.
15. If I have to file Form 8938, am I required to report all of my specified foreign financial assets regardless of whether the assets have a de miminis maximum value during the tax year?
If you meet the applicable reporting threshold, you must report all of your specified foreign financial assets, including the specified foreign financial assets that have a de minimis maximum value during the tax year.  For exceptions to reporting, see Exceptions to Reporting on page 6 of the instructions for Form 8938.
16.  I filed my income tax return but now realize that I should have filed Form 8938 with my return, what should I do?
If you omitted Form 8938 when you filed your income tax return, you should file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, with your Form 8938 attached.
17.  Do I have to file both Form 8938 and Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)?
The filing of Form 8938 does not relieve you of the separate requirement to file the FBAR if you are otherwise required to do so, and vice-versa.  Depending on your situation, you may be required to file Form 8938 or the FBAR or both forms, and certain foreign accounts may be required to be reported on both forms.
18.  I have numerous specified foreign financial assets to report on Form 8938.  Is there a continuation sheet for the Form 8938? 
If you have more than one account or asset to report in Part I or Part II of Form 8938, or more than one issuer or counterparty to report in Part II of Form 8938, copy as many blank Parts I and/or II as you need to complete, and attach them to Form 8938.  Check the “If you have attached additional sheets, check here” box at the top of Form 8938.
19.  I directly hold tangible assets for investment, such as art, antiques, jewelry, cars and other collectibles, in a foreign country.  Do I need to report these assets on Form 8938?
No.  Directly held tangible assets, such as art, antiques, jewelry, cars and other collectibles, are not specified foreign financial assets.
20.  I directly hold precious metals for investment, such as gold, in a foreign country.  Do I need to report these assets on Form 8938?
No.  Directly held precious metals, such as gold, are not specified foreign financial assets.  Note, however, that gold certificates issued by a foreign person may be a specified foreign financial asset that you would have to report on Form 8938, if the total value of all your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you.
21.  This tax year I sold precious metals that I held for investment to a foreign person.  Do I have to report the sales contract on Form 8938? 
The contract with the foreign person to sell assets held for investment is a specified foreign financial asset investment asset that you have to report on Form 8938, if the total value of all your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you.
22.  I have a safe deposit box at a foreign financial institution.  Is the safe deposit box itself considered to a financial account?   
No, a safe deposit box is not a financial account.
23.  Am I required to hire a certified appraiser or actuary to determine the fair market value of a specified foreign financial asset?  For example, if I have a foreign defined benefit plan, am I required to obtain the services of an actuary?
You may determine the fair market value of a foreign financial account for the purpose of reporting its maximum value based on periodic account statements unless you have reason to know that the statements do not reflect a reasonable estimate of the maximum value of the account during the tax year.  For a specified foreign financial asset not held in a financial account, you may determine the fair market value of the asset for the purpose of reporting its maximum value based on information publicly available from reliable financial information sources or from other verifiable sources.  Even if there is no information from a reliable financial information source or other verifiable source, you do not need to obtain an appraisal by a third party in order to reasonably estimate the asset’s maximum value during the tax year.

Reporting Foreign Financial Accounts Due Date for Form TDF 90-22.1 (FBAR) is 6/29/12 or 6/30/12

Your TDF 90-22.1  (FBAR form) where you must report to the IRS your foreign bank and financial accounts must arrive at the designated address by 6/29/12 or be filed on line no later than 6/30/12.  No extensions are allowed. You must report accounts owned by you or that you have signature authority or control over.

This form must be filed for your 2011 foreign financial accounts highest balances during 2011 exceed $10,000 US. Therefore, you need to combine these highest balances to determine if you need to file this form. Foreign financial accounts (but not limited to these) which must be on the form include:
  • Bank and savings accounts
  • Stock Brokerage Accounts
  • Pension plans
  • Cash surrender value in foreign life insurance and annuities
  • Gold held by another company or person for safe keeping.
Best to file the form Certified mail with return receipt so you have proof of filing or by DHL, UPS, or Fed Exp.

If you are required to file this form, you may also be obligated to file Form 8938 with your personal US tax return.

Link to download  paperTDF 90.22.1(FBAR):

Potential Penalties for Not Filing or Filing Late:

The following chart highlights the civil and criminal penalties that may be asserted for not complying with the FBAR reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
Civil Penalties 
Criminal Penalties 
Negligent ViolationUp to $500 N/A31 U.S.C.
§ 5321(a)(6)(A)
31 C.F.R. 103.57(h)
Non-Willful ViolationUp to $10,000 for each negligent violationN/A31 U.S.C. § 5321(a)(5)(B)
Pattern of Negligent ActivityIn addition to penalty under § 5321(a)(6)(A)
with respect to any such violation, not more than $50,000
N/A31 U.S.C. 5321(a)(6)(B)
Willful - Failure to File FBAR or retain records of accountUp to the greater of $100,000, or 50 percent of the amount in the account at the time of the violation.Up to $250,000 or 5 years or both31 U.S.C. § 5321(a)(5)(C)
31 U.S.C. § 5322(a)
and 31 C.F.R. § 103.59(b) for criminal.
The penalty applies to all U.S. persons.
Willful - Failure to File FBAR or retain records of account while violating certain other lawsUp to the greater of $100,000, or 50 percent of the amount in the account at the time of the violation.Up to $500,000 or 10 years or both31 U.S.C. § 5322(b) and 31 C.F.R. § 103.59(c) for criminal
The penalty applies to all U.S. persons.
Knowingly and Willfully Filing False FBARUp to the greater of $100,000, or 50 percent of the amount in the account at the time of the violation.$10,000 or 5 years or both18 U.S.C. § 1001,
31 C.F.R. § 103.59(d) for criminal.  The penalty applies to all U.S. persons.
Civil and Criminal Penalties may be imposed together.  31 U.S.C. § 5321(d).