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Paradise Papers Revelations Highlight Importance of IRS Voluntary Disclosure

In light of the massive leak of the Appleby files this weekend (i.e., the “Paradise Papers” leak), it is increasingly important for US taxpayers to know the rules regarding reporting of their offshore financial accounts and assets. We have previously written on this subject here.

The latest document release from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists includes over 13.4 million files spanning a time period of more than 60-years, including a large cache from the Bermudan law firm, Appleby, and a fiduciary service provider, Estera. According to news reports, covered jurisdictions include Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Cook Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Lebanon, Malta, the Marshall Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vanuatu.

Practice Point: Voluntary disclosure to the Internal Revenue Service may still be an option for affected individuals and entities; therefore, all options should be considered when evaluating the consequences of this leak.




Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Update

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) currently offers non-compliant US taxpayers several different relief programs in which to report foreign assets and/or income and become compliant with US rules related to the disclosure of foreign assets. One option is the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP).  Another is the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures (SFCP).  SFCP is further bifurcated into two sub-programs—one for US residents (Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures or “SDOP”) and one for non-US residents (Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures or “SFOP”).  Each program has its own set of tailored procedures and eligibility requirements.

The critical differences between OVDP and SFCP are: (1) the non-willfulness requirement; (2) the look-back period; and (3) the amounts of penalties the US taxpayer must pay.  Specifically, OVDP does not require the US taxpayer to certify that his or her failure to disclose foreign assets was non-willful.  On the other hand, SFCP requires the US taxpayer to certify that his or her failure to disclose foreign assets was non-willful and to also include a narrative explaining such non-willful conduct.  The incentive to demonstrate non-willfulness can be significant.  In general, US taxpayers who enroll in OVDP must pay a 27.5 percent penalty (and in some cases a 50 percent penalty) of the highest aggregate value of undisclosed foreign assets for the OVDP disclosure period (eight years).  However, US taxpayers who enter SDOP must only pay a five percent penalty of undisclosed foreign assets during the disclosure period (three years), and US taxpayers who enter SFOP pay no penalty. (more…)




Manafort Indictment Is a Good Reminder of FBAR Disclosure Requirements

On October 30, 2017, Paul Manafort Jr. was indicted for concealing his interests in several foreign bank accounts, as well as tax evasion and a host of other criminal charges.  The indictment reminds us how important it is to follow the strict guidelines of the reporting regime that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the US Department of the Treasury have established to disclose foreign bank accounts.

Pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act, a US citizen or resident (a US Person) is required to disclose certain foreign bank and financial accounts which he or she has “a financial interest in or signature authority over” annually.  This obligation can be triggered by direct or indirect interests; a US Person is treated as having a financial interest in a foreign account through indirect ownership of more than 50 percent of the voting power or equity of a foreign entity, like a corporation or partnership.  The US Person is required to annually disclose the interest on FinCEN 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, which is commonly referred to as the FBAR.  The disclosure requirement is triggered when the aggregate value of the foreign account exceeds $10,000.  The form is filed with your federal income tax return.

The civil penalties for failing to timely disclose an interest in a foreign account can be severe, and in the case of willful violations, can reach up to 50 percent of the highest aggregate annual balance of the unreported foreign financial account each year.  The statute of limitations for FBAR violations is six years, and the willful penalty may be assessed for more than one year, creating extreme financial consequences for FBAR reporting failures.

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Weekly IRS Roundup February 13 – February 19, 2022

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of February 13, 2022 – February 19, 2022. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

February 14, 2022: The IRS issued a news release announcing the launch of a resource page that provides taxpayers with 2022 filing season updates, including updates concerning the resolution of unprocessed returns from the 2021 filing season.

February 15, 2022: The IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2022-4, providing various prescribed interest rates for federal income tax purposes for March 2022.

February 15, 2022: The IRS issued a news release announcing the release of an updated Form 14457, which relates to the IRS Voluntary Disclosure Practice for criminal prosecution. The updates include an expanded section on the reporting of virtual currency.

February 15, 2022: The IRS issued a news release, providing an update to a Fact Sheet containing answers to frequently asked questions regarding the tax treatment of emergency grants for higher education, which were introduced pursuant to pandemic-related legislation.

February 16, 2022: The IRS issued a news release recommending that taxpayers use the online resources on its homepage as their first resource for tax inquiries and provided links to certain commonly used resources.

February 16, 2022: The IRS issued a news release, warning tax professionals to be alert for a new phishing scam designed to steal tax preparation software account credentials.

February 16, 2022: The IRS issued a news release, soliciting applications for Taxpayer Advocacy Panel membership, an advisory body that receives taxpayer feedback and makes suggestions for improving IRS customer service.

February 16, 2022: The IRS issued a news release, setting forth additional transition relief (in the form of an additional exception for certain taxpayers for tax year 2021) from the requirement to file the new Schedules K-2 and K-3 relating to partnerships and flow-through entities.

February 17, 2022: The IRS issued Notice 2022-09, providing the monthly update to certain interest rates used for pension plan funding and distribution purposes.

February 17, 2022: The IRS issued a news release, reminding taxpayers with income from a farming or fishing business to file returns and pay taxes that are due by March 1, 2022, unless they have made estimated tax payments.

February 17, 2022: The IRS issued a news release, providing an update to a Fact Sheet containing answers to frequently asked questions regarding the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit, enacted as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).

February 18, 2022: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandums and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special [...]

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Cryptocurrency Global Tax Enforcement: What Investors and Companies in the Industry Need to Know NOW

On June 28, 2021, McDermott held a webinar presentation titled “Cryptocurrency Global Tax Enforcement: What Investors and Companies in the Industry Need to Know NOW.”

Topics during this webinar included:

  • How to address the tax consequences of past virtual currency transactions, including potential voluntary disclosure considerations.
  • How to protect your business from a US Department of Justice (DOJ) or UK investigation, including compliance updates to address this risk.
  • Law enforcement perspectives and updates from the IRS, DOJ and a former high-level director at HM Revenue & Customs.
  • How to respond to an IRS letter, including potential civil resolutions.
  • How to respond to a DOJ or a UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) inquiry, summons, subpoena, search warrant or a whistleblower complaint.

A link to the webinar is available here. A link to the webinar’s slides is available here.




Biden Administration Proposals Will Greatly Enhance IRS’ Ability to Identify Cryptocurrency Transactions

The Biden Administration and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continue to focus heavily on cryptocurrency tax enforcement issues. On May 20, 2021, the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) released the American Families Plan Tax Compliance Agenda, a 22-page report detailing tax compliance measures that are to be included as part of US President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan. The report sets forth a number of initiatives designed to “close the tax gap,” identify the underreporting of tax liabilities and detect tax evasion. These measures, which are part of an $80 billion proposal for the IRS, would significantly enhance the agencies’ ability to address the challenges involved with finding taxes that result from virtual currency transactions.

The Treasury’s report notes that “[c]ryptocurrency already poses a significant detection problem by facilitating illegal activity broadly including tax evasion.” To address this issue, the Biden Administration is proposing “additional resources for the IRS to address the growth of cryptoassets.”

Most notably, the Biden Administration is proposing enhanced reporting requirements for domestic and foreign financial accounts that specifically address cryptocurrency. Financial institutions, including “cryptoasset exchange accounts and payment service accounts that accept cryptocurrencies” would be required to submit third-party annual reports of all “gross inflows and outflows” from business and personal accounts to the IRS using a form similar to the IRS 1099-INT. Additionally, “businesses that receive cryptoassets with a fair market value of more than $10,000 would be reported on” in a manner similar to how cash transactions are reported on Currency Transaction Reports. These new reporting requirements would dramatically increase the IRS’ ability to identify and detect unreported cryptocurrency transactions.

The report also reemphasizes the need to devote additional funding to the IRS. The Biden Administration is seeking $80 billion in additional funding so that the Treasury and IRS can, among other things, hire “new specialized enforcement staff” and “revitalize[e] the IRS’s examination of large corporations, partnerships, and global high-wealth and high-income individuals.”

Additionally, the Biden Administration plans to overhaul the IRS’ IT systems and capabilities. These IT enhancements are designed to “help support a staff capable of deploying new analytical techniques” and “developing machine learning capabilities [that] will enable the IRS to leverage the information it collects to better identify tax returns for compliance review.” Given the inherent difficulties in identifying cryptocurrency users who have failed to comply with the internal revenue laws, increased data collection and analytics capabilities would be invaluable for the IRS.

The IRS has already been ramping up its cryptocurrency tax enforcement efforts by issuing John Doe summons to various cryptocurrency exchanges, working with industry experts and foreign law enforcement. If implemented, the American Families Plan Tax Compliance Agenda would provide the IRS with extensive new tools and resources for these ongoing enforcement activities.

Practice Point: If you have engaged in cryptocurrency transactions, now is the time to analyze whether you have any civil or criminal exposure and prepare for a government inquiry by gathering all of your transaction records. For [...]

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Skip Jail and Clean Up Your Tax Problems

If you have knowingly failed to report income or claimed deductions you know you are not entitled to, or just decided not to file your tax returns and pay the tax owed, you may be liable for civil penalties and even jail time for criminal tax evasion. Taxpayers with civil and criminal tax exposure may want to fix their past mistakes but are afraid of what will happen if they “come clean.” So, the majority of offenders keep offending year after year. But did you know there is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) program that can help taxpayers get out of that “evasion” cycle, and clean up past tax issues, usually without criminal liability?

The IRS has a longstanding program through which taxpayers can make voluntary disclosures of tax underreporting and tax criminal evasion. Such disclosures may help taxpayers limit their criminal exposure, although disclosure does not automatically guarantee immunity from criminal prosecution.

The latest iteration of the voluntary disclosure program is known as the Voluntary Disclosure Practice (VDP). (Here is a link to the IRS’s VDP program description.) Under the terms of the program, a taxpayer must submit Part I of Form 14457, Voluntary Disclosure Practice Preclearance Request and Application, which contains basic identifying and procedural information necessary to determine if the taxpayer is eligible to participate in the VDP program. The IRS uses this information to verify that the taxpayer is not already under criminal investigation, which is a bar to entering into the VDP program. Once the taxpayer has been “precleared,” the taxpayer must submit Part II of Form 14457, which seeks detailed information regarding the nature of the tax reporting failures and the associated unpaid tax liabilities. If the taxpayer is approved to participate in the VDP program, the taxpayer’s case is transferred to the appropriate IRS civil division for examination. Ultimately, the taxpayer must cooperate with the IRS to determine its correct tax liability and must make good faith arrangements to pay all unpaid liabilities, including interest and penalties. Typically, this will include the filing of corrected tax returns for six years; the payment of the correct tax and interest for those returns; and the payment of enhanced penalties for one tax year.

The current version of Form 14457 was released in April 2020. On July 14, 2020, Carolyn A. Schenck, the National Fraud Counsel for the IRS Fraud Enforcement Program, stated that the IRS is planning to issue additional instructions for Form 14457 to provide further guidance on the mechanics of the VDP. Conforming additions will be made to the Internal Revenue Manual.

Practice Point: The risk of criminal prosecution for tax offenses is increasing due to significant improvements in IRS enforcement strategies. IRS commissioner Charles Rettig was formerly in private practice defending taxpayers and has implemented significant changes in IRS programs and leadership. There is an unprecedented degree of coordination among the enforcement divisions and emphasis on preventing tax fraud, with Eric Hylton, previous deputy [...]

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Weekly IRS Roundup November 18 – 22, 2019

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of November 18 – 22, 2019.

November 19, 2019: The IRS published final regulations that affect United States persons with direct or indirect ownership interests in certain foreign corporations. The regulations provide rules regarding the attribution of ownership of stock or other interests for purposes of determining whether a person is a related person with respect to a controlled foreign corporation under section 954(d)(3). In addition, the final regulations provide rules for determining whether a controlled foreign corporation is considered to derive rents in the active conduct of a trade or business for purposes of computing foreign personal holding company income.

November 19, 2019: The IRS posted Large Business and International active compliance campaigns. The campaigns include: (1) Costs that Facilitate an IRC 355 Transaction; (2) Form 1120-F Delinquent Returns Campaign; (3) IRC 199 – Claims Risk Review; (4) IRC 457A – Deferred Compensation Attributable; (5) Nonresident Alien Individual (NRA) Tax Credits; and (6) Post Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) Compliance.

November 19, 2019: The IRS added section 7122-related (offers in compromise) questions and answers on whether Form 8821 allows a taxpayer to appoint a third party to represent them before the IRS on an offer in compromise (negative) and on whether a spouse’s income must be included on Form 433-A (OIC), Collection Information Statement for Wage Earners and Self-Employed Individuals, even if the spouse doesn’t owe taxes (affirmative).

November 19, 2019: The IRS issued interim guidance to update the process by which the IRS accepts requests for confirmation that the government received a filed FinCEN Form 114 (formerly TD F 90-22.1), Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). The IRS will no longer accept verbal verification requests. All requests must be submitted in writing.

November 20, 2019: The IRS issued a news release on its annual report for 2019, including recommendations to the IRS on new and continuing issues in tax administration. The 2019 Public Report includes recommendations on over 20 issues, which cover a broad range of topics and concerns, including guidance relating to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

November 20, 2019: The IRS published questions and answers about the new qualified business income deduction (the section 199A deduction) that may be available to individuals, including many owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships and S corporations, and some trusts and estates. This deduction, created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, allows non-corporate taxpayers to deduct up to 20% of their qualified business income, plus 20% of qualified real estate investment trust dividends and qualified publicly traded partnership income.

November 21, 2019: The IRS’s National Taxpayer Advocate blog posted highlights of the Taxpayer First Act and its impact on the Taxpayer Advocate Service and taxpayer rights.

November 21, 2019: The IRS published a notice of public hearing on proposed regulations regarding the timing of income inclusion under section 451.  The public hearing is being [...]

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Watch Your Mailbox: IRS Letters Warning of Cryptocurrency Non-Compliance on Their Way

On July 26, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a press release informing the public that it is sending more than 10,000 letters to taxpayers with potentially unreported (or misreported) virtual currency transactions. The letters will inform them of the possible reporting requirements that may apply to these transactions and advise them of the need to correct past errors. (more…)




More IRS “Campaigns?! IRS Announces Six More Examination Campaigns

On July 19, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business & International (LB&I) division announced the approval of six new campaigns. As in the past, the IRS stated that “LB&I’s goal is to improve return selection, identify issues representing a risk of non-compliance, and make the greatest use of limited resources.” This brings the total number of campaigns to 59! LB&I’s campaign announcements and approved campaigns are available on the IRS’s website.

The six new LB&I campaigns are listed below, verbatim by title and description.

S Corporations Built in Gains Tax
C corporations that convert to S corporations are subjected to the Built-in Gains tax (BIG) if they have a net unrealized built-in gain and sell assets within 5 years after the conversion. This tax is assessed to the S corporation. LB&I has found that S corporations are not always paying this tax when they sell the C corporation assets after the conversion. LB&I has developed comprehensive technical content for this campaign that will aid revenue agents as they examine the issue. The goal of this campaign is to increase awareness and compliance with the law as supported by several court decisions. Treatment streams for this campaign will be issue-based examinations, soft letters, and outreach to practitioners. (more…)




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