Author Archive for Jeffrey B. Kahn, Esq. - Principal Attorney

Beware Your Hobby Business Could Land You In Tax Court

Your hobby business could land you in Tax Court – avoid IRS pitfalls by how you structure your small business.

Many people successfully develop a hobby into a going concern and actually receive income from it. That income must always be reported and taxes paid on that money regardless of your situation. If you leave that hobby as a hobby, under the tax law, you are not allowed to deduct any of the losses incurred by activity in that hobby. That is the reason most people turn their hobbies into businesses once they start making money.

When Are Hobby Losses Deductible?

By showing that your pursuit of your “hobby” is an activity engaged in for profit, you may be able to deduct those years where you incurred losses if you meet certain presumptions.

For activities not involving the breeding, training, showing, or racing of horses, the presumption is that you business is an activity engaged in for profit where you show annual net income from an activity for 3 or more of the taxable years in the period of 5 consecutive taxable years which ends with the most recent taxable year. So if for the first three years your activity has incurred losses, you must show net income in years four and five (even if only $1.00 in each year) in order to still be able to deduct the first three years of losses.

For activities involving the breeding, training, showing, or racing of horses, the presumption will work in the same fashion except you must show annual net income from an activity for 2 or more of the taxable years in the period of 7 consecutive taxable years which ends with the most recent taxable year.

Challenges In U.S. Tax Court.

Despite these presumptions, the IRS does not always see your hobby as a viable business, and that is where tax difficulties arise. There are a number of court cases where the question of hobby or business has been decided for the particular business by the IRS, and under challenge, the cases end up in Tax Court. Here are five cases that landed in Tax Court worth discussing.

1. Fishing: In Busbee v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2000-182, this taxpayer decided to hold fishing tournaments. These tournaments required him to promote the activity through flyers, speaking engagements, and other marketing efforts. He had to recruit participants and sponsors. He intended his hobby of fishing tournaments to supplement his retirement income as he developed it into a business. Through the process, he became an expert in bass fishing. The Tax Court considered all of this, and allowed his business.

In Peacock v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2002-122, this taxpayer began tournament fishing in his retirement. Sailing everywhere on his personal yacht, he and his wife fished specifically for the pleasure of participating in the tournament, especially when these tournaments were in exotic locales. In this case, the Tax Court decided this was not a business but a hobby for the activity was not “motivated primarily by the pursuit of profit”. What probably hurt their case, even subtly, was the fact that they had just sold a business and were now millionaires.

2. Golfing: In William James Courville v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 1996-134, an optical engineer, after 30 years of employment, was laid off. He decided to become a professional golfer, but took only 4 golf lessons while a “professional”. He did not qualify for the senior tour, and ended up with no income from this activity. However, he did submit a Schedule C, listing expenses totaling over $16,000. The Tax Court declared that he “failed to establish that his golfing activity was carried on with the actual and honest objective of making a profit”.

3. Track and field coaching: In Parks v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2012-105, the taxpayer began his professional career as a writer of freelance articles on the sport of track and field. Over a number of years, he owned a track and field magazine, coached at a number of different locations, studied with one of the foremost experts in the industry, then basically tried to establish himself and his trainees as credible within the field. By 2006, this man had a winning contestant who qualified for the Olympic trials, and by 2009, that contestant signed the taxpayer coach to a lucrative contract as his exclusive coach, and things only got better for the taxpayer. However, in a tax period of 9 years, the coach showed only a $43 profit, so the IRS claimed hobby not business. The Tax Court considered the case in great detail and decided primarily (although not all points) for the taxpayer, saying his income was growing and he had great potential for success. They did not see track and field as a typical hobby, and that did work to the taxpayer’s benefit.

4. Writing: There is an infamous case which always gives people a chuckle, and that is the man who decided to write about prostitution. Vitale v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 1999-131. Ralph Louis Vitale, Jr., in 1999, claimed on his tax return that he was in the business of writing about prostitution. When this taxpayer began his “research” four years before his retirement, he was still a full-time employee. Over the course of time, he visited a large number of brothels doing his “research” and always paying for services in cash (no records kept). He did keep a journal detailing each of his visits and expenses, and eventually developed a manuscript from his notes. Vitale submitted his manuscript to a vanity publisher, paying $4,375 to publish it. All tolled, after he received $2,600 in royalties, the publisher went bankrupt. Subsequently, the book rights were returned to him, and he again began marketing his book throughout the industry. The IRS said this was just a hobby and disallowed Vitale’s deductions. So Vitale went to Tax Court. At first, the Tax Court felt that the taxpayer had a profit motive and overruled the IRS, even though the court also made comments about the “recreational” qualities of the contents of his book. The court did like his record-keeping and marketing and felt it showed his professionalism. But then the Tax Court disallowed all of his deductions, for the taxpayer could prove none of them (remember the cash payments?). Nevertheless, the court did not penalize this taxpayer in any way, saying that he had made a reasonable attempt to comply with the law.

The U.S. Tax Court weighs “profit motive” most heavily in each of their decisions. Profit is a key decider when considering whether an activity is hobby or business. Is your hobby truly for profit or only for pleasure? That is foremost and basic premise that the Tax Court considers.

What Should You Do?

There seem to be two “hobbies” that trigger audits most frequently and those are horses or yachts. Both are money pits, and so if people can figure out a way to make a business out of them, that will provide either tax deductions and/or income to cover the high expenses of each. The IRS knows this, and is very strict when applying the rules to these activities. When structuring these, pay very close attention to business start-up details.

Regardless, if you follow good business practices when converting your hobby into a business, you have a greater chance of convincing the IRS it is a real business. Your business records must be up-to-date and accurate, and your business plan must lay out a course for creating profit from your activity in the future. That written business plan can be a real asset if you end up in Tax Court versus the IRS.

Consulting a tax lawyer at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and elsewhere in California early on in your business efforts will probably be the best investment you make in your business. A tax lawyer can review your actions and recommend steps to build your business in a sound manner. Furthermore, if you do end up facing the IRS at some point, your tax lawyer can defend you or negotiate for you, reducing your stress and exposure significantly. Remember, the IRS has their experts—you should too.

Description: The Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and elsewhere in California has helped many people minimize or avoid adjustments from IRS by pursuing litigation and negotiations with the U.S. Tax Court. Working with a tax attorney is the best bet for minimizing adjustments that would create liability to the IRS.

Jeffrey B. Kahn, Esq. discusses IRS and taxes on the January 18, 2015 radio show “Talking Money with Mr. C” on 760AM KFMB in San Diego

Issues Discussed:

  1. Need proof the IRS won’t go away?
  2. The 9th largest search phrase in all of yahoo finance is this: “Is social security taxable”?

Is Social Security Taxable?

A classic case of the government giveth and the government taketh away.

One of the most common web-search phrases entered is this: “Is social security taxable”? The answer: It all depends on your income and filing status. If you file taxes as an individual and your combined income — that’s your adjusted gross income plus one half of your annual Social Security benefit — is less than $25,000, you won’t pay federal income taxes on your benefits.

But once you get past that $25,000 mark, that’s when you start seeing taxes. People who earn between $25,000 and $34,000 could have up to half of their benefits taxed, and people who earn more than $34,000 could see up to 85% of their benefits taxed.

Things are slightly different if you’re married. Married couples with a combined income of less than $32,000 won’t see their benefits taxed at all.

What If You Owe The IRS?

The Federal Payment Levy Program (“FPLP”) allows the IRS to levy 15% of your Social Security benefit payments to pay your delinquent tax debt. Mind you that the gross amount of the benefits is still considered as potentially taxable by the IRS.

Before your Social Security benefits are included in the FPLP, the IRS will send you a Final Notice Of Intent To Levy. This notice is only issued once and provides valuable appeals rights. You have 30 days from the date of this notice to make arrangements to pay your tax debt before the IRS will begin deducting 15% from your monthly benefit.

Keep in mind that the IRS is not just limited to levying social security benefits but can levy other sources of income, issue bank levies and file tax liens. Remember the IRS wants to collect its money as quick as possible.

The Final Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to A Hearing is your last warning before the IRS starts levy action. The IRS will give you this notice in person, leave it at your home or your usual place of business, or send it to your last known address by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested. You do not want to ignore this notice.

Don’t Take The Chance And Lose Everything You Have Worked For!

Protect yourself. If you are in danger of wage garnishments or bank levies or having a tax lien placed against your property, stand up to the IRS and your State Tax Agency by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems to allow you to have a fresh start.

IRS Strikes Out Darryl Strawberry For Outstanding Tax Debt

IRS to auction Darryl Strawberry’s deferred Mets salary. A minimum bid of $550,000 has been set for the January 20, 2014 auction which will offer a deferred compensation agreement that was part of Strawberry’s 1985-90 contract with the Mets.

Darryl Strawberry, the former MLB All-Star, New York Mets and New York Yankees star who has faced tax problems owes over $550,000 when totaling California state and IRS back taxes. Strawberry was well known as a home-run hitter with a large presence in the batters box.

Strawberry is well known for leading the Mets to a World Series win in 1986 and the Yankees to championships in 1996, 1998 and 1999. But when it came to the IRS – it was three strikes and he’s out!

In 1995, The New York Times reported that Strawberry owed over $100,000 in back income taxes (for underreported income of $411,250 between 1986 and 1990), and just recently The Detroit News reported that he owes over $550,000 in back taxes. The breakdown according to The Detroit News is as follows: He owes over $259,000 to the State of California (as a tax lien was filed in April), over $250,000 to the IRS (IRS tax lien filed in December 2008).

In November 2004, after being served with an IRS levy,  the New York Mets began sending the IRS almost all of the $8,892 in monthly deferred compensation Strawberry is owed under the Uniform Player’s Contract, to cover both his back taxes and current income tax withholding.

But this was still not enough for the IRS – you see one way or the other, the IRS seems likely to get all its money.

The Internal Revenue Service is now auctioning the deferred compensation agreement that was part of Darryl Strawberry’s 1985-90 contract with the New York Mets to satisfy taxes owed by the former All-Star outfielder to satisfy IRS tax liens for 1989, 1990, 2003 and 2004.

The IRS said the agreement is worth about $1,279,000. The minimum bid is $550,000 in the auction which is scheduled for January 20, 2014 at the IRS office in Fairview Heights, Illinois. But if you are looking to bid, include a payment of 20% of the minimum and be prepared to pay the remainder within 60 days of the bid’s acceptance.

When Would The IRS Or State Tax Agency File A Tax Lien?

The IRS or a State Tax Agency will file a lien when the agency feels there is a chance that collection is in peril. It does not just grab your assets. Filing of a tax lien is normally dictated by the dollar amount. For IRS under the IRS’s Fresh Start program, the lien threshold was increased from $5,000 to $10,000.

The Notice of Federal or State Tax Lien is filed in the public records office of each county where you own property and thus attaches to any property you own. If you sell the property, proceeds will be used to satisfy the lien. Any person or company pulling a credit report on you will see the tax lien. This will damage your borrowing ability, making it difficult to refinance your home, get an auto loan, credit card, or business loan. Also, if you are looking to refinance your loan, the lien would have to be satisfied at closing in order for the lender in the new loan to retain a senior creditor’s position.

Alternatively, a new lender should be willing to make the new loan where the IRS and State Tax Agency agrees to subordinate its lien. A taxpayer can request that the IRS and State Tax Agency subordinate their liens to the new lender. In the process, even though the tax lien would be older than the new loan, the IRS and State Tax Agency agree to stand behind the new lender should the loan be defaulted and the new lender now seeks to foreclose on the property.

Federal Tax Liens Do Not Necessarily Have To Remain In Place While You Are Under A Payment Plan.

It is true that certain taxpayers who enter into payment plans with the IRS can get tax liens withdrawn even before the liability is paid in full. You must enter into a Direct Debit installment agreement and also meet the following to request that the Federal Tax Lien be withdrawn:

  1. The current amount you owe must be $50,000 or less;
  2. If you owe more than $50,000, you may pay down the balance to $50,000 prior to requesting the lien withdrawal to be eligible;
  3. Your Direct Debit Installment Agreement must full pay the amount you owe within 60 months or before the Collection Statute expires, whichever is earlier;
  4. You must be in full compliance with other filing and payment requirements;
  5. You must have made three consecutive direct debit payments;
  6. You cannot have previously received a lien withdrawal for the same taxes unless the withdrawal was for an improper filing of the lien; and
  7. You cannot have defaulted on your current, or any previous, direct debit installment agreement.

An existing installment agreement not structured as a Direct Debit Installment Agreement can be converted so that you can now qualify for this relief for lien withdrawal. Bear in mind that if you default on your Direct Debit Installment Agreement after the lien is withdrawn, a new notice of lien may be filed and collection efforts may resume.

Don’t Let The IRS Strike You Out And You Lose Everything You Have Worked For!

Protect yourself. If you are in danger of wage garnishments or bank levies or having a tax lien placed against your property, stand up to the IRS and your State Tax Agency by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems to allow you to have a fresh start.

Jeffrey B. Kahn, Esq. Discusses Taxes, the IRS, and Undisclosed Foreign Accounts On ESPN Radio – January 9, 2015 Show

Topics Covered:

1. Landmark Alaska Bar Reopens After Closed Down By IRS.

2. How The IRS Will Find You If You Have Unreported Foreign Income And Undisclosed Foreign Accounts.

3. What Signs To Be On The Lookout For That You May Be Subject To An IRS Criminal Investigation.

4. Questions From Our Listeners:

a. I used a tax preparation service to prepare my tax return and now I have been selected for an audit by IRS. Should I have my tax preparer represent me in the audit or do I hire you?

b. I filed Federal income tax returns that I now realize are incorrect. Should report this to my accountant?

c. My CPA who I have been going to for years has never told me that I had to report my foreign income. Now that I know I have to report my foreign income and disclose my foreign bank accounts, do I accept my CPA’s offer to represent me in OVDP or do I hire you?

Yes we are all working for the tax man!

Good afternoon! Welcome to the KahnTaxLaw Radio Show
This is your host Board Certified Tax Attorney, Jeffrey B. Kahn, the principal attorney of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. and head of the KahnTaxLaw team.
You are listening to my weekly radio show where we talk everything about taxes from the ESPN 1700 AM Studio in San Diego, California.
When it comes to knowing tax laws and paying taxes, let’s face it — everyone in the U.S. is either in tax trouble, on their way to tax trouble, or trying to avoid tax trouble!
It is my objective to make you smarter so that you legally pay the least tax as possible, avoid tax problems and be aware of the strategies and solutions if you are being targeted by the IRS or any State tax agency.
Our show is broadcasted each Friday at 2:00PM Pacific Time and replays are available on demand by logging into our website at www.kahntaxlaw.com.
I have a lot to cover today in the world of taxes and helping me out today will be my associate attorney Amy Spivey who will be calling in later in today’s show.

Today’s top story occurred in the great State of Alaska. Alaska’s economy is dominated by the oil, natural gas, and fishing industries, resources which it has in abundance. But tourism is also a significant part of the economy and that is where you can find some classic Alaska bars.

So what makes a classic Alaska bar?

A classic Alaska bar is a magical mixture — a touch of danger and a place where characters gather, featuring a strong relationship between bartender and patrons. More than fun, a classic Alaska bar is educational in a perverse sort of way. Past customers bring them up in conversation. People outside Alaska know of them.

What makes some bars unique is what used to be there before the bar existed – perhaps an old outpost or bootlegging operation or brothel.

Some of these classic Alaskan bars are set up as a dark and dank watering hole with sawdust on the floors and dollar bills and a bra or two nailed to wooden walls. While others may be more conventional. But the one thing that the classic Alaskan bars have in common is the atmosphere of the bar reflects the personality of its owner.

But as those owners get older and retire or pass away, a new crop of entrepreneurs are taking their shot at preserving legendary watering holes. One of those places is Louie’s Bar in the Southeast Juneau community of Douglas.

Louie’s Bar rose out of the ashes of the Great Douglas Fire of 1937, which incinerated downtown Douglas. Although the bar was not called Louie’s until 1974 when it was then inherited by a man named Louie Pusich.

But in 2013 Louie’s doors were closed – not because the owner died or retired. Instead it was closed by the Internal Revenue Service for nonpayment of taxes amounting to $1 million.

The Shutdown.

That’s right, P P’s Douglas Inn, formerly known as Louie’s Bar, was closed down and seized by the Internal Revenue Service for not paying federal taxes over the last fourteen years. The doors were locked, stools upturned on tables and lights dimmed just before the 2013 Independence Day holiday. Owner Patrick M. Peterson admitted that he did not pay federal taxes and knew that a shut down had to be coming.

Mr. Peterson was asked, how could he have racked up over $1 million in Federal taxes? He replied that “Paperwork is not my big suit. I just couldn’t keep up with it. Up until 1999, I had a good bookkeeper that was taking care of it for me. So, I had everything caught up with”. He then added that “staring with 1999, he did have others working on his bookkeeping and taxes but nobody came through with what I needed”.

Federal tax records showed that Peterson and his company Peterson Pacific Holdings owed nearly $1 million in back taxes. Three-quarters of that amount was in the form of unpaid quarterly employer taxes from early 1999 to the end of 2012. The rest is what the IRS calls a Trust Fund Recovery Penalty, or an attempt to recoup employees’ withholding, Medicare and Social Security taxes that the employer did not pass on to the federal government.

This is all evidenced by eleven federal tax liens totaling $997,188.16 that were filed against Peterson and his company between July 2011 and June 2013. They were for unpaid federal employer taxes during most of the reporting periods from First Quarter of 1999 to the Fourth Quarter of 2012.

Now, most business owners in this situation would look to reach a resolution with the IRS and avoid collection action or even worse – a business shutdown. But not Peterson. Instead he signed a quit claim deed for the Bar’s property to a Carol Collier of Riverview, Florida in exchange for $1.00 on May 20, 2013. This was at the same time when the City and Borough of Juneau (“CBJ”) property assessments showed the land valued at $67,900 and the structure valued at $174,100 for a combined total of $242,000. But don’t think that this transfer thwarted IRS collection action. You see when the IRS files a Federal Tax Lien, such lien follows any subsequent transfer of the property until the lien is paid in full or otherwise satisfied.

What is most unusual about Peterson’s case is that his business’ tax problems go back to 1999 – that’s about 15 years! How could the IRS have let this drag on for that long? Perhaps being in a remote location in the rugged State of Alaska made the growing Federal tax liabilities of Peterson’s business a low priority of IRS.

But the continued non-payment of such taxes is common, especially among struggling businesses. Owners of struggling businesses in financial trouble and having cash flow issues are saying “OK, if I don’t pay my suppliers, they’re not going to give me any inventory. If I don’t have any inventory, (then) I’m out of business. Just one quarter or one month and I’ll do better, and the IRS isn’t going to shut me down”. Unfortunately, when this practice continues over successive quarters, many businesses are unable to turn this around. The IRS calls this “pyramiding”.

The IRS is usually in contact with the taxpayer with almost-immediate notices and the assignment of a Revenue Officer to prevent such a huge pyramiding problem. But the eventual measures that were taken in Peterson’s case were an extraordinary step that the IRS had no choice to pursue. You see, Peterson did not owe just the IRS but also the City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) for sales tax, CBJ for property taxes and the State of Alaska for unemployment insurance contributions.

So the IRS had no choice – it had to stop the bleeding and shut down Peterson’s business. A public auction would be later held and the proceeds applied to the back tax liability of Peterson’s business.

Reopening.

Abigail Trucano and her parents, James and Arbe Williams were unhappy that the landmark bar was forcibly closed by the IRS because of unpaid back taxes amounting to $1 million. Family members were regulars, as were many in the Southeast community of Douglas. “We thought this bar was so important to Douglas,” says Trucano. “I used to come in here all the time.”

So when the IRS auctioned the bar, the Williams’ snatched it up for $145,000 and invested heavily in its renovation. Their daughter, a co-owner, took charge of operations. Trucano had worked six years as a bartender at Juneau’s downtown tourist destination, Red Dog Saloon, dealing with swarms of cruise ship tourists.

The family contacted Louie Pusich, the former founder, obtaining his permission for the use of his name. The 76-year-old attended the grand opening in July 2014 which was reopened as Louie’s Douglas Inn.

Excited for its return, a handful of Douglas residents waited on the steps of the newly renovated Louie’s Douglas Inn a few minutes before the doors would open at 3:00 p.m. on a Tuesday. A celebratory drink was in order, certainly, but the real reason was to reunite with friends, including the new owners of the bar.

The eponymous Louie Pusich walked down the hill from his home with his wife, Doreen, to the bar he once owned. He ordered a Bud Light, which he jokingly referred to as a “Butt Light.” Looking out for his health, the 76-year-old doesn’t drink much these days.

The look of the bar has changed considerably since the renovation, with a more open layout, exposed brick, new fixtures and more. While the bar has received a makeover, there’s a lot that will remain unchanged about Louie’s Douglas Inn — it’s still the “living room of Douglas.” And not it has another great story behind it – that it was raised from the 2013 wrath of the IRS.

Well it’s time for a break but stay tuned because if you have unreported foreign income and undisclosed foreign bank accounts we have news for you on how the IRS will discover you.

You are listening to Jeffrey Kahn the principal tax attorney of the kahntaxlaw team on the KahnTaxLaw Radio Show on ESPN.

BREAK

Welcome back. This is KahnTaxLaw Radio Show on ESPN and you are listening to Jeffrey Kahn the principal tax attorney of the kahntaxlaw team.

Calling into the studio from our San Francisco Office is my associate attorney, Amy Spivey.

Chit chat with Amy

Jeff states, if you have unreported foreign income and undisclosed foreign bank account we have news for you on how the IRS will discover you. Listen carefully because this May Be Your One Last Opportunity to Avoid Criminal Prosecution and Increased Civil Penalties!

Since July 1, 2014, the most feared U.S. legislation regarding international tax enforcement – Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) – is being implemented by most banks around the world.

Jeff asks, Amy What Is FATCA?

Amy states, FATCA was signed into law in 2010 and codified in Sections 1471 through 1474 of the Internal Revenue Code. The law was enacted in order to reduce offshore tax evasion by U.S. persons with undisclosed offshore accounts. There are two parts to FATCA – U.S. taxpayer reporting of foreign assets and income on Form 8938 and reporting by a Foreign Financial Institution (“FFI”) of foreign bank and financial accounts to the IRS.  It is the latter that is resulting in FFI’s sending out that dreaded letter to suspected U.S. account holders requesting U.S. taxpayer identification and information (referred hereafter as the “FATCA letter”).

FATCA generally requires an FFI to identify certain U.S. accountholders and report their accounts to the IRS. Such reporting is done either through an FFI Agreement directly to the IRS or through a set of local laws that implement FATCA.

If an FFI refuses to do so or otherwise does not satisfy these requirements (and is not otherwise exempt), U.S.-source payments made to the FFI may be subject to withholding under FATCA at a rate of 30%. Note that FATCA information reporting and withholding requirements generally do not apply to FFI’s that are treated as “deemed-compliant” because they present a relatively low risk of being used for tax evasion or are otherwise exempt from FATCA withholding.

Jeff states, As part of this compliance, foreign banks from around the world are sending letters to account holders that they believe have, or had, a U.S. tax nexus (or other U.S. connection) requesting information to determine whether such account holders have disclosed their foreign bank accounts to the IRS. The letters from foreign banks generally require an account holder to disclose whether the account has been declared to the IRS through the filing of a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (commonly known as the “FBAR”) form and/or a Form 1040 personal income tax return, participation in the various IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs, or otherwise. Sometimes foreign banks request that the account holder submit an IRS Form W-9 or W-8BEN, which is generally required to be completed by U.S. account holders for tax reporting purposes.

PLUG: The Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn will provide you with a Tax Resolution Plan which is a $500.00 value for free as long as you mention the KahnTaxLaw Radio Show when you call to make an appointment. Call our office to make an appointment to meet with me, Jeffrey Kahn, right here in downtown San Diego or at one of my other offices close to you. The number to call is 866.494.6829. That is 866.494.6829.

Seven Deadly Myths.

Jeff states so as foreign countries march inexorably towards the implementation of FATCA, there are still many people who subscribe to any one or all of the seven deadly myths that could find themselves facing potentially crippling circumstances after July 1, 2014. For safety’s sake, we get down to brass tacks and present the facts below – in plain language – to debunk these myths.

Jeff to prompt Amy to discuss each myth.

Myth 1: No action required now.

This is false. As of July 1, 2014 all FFI’s must have implemented a FATCA Compliance Program to comply with its country’s Intergovernmental Agreement (“IGA”) with the United States. FFI’s must self-certify their FATCA status [Chapter 4 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code] to their withholding agents by either providing a Global Intermediary Identification Number (GIIN) or new IRS Form W-8BEN-E/W-8IMY prior to this date.

Myth 2: Best to “wait and see” for a foreign country’s enabling legislation.

This is false. Wishing this to be the case does not make this so. To be clear, registration and reporting are distinct functions under FATCA. All FATCA registration is directly with the IRS and is occurring now.

Registration with the IRS is free of cost and mandatory for any FFI to become registered deemed-compliant under its country’s IGA. Only the IRS has the power to register a FFI and issue a GIIN. Enabling legislation by the foreign country is irrelevant to FATCA registration for FFI’s as no foreign country revenue authority has – or will ever have – the power to register a FFI and issue a GIIN. Again, we emphasize, this must be done directly with and by the IRS.

The truth is, a foreign country’s enabling legislation is simply intended to provide the legal framework for compliance with, not avoidance of FATCA (and other automatic tax information exchange agreements), and the development of the regulatory framework for operating the agreement.

Myth 3: IRS registration may breach confidentiality.

This is false. Withholding agents already require W-8s from all FFI’s to avoid withholding liability. This is a long-established practice and the Form W-8 has simply now been revised to include FATCA status. A FFI must self-certify, under penalty of perjury, its FATCA status to withholding agents using the new W-8 before July 1, 2014. To obtain a GIIN, a FFI must file Form 8957 via the IRS Foreign Financial Institution Registration System (FRS) (or manually). Once the GIIN is obtained, it can be verified by withholding agents via FRS or submitted via Form W-8. There are no material differences between the information disclosed, or commitments made, under Form W-8 and Form 8957. Both forms are complementary and require basic identifying information about the FFI. Specific investor information is never disclosed.

Myth 4: Certain foreign investment funds may be exempted as sponsored entities.

This is false. Sponsored entity exemption would require all the sponsored FFI’s of the sponsor to use a single GIIN. If any FFI using the sponsored GIIN becomes FATCA non-compliant – for any reason – all FFI’s using the same GIIN would also become non-compliant.

Myth 5: Model 1 or Model 2 IGA’s displace U.S. Treasury Regulations.

This is false. They both work in tandem. A FFI is treated as FATCA-compliant, and not subject to FATCA withholding tax, to the extent it complies with its obligations under the IGA. The U.S. Treasury regulations are incorporated by reference into the IGA. Under the IGA, the foreign country is bound to use U.S. Treasury definitions to the extent those definitions are not defined by the IGA, and importantly, the foreign country is not permitted to use any other definition in local legislation that would “frustrate the purposes” of the IGA.

Myth 6: There is no person charged with the responsibility that a foreign bank complies with the IGA.

This is false. Under the IGA a FATCA Responsible Officer (FRO) must be appointed who is (a) as an officer of the registered deemed-compliant FFI with sufficient authority to ensure that the FFI meets the applicable registration requirements and (b) who certifies that the FFI will comply with its continuing FATCA obligations.

Myth 7: There is no incentive for FRO’s to ensure a foreign bank’s compliance under an IGA.

This is false. FRO’s have serious compliance responsibilities under FATCA. In fact, FATCA compliance revolves around the FRO, like Sarbanes Oxley compliance revolves around the CFO. Especially in the context of a FFI that does not typically have any staff, the role is even more essential. It’s a fallacy and wishful thinking that FROs can be lax or “lite” under the IGA. The IRS has consistently expressed its expectations that FRO’s deliver robust FATCA compliance and high-quality FATCA information from either procedure. Whoever says otherwise has not been paying attention and we all know how this story ended for Switzerland. Key considerations for a FRO under the IGA include:

  • Willfully submitting any fraudulent or materially false document to the IRS is a Federal offence. [IRC §§7206(2) & 7207]
  • FFI’s self-certification as a Reporting Financial Institution to withholding agents will entail signing the IRS Form W-8 under penalties of perjury.

The Truth About FATCA.

Jeff states, Whether out of lack of knowledge, preparedness or self-interest, those who are propagating these myths are not doing themselves or their U.S. clients any favors. All information from the foreign banks including those U.S. accountholders refusing to cooperate will be furnished to the IRS. The IRS will then look to see if your account ever had in excess of a $10,000 balance. If it did and you did not report it on an FBAR or on your federal income taxes, the case will likely be referred to the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. At that point, the government will begin to build a case against you. A U.S. citizen can be sentenced up to five years in prison for each year that they willfully failed to file an FBAR and can be penalized up to 50% of the balance of the foreign account for each year that they willfully failed to report (up to 250% of the account’s balance). The civil penalties alone can easily reach double the amount of the balance of the account in question.

PLUG: The Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn will provide you with a Tax Resolution Plan which is a $500.00 value for free as long as you mention the KahnTaxLaw Radio Show when you call to make an appointment. Call our office to make an appointment to meet with me, Jeffrey Kahn, right here in downtown San Diego or at one of my other offices close to you. The number to call is 866.494.6829. That is 866.494.6829.

Stay tuned because after the break we are going to tell you What Signs To Be On The Lookout For That You May Be Subject To An IRS Criminal Investigation.

You are listening to Jeffrey Kahn the principal tax attorney of the kahntaxlaw team on the KahnTaxLaw Radio Show on ESPN.

BREAK

Welcome back. This is KahnTaxLaw Radio Show on ESPN and you are listening to Jeffrey Kahn the principal tax attorney of the kahntaxlaw team.

And on the phone from our San Francisco office I have my associate attorney, Amy Spivey.

Jeff says, so in this segment we are talking about what Signs To Be On The Lookout For That You May Be Subject To An IRS Criminal Investigation.

A simple mistake, oversight, or your accountant’s malpractice may trigger an IRS criminal investigation. Specifically, unreported income, a false statement, the use of an impermissible accounting or banking service, or declaring too many deductions are things that could initiate an audit, which could then rise to the level of an IRS criminal investigation.

Amy says, the IRS is the world’s most powerful collection agency, with tremendous resources, and its Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is ruthless. Its goal is singular: to conduct a thorough investigation of the taxpayer who has engaged in tax fraud so that he can be criminally prosecuted.

A criminal investigation differs from an audit. With an audit, the IRS attempts to determine whether you have calculated your tax liability correctly. With a criminal investigation, the IRS seeks to mount a case against you so that the U.S. Department Of Justice can prosecute you and hold you out as an example to others as to what will happen if you cheat the government.

Jeff asks, Amy what can you tell us about the IRS Criminal Investigation Process?

The IRS criminal investigation process is serious business. CID is composed of federal agents (called “Special Agents”), who are highly trained financial investigators that carry a gun and wear a badge. Unlike your typical police department, CID conducts a very thorough investigation which may last years while they interview your family, friends, co-workers, employees, and business associates, and bankers, among others, to acquire evidence as to the extent of the tax evasion or tax fraud that may have occurred.

Jeff says, A criminal tax violation conviction results in severe consequences, and in addition to monstrous fines, including the cost of prosecution and jail time. Each count can result in five years in jail and it could spell financial, personal and social ruin. Compounding the situation is that often a taxpayer will not know when he is subject to an IRS criminal investigation until it is in its late stages at which time they surely have made incriminating admissions if they were not represented by competent counsel.

PLUG: The Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn will provide you with a Tax Resolution Plan which is a $500.00 value for free as long as you mention the KahnTaxLaw Radio Show when you call to make an appointment. Call our office to make an appointment to meet with me, Jeffrey Kahn, right here in downtown San Diego or at one of my other offices close to you. The number to call is 866.494.6829. That is 866.494.6829.

Jeff asks Amy What are the four signs that You May Be Subject to an IRS Criminal Investigation?

Amy discusses each sign after prompted by Jeff

(1) An IRS Revenue Officer abruptly stops pursuing you after he has been requesting you to pay your IRS tax debt, and now does not return your calls. The agent might be getting ready to refer your case to the CID to investigate previous or current tax evasion or crimes you may have committed within the collection process. (i.e., making false statements, hiding income or assets).

(2) An IRS Revenue agent has been auditing you and now disappears for days or even weeks at a time. After a case is referred to the CID, both the Collection and Examination Divisions put things on “pause” because they do not want to jeopardize a successful criminal prosecution. CID is incredibly resourceful and tactful. To better position yourself against them, it is best to obtain an experienced IRS tax attorney as early as possible where criminal tax exposure is apparent in your fact pattern (like where you know you cheated on the return that is under audit). This is true even if your case is only at the civil investigation stage.

(3) Your bank informs you that your records have been summoned by the CID or subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

(4) Your accountant is contacted by Special Agents, or has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury and told to bring your tax records. Unfortunately, the “accountant-client privilege” simply does not protect you in a criminal case and any statements made to your accountant can be used against you in a criminal investigation, either through the “discovery” process leading to trial or where the accountant is called as a witness during criminal tax trial.

Jeff states, Unlike a civil tax examination, a criminal tax investigation has little to do with the assessment of additional tax. The purposes of a criminal investigation are (1) to detect suspected criminal tax offenses and (2) to refer those offenses for criminal prosecution. The government’s goal is to obtain a conviction that results in imprisonment, fines, and/or restitution.

Jeff asks Amy, What Tax Crimes Can The IRS Charge You With?

Amy replies and discusses the different tax crimes.

Tax Evasion

This is a particularly broad, catch-all statute that subjects the taxpayer to fines of up to $100,000.00 ($500,000.00 for corporations) and imprisonment of up to 5 years for the willful attempt in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code. While used sparingly by the U.S. Justice Department, it nevertheless remains a potential trap for even the most innocuous and benign transgressions of the IRC.

Fraud and False Statements

Any person who makes a false or fraudulent statement, or assists another person to make a false or fraudulent statement in connection with documents submitted to the IRS, such as Form 433A or B, or an offer in compromise or a closing agreement, may be prosecuted under this statute and, if convicted, subjected to a fine of up to $100,000.00 ($500,000.00 in the case of a corporation) and imprisoned up to three years. Concealment of property from the IRS, or withholding, falsifying or destroying records, also subjects the person to prosecution under this statute.

Failure to File Returns, Supply Information, or Pay Tax

This is another broad statute that can be used to criminally convict a taxpayer for failing to file a tax return, filing an incomplete one, or not paying the tax that is due. The taxpayer may be fined $25,000.00 ($100,000.00 in the case of a corporation), plus costs of prosecution, and incarcerated up to one year in a federal prison.

Jeff states, If CID recommends prosecution, it will give its evidence to the Justice Department to decide the special charges. Individuals are typically charged with one or more of three crimes: tax evasion, filing a false return, or not filing a tax return. All of which are tax fraud. Therefore, the sooner you hire tax counsel experienced in criminal tax matters, the higher the chance that further escalation of your case in the criminal arena could be avoided or limited.

PLUG: The Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn will provide you with a Tax Resolution Plan which is a $500.00 value for free as long as you mention the KahnTaxLaw Radio Show when you call to make an appointment. Call our office to make an appointment to meet with me, Jeffrey Kahn, right here in downtown San Diego or at one of my other offices close to you. The number to call is 866.494.6829. That is 866.494.6829.

Stay tuned as we will be taking some of your questions. You are listening to Jeffrey Kahn the principal tax attorney of the kahntaxlaw team on the KahnTaxLaw Radio Show on ESPN.

BREAK

Welcome back. This is KahnTaxLaw Radio Show on ESPN and you are listening to Jeffrey Kahn the principal tax attorney of the kahntaxlaw team along with my associate attorney, Amy Spivey.

If you would like to post a question for us to answer, you can go to our website at www.kahntaxlaw.com and click on “Radio Show”. You can then enter your question and maybe it will be selected for our show.

OK Amy, what questions have you pulled from the kahntaxlaw inbox for me to answer?

Eric: I used a tax preparation service to prepare my tax return and now I have been selected for an audit by IRS. Should I have my tax preparer represent me in the audit or do I hire you?

CPA’s prepare tax returns and there are a lot of CPA’s and other tax professionals who a great in preparing tax returns. A taxpayer will provide them with information and tax documents and a return will be generated for filing with the IRS. This process I refer to as “compliance”. But a tax attorney will focus on “representation” – meaning that the cases taken on by the attorney are when the IRS is questioning a return or making other civil or even criminal inquiries of a taxpayer.

A tax attorney being familiar with the “representation” aspect, knows who to speak to at IRS and how to best present your case. The tax attorney can also devote full attention to your attention at any time since the tax attorney’s workload is not jammed like the CPA’s workload during tax season who is busy with tax return preparation and more focused over meeting filing deadlines and therefore cannot provide the needed attention to your case.

Bob: I filed Federal income tax returns that I now realize are incorrect. Should report this to my accountant?

The filing of a false tax return is a criminal tax offense so you need to be careful who you speak with for advise. A taxpayer who consults with a tax attorney also gets the benefit of attorney-client privilege. This benefit allows that taxpayer to freely discuss with his attorney any matters or issues without the threat of these communications being disclosed to the government or anyone else. You do not get this level of privilege when dealing with non-attorneys.

Sanjay: My CPA who I have been going to for years has never told me that I had to report my foreign income. Now that I know I have to report my foreign income and disclose my foreign bank accounts, do I accept my CPA’s offer to represent me in OVDP or do I hire you?

Taxpayers looking to come forward in a Voluntary Disclosure Program to report unreported foreign income and undisclosed foreign bank accounts would be best served by a tax attorney who was not involved in the preparation of the originally filed false tax returns. This is because the tax attorney does not have a conflict of interest and can present your case in the most favorable manner. This is especially important if you are looking to apply in the new Streamlined Procedures announced by IRS. The best way to explain this is by example – if a great defense is that you relied on your tax preparer to tell you whether you had to report your foreign accounts and foreign income, do you think your tax preparer will put himself under the bus to save you from the IRS – chances are not. A tax attorney who had no involvement in the preparation of your returns can make these arguments thus truly serving your best interests.

PLUG: The Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn will provide you with a Tax Resolution Plan which is a $500.00 value for free as long as you mention the KahnTaxLaw Radio Show when you call to make an appointment. Call our office to make an appointment to meet with me, Jeffrey Kahn, right here in downtown San Diego or at one of my other offices close to you. The number to call is 866.494.6829. That is 866.494.6829.

Thanks Amy for calling into the show. Amy says Thanks for having me.

Well we are reaching the end of our show.

You can reach out to me on Twitter at kahntaxlaw. You can also send us your questions by visiting the kahntaxlaw website at www.kahntaxlaw.com. That’s k-a-h-n tax law.com.

Have a great day everyone!

IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program – It’s Not Just For Undisclosed Foreign Bank Accounts.

A tax crime is complete on the day the false return was filed.

It is a federal crime for anyone to knowingly and willfully file an income tax return that he or she knows to be false in some material way. 26 U.S.C. § 7207 provides:

Any person who willfully delivers or discloses to the Secretary any list, return, account, statement, or other document, known by him to be fraudulent or to be false as to any material matter, shall be fined not more than $10,000 ($50,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both. Any person required pursuant to section 6047 (b), section 6104(d), or subsection (i) or (j) of section 527 to furnish any information to the Secretary or any other person who willfully furnishes to the Secretary or such other person any information known by him to be fraudulent or to be false as to any material matter shall be fined not more than $10,000 ($50,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.

In filing false tax return cases, the Government does not need to prove that it has been deprived of any tax by reason of such filing of the false return; even if it is shown that additional taxes may be due, the person can still be held accountable because they willfully filed a false tax return.

Avoiding Criminal Prosecution By Submitting To Voluntary Disclosure

The Voluntary Disclosure Practice is a longstanding practice of IRS Criminal Investigation of taking timely, accurate, and complete voluntary disclosures into account in deciding whether to recommend to the Department of Justice that a taxpayer be criminally prosecuted.  It enables noncompliant taxpayers to resolve their tax liabilities and minimize their chances of criminal prosecution.  When a taxpayer truthfully, timely, and completely complies with all provisions of the voluntary disclosure practice, the IRS will not recommend criminal prosecution to the Department of Justice. However, if the IRS has initiated a civil examination, regardless of whether it relates to undisclosed foreign accounts or undisclosed foreign entities, the taxpayer will not be eligible to come in under the IRS’s Voluntary Disclosure Practice.

Required Elements Of A Qualified Disclosure

IRS administrative practice recognizes that a taxpayer may still avoid prosecution by voluntarily disclosing a tax violation, provided that there is a qualifying disclosure that is (1) timely and (2) voluntary. A disclosure within the meaning of the practice means a communication that is truthful and complete, and the taxpayer cooperates with IRS personnel in determining the correct tax liability. Cooperation also includes making good faith arrangements to pay the unpaid tax and penalties “to the extent of the taxpayer’s actual ability to pay”.

Timely.

A disclosure is timely if it is received before the IRS has begun an inquiry that is (1) “likely to lead to the taxpayer” and (2) the taxpayer is reasonably thought to be aware” of that inquiry; or the disclosure is received before some triggering or prompting event has occurred (1) that is known by the taxpayer and (2) that triggering event is likely to cause an audit into the taxpayer’s liabilities.

Voluntary.

Voluntari­ness is tested by the following factors: (1) how far the IRS has gone in determin­ing the tax investigation potential of the taxpayer; (2) the extent of the taxpayer’s knowledge or awareness of the Service’s interest; and (3) what part the triggering event played in prompting the disclosure (where the disclosure is prompted by fear of a triggering event, it is not truly a voluntary disclosure).

No voluntary disclosure can be made by a taxpayer if an investigation by the Service has already begun. Therefore, once a taxpayer has been contacted by any Service function (whether it be the Service center, office examiner, revenue agent, or a special agent), the taxpayer cannot make a qualifying voluntary dis­closure under IRS practice.

A voluntary disclosure can be made even if the taxpayer does not know that the Service has selected the return for examination or investigation may be too restrictive. Consequently, if there is no indi­cation that the Service has started an examination or investigation, Tax Counsel may send a letter to the Service stating that tax returns of the taxpayer have been found to be incorrect and that amended returns will be filed as soon as they can be accurately and correctly prepared. This approach has the advantage of putting the taxpayer on record as making a voluntary dis­closure at a time when no known investigation is pending. However, neither the taxpayer nor the lawyer can be completely certain that the volun­tary disclosure will prevent the recommendation of criminal prosecution.

“Quiet Disclosure”.

Where no IRS examination or investigation is pending a taxpayer’s alternative is the preparation and filing of delinquent or amended returns. Such action is called a “Quiet Disclosure”. The advantage of filing delinquent or amended returns without a communication drawing attention to them is that the returns may not even be examined after being received at the Service Center. In such an event, the taxpayer not only will have made a voluntary disclosure but will have avoided an examination as well. The disadvantage is that during the time the returns are being prepared, the taxpayer may be contacted by the Service and a voluntary disclosure prevented. Another disadvantage is that the IRS could use the filed amended income tax returns to constitute an admission that the correct income and tax were willfully not reported and institute criminal prosecution.

What Should You Do?

There is no set formula as to whether a taxpayer should pursue a Voluntary Disclosure or Quiet Disclosure. It really depends on a case by case basis which is why you are best served by consulting with a criminal tax attorney expert in evaluating these matters. Your financial well being, as well as your personal freedom may depend on the right answers. If you or your accountant even suspects that you might be subject to a criminal or civil tax fraud penalty, the experienced tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego and elsewhere in California can determine how to respond to these inquiries and formulate an effective strategy.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems and minimize the chance of any criminal investigation or imposition of civil penalties.

Target Orange County, California – Think You Can Hide From The IRS?

The IRS is using its extensive Big Data resources to pin-point their investigations to the wealthiest areas in Orange County, California. The idea being that anyone who is selected for investigation in these areas will result in a higher tax liability than those who live in less affluent areas. The government is looking for non-filers, persons engaged in on-line and virtual currency transactions, businesses cheating or delinquent on employment taxes and individuals with undisclosed foreign bank accounts.

Non-Filers

When a taxpayer does not file and the IRS has information statements indicating a filing requirement, the IRS uses the data to file a return on behalf of the taxpayer if there is a projected balance owed. In 2012, the IRS used information statements to file 803,000 returns for taxpayers under the Automated Substitute for Return program, totaling $6.7 billion in additional taxes owed. And the sad thing about this is in just about every case, the amount actually owed when a tax return is filed by the taxpayer is much lower than what the IRS says a non-filer taxpayer owes. We even had cases where the IRS ended up owing our clients money.

Before contacting a non-filer, the IRS will often attempt to identify the non-filer’s occupation, location of bank/savings accounts, sources of income, age, current address, last file return, adjusted gross income of last filed return, taxes paid on last filed return – amounts and methods of payment (withholding, estimated tax, pre-payments), number of years delinquent, and the non-filer’s standard of living.  They will search public records for evidence of additional unreported income, tax assessor and real estate records for assets held by the non-filer, and records of professional associations and business license bureaus for information on businesses being operated by the non-filer. They will also search sales tax returns and the state records to disclose corporate charter information including principals of any businesses that have failed to file returns. They will contact the last known employer to determine if the non-filer is still employed and the specific occupation of the non-filer.  

It is to those individuals, who deliberately fail to comply with their obligation to file required tax returns and pay any taxes due and owing, that IRS Criminal Investigation devotes its investigative resources.  In the most egregious cases or if the Special Agent discovers subsequent acts of tax evasion (false statements, refusal to make records available, etc.), criminal prosecution is recommended to the United States Attorney’s office.

On-line And Virtual Currency Transactions

The increased use of on-line transactions with such services that include but are no limited to eBay and Craigslist and the increased use of virtual currencies such as Bitcoins have also raised interest by the Department Of Justice.

Many people think of online auction sites, such as eBay and Craigslist, as virtual garage sales — a convenient way to clean out cluttered closets and attics stuffed with old clothes, books and knickknacks inherited from relatives.

But if you’re a frequent or big-time seller, the government might consider your proceeds to be income and could come after you for taxes.

The tax law requires the gross amount of payment card and third-party network transactions to be reported annually to participating merchants and the IRS. With this information the IRS can now track your sales and make sure they are being reported on your individual income tax return.

Bitcoins, a widely used virtual currency, are an alternative to money online. Unlike regular money, Bitcoins are not backed by any government or company. The currency is circulated without intermediaries such as banks. As such the government believes that taxpayers are able to avoid reporting income using this currency,

The IRS Criminal Investigation Division has committed a team of IRS Special Agents to master Bitcoin and other virtual currencies. The IRS knows that to use Bitcoins, one needs a virtual wallet along with private keys and public addresses.  Unknown to many Bitcoin users is the fact that every Bitcoin transaction is included in a ledger called a block chain.

The IRS is simply accessing the block chain to review all Bitcoin transactions.  From that point, the IRS works its way back to the public address that was used in the Bitcoin transaction. While the public address itself does not identify the user, the IRS has been very clever in associating the public address with the identity of the Bitcoin user. Thus, Bitcoin and other cyber or crypto currencies do not provide the level of complete anonymity many have ascribed to crypto currencies.

While the IRS has been focusing on the use of virtual currencies and crypto currencies in money laundering cases, the IRS is now focusing on the ability and likelihood that some users are committing tax evasion and tax fraud with virtual currencies. This is especially true because large amounts of virtual currency can change hands anywhere in the world instantaneously. Used correctly, it is another financial tool in our ever-shrinking world.  Used incorrectly, it is a very dangerous tool for those with a leaning towards and involved in illegal activities including tax evasion.

Employment Taxes

The IRS is especially vigorous in going after payroll taxes withheld from wages that somehow don’t get paid to the government.  The IRS calls it trust fund money that belongs to the government.

That makes any failure to pay—or even late payment—much worse. 

In fact, that’s so regardless of how the employer or its principals use the money and regardless of how good a reason they have for not handing the money over to the IRS. When a tax shortfall occurs in this setting, the IRS will usually make personal assessments against all responsible persons who have an ownership interest in the company or signature authority over the company accounts.

The practice the government is going after is sometimes called “pyramiding.” The Department of Justice defined pyramiding where the business has made minimal payments of its tax debts and that attempts to induce voluntary compliance failed. To stop the bleeding in a case like this, the Justice Department can seek an injunction to require a company and its principals to make timely tax deposits, to pay all withheld employment taxes, and to timely file all employment tax returns.

The IRS can assess a Trust Fund Recovery Assessment, also known as a 100-percent penalty, against every “responsible person.” The penalty is assessed under Section 6672(a) of the tax code, and the IRS uses it liberally. You can be responsible and therefore liable even if have no knowledge that the IRS is not being paid. If there are multiple owners, multiple officers, multiple check signers, they all may draw a 100% penalty assessment.

When multiple owners and signatories all face tax bills they generally squabble and do their best to sic the IRS on someone else. Factual nuances matter in this kind of mud-wrestling, but so do legal maneuvering and just plain savvy. One responsible person may get stuck paying while another who is even guiltier may get off scot-free.

If the IRS is going after individuals, the IRS will still try to collect from the company that withheld on the wages. The IRS also wants to make sure this kind of bad tax situation doesn’t occur again and the IRS wants to collect as much money as quick as possible from as many parties as it can get to.

Undisclosed Foreign Bank Accounts And Unreported Foreign Income

The 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) which requires foreign banks and financial institutions to report the assets of their American account holders is now in full swing. This information is being transmitted to the IRS and the IRS is comparing this information what was reported on U.S. Federal Income Tax Returns. FATCA was passed as part of the U.S. government’s effort to crack down on U.S. tax evaders.  Initially, the IRS concentrated its efforts on Swiss Banks but now banks in all foreign countries are subject to the severe penalties for noncompliance and lack of compliance would limit their ability to do business in America. 

This focus has led to an increase in the enforcement of the requirement that Americans and American residents file a Foreign Bank Account Report on every account held abroad that is worth more than $10,000.

Federal tax law requires U.S. taxpayers to pay taxes on all income earned worldwide.  U.S. taxpayers must also report foreign financial accounts if the total value of the accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year.  Willful failure to report a foreign account can result in a fine of up to 50% of the amount in the account at the time of the violation and may even result in the IRS filing criminal charges which if sustain can result in jail time.

U.S. taxpayers with account holdings should seriously consider coming forward and disclosing their assets to the IRS.  If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns, the IRS has established the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) which allows taxpayers to come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and not have to bear the full amount of penalties normally imposed by IRS.

Where Do The Highest Earners Live In Orange County, California?

Given the resources involved in any tax investigation (criminal or civil), the IRS is looking to focus on those areas that are more affluent and therefore yield the greatest potential for prosecution and revenue collection. When looking at different areas one factor that may be considered by the IRS is sales prices of real estate in Orange County, California. The five most expensive zip codes in Orange County based on median sales price data from 2012 are as follows:

Rank Zip Code Neighborhood/City Median Sales Price 2012
1 90742 Sunset Beach / Huntington Beach $2.17 million
2 92657 Newport Coast / Newport Beach $1.9 million
3 92662 Balboa Island / Newport Beach $1.7 million
4 92625 Corona del Mar / Newport Beach $1.45 million
5 92661 Newport Beach $1.4 million

You might have noticed a trend by now. Four of the five most expensive zip codes in Orange County occur within the same city. Newport Beach is clearly one of the priciest real estate markets in the country. In fact, if we ran this list out to the ten most expensive zip codes, Newport Beach would have five of the top ten spots and is almost a million dollars more than the next most expensive market, Pacific Palisades.

The Stakes Are High!

So if you receive an audit notice or even worse a visit by government agents, it is important that you don’t ignore this. Protect yourself from excessive fines and possible jail time. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. from their Orange County office in Newport Beach defend you from the IRS.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems and minimize the chance of any criminal investigation or imposition of civil penalties.

Famous Alaska Bar Landmark Shut Down By IRS Is Reopened By New Owners

Alaska’s economy is dominated by the oil, natural gas, and fishing industries, resources which it has in abundance. Tourism is also a significant part of the economy and that is where you can find some classic Alaska bars but for some time now these bars have been under pressure to stay in business and to do so have created tax problems and gained the attention of the IRS.

So what makes a classic Alaska bar?

A classic Alaska bar is a magical mixture — a touch of danger and a place where characters gather, featuring a strong relationship between bartender and patrons. More than fun, a classic Alaska bar is educational in a perverse sort of way. Past customers bring them up in conversation. People outside Alaska know of them.

What makes some bars unique is what used to be there before the bar existed – perhaps an old outpost or bootlegging operation or brothel.

Some of these classic Alaskan bars are set up as a dark and dank watering hole with sawdust on the floors and dollar bills and a bra or two nailed to wooden walls. While others may be more conventional. But the one thing that the classic Alaskan bars have in common is the atmosphere of the bar reflects the personality of its owner.

But as those owners get older and retire or pass away, a new crop of entrepreneurs are taking their shot at preserving legendary watering holes. One of those places is Louie’s Bar in the Southeast Juneau community of Douglas.

Louie’s Bar rose out of the ashes of the Great Douglas Fire of 1937, which incinerated downtown Douglas. Although the bar was not called Louie’s until 1974 when it was then inherited by a man named Louie Pusich.

But in 2013 Louie’s doors were closed – not because the owner died or retired. Instead it was closed by the Internal Revenue Service for nonpayment of taxes amounting to $1 million.

The Shutdown.

That’s right, P P’s Douglas Inn, formerly known as Louie’s Bar, was closed down and seized by the Internal Revenue Service for not paying federal taxes over the last fourteen years. The doors were locked, stools upturned on tables and lights dimmed just before the 2013 Independence Day holiday. Owner Patrick M. Peterson admitted that he did not pay federal taxes and knew that a shut down had to be coming.

Mr. Peterson was asked, how could he have racked up over $1 million in Federal taxes? He replied that “Paperwork is not my big suit. I just couldn’t keep up with it. Up until 1999, I had a good bookkeeper that was taking care of it for me. So, I had everything caught up with”. He then added that “staring with 1999, he did have others working on his bookkeeping and taxes but nobody came through with what I needed”.

Federal tax records showed that Peterson and his company Peterson Pacific Holdings owed nearly $1 million in back taxes. Three-quarters of that amount was in the form of unpaid quarterly employer taxes from early 1999 to the end of 2012. The rest is what the IRS calls a Trust Fund Recovery Penalty, or an attempt to recoup employees’ withholding, Medicare and Social Security taxes that the employer did not pass on to the federal government.

This is all evidenced by eleven federal tax liens totaling $997,188.16 that were filed against Peterson and his company between July 2011 and June 2013. They were for unpaid federal employer taxes during most of the reporting periods from First Quarter of 1999 to the Fourth Quarter of 2012.

Now, most business owners in this situation would look to reach a resolution with the IRS and avoid collection action or even worse – a business shutdown. But not Peterson. Instead he signed a quit claim deed for the Bar’s property to a Carol Collier of Riverview, Florida in exchange for $1.00 on May 20, 2013. This was at the same time when the City and Borough of Juneau (“CBJ”) property assessments showed the land valued at $67,900 and the structure valued at $174,100 for a combined total of $242,000. But don’t think that this transfer thwarted IRS collection action. You see when the IRS files a Federal Tax Lien, such lien follows any subsequent transfer of the property until the lien is paid in full or otherwise satisfied.

What is most unusual about Peterson’s case is that his business’ tax problems go back to 1999 – that’s about 15 years! How could the IRS have let this drag on for that long? Perhaps being in a remote location in the rugged State of Alaska made the growing Federal tax liabilities of Peterson’s business a low priority of IRS.

But the continued non-payment of such taxes is common, especially among struggling businesses. Owners of struggling businesses in financial trouble and having cash flow issues are saying “OK, if I don’t pay my suppliers, they’re not going to give me any inventory. If I don’t have any inventory, (then) I’m out of business. Just one quarter or one month and I’ll do better, and the IRS isn’t going to shut me down”. Unfortunately, when this practice continues over successive quarters, many businesses are unable to turn this around. The IRS calls this “pyramiding”.

The IRS is usually in contact with the taxpayer with almost-immediate notices and the assignment of a Revenue Officer to prevent such a huge pyramiding problem. But the eventual measures that were taken in Peterson’s case were an extraordinary step that the IRS had no choice to pursue. You see, Peterson did not owe just the IRS but also the City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) for sales tax, CBJ for property taxes and the State of Alaska for unemployment insurance contributions.

So the IRS had no choice – it had to stop the bleeding and shut down Peterson’s business. A public auction would be later held and the proceeds applied to the back tax liability of Peterson’s business.

The Reopening.

Abigail Trucano and her parents, James and Arbe Williams were unhappy that the landmark bar was forcibly closed by the IRS because of unpaid back taxes amounting to $1 million. Family members were regulars, as were many in the Southeast community of Douglas. “We thought this bar was so important to Douglas,” says Trucano. “I used to come in here all the time.”

So when the IRS auctioned the bar, the Williams’ snatched it up for $145,000 and invested heavily in its renovation. Their daughter, a co-owner, took charge of operations. Trucano had worked six years as a bartender at Juneau’s downtown tourist destination, Red Dog Saloon, dealing with swarms of cruise ship tourists.

The family contacted Louie Pusich, the former founder, obtaining his permission for the use of his name. The 76-year-old attended the grand opening in July 2014 which was reopened as Louie’s Douglas Inn.

Excited for its return, a handful of Douglas residents waited on the steps of the newly renovated Louie’s Douglas Inn a few minutes before the doors would open at 3:00 p.m. on a Tuesday. A celebratory drink was in order, certainly, but the real reason was to reunite with friends, including the new owners of the bar.

The eponymous Louie Pusich walked down the hill from his home with his wife, Doreen, to the bar he once owned. He ordered a Bud Light, which he jokingly referred to as a “Butt Light.” Looking out for his health, the 76-year-old doesn’t drink much these days.

The look of the bar has changed considerably since the renovation, with a more open layout, exposed brick, new fixtures and more. While the bar has received a makeover, there’s a lot that will remain unchanged about Louie’s Douglas Inn — it’s still the “living room of Douglas.” And not it has another great story behind it – that it was raised from the 2013 wrath of the IRS.

Don’t Take The Chance And Lose Everything You Have Worked For.

Protect yourself. If you are in danger of wage garnishments or bank levies or having a tax lien placed against your property, stand up to the IRS and your State Tax Agency by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems to allow you to have a fresh start.

Don’t Believe The Seven Deadly Myths Of FATCA Non-Enforcement.

This May Be Your One Last Opportunity to Avoid Criminal Prosecution and Increased Civil Penalties!

Since July 1, 2014, the most feared U.S. legislation regarding international tax enforcement – Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) – is being implemented by most banks around the world. As part of this compliance, foreign banks from around the world are sending letters to account holders that they believe have, or had, a U.S. tax nexus (or other U.S. connection) requesting information to determine whether such account holders have disclosed their foreign bank accounts to the IRS. The letters from foreign banks generally require an account holder to disclose whether the account has been declared to the IRS through the filing of a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (commonly known as the “FBAR”) form and/or a Form 1040 personal income tax return, participation in the various IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs, or otherwise. Sometimes foreign banks request that the account holder submit an IRS Form W-9 or W-8BEN, which is generally required to be completed by U.S. account holders for tax reporting purposes.

What Is FATCA?

FATCA was signed into law in 2010 and codified in Sections 1471 through 1474 of the Internal Revenue Code. The law was enacted in order to reduce offshore tax evasion by U.S. persons with undisclosed offshore accounts. There are two parts to FATCA – U.S. taxpayer reporting of foreign assets and income on Form 8938 and reporting by a Foreign Financial Institution (“FFI”) of foreign bank and financial accounts to the IRS.  It is the latter that is resulting in FFI’s sending out that dreaded letter to suspected U.S. account holders requesting U.S. taxpayer identification and information (referred hereafter as the “FATCA letter”).

FATCA generally requires an FFI to identify certain U.S. accountholders and report their accounts to the IRS. Such reporting is done either through an FFI Agreement directly to the IRS or through a set of local laws that implement FATCA.

If an FFI refuses to do so or otherwise does not satisfy these requirements (and is not otherwise exempt), U.S.-source payments made to the FFI may be subject to withholding under FATCA at a rate of 30%. Note that FATCA information reporting and withholding requirements generally do not apply to FFI’s that are treated as “deemed-compliant” because they present a relatively low risk of being used for tax evasion or are otherwise exempt from FATCA withholding.

Seven Deadly Myths.

As foreign banks march inexorably towards the implementation of FATCA, there are still many people who subscribe to any one or all of the seven deadly myths that could find themselves facing potentially crippling circumstances after July 1, 2014. For safety’s sake, we get down to brass tacks and present the facts below – in plain language – to debunk these myths.

Myth 1: No action required now.

This is false. As of July 1, 2014 all FFI’s must have implemented a FATCA Compliance Program to comply with its country’s Intergovernmental Agreement (“IGA”) with the United States. FFI’s must self-certify their FATCA status [Chapter 4 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code] to their withholding agents by either providing a Global Intermediary Identification Number (GIIN) or new IRS Form W-8BEN-E/W-8IMY prior to this date.

Myth 2: Best to “wait and see” for a foreign country’s enabling legislation.

This is false. Wishing this to be the case does not make this so. To be clear, registration and reporting are distinct functions under FATCA. All FATCA registration is directly with the IRS and is occurring now.

Registration with the IRS is free of cost and mandatory for any FFI to become registered deemed-compliant under its country’s IGA. Only the IRS has the power to register a FFI and issue a GIIN. Enabling legislation by the foreign country is irrelevant to FATCA registration for FFI’s as no foreign country revenue authority has – or will ever have – the power to register a FFI and issue a GIIN. Again, we emphasize, this must be done directly with and by the IRS.

The truth is, a foreign country’s enabling legislation is simply intended to provide the legal framework for compliance with, not avoidance of FATCA (and other automatic tax information exchange agreements), and the development of the regulatory framework for operating the agreement.

Myth 3: IRS registration may breach confidentiality.

This is false. Withholding agents already require W-8s from all FFI’s to avoid withholding liability. This is a long-established practice and the Form W-8 has simply now been revised to include FATCA status. A FFI must self-certify, under penalty of perjury, its FATCA status to withholding agents using the new W-8 before July 1, 2014. To obtain a GIIN, a FFI must file Form 8957 via the IRS Foreign Financial Institution Registration System (FRS) (or manually). Once the GIIN is obtained, it can be verified by withholding agents via FRS or submitted via Form W-8. There are no material differences between the information disclosed, or commitments made, under Form W-8 and Form 8957. Both forms are complementary and require basic identifying information about the FFI. Specific investor information is never disclosed.

Myth 4: Certain foreign investment funds may be exempted as sponsored entities.

This is false. Sponsored entity exemption would require all the sponsored FFI’s of the sponsor to use a single GIIN. If any FFI using the sponsored GIIN becomes FATCA non-compliant – for any reason – all FFI’s using the same GIIN would also become non-compliant.

Myth 5: Model 1 or Model 2 IGA’s displace U.S. Treasury Regulations.

This is false. They both work in tandem. A FFI is treated as FATCA-compliant, and not subject to FATCA withholding tax, to the extent it complies with its obligations under the IGA. The U.S. Treasury regulations are incorporated by reference into the IGA. Under the IGA, the foreign country is bound to use U.S. Treasury definitions to the extent those definitions are not defined by the IGA, and importantly, the foreign country is not permitted to use any other definition in local legislation that would “frustrate the purposes” of the IGA.

Myth 6: There is no person charged with the responsibility that a foreign bank complies with the IGA.

This is false. Under the IGA a FATCA Responsible Officer (FRO) must be appointed who is (a) as an officer of the registered deemed-compliant FFI with sufficient authority to ensure that the FFI meets the applicable registration requirements and (b) who certifies that the FFI will comply with its continuing FATCA obligations.

Myth 7: There is no incentive for FRO’s to ensure a foreign bank’s compliance under an IGA.

This is false. FRO’s have serious compliance responsibilities under FATCA. In fact, FATCA compliance revolves around the FRO, like Sarbanes Oxley compliance revolves around the CFO. Especially in the context of a FFI that does not typically have any staff, the role is even more essential. It’s a fallacy and wishful thinking that FROs can be lax or “lite” under the IGA. The IRS has consistently expressed its expectations that FRO’s deliver robust FATCA compliance and high-quality FATCA information from either procedure. Whoever says otherwise has not been paying attention and we all know how this story ended for Switzerland. Key considerations for a FRO under the IGA include:

  • Willfully submitting any fraudulent or materially false document to the IRS is a Federal offence. [IRC §§7206(2) & 7207]
  • FFI’s self-certification as a Reporting Financial Institution to withholding agents will entail signing the IRS Form W-8 under penalties of perjury.

The Truth About FATCA.

Whether out of lack of knowledge, preparedness or self-interest, those who are propagating these myths are not doing themselves or their U.S. clients any favors. As of July 1, 2014, FATCA went into full effect, which means that FFI’s now have to report the required FATCA information to the IRS. Many FFI’s are making a full effort to comply with FATCA. As part of this effort, FFI’s around the world have been sending out “FATCA letters”. A FATCA letter is basically a letter from your bank or other financial institution which introduces FATCA to their customers and asks them to provide answers to a various set of questions aiming to find out information specific to FATCA compliance. Often, instead of asking all of these questions directly a FATCA letter would simply list out a series of forms that contain these questions such as IRS Forms W-9 and W-8BEN.

The information furnished by the customer to the bank would then be used by the bank to report information on the customer’s foreign accounts to the IRS. If the customer refuses to answer the questions or provide the necessary forms, the financial institution would often close the account and report it as a “recalcitrant account” to the IRS. Once that is done, the government will look to see if your account ever had in excess of a $10,000 balance. If it did and you did not report it on an FBAR or on your federal income taxes, the case will likely be referred to the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. At that point, the government will begin to build a case against you. A U.S. citizen can be sentenced up to five years in prison for each year that they willfully failed to file an FBAR and can be penalized up to 50% of the balance of the foreign account for each year that they willfully failed to report (up to 250% of the account’s balance). The civil penalties alone can easily reach double the amount of the balance of the account in question.

Why You Should Do Something About It Before It’s Too Late

Until the government receives your name and account information and chooses to act on that information, you have the opportunity to avoid the possibility of time in a federal prison and reduce the potential civil penalties for failing to report your foreign account. If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns or even if you have already quietly disclosed, you should seriously consider participating in the IRS’s 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”). Once the IRS contacts you, you cannot get into this program and would be subject to the maximum penalties (civil and criminal) under the tax law. Taxpayers who hire an experienced tax attorney in Offshore Account Voluntary Disclosures should result in avoiding any pitfalls and gaining the maximum benefits conferred by this program.

Protect yourself from excessive fines and possible jail time. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and elsewhere in California qualify you for OVDP.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems, get you in compliance with your FBAR filing obligations, and minimize the chance of any criminal investigation or imposition of civil penalties.