On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed into law the 2017 Tax Cuts And Jobs Act. It’s been a good 30 years since the last time the Internal Revenue Code received such a major update. With much discussion on the touted benefits of the plan, there has been very little discussion on what is missing.
Major Changes From The New Law Include:
- Compressed And Lower Income Tax Rates For Individuals.
- Increased Standard Deduction For Individuals
- Elimination Of Personal Exemptions
- Limitations of Deductibility Of Itemized Deductions including Mortgage Interest and State & Local Taxes.
- Lower Corporation Tax Rates.
More details on these changes and others will be forthcoming.
But What Is Missing In The New Law?
U.S. Taxpayers Still Taxed On Worldwide Income. There is no change to citizen based taxation for U.S. taxpayers. That means that U.S. citizens and resident aliens who are subject to U.S. taxation will still have to report their worldwide income, including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts, on their U.S individual income tax returns. In most cases, affected taxpayers need to complete and attach Schedule B to their tax return. Part III of Schedule B asks about the existence of foreign accounts, such as bank and securities accounts, and usually requires U.S. citizens to report the country in which each account is located.
Repeal Of The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”). There is no repeal of or for that matter any change in FATCA. FATCA was enacted into law in 2010 to impose a reporting obligation by foreign financial institutions to report information on U.S. account holders so that it is received by the IRS. It also mandates that U.S. citizens, resident aliens and certain non-resident aliens must report specified foreign financial assets on Form 8938 if the aggregate value of those assets exceeds certain thresholds. Reporting thresholds vary based on whether a taxpayer files a joint income tax return or lives abroad. The lowest reporting threshold for Form 8938 is $50,000 but varies by taxpayer.
Other Filing Requirements If You Have Foreign Accounts Remain Unchanged.
By law, many U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts exceeding certain thresholds must file Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, known as the “FBAR.” It is filed electronically with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”).
Taxpayers with an interest in, or signature or other authority over, foreign financial accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during a calendar year must file FBARs. It is due by the due date of your Form 1040 and must be filed electronically through the BSA E-Filing System website.
By law, Americans living abroad, as well as many non-U.S. citizens, must file a U.S. income tax return. In addition, key tax benefits, such as the foreign earned income exclusion, are only available to those who file U.S. returns.
Penalties for non-compliance.
Civil Fraud – If your failure to file is due to fraud, the penalty is 15% for each month or part of a month that your return is late, up to a maximum of 75%.
Criminal Fraud – Any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).
The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).
Additionally, the penalties for FBAR noncompliance are stiffer than the civil tax penalties ordinarily imposed for delinquent taxes. For non-willful violations it is $10,000.00 per account per year going back as far as six years. For willful violations the penalties for noncompliance which the government may impose include a fine of not more than $500,000 and imprisonment of not more than five years, for failure to file a report, supply information, and for filing a false or fraudulent report.
Lastly, failing to file Form 8938 when required could result in a $10,000 penalty, with an additional penalty up to $50,000 for continued failure to file after IRS notification. A 40% penalty on any understatement of tax attributable to non-disclosed assets can also be imposed.
The IRS has special programs for taxpayers to come forward to disclose unreported foreign accounts and unreported foreign income. The main program is called the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). OVDP offers taxpayers with undisclosed income from offshore accounts an opportunity to get current with their tax returns and information reporting obligations. The program encourages taxpayers to voluntarily disclose foreign accounts now rather than risk detection by the IRS at a later date and face more severe penalties and possible criminal prosecution.
For taxpayers who willfully did not comply with the U.S. tax laws, we recommend going into the 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). Under this program, you can get immunity from criminal prosecution and the one-time penalty is 27.5% of the highest aggregate value of your foreign income producing asset holdings.
For taxpayers who were non-willful, we recommend going into the Streamlined Procedures of OVDP. Under these procedures the penalty rate is 5% and if you are a foreign person, that penalty can be waived. This is a very popular program and we have had much success qualifying taxpayers and demonstrating to the IRS that their non-compliance was not willful.
What Should You Do?
Don’t delay because if the government finds out about you first, you will be subject to the maximum civil and maybe criminal penalties under the 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. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, San Jose and other California locations 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.
To expedite IRS’ ability to match up W-2’s and 1099’s reported by businesses to the income reported on taxpayers’ tax returns, all these forms must be submitted to IRS and given to taxpayers no later than January 31st. This filing deadline was made uniform under The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act. Prior law required that only W-2’s had to be provided to employees no later than January 31st with all other reporting forms (including the copies to IRS) due by the end of February. Failure to file these forms correctly and timely may result in penalties to the employer or payor.
Tips For Businesses To Be Ready And Avoid Penalties.
Employers should verify employees’ information. This includes names, addresses, Social Security or individual taxpayer identification numbers. They should also ensure their company’s account information is current and active with the Social Security Administration before January. If paper Forms W-2 are needed, they should be ordered early. There is no automatic extension of time to file Forms W-2.
More Efficiency In Matching Means More IRS Audit Notices Issued Sooner.
According to IRS estimates, in a calendar year employers, businesses, financial institutions, credit card companies and other third party payers will file 2.3 billion information statements. These information statements report income and financial transactions, and can help individuals and businesses prepare accurate tax returns. Using information-matching programs, the IRS compares third-party information statements with taxpayer data, and sends a notice to taxpayers when IRS systems detect inconsistencies.
Individual Automated Underreporter (AUR) Program
This matching program is better known by its primary notice: CP2000, Notice of Proposed Adjustment for Underpayment/Overpayment. IRS systems automatically send this notice when items reported on Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, don’t match information reported to the IRS by employers and other payers. The first round of these notices arrives just after Thanksgiving, and the second round arrives toward the end of the next year’s filing season.
The CP2000 notice has been a mainstay of IRS information reporting for decades. In 2012, the IRS issued more than 4.5 million CP2000 notices, with an average of $1,572 in additional taxes owed.
Form 1099-K merchant card transaction matching program
In 2012, the IRS started receiving from credit card companies, Forms 1099-K, Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions. With merchant card transactions now being reported to IRS, the IRS quickly began using this information to match against business returns. However, because businesses do not specifically report merchant card transactions as separate line items on business tax returns, the IRS can only infer potential underreporting. For example, if a business has a disproportionate amount of cash to credit/debit card sales, based on its line of business, the IRS may look closer. These kinds of mismatches have led the IRS to develop compliance initiatives, including “soft” notices requesting explanation and mail audits requesting documentation.
The IRS has established a Form 1099-K matching initiative that makes the IRS more efficient in identifying problem tax returns especially where merchant card payments appear to make up the majority or even exceed the total business receipts reported on the return. In these cases, the IRS perceives that the business is underreporting cash sales due to the disproportionate share of merchant card payments. Accrual-basis taxpayers and e-commerce businesses whose receipts do not neatly match merchant card transactions are likely early targets in this program and we have had our share of these cases where that is what happened.
Automated Substitute For Return Program
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, 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.
The Stakes Are High!
A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office study showed that the IRS spends $267 million on underreporter matching programs, compared with the $4.2 billion it spends on audits. But automated information-matching programs return almost six times more revenue than audits. You can see why with fewer IRS agents and reduced budgets, the IRS will increasingly rely on technology-driven matching programs to bring in more tax dollars.
What Should You Do?
So if you receive one of these audit notices it is important that you don’t ignore it. 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 Orange County, San Diego County and elsewhere in California defend you from the IRS.
With so many people whose lives were disrupted by the California wildfires, it is welcome relief that the Federal and State Tax Agencies are providing extra time to taxpayers to meet their tax obligations.
Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”)
The IRS announced that victims of wildfires ravaging parts of California now have until January 31, 2018, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments. This includes an additional filing extension for taxpayers with valid extensions that run out Monday, October 16, 2017.
Currently, the IRS is providing relief to seven California counties: Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Sonoma and Yuba. Individuals and businesses in these localities, as well as firefighters and relief workers who live elsewhere, qualify for the extension. The agency will continue to closely monitor this disaster and may provide other relief to these and other affected localities.
The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on October 8, 2017. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until January 31, 2018, to file returns and pay any taxes originally due during this period.
This includes the January 16, 2018 deadline for making quarterly estimated tax payments. For individual tax filers, it also includes 2016 income tax returns that received a tax-filing extension until October 16, 2017. However, any payment that was due with the extension filed on April 18, 2017 but not paid until later will still be subject to a late-payment penalty.
A variety of business tax deadlines are also affected, including the October 31, 2017 deadline for quarterly payroll and excise tax returns. Calendar-year tax-exempt organizations whose 2016 extensions run out on November 15, 2017 also qualify for the extra time.
In addition, the IRS is waiving late-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due after October 8, 2017 and before October 23, 2017, if the deposits are made by October 23, 2017.
The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. Thus, taxpayers need not contact the IRS to get this relief. However, if an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, it would be necessary to contact the IRS to have the penalty abated.
The IRS will also work with any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area. An example would be where the taxpayer’s representative is located in an affected area and is unable to help the taxpayer-client meet a tax deadline.
Individuals and businesses who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can choose to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2017 return normally filed next year) or the return for the prior year (2016). See Publication 547 for details.
For a complete list of all disasters besides the recent California wildfires, see the IRS disaster relief webpage.
Franchise Tax Board (“FTB”)
The FTB announced that affected taxpayers are granted an extension to file 2016 California tax returns and make payments until January 31, 2018.
Taxpayers may deduct a disaster loss for any loss sustained in California that is proclaimed by the Governor to be in a state of emergency. For a complete list of all disasters, see the “Qualified Disasters” chart on FTB’s Disaster Loss webpage. This disaster page also has information on extended deadlines, filing instructions, and obtaining free copies of state returns.
In addition, the FTB automatically follows federal postponement periods for any presidentially declared disasters, the most recent being Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. So a taxpayer who earns income in California can show that Hurricane Harvey impacted him or her, that taxpayer has extra time to file a California tax return.
Importance To Preserve Records
Keep in mind that the IRS has up to three years to select a tax return for audit. The FTB has up to four years to select a tax return for audit. In some cases this period is extended to six years. When a taxpayer is selected for audit, the taxpayer has the burden of proof to show that expenses claimed are properly deductible. Having the evidence handy and organized makes meeting this burden of proof much easier.
Essential Records to Have for a Tax Audit
If you are getting ready for a tax audit, one of the most important things to do is gather and organize your tax records and receipts. There’s a good chance that you have a large amount of documents and receipts in your possession. No matter how organized you are, it can be a daunting task to collect the right pieces and make sure that you have them organized and handy for the audit conference.
We have seen many tax audits that hinge on whether or not the taxpayer can provide proper documentation for their previous tax filings. A tax lawyer in Orange County or elsewhere can make sure that the documentation is complete and proper. By submitting this to your tax attorney in advance of the audit, your tax attorney can review your documentation and determine if there are any gaps that need to be addressed before starting the dialogue with the IRS agent.
So what are the most essential tax records to have ahead of your audit? Here are a few must-have items:
- Any W-2 forms from the previous year. This can include documents from full-time and part-time work, large casino and lottery winnings and more.
- Form 1098 records from your bank or lender on mortgage interest paid from the previous year.
- Records of any miscellaneous money you earned and reported to the IRS including work done as an independent contractor or freelancer, interest from savings accounts and stock dividends.
- Written letters from charities confirming your monetary donations from the previous year.
- Receipts for business expenses you claimed.
- Mileage Logs for business use of vehicle.
- Entertainment and Travel Logs for business activities.
Develop And Implement Your Backup Plan
Do not wait for the next disaster to come for then it may be too late to retrieve your important records for a tax audit or for that matter any legal or business matter. And if you do get selected for audit and do not have all the records to support what was claimed on your tax returns, you should contact an experienced tax attorney who can argue the application of your facts and circumstances to pursue the least possible changes in an audit.
The Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. has helped many people minimize or avoid adjustments from IRS audits. Working with a tax attorney is the best bet for minimizing adjustments that would create liability to the IRS.
The IRS is the world’s largest and most powerful collection agency (and the staggering fact that Congress has allowed them to start outsourcing debt collection to private third parties doesn’t change this).
Therefore, if you owe the IRS money, there is nowhere to run and no place to hide. It is only a matter of time before matters are brought to a head — either with or without your participation. As such, it’s absolutely in your best interest to make dealing with this your top priority. Procrastinating, or waiting and seeing to ensure that the IRS really, really wants you to pay up are both very bad ideas. In fact, don’t even consider them. Read more
The adage “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is vividly — and sometimes catastrophically — illustrated when it comes to anything and everything to do with the IRS.
Indeed, the amount of so-called good advice available on the web and across social media that is partially or wholly incorrect is staggering, and many taxpayers (individuals and businesses) that believe they are sailing towards safe shores are, in fact, heading straight into a costly audit that could turn into criminal prosecution. Read more
For many reasons — some of which are justified and necessary, and others that frankly do not make sense and obfuscate rather than clarify — the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) is an excessively complex set of volumes, which contain laws enforced by the IRS (published as Title 26 of the United States Code/USC).
Partly due to this inherent complexity — and also because the web is riddled with incomplete, misleading or outright wrong “advice” on tax controversies— there continues to be significant confusion around two fundamentally separate concepts: tax fraud and tax negligence. Read more
Congress has given the IRS potent tools to collect taxes. The IRS can impose liens on a taxpayer’s property and can seize it through levy, all without prior judicial authorization. But for taxpayers who attempt to move or keep their assets offshore to circumvent IRS collections – beware of the writ of ne exeat republica.
The writ of ne exeat republica effectively prevents a person from leaving the Court’s jurisdiction and the IRS has demonstrated that where its efforts to seize a taxpayer’s property to collect his past due taxes, the IRS essentially seized the taxpayer instead.
Predictably, it takes some fairly serious misbehavior to lead a court to bar someone from traveling – and that is what happened to Charles and Kathleen Barrett of Colorado. United States v. Barrett [Case No. 10-CV-02130], 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10888 (D. Colo. Jan. 29, 2014).
Unknown to the Barretts, the government secured a writ of ne exeat republica just before the Barretts had departed for Ecuador. The government then received a default judgment and an order directing the Barretts to repatriate funds that the IRS believed that the Barretts had wired to Ecuador. Thereafter, the Barretts not knowing that this writ and order were outstanding returned to Colorado to attend their daughter’s wedding.
Take-down At The Airport.
After attending their daughter’s wedding, on the morning of August 8, 2013, Charles and Kathleen Barrett were preparing to leave Colorado for the return trip to Cuenca, Ecuador. Charles was leaving from the Denver airport while Kathleen was flying out of Grand Junction, Colorado, where she had been visiting her mother. Both were heading to Miami where they would meet their sons for the flight back to Ecuador.
After Charles checked in at the airlines counter at the Denver Airport, he went to the gate an hour before his flight was scheduled to board. Just as he settled into his seat in the waiting area he was surrounded by three men, one of whom showed his U.S. marshals badge. “You’re not flying anywhere today,” one of the marshals told him. “The judge wants to see you.”
Charles turned over his passport and airplane ticket and was led out of the airport in handcuffs. Four times, Charles recalls, he asked to call to an attorney to represent him before the judge. Four times he was put off. He informed the marshal that his sons, Nathaniel and Jonathan, were waiting for him at the Miami airport and was told that the marshals would contact them. Despite the drama and rough treatment, Barrett understood why he was being taken away but felt confident the issue could be resolved quickly once he talked to the judge.
You see the Barretts owed the IRS money from 2007 when they received a large refund of $217,615 that they were not entitled to as a result of a tax return filed without their signatures by their tax preparer. When contacted by the IRS about this, they filed a corrected return in 2009, but the Barretts kept the money.
On September 1, 2010, the IRS sued the Barretts in Colorado federal court, and eventually obtained a default judgment against them for $351,197 (which amount included penalties and interest). Subsequently, three separate times thereafter the Barretts tried to vacate the default judgment, and three times they failed.
So far, so what — if the Barretts had simply paid their taxes, this would have been an obscure case for a relatively small amount and probably nobody except the parties concerned would have cared much. But the Barretts decided that they weren’t going to pay, and that’s where it starts getting interesting. Apparently the Barretts decided to move to Ecuador and that they deposited their erroneous refund check first into their domestic bank account, and then moved it to another account, and then wire-transferred funds to an account with a bank in Uruguay. The government believed that the Barretts had spirited the $217,615 out of the country.
IRS Action To Get The Offshore Money Back.
By this time you are probably thinking, “Yeah, and good luck with the IRS collecting any of that money, against a couple living outside the U.S. with bank accounts outside the U.S.”
But, in the off-chance that the Barretts might show up again, on December 2, 2010 the IRS went to a U.S. District Judge, and asked that an order by the cool name of writ of ne exeat republica be issued against the Barretts to keep them from leaving the U.S. (although they were already long gone), requiring them to post a bond for the $351,197, requiring they be detained by the U.S. Marshal Service pending a hearing, requiring that they produce all their books and records of financial assets and accounts, and restricting them from further transferring or alienating their property.
The writ of ne exeat republica is a little known and seldom used judicial tool dating to the 18th century English royal court. Originally intended to restrict travel for political reasons, its occasional use in the U.S. court system, primarily in family and tax law cases, has often come under question. When it has been invoked, it has been strictly as a civil law action.
Of course, this writ was without little immediate effect since the Barretts had vamoosed. The writ was issued without the Barrett’s knowledge, by the court on an ex parte basis, which meant that only the IRS showed up to talk with the Judge, and the Barretts were unrepresented — a disadvantage inherent to fleeing the country.
The Federal Court Weighs In.
So when Charles was taken into the courtroom on August 8, 2013, he stood before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Boyd Boland who issued the writ of ne exeat republica, ordering the Barretts to turn over their passports and preventing them from leaving the country. Judge Boland read Charles his rights and told him he was not allowed to speak.
An attorney for the IRS asked Judge Boland to put Barrett in jail or post bond of $253,000. The judge responded that the writ did not authorize jailing, only the confiscation of passports and other travel documents. The IRS attorney persisted, claiming the Barretts were flight risks, and the judge finally relented. Charles was fingerprinted and booked into federal jail. However, no charges were filed.
Meanwhile, 200 miles west of Denver in Grand Junction, Kathleen was experiencing the same treatment that Charles was in Denver. She too, was booked into a local jail. It was two days before Charles and other family members knew where she was.
In Miami, not knowing what had happened to their parents, Nathaniel and Jonathan boarded an American Airlines flight to Quito. The U.S. Marshals had not bothered to inform them that their parents had been detained. Assuming that there was a scheduling problem and that the family would be reunited in Ecuador, they remained on the flight.
Kathleen and Charles saw each other for the first time in five days on Tuesday August 13th, at a hearing in the federal courthouse in Denver. Their attorney immediately demanded that the handcuffs and leg irons be removed. This is a civil not a criminal case, he argued and Judge Boland agreed. The marshals, however, refused to obey the judge’s order based on instructions from their superiors. Charles and Kathleen sat through the hearing literally in chains.
On October 11, 2013, the Barretts appeared for a hearing before a U.S. Magistrate Judge. At this time, the IRS identified the assets they believed the Barretts had control of that were available to pay their debt — about $20,000 in cash in various accounts, some real estate in Ecuador, a bunch of minority stock interests in a nutritional food company apparently doing business in Central America, various small assets such as coins and jewelry, a truck and a horse.
Mrs. Barrett claimed that most of the assets were either worthless or not accessible, and at any rate their total value was not much more than $48,000. Of course, these are just the assets that the IRS was able to identify.
As with nearly all the debtors in similar cases involving offshore assets, the Barretts’ biggest failure was their own credibility. Specifically:
- The Barretts had obtained a large tax refund through fraud. While they tried to claim that a “maverick accountant” signed their names to the return, when shown their signatures on their returns they claimed that the government forged their signatures. Nonetheless, the Barretts kept the fraudulently-obtained refund.
- The Barretts had not voluntarily paid anything to their creditor, and had “loaned” $20,000 to their son just to keep it out of their creditor’s hands.
- While basically claiming poverty, the Mr. Barrett had his credit cards paid from an undisclosed account in the U.S., and had wired to another of his sons from $1,500 to $3,000 per month over a 2 to 3 year period.
- There was evidence that the Barretts had wire-transferred money between various accounts, and eventually withdrew $48,720 by a cashier’s check, when a wire-transfer failed.
- The Barretts had refused to provide bank account or wire-transfer information for their various accounts.
- Mrs. Barrett sold shares in a company that was not disclosed to the U.S. Magistrate Judge for $40,000 while at the same time claiming that her sole income was the $430 she received from Social Security. Some of this money was used to pay the Barrett’s legal fees.
After reviewing the available evidence and applying a multifactor test that considered the merits of the governments underlying tax claim, the relative harm to each party and the public interest to be served by the writ, the district court concluded that the writ should stay in place. Ultimately, the court concluded that the Barretts had to stay put until they paid the balance of their tax debt (which after applying prior payments and credits now only amounted to $16,000) and provided satisfactory evidence that their Ecuadorian property truly was unmarketable.
So don’t think that if you flee the country to dodge your debts or avoid reporting your undisclosed foreign bank accounts you will not have any problems when you come back. A U.S. Marshal or your local friendly sheriff will be waiting for you.
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.
Beware IRS is stepping up enforcement action of the Bank Secrecy Act in closing out bank accounts of U.S. taxpayers making cash deposits.
Ronald Malone and his wife Janet Malone of Dubuque, Iowa lived a simple life and enjoying their retirement. Shortly before Ronald’s death in October 2011, Ronald told his wife about a briefcase containing $180,000 cash that he accumulated from his job as a publishing executive and from gambling winnings and investment income. After Ronald died, Janet who at the time was 68 years old, deposited this cash into her bank account in increments of anywhere from $5,800 to $9,000.
Unknown to Janet, these cash deposits were being reported by the bank to the IRS. The IRS having picked this up obtained a warrant to seize the funds in Janet’s bank account based on suspicion that the transactions were meant to avoid tax reporting requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970.
Well just a couple of weeks ago prosecutors charged Janet Malone with a criminal misdemeanor and she was arrested. It turns out that four years earlier her husband who must have been making cash deposits to the bank was warned by the IRS about continuing this practice. Ronald acknowledged to the IRS Special Agent at a meeting in his house that the small deposits amounting to $35,500 could be considered “structuring” (which is against the law) and signed a form confirming that he’d been warned about the practice. Janet was at the home for part of that meeting between the IRS Special Agent and Ronald, but she had not signed anything. Janet claims that she did not remember the details of the IRS agent’s 2011 visit with her husband because she was in a state of despair over her husband’s health who at that time was dying of cancer.
Bank Secrecy Act of 1970
As part of the federal government’s dragnet surveillance of the civilian population, everyone’s banking activities are monitored for “red flag” activities. Under the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, banks are required to report to the IRS transactions on every individual who deposits or withdraws more than $10,000 in cash to or from a personal bank account on a given day. These reports indicate the financial activities that took place and include the individual’s bank account number, name, address, and social security number.
People who know of this law and are seeking to avoid this level of reporting by the bank will often go to great lengths to make multiple deposits so that no single deposit will be greater than $10,000. This tactic is called “structuring”. The IRS thinking that Ms. Malone was making small deposits to evade this reporting requirement used its civil forfeiture power to seize Ms. Malone’s bank account.
That’s right – federal law enforcement agencies are invested with the power of civil forfeiture whereby the agency can take cash, cars and other property without charging the property owner with a crime. The property owner need not receive any advance warning or notice before the assets are seized by the federal government. The government need not prove that a person is guilty of a crime – only that he or she is suspected of committing a crime. This law was designed to catch terrorists, money launderers, drug lords and serious criminals – but it can also be used by the government against law-abiding businesses and law-abiding taxpayers.
The reason that the federal government does not have to read you your rights, or advise you that you can have a lawyer, or do any of the things that the constitution is supposed to provide, is that they don’t charge the person with the crime – they charge your money with the crime. And that crime that your money committed can carry a charge to you of up to one year in jail and a $250,000 fine.
Others Have Been Targets Under This Act
Janet Malone is not the only person whose money got her into criminal trouble. A few weeks ago, I told you about Carole Hinders, another resident of Iowa and a 67 year old grandmother who operated Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food in Arnolds Park, Iowa for 38 years. But despite her clean tax record, on May 22, 2013 while settling into a crossword puzzle with her grandchildren she was visited at her home by a pair of IRS agents who stated that they had closed her business bank account and seized all her money, which at the time was almost $33,000.
Even professionals could get into criminal trouble from how their money is deposited. The IRS seized $344,405 from Mason City, Iowa doctor Alireza Yarahmadi’s bank account last year after suspecting he made repeated cash withdrawals in increments below $10,000 to evade federal reporting requirements. Dr. Yarahmadi denied wrongdoing, saying he routinely transferred cash from his bank account to safe deposit boxes for safekeeping. His attorney said that Dr. Yarahmadi is an Iran native who is suspicious of banks because his family lost its savings after the 1979 revolution.
Eventually, the government dropped their charges against Ms. Hinders and Dr. Yarahmadi and returned their funds. But Ms. Malone’s case is still pending and the IRS does not appear to have discontinued this practice.
Are There Any Safeguards In Place For The IRS To Follow So Things Like This Do Not Happen?
Critics say the IRS rarely investigates such cases to see if the business owner has legitimate reasons for making small deposits, such as an insurance policy that covers only a limited amount of cash.
Seizing assets without criminal charges is legal under a controversial body of law that allows law enforcement agents to seize cars, cash and other valuables they believe are tied to criminal activity. The burden of proof falls on owners seeking the return of their property. In fact what happened to Ms. Hinders has prompted the two high-ranking members on the House Ways and Means committee to file bipartisan legislation to curb abuses of the practice, known as civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture even become an issue in the confirmation of President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch, who as United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York presided over a case involving more than $440,000 seized from a family-run cash-intensive candy and cigarette distributor that has been operating in Long Island, New York for 27 years.
There is nothing illegal about depositing less than $10,000 cash unless it is done specifically to evade the reporting requirement. But often a mere bank statement is enough for investigators to obtain a seizure warrant. In the Long Island case, the police submitted almost a year’s worth of daily deposits by a business, ranging from $5,550 to $9,910. The officer wrote in his warrant affidavit that based on his training and experience, the pattern “is consistent with structuring”.
The IRS made 639 of these seizures in 2012, compared to 114 in 2005. And only one in five was prosecuted as a criminal case. So you are probably thinking was the money from the other 80% of cases returned to its rightful owners?
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.
An e-mail claiming to come from the IRS claims:
“Our records indicate that you are a Non-resident, and that you are exempted from the United States of America Tax reporting and withholding on interest paid to you on your account and other financial benefits. To protect your exemption from tax on your account and other financial benefits, you need to re-certify your exempt status to enable us confirm your records with us. Therefore, you are required to authenticate the following by completing form W-8BEN attached and return same to us as soon as possible with a valid copy of government issued Identification (e.g., International Passport) through the email at the bottom of the form.”
This appears to be an identity theft scheme to obtain recipients’ personal and financial information so the scammers can clean out their victims’ financial accounts. In reality, a request for a Form W-8BEN, W-8 or W-9 would be made directly by your bank not the IRS.
Why Banks Need Your Social Security Number.
A social security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued by the Social Security Administration to all U.S. citizens, permanent residents and temporary working residents. The purpose of a social security number is to track individuals for taxation purposes. Federal law requires private businesses to collect an SSN when the Internal Revenue Service requires notification of the transaction. Banks and other financial institutions require individuals to provide an SSN when engaging in financial transactions.
Banks are required by federal law to participate in a Customer Identification Program for the opening of new accounts. Individuals opening up a checking account, savings account or renting a safe deposit box are required to provide the bank with a valid name, date of birth, current mailing address, and a social security number. Banks are required to verify the accuracy of the information by also requesting proof of identification in the form of a driver license, passport or by contacting a credit reporting agency that would have information on file based on the SSN. Banks are also required to obtain a SSN on existing accounts and where there is no SSN, the banks are required to withhold tax at the source (that means your bank account) and remit your money to the IRS. Banks check the SSN against government terror lists, to limit terrorist financing and fight against money laundering.
How The Scam Works.
Using a technique calculated to get almost anyone’s attention, the e-mail notifies the recipient that he or she to protect their exemption from tax on interest paid to you on your account and other financial benefits you must complete a tax form with their identifying information (such as Form W-8BEN) and email it back along with a copy of a government-issued ID.
Unusual for a scam e-mail, it may contain a salutation in the body addressed to the specific recipient by name. These scam e-mails are sent using the same technique used by spammers, in which hundreds of thousands of messages are sent to potential victims based on Internet address. Because of the volume, the typical scam e-mail is not personalized.
Beware this e-mail is a phony. The IRS does not send unsolicited, tax-account related e-mails to taxpayers. Also, any domain name in sender’s email or reply email address contained in the email are not legitimate as the domain name for IRS is “irs.gov”.
So What Should You Do?
If you get an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for your identification, here’s what you should do:
Report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
And if you do owe taxes and you have not already resolved this with the IRS or you have not disclosed your foreign accounts as required by the IRS, then that is where we come in. 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.
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