trump tax reform plan bill

What’s Missing In The Trump Tax Reform Bill?

On November, 2017 the House of Representatives released the first draft of the Trump Tax Reform Bill (the 2017 Tax Cuts And Jobs Act). With much discussion on the touted benefits of the plan, there has been very little discussion on what is missing.

 

What Does Trump’s Tax Reform Bill Offer To Individuals?

Compressed And Lower Income Tax Rates. The draft bill compresses the current seven tiers of tax rates, down to just three: 12%, 25%, and a top rate of 33% that kicks in at $225,000 (for married couples, or $112,500 for individuals). The draft bill would still keep preferential rates for capital gains and qualified dividends. The draft bill would repeal the alternative minimum tax (“AMT”).

Increased Gift and Estate Tax Exemption. Wealthier U.S Taxpayers will benefit from the proposed initial doubling of the estate tax limit from $5,490,000 to $10,980,000 and for the estate tax to be phased out entirely by 2023. 

 

What Is Missing In Trump’s Tax Reform Bill?

U.S. Taxpayers Still Taxed On Worldwide Income. There is no mention in the draft bill of any 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 mention in the draft bill of any 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 Solution.

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, the Inland Empire 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.

IRS 2017 Tax Deductions

Forgot To Include A Deduction? Did Not Pick Up All Your Income? Considerations On Filing An Amended Return

Forgot To Include A Deduction? Did Not Pick Up All Your Income?

Considerations On Filing An Amended Return

If you filed a tax return only to later realize that it was not complete or you did something incorrect, you can correct this by filing a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

But before you proceed, consider these essential facts:

1. Manner Of Filing. Regardless of whether you e-filed your Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return or filed a paper form, an amended return can only be filed in paper form.

2. Explanation For Filing. Form 1040X includes an explanation section where you explain why the tax return is being amended. This could be due to a change in your filing status, income, deductions or credits.

3. Timing For Filing. Form 1040X must be filed within three years from the date you filed your original tax return or within two years of the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. If the IRS received funds though a levy or applied an overpayment from another tax year that is considered to be a date you paid the tax and the two-year period will start from that date.

4. Separate Submissions For Each Tax Year. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare Form 1040X for each year and mail them to the IRS in separate envelopes. Be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X.

You normally do not need to file an amended return to correct math errors. Instead the IRS computers will automatically make those changes for you and send you a notice by mail of the result of the change. If you now owe a balance to the IRS, that notice will include a payment voucher to send in payment. If you now have a refund due to you, the IRS will send out separately from the notice a refund check.

If you are filing an amended tax return to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original tax refund before filing Form 1040X. However, you need not delay cashing your original refund. If you are due a refund, the IRS will pay you interest on the amount of the refund. Of course, next year the IRS will send you a Form 1099-INT reflecting the interest paid, so you will have to report this income on your tax return.

In case you forgot to attach your W-2’s or other required tax reporting documents, no need to worry as the IRS computers will match up the amounts reported on your tax return to this third party tax reporting information. If the IRS computers find a discrepancy, the IRS will send a notice by mail which will require you to respond with the requested documents or an explanation.

Keep in mind that amended returns take up to 12 weeks to process. You can track the status of your amended tax return three weeks after you file with the IRS’s tool called, “Where’s My Amended Return?”. The automated tool is available on ww.IRS.gov. You can track the status of your amended return for the current year and up to three prior years.

Possible Adverse Considerations:

1. Audit Risk. The IRS requires paper submissions of Form 1040X because unlike original tax returns processed by a computer, amended tax returns are examined by a person. Although you only changed one item on the return, the examiner can, and frequently

does, examine all the items on the return. If there is anything questionable, the examiner could send a notice requesting more information or refer this return for an audit.

2. Imposition Of Penalties. If you file an amended return and you owe additional tax, you will be assessed penalties and interest on the amount due. You may want to just pay the additional tax due and wait for a tax bill that includes interest and penalties. You will then have an accurate amount to pay off the liability. Another of paying only the tax due is that if you have a valid reason for the late payment penalty, you may appeal to the IRS for an abatement of the penalty. Just keep in mind that interest is not abatable and a direct function on how much is owed. If you are not successful in getting the penalty abated, not only do you have the penalty to pay but also the underlying interest on the account.

What Should You Do?

When you did not include all deductions and credits in your original tax return, it usually makes sense to proceed with the submission of an amended tax return. But where you failed to include all of your income and/or overstated your deductions, you should consider meeting with tax counsel first as your filing of the amended tax returns could be used as an admission of guilt that the IRS could base criminal charges or a 75% civil fraud penalty. Let our tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. in Orange County, San Jose and other California locations evaluate your situation and come up with a Tax Resolution Development Plan to get the best possible outcome.

Halloween Costumes could be a tax deduction

Looking to make Halloween candy and costumes tax deductible?

The kids should be ready for Halloween but are you ready to take advantage of making this holiday to be tax deductible?

Yes your Halloween Candy could be a tax deduction….

You can in fact deduct Halloween candy if you figure out a way to make it business related. The IRS doesn’t say a lot about this topic because they don’t want to give you “permission” to deduct these items, but they also have not specifically stated that you cannot deduct Halloween candy.

So here are five different ways for you to consider deducting those over-priced bags of snack size chocolates:

  1. Make a promotion out of it by attaching your business card or a promotional flyer to the candies that are being passed out.
  2. There are many companies who will print candy wrappers with your logo on it which is an even better and more advanced way to promote your business and still have something for trick-or-treaters.
  3. Send a box of candy to potential or existing clients during October. This promotes your business and would likely not be questioned as a business deduction.
  4. Donate any leftover candy to the U.S. military. Charitable organizations with 501(3)(c) status like Operation Gratitude (EIN 20-0103575) and Soldiers’ Angels (EIN 20-0583415) collect leftover Halloween candy to include in care packages for soldiers. They are two of many 501(c)(3) organizations on the IRS-approved list to donate tax deductible charitable goods. Always be sure to check the IRS list before claiming your donations are tax deductible, as status can change.
  5. Make it a party. You can deduct a portion of a Halloween party if the party is to conduct or promote business. Typically this looks like an open house of some sort where you mingle with current and potential clients, play a few Halloween games, give out candy and treats, and discuss business. The IRS does not specify how much time you must spend discussing the business to claim a deduction but you must invite people that you do business with or are looking to do business with.

Like with any expense you are looking to deduct it is important to make sure that the tax law would support a deduction and that you have the required backup documentation in case you are audited by the IRS.

Yes your Halloween Costumes could be a tax deduction….

Now when I think of Halloween, I also look forward to seeing all of the different costumes that people wear. Some are very extravagant and I am sure pricey. And for some they would like to know how that can be deductible. Since costumes fall under the category of clothing or uniforms, be mindful that the tax law requires three elements for clothing useful only in the business environment to be deductible.

The required elements for deductibility are:

  1. The clothing is required or essential in the taxpayer’s employment;
  2. The clothing is not suitable for general or personal wear; and
  3. The clothing is not so worn for general or personal wear.

If these three requirements are satisfied, not only is the cost of the closing deductible but also its upkeep.

Examples of workers who may be able to deduct the cost and upkeep of work clothes are: delivery workers, firefighters, health care workers, law enforcement officers, letter carriers, professional athletes, and transportation workers (air, rail, bus, etc.). Musicians and entertainers can deduct the cost of theatrical clothing and accessories that are not suitable for everyday wear.

In contrast, a white cap, white shirt or white jacket, white bib overalls, and standard work shoes that a painter is required by his union to wear on the job and there is nothing on any of the clothes that indicate the company this person works for would not be deductible because it is not distinctive. Similarly, blue work clothes worn by a welder are not deductible even if the foreman requires them. However, required protective clothing like safety boots, safety glasses, hard hats, and work gloves are deductible.

But consider this – by adding the company’s logo on the clothing will make it deductible even if it can be worn outside the scope of employment because you are advertising your company. In that case you are a walking billboard.

Given the large military presence here in California, military personnel on full-time active duty cannot deduct uniforms. However, reservists can deduct the unreimbursed cost of uniforms if military regulations restrict wearing it except on duty. Still, you must reduce your deduction by any nontaxable allowance you receive. If local military rules don’t allow wearing fatigues off duty, you can deduct the amount by which your uniform cost exceeds your uniform allowance.

Given today’s dot.com and casual era environment, people are not coming to work as dressed up as they used to. Nevertheless, where business clothes are suitable for general wear, there’s no deduction even if these particular clothes would not have been purchased but for the employment.

While these tax rules are pretty circumscribed, they are also intensively factual. Such was the case with an Ohio TV news anchor, Anietra Y. Hamper. She was claiming approximately $20,000 a year in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 in clothing expense that included not only what she wore for each broadcast but also lounge wear, a robe, sportswear, lingerie, thong underwear, an Ohio State jersey, jewelry, running shoes, dry cleaning, business gifts, cable TV, contact lenses, cosmetics, gym memberships, haircuts, Internet access, self-defense classes, and her subscriptions to Cosmo, Glamour, Newsweek, and Nickelodeon. Her argument was that as a TV anchor she was required to maintain a specified appearance described in the Women’s Wardrobe Guidelines.

These guidelines say the “ideal in selecting an outfit for on-air use should be the selection of ‘standard business wear’, typical of that which one might wear on any business day in a normal office setting anywhere in the USA.” But where business clothes are suitable for general wear, there’s no deduction even if these particular clothes would not have been purchased but for the employment. For this TV anchor, that was no help. She claimed the requirement to dress conservatively made the clothing unsuitable for everyday use, and that’s how she treated it. She wore the business clothing only at work and even kept it separate from her personal clothing. But the IRS and Tax Court denied her wardrobe deductions and they added penalties.

What else can you do to save taxes?

Now while you will find no one at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. wearing outlandish costumes and eating bowls of chocolates each day, we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS 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 Orange County, 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.

 

Why You Should Not Let Your Guard Down In An IRS Audit Under The National Research Program

Certain tax returns that are selected for audit by the IRS each year are selected as part of the National Research Program (“NRP”).  The goal of this program is to design and implement a successful strategy to collect data that will be used to measure payment, filing and reporting compliance and to deliver the data to the IRS Business Operation Divisions to meet a wide range of needs including support for the development of strategic plans and improvements in workload identification. The IRS will also use the NRP to analyze taxpayer compliance and to assess the effectiveness of compliance programs and treatments in use by the IRS.  Data for analysis will include amounts reported by taxpayers on their tax returns and the corrected amounts that were determined by examiners.

While the information gathered from these audits gets fed into IRS’ Big Data Analytics, taxpayers should keep in mind that these are still real audits that will likely result in changes the taxpayer’s account that once assessed by IRS will result in additional liability by the taxpayer for which the IRS will pursue collection.  Since these audits will follow the same audit guidelines for any individual income tax return, it is important to note the general procedures that will apply.

Types of IRS Examinations

  1. Campus Examinations are the simplest form of an examination. They are correspondence exams addressing simple problems like substantiation that can be resolved easily by correspondence and/or telephone. An examination under NRP would not be conducted in this fashion as not enough information would be collected in this type of audit.
  2. Area Office Examinations may be conducted for slightly more complicated issues such as small business returns and more complex non-business returns. Area Office Examinations may be conducted by correspondence, office interview or even by a field examination, depending on type and complexity of the return. In all cases, the taxpayer is asked to provide supporting documentation of questionable items. Business returns will always examined an office or field interview rather than a correspondence examination. It is in this type of an environment that an audit under the NRP would occur.
  3. Field Examinations are the most complex civil examination. The examining agent will be a revenue agent, as opposed to an officer auditor. He or she will be better trained and will have more experience. A Field Examination consists of examination of a taxpayer’s books and records at the taxpayer’s place of business or where the books, records or source documents are maintained. The agent will review the taxpayer’s entire return and all documentation related to that return. The agent may be assisted by a technical specialist such as a “technical advisor” if the return presents a special issue such as valuation. Unlike, office auditors, revenue agents spend considerable time preparing for the examination. Prior to the examination, the revenue agent will review any prior examination reports from the same taxpayer. This may lead to scrutiny of recurring issues or inclusion of other years’ returns in the examination. Of course, the revenue agent will also look at the return for unusual or questionable items.  . It is in this type of an environment that an audit under the NRP would occur.

What Should You Do?

An audit under the NRP is no different than any other type of IRS audit.  A poorly conducted audit can result in large additional tax adjustments and penalties and interest up to as much as 100% of the adjustment. Most local tax preparers are not equipped to represent you in an audit before the IRS. Using a tax attorney to help with an audit can significantly increase your chances of getting a better outcome. Many times individuals don’t realize that audits can go both ways, you may actually end up being owed money after an audit. A tax attorney can analyze your situation and find the best approach to take in order to get the best outcome. The IRS actually prefers working with professional tax representatives because it makes their job easier and helps the process move along more efficiently, which can actually result in a more favorable decision. Also, because your representative would deal directly with the agent, usually the audit can be completed without the need for the taxpayer to appear before the agent.

Why Contacting Your Congressman Will Usually Never Help You Resolve Your Tax Problems

Although being a constituent of your elected Congressman gives you reason to voice your concerns about agenda under your Congressman’s consideration, don’t think that just because you have personal tax problems that your Congressman will come to the rescue or be able to cut any bureaucratic tape.

It is true that every elected official has employees who do what is known as constituent service, helping people with thorny problems that may involve a federal agency. Most often, the problems they hear involve Social Security benefits, federal disability filings, veterans’ benefits and mortgage issues. Immigration requests involving small-business employees and newly married couples are common, too.  But when it comes to the Internal Revenue Service, your Congressman’s office will typically hand off you compliant or problem to the Office Of The Taxpayer Advocate for further processing and stay out of the loop.

Taxpayer Advocate Service

Congress created the Taxpayer Advocate Service in 1996 so for at least one thing that Congressman would not need to deal with their constituents’ tax problems directly.  You do not need to go through your Congressman to get to the Taxpayer Advocate Service but there are some important things and limitations you should be aware if you choose to contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service directly.Each state has at least one Local Taxpayer Advocate who is independent of the local IRS office and reports directly to the National Taxpayer Advocate. In California the offices at located in Fresno, Laguna Nigel, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose.

Twice a year the National Taxpayer Advocate will independently submit reports to Congress.The first report, due by June 30, contains the objectives of the Taxpayer Advocate for the coming fiscal year (starting October 1). The second one, due by December 31, reports on activities of the Taxpayer Advocate during the fiscal year, including his or her initiatives to improve taxpayer services and IRS responsiveness, and a summary of at least 20 of the Most Serious Problems facing taxpayers.The National Taxpayer Advocate delivers these reports to the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means with no prior review or comment from the Commissioner, the IRS Oversight Board, the Secretary of the Treasury, any other Treasury officer or employee, or the Office of Management and Budget.

Here are three things every taxpayer should know about the Taxpayer Advocate Service:

  1. Although the Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS, it is no substitute for independent legal and tax representation.
  2. While the Taxpayer Advocate Service attempts to help taxpayers whose problems are causing financial difficulty, this office has no power on its own to remedy your problems and must still deal with the appropriate department of the IRS.
  3. The Taxpayer Advocate Service will not get involved where you have not tried to resolve your tax problem through normal IRS channels.

You should also keep in mind that every taxpayer when interacting with the IRS enjoys the following rights referred to as the “Taxpayer Bill Of Rights”:

    • The Right to Be Informed.
    • The Right to Quality Service.
    • The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax.
    • The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard.
    • The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum.
    • The Right to Finality.
    • The Right to Privacy.
    • The Right to Confidentiality.
    • The Right to Retain Representation.
    • The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System.

    What Should You Do?

    Now don’t get me wrong.  The Office Of The Taxpayer Advocate can be helpful in introducing change and improvements to how the IRS operates and they report directly to Congress with their suggestions.  But when you need independent and aggressive representation where all options are considered and you need an approach that “thinks outside the box”, your interests would likely be best served by exercising your right to retain the representation of your own tax counsel.

    Where’s My Refund? Filed your tax return and still have not received your refund check from the IRS?

    Getting Ready For The 2017 Tax Filing Season

    IRS Giving Taxpayers To April 18, 2017 To File 2016 Individual Income Tax Returns.

    The Internal Revenue Service announced that it can start accepting 2016 income tax returns onMonday, January 23, 2017.  Returns filed before that date (by paper or electronically) will be held in suspense by the IRS. Since the IRS will begin processing tax returns on January 23rd there is no advantage to filing tax returns on paper in early January instead of waiting for the IRS to begin accepting e-filed returns.  Nevertheless, it makes sense to start organizing your information early and so when the IRS filing systems open on January 23rd, you are ready to submit your tax return right away.

    The IRS expects that more than 153 million individual tax returns will be filed in 2017 and that at least 80% of the tax returns will be prepared electronically using tax return preparation software.

    April 18thFiling Deadline

    The filing deadline to submit 2016 tax returns is Tuesday, April 18, 2017, rather than the traditional April 15thdate.  The reason why is that in 2017, April 15 falls on a Saturday, and this would usually move the filing deadline to the following Monday – April 17. However, Emancipation Day – a legal holiday in the District of Columbia – will be observed on that Monday, which pushes the nation’s filing deadline to Tuesday, April 18, 2017. Under the tax law, legal holidays in the District of Columbia affect the filing deadline across the nation. Be careful though with regards to the filing deadlines for 2016 State Individual Income Tax Returns as not all States may follow Federal law when it comes to the filing deadline and for those who do not, the filing deadline would be Monday, April 17, 2017.

    Refunds in 2017

    Choosing e-file and direct deposit for refunds remains the fastest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund.The IRS still anticipates issuing at least 90%of tax refunds in less than 21 days, but there are some important factors to keep in mind for taxpayers that could cause delay.Under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Actwhich takes into effect this 2017 Tax Filing Season, the IRS is required to hold refunds for tax returns which include a claim of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15, 2017. Also consider that it would still take several days for these refunds to be released and processed through financial institutions, and factoring in weekends and the President’s Day holiday, taxpayers claiming these credits may not have actual access to their refunds until the week of Feb. 27th.

    The status of your tax refund can be checked directly with IRS by using the Where’s My Refund? ‎on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app.

    Renewal Reminder for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINS) ITINs are used by people who have tax-filing or payment obligations under U.S. law but are not eligible for a Social Security number. Under a recent change in law, any ITIN not used on a tax return at least once in the past three years will expire on January 1, 2017. In addition, any ITIN with middle digits of either 78 or 79 (9NN-78-NNNN or 9NN-79-NNNN) will also expire on that date.

    This means that anyone with an expiring ITIN and a need to file a tax return in the upcoming filing season should file a renewal application in the next few weeks to avoid lengthy refund and processing delays. Failure to renew early could result in refund delays and denial of some tax benefits until the ITIN is renewed.

    An ITIN renewal application filed now will be processed before one submitted at the height of tax season from mid-January to February. Currently, a complete and accurate renewal application can be processed in as little as seven weeks. But this timeframe is expected to expand to as much as 11 weeks during tax season, which runs from mid-January through April.

    Time Limits For Keeping Your Tax Records

    Even though your 2016 income tax return is processed by the IRS and a refund is issued, that does not mean the IRS can later question or audit the tax return,  In fact the Statute Of Limitations allows the IRS three years to go back and audit your tax return.  That is why it’s a good idea to keep copies of your prior-year tax returns and supporting backup documentation for at least three years. And if you do get selected for audit, it would be best for you to exercise your right to hire tax counsel to represent you in the audit to minimize your contact with the IRS and to assure that you are entitled to claim all benefits that you are eligible under the tax law for your situation.

     

    District Court Sets Low Standard For Willfulness In Failing To File FBAR

    Until just recently, not much has come out of the Courts defining that line between nonwillful and willful when it comes to not filing Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Reports (“FBAR”).  But now we have a recent U.S. District Court case out of California which has vast repercussions on anyone who has undisclosed foreign bank accounts regardless of whether they came forward in a Voluntary Disclosure Program or the Streamlined Procedures.

    U.S. v. Bohanec

    Weeks ago a Federal District Court in California in the case of U.S. v. Bohanec, 2016 WL 7167869, 118 AFTR 2d ¶ 2016-5537(DC CA 12/8/2016)determined that the taxpayers’ failure to timely file a Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report (“FBAR”) was willful.  The tax law provides that U.S. citizens with accounts outside the U.S. must disclose those accounts on an FBAR if the aggregate amount is at least $10,000. 31 U.S.C. 5314. The reason the term “willful” is important is that if the failure is not willful, the penalty is set at $10,000 per violation but if the failure to disclose is considered “willful”, the penalty goes up to the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the highest account value for the year.

    In 2010 the Bohanecs entered into the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program For Undisclosed Foreign Bank Accounts (“OVDP”). The Bohanecs’ submission was submitted under penalty of perjury, representing that the only undisclosed foreign bank accounts were in Switzerland and the source of funds deposited were after-tax earnings from a camera business operated by the taxpayers.  However, the IRS discovered that they did not even disclose all of their foreign accounts – leaving out accounts in Mexico and Austria. The IRS also discovered that the taxpayers’ statements that the funds were all from income duly reported and on which taxes were paid was untruthful.The Bohanecs were ultimately rejected by IRS for the OVDP and their case ultimate went to Federal Court where the only issue before the Court was whether the Bohanecs’ failure to file a 2007 FBAR was willful.

    The Bohanecs asserted that “willfulness” encompasses only intentional violations of known legal duties, and not reckless disregard of statutory duties. The only cases the Bohanecs cited to support their argument that “willful” means that a defendant must have knowledge and specific intent Ratzlaf v. United States, (S Ct 1994) 510 U.S. 135 (structuring) and United States v. Eisenstein, (CA 11 1984) 731 F.2d 1540 (felonious failure to file currency transaction reports).  But the Court distinguished these criminal cases in that the Bohanecs case was a civil matter.

    Court’s Holding.

    The courtnoted that 31 USC 5321(a)(5) does not define willfulness but rejected the Bohanecs’ argument, concluded that the term “willful” included “reckless” for purposes of FBAR.The court said that, where willfulness is an element of civil liability, the Supreme Court generally understands the term as covering “not only knowing violations of a standard, but reckless ones as well.” (Safeco Ins. Co. of America v. Burr, (S Ct 2007) 551 U.S. 47) “Recklessness” is an objective standard that looks to whether conduct entails “an unjustifiably high risk of harm that is either known or so obvious that it should be known.” (Safeco) Several other courts, citing Safeco, have held that “willfulness” under 31 USC 5321 includes reckless disregard of a statutory duty. See Williams, (CA 4 2012) 110 AFTR 2d 2012-5298 and Bussell, (DC CA 2015) 117 AFTR 2d 2016-439.

    The court then went on to consider the issue of standard of proof. It said that the Supreme Court has held that a heightened clear and convincing burden of proof applies in civil matters “where particularly important individual interests or rights are at stake.” (Herman & MacLean v. Huddleston, (S Ct 1983) 459 U.S. 375) Such interests include parental rights, involuntary commitment, and deportation. The lower, more generally applicable preponderance of the evidence standard applies, however, where “even severe civil sanctions that do not implicate such interests” are contemplated. (Herman) The court here said that the monetary sanctions at issue here did not rise to the level of “particularly important individual interests or rights.” Accordingly, the court said, the preponderance of the evidence standard applied.

    Following what I consider to be a strict liability approach, the Court concluded that IRS proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the Bohanecs were at least recklessly indifferent to a statutory duty, for the following reasons:

    1. The Bohanecs were reasonably sophisticated businesspeople as an exclusive Leica camera dealer with customers around the world.
    2. The Bohanecs were at least reckless, if not willfully blind, in their conduct with respect to their Swiss UBS account and their reporting obligations regarding the account. The Bohanecs never provided UBS with their home address, and never told anyone other than their children of the existence of the UBS account, including the tax preparers the Bohanecs hired to help them file tax returns. The Bohanecs never asked a lawyer, accountant, or banker about requirements regarding the UBS account and never used a bookkeeper or kept any books once the UBS account was opened.
    3. The Bohanecs’ representations that they were unaware of or did not understand their obligations were not credible. The Bohanecs directed customers to deposit payment into the Swiss account and made several transfers and withdrawals from the Swiss account to other foreign accounts.
    4. The Bohanecs’ credibility was further undermined by their conduct with respect to their application to participate in the OVDP when they made several misrepresentations under penalty of perjury.

    What Should You Do?

    Should the taxpayers appeal this case, who knows how the 9th Circuit will rule.  It will also take years before the Appeals Court disposes of such an appeal but for now we have much clearer guidance of the “strict liability approach” the Court seems to follow.  Taxpayers who have entered into the Streamlined Program whose case is weak on showing nonwilfullness have a huge risk of being picked by IRS and losing the favorable status offered by the Streamlined Procedures where the IRS feels that the non-willful standard is not met.  Such taxpayers will not then be able to enter into OVDP and can face the same battle as the Bohanec’s.  Likewise, anyone who has not come forward in voluntary disclosure and the issue of nonwilfullness is questionable would still have the opportunity to come forward under OVDP.  Keep in mind that any submission must be complete or else like the Bohanecs, the IRS will reject the settlement and look to assess the full penalties provided by law.You should talk with your counsel and be proactive with the IRS for any original submission or amendment so that you have the lowest risk possible to secure or keep the benefits you sought in Voluntary Disclosure.

    IRS 2017 Tax Deductions

    IRS Announces 2017 Inflation Adjusted Tax Benefits

    It is hard to believe that we are just two months away from the year of 2016 and as always towards the end of each calendar year the IRS announces next year’s annual inflation adjustments. You can check for more than 50 tax provisions, including the tax rate schedules, and other tax changes for tax year 2017 in Revenue Procedure 2016-55. The tax year 2017 adjustments generally are used on tax returns filed in 2018.

    IRS Issues Fall 2016 Report Card On OVDP Milestones And FACTA Implementation

    IRS Issues Fall 2016 Report Card On OVDP Milestones And FACTA Implementation

    IRS Issues Fall 2016 Report Card On OVDP Milestones And FACTA Implementation

    Offshore Compliance Programs For Taxpayers With Undisclosed Foreign Bank Accounts Generate $10 Billion andMore Than 100,000 U.S. Taxpayers Come Back into Compliance In Reporting Foreign Accounts;IRS Urges People to Take Advantage of Voluntary Disclosure Programs

    The IRS announced on October 21, 2016 that 55,800 taxpayers have come into the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) to resolve their tax obligations, paying more than $9.9 billion in taxes, interest and penalties since 2009. In addition, another 48,000 taxpayers have made use of separate streamlined procedures to correct prior non-willful omissions and meet their federal tax obligations, paying approximately $450 million in taxes, interest and penalties.

    What that means is that the IRS has collected a combined $10 billion with 100,000 taxpayers coming back into compliance.  Furthermore, as the IRS continues to receive more information on foreign accounts, it will be more difficult for U.S. taxpayers to avoid detection and to maintain that they were non-willful in not complying with the U.S. tax laws.

    Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the network of inter-governmental agreements (IGAs) between the U.S. and other countries, automatic third-party account reporting has entered its second year. Also, more information also continues to come to the IRS as a result of the Department of Justice’s Swiss Bank Program. As part of a series on non-prosecution agreements, the participating banks continue to provide information on potential non-compliance by U.S. taxpayers.

    OVDP offers taxpayers with undisclosed income from foreign financial accounts and assets an opportunity to get current with their tax returns and information reporting obligations. The program encourages taxpayers to voluntarily disclose foreign financial accounts and assets now rather than risk detection by the IRS at a later date and face more severe penalties and possible criminal prosecution.

    The IRS also developed the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures to accommodate taxpayers with non-willful compliance issues. Submissions have been made by taxpayers residing in the U.S. and from those residing in countries around the globe. The streamlined procedures have resulted in the submission of more than 96,000 delinquent and amended income tax returns from the 48,000 taxpayers using these procedures. A separate process exists for those taxpayers who have paid their income taxes but omitted certain other information returns, such as the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).

    What Should You Do?

    We encourage taxpayers who are concerned about their undisclosed offshore accounts to come in voluntarily before learning that the U.S. is investigating the bank or banks where they hold accounts. By then, it will be too late to avoid the new higher penalties under the OVDP of 50% percent – nearly double the regular maximum rate of 27.5% and 10 times more than the 5% rate offered in the expanded streamlined procedures.

    Don’t let another deadline slip by. If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns or even if you have already quietly disclosed or you are in the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (“OVDI”), 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.