“J5” Global Tax Chiefs Mark Two Years Of Cooperation To Tackle International Tax Evasion

“J5” Global Tax Chiefs Mark Two Years Of Cooperation To Tackle International Tax Evasion

Leaders from five international tax organizations are marking the two-year anniversary of the formation of the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement (J5). The J5 was formed in 2018 after a call to arms from the OECD Taskforce on Tax Crime and has been working together to gather information, share intelligence and conduct coordinated operations, making significant progress in each country’s fight against transnational tax crime.

The J5 includes the Australian Taxation Office (ATO, the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), the Dutch Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD), Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) from the UK and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) from the US.

Taking advantage of each country’s strengths, the J5’s initial focus was on enablers of tax crime, virtual currency and platforms that enable each country to share information in a more efficient manner.  Within the framework of each country’s laws, J5 countries shared information and were able to open new cases, more completely develop existing cases, and find efficiencies to reduce the time it takes to work cases. Operational results have always been the goal of the organization and the J5 states that these results have started to materialize.

“While operational results matter, I’ve been most excited at the other benefits that this group’s existence has provided,” said Don Fort, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. “In speaking with law enforcement partners domestically and abroad as well as stakeholders in various public and private tax organizations, there is real support for this organization and tangible results we have all seen due to the cooperation and global leadership of the J5.”

“Big Data” Goes Global With The J5

It is reported that during the two years since the J5’s inception, hundreds of data exchanges between J5 partner agencies have occurred with more data being exchanged in the past year than the previous 10 years combined. The concept is that each J5 country brings different strengths and skillsets to the J5 and leveraging those skills and capabilities enhance the effectiveness and success of the J5.

Since the inception of the organization, two J5 countries have hosted events known as “Challenges” aimed at developing operational collaboration. FIOD hosted the first J5 “Challenge” in Utrecht in 2018 and brought together leading data scientists, technology experts and investigators from all J5 countries in a coordinated push to track down those who make a living out of facilitating and enabling international tax crime.  The event identified, developed, and tested tools, platforms, techniques, and methods that contribute to the mission of the J5 focusing on identifying professional enablers facilitating offshore tax fraud. The following year, the U.S. hosted a second “Challenge” in Los Angeles and brought together investigators, cryptocurrency experts and data scientists in a coordinated push to track down individuals perpetrating tax crimes around the world.  With the rise in crypto currency, the J5 has created a platform called “FCInet” which is a decentralized virtual computer network that enables tax agencies to compare, analyze and exchange data anonymously. It helps tax agencies to obtain the right information in real-time and enables agencies from different jurisdictions to work together while respecting each other’s local autonomy.  Organizations can jointly connect information, without needing to surrender data or control to a central database. FCInet doesn’t collect data, rather it connects data.

The U.S Justice Department announced that in early July 2020, a Romanian man was arrested in Germany and admitted to conspiring to engage in wire fraud and offering and selling unregistered securities in connection with his role in the BitClub Network, a cryptocurrency mining scheme worth at least $722 million. This plea was the first for a case under the J5 umbrella and stemmed from collaboration with the Netherlands during the “Challenge” in Los Angeles in 2019.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

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.

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 FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) noncompliance are stiffer than the civil tax penalties ordinarily imposed for delinquent taxes. For non-willful violations, it is $10,000 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.

Voluntary Disclosure

Since September 28, 2018, the IRS discontinued the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP); however, on November 20, 2018 the IRS issued guidelines by which taxpayers with undisclosed foreign bank account and unreported foreign income can still come forward with a voluntary disclosure.   The voluntary disclosure program is specifically designed for taxpayers with exposure to potential criminal liability and/or substantial civil penalties due to a willful failure to report foreign financial assets or foreign in income or any unreported income whether it be domestic or foreign. In general, voluntary disclosures will include a six-year disclosure period. The disclosure period will require examinations of the most recent six tax years so taxpayers must submit all required returns and reports for the disclosure period. Click here for more information on available Voluntary Disclosure Programs.

What Should You Do?

Recent closure and liquidation of foreign accounts will not remove your exposure for non-disclosure as the IRS will be securing bank information for the last eight years. Additionally, as a result of the account closure and distribution of funds being reported in normal banking channels, this will elevate your chances of being selected for investigation by the IRS. For those taxpayers who have submitted delinquent FBAR’s and amended tax returns without applying for amnesty (referred to as a “quiet disclosure”), the IRS has blocked the processing of these returns and flagged these taxpayers for further investigation. You should also expect that the IRS will use such conduct to show willfulness by the taxpayer to justify the maximum punishment.

We encourage taxpayers who are concerned about their undisclosed offshore accounts or who have unreported crypto currency transactions 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 criminal prosecution or programs with reduced civil penalties. 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 (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California help ensure that you are in compliance with federal tax laws. Additionally, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.


California Reporting Requirements for Canadian RRSP’s

Sometimes the tax consequences at a Federal level are different than that at the State level.

Such is the case in California when dealing with a Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).

As explained in Revenue Procedure 89-45, a Canadian RRSP is not an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) because “these plans do not meet the requirements for qualification as individual retirement accounts under section 408(a) of the Internal Revenue Code. As a result, the earnings of such a plan are includable currently in the gross income of the beneficiary of the plan for United States income tax purposes.” Rev. Proc. 89-45; superseded by Rev. Proc. 2002-23. 2 Rev. & Tax. Code, § 17501. Because California also conforms to federal law regarding the treatment of IRA’s (Rev. & Tax. Code Sec 17501), an RRSP does not qualify as an IRA for California income tax purposes.

Revenue Procedure 89-45 then explains that for federal income tax purposes, a taxpayer may elect to defer the taxation of earnings on contributions made while the beneficiary is a resident of Canada, until the earnings are distributed from the RRSP. This special treatment is provided in accordance with a treaty between the United States and Canada, and does not apply to California.

The State Board of Equalization has previously held that tax treaties between the United States and other countries which expressly limit their application to federal income taxes do not prevent California from taxing persons otherwise covered by such treaties.” Appeal of M. T. de Mey van Streefkerk, 85-SBE-135, Nov. 6, 1985. The United States Supreme Court noted that “the tax treaties into which the United States has entered do not generally cover the taxing activities of subnational governmental units such as States … and if the treaty does apply to the States it will be specified in the treaty itself. Container Corp. v. Franchise Tax Board (1983) 463 U.S. 159, 196. Accordingly, the federal election to defer taxation on earnings of the RRSP is inapplicable for California income tax purposes.

Basically, the Franchise Tax Board considers a RRSP to be similar to a savings account. The Franchise Tax Board will treat a taxpayer’s original contributions to the RRSP, made while a Canadian resident, as a capital investment in the RRSP. A California resident must include any earnings from their RRSP in their taxable income and pay taxes on this income in the year earned. After a taxpayer pays tax on these earnings, the earnings will also be treated as capital invested in the RRSP. Therefore, when a taxpayer receives a distribution from their RRSP, the amount consisting of the contributions and the previously taxed earnings is considered a nontaxable return of capital.

In summary, under both federal and California law an RRSP does not qualify as an IRA and does not receive IRA treatment. The federal treaty that allows taxpayers to elect to defer taxation on their RRSP earnings until the time of distribution does not apply for California income tax purposes. California residents must include their RRSP earnings in their taxable income in the year earned.

California taxpayers who have an interest in a Canadian RRSP would benefit from the experienced tax attorneys of the Law Office Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. representing you to avoid the pitfalls associated with failure to comply with the reporting requirements associated with having an interest in an RRSP.

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.

Jackpot! Now How Do I Get My Withholding Back?

For foreign persons gambling in casinos in the United States and Indian Reservations, when it comes to taxes – “What happens in Vegas, doesn’t have to stay in Vegas”.

Unlike other foreign countries, the United States considers winnings from gambling and lotteries to be taxable. Under the tax law jackpots of $600 or more will incur a non-resident withholding tax of 30%. So if you are non-U.S. resident and you win $10,000 you only go back home with $7,000.

But as a foreign person, can you get that money back? The short answer is “maybe” depending on the country you are from. For example, the US-Canada Tax Treaty allows Canadians to deduct their U.S. gambling losses (with a few exceptions) in a given year from winnings.

How do you substantiate the losses? Well you don’t have to submit your receipts to the IRS with your tax return.  But if you are ever audited you will be asked for proof of losses so its wise to claim only those losses that you can substantiate. The requirement of substantiation extends to any tax filer (resident or non-resident) looking to claim gambling losses.  To start, if you belong to a casino’s Players Club, check with the casino or casinos that you visited to see if they can provide you with a record of your gambling. Some keep those records. If not, then you should keep a diary of your activity with the following:

•           The date and type of wagering activity

•           The name and location of the casino

•           The amounts you won or lost

You can aggregate all your U.S. gambling  losses for the whole year, not just the trip you won on. Remember travel expenses, entertainment, food and accommodations are not deductible.

So if you are a foreign person looking to claim the gambling losses, what forms need to be filed? If you have never obtained an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) you will need to file for one using Form W-7 along with a certified copy of your passport (sending the original passport is not advisable). Contact passport services of your State Department for one. This only needs to be done the first time you file a return. Next you will fill out tax form 1040NR using the information from the Form 1042S issued to you by the casino. Next send in the completed Form 1040NR, 1042S and your W-7 if you don’t have an ITIN to the IRS who will process your refund.

By using an experienced Cross-Border Tax Expert who is familiar with U.S. tax filings there should be no problem in quickly getting your refund. Contact the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. with locations in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems and make sure you are fully utilizing all benefits under the tax laws so that you are paying the least amount of tax.