Americans with Israeli bank or other financial accounts could face a tough tax season in 2015 if they do not come forward and disclose their assets to the IRS. Israeli banks have come under increased scrutiny by the IRS in regards to disclosing the accounts of their American clients. In particular, three Israeli banks- Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi and Mizrahi Tefahot- have been under investigation by the Department of Justice.
The first Israeli bank to now bow to the United States is Bank Leumi. A deferred prosecution agreement between the Bank Leumi Group and the U.S. Department of Justice was filed today in the Central District of California that defers prosecution on a criminal information charging the bank with conspiracy to aid and assist in the preparation and presentation of false tax returns and other documents to the Internal Revenue Service. This is the same type of agreement that the United States has with Swiss Bank giant UBS AG.
This unprecedented agreement marks the first time an Israeli bank has admitted to such criminal conduct which spanned over a 10 year period and included an array of services and products designed to keep U.S. taxpayer accounts concealed at Bank Leumi Group’s locations in Israel, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the United States.
Bank Leumi Group will pay the United States a total of $270 million. Of this total payment, $157 million represents a penalty for U.S. taxpayer accounts held at Leumi Private Bank in Switzerland. This $157 million penalty is consistent with the department’s Swiss Bank Program, which permits certain Swiss Banks to avoid prosecution by making a full and complete disclosure of their U.S. taxpayer-held accounts and paying substantial penalties. The agreement further provides that Bank Leumi Luxembourg and Leumi Private Bank will cease to provide banking and investment services for all accounts held or beneficially owned by U.S. taxpayers.
As part of its agreement with the department, the Bank Leumi Group provided the names of more than 1,500 of its U.S. account holders. Additionally, the Bank Leumi Group will continue to disclose information to the government regarding its cross-border business and provide testimony and information regarding other investigations.
To avoid prosecution, many other Israeli banks will begin turning over information as early as July 2014.
The prompt release of U.S. accountholder information by Israeli banks is a result of the IRS’s efforts to fully implement the 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) which requires foreign banks and financial institutions to report the assets of their American account holders. Lack of compliance, banks were warned, would limit their ability to do business in America. FATCA was passed as part of the U.S. government’s effort to crack down on U.S. tax evaders. Initially, the IRS concentrated its efforts on Swiss Banks.
This focus has led to an increase in the enforcement of the requirement that Americans and American residents file a Foreign Bank Account Report on every account held abroad that is worth more than $10,000.
Increased enforcement has impacted a wide circle of Americans, mainly Jewish, with ties to Israel. It includes not only those who have immigrated to Israel, or made aliyah, as adults, but also children of American citizens who are citizens themselves but may have never even visited the United States. The law is also relevant to any American who has opened an account in Israel in the past for use during visits to Israel or to help manage rental income in Israel.
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.
U.S. taxpayers with account holdings should seriously consider coming forward and disclosing their assets to the IRS. If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns, the IRS has established the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) which allows taxpayers to come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and not have to bear the full amount of penalties normally imposed by IRS.
If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns, you should seriously consider participating in the IRS’s 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 Diego, San Francisco and elsewhere in California qualify you for OVDI.
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.