If you Decide to Comply, DON’T choose a Homelander Tax Compliance Professional

I was very surprised to receive the following email on Friday evening. I cannot recall ever getting anything like this before. I will not identify the author because it is not proper to publicly share an email without the permission of the sender. It is not anyone I have ever heard of before and I doubt any of you have either. It took me a while to decide if I would answer or not. I tried to put my reaction aside after all, why be surprised that a tax compliance professional would demonstrate so little awareness outside of his/her experience. In the end, I simply could not ignore how I felt. I replied and have decided to publish the email without naming its author and my response.

I wish I had pointed out to this person that technically, due to the Canadian IGA (or likely any Model I agreement), that there are no harsh penalties that have been implemented. A professional who is truly conversant with this situation should have stated this better. Does such a statement show a conscious attempt to confuse the expat, assuming penalties from FBAR, OVDP etc will come to mind? Could it be a reference to the idea that Form 8938 is a harsh penalty all on it’s own? (As a matter of torture, most definitely….) Or is the practitioner just sloppy? (Maybe we could get this person to rule on all the “plain language” misapplications we hear of….retroactive 877A, anyone?).

I also wish I had challenged the statement that “the program is working.” There is nothing to suggest that the majority of non-resident (or resident, for that matter) Americans have become compliant. The numbers quoted in the statistics for the OVDP are nowhere near 9 million and we know some of those who came forward are Homelanders. For some interesting figures regarding compliance please see Professor William Byrnes’ “Is FATCA Much Ado About Nothing“? . Prof. Byrnes states “The IRS War on the FBAR is simply not working.” (“The IRS received 807,040 FUBARS FBARs in 2012; compliance with FBAR filing appears to be declining.”) Every tax compliance professional should be required to read this report. It would go a long way in curtailing the inflammatory language we experience, intended to confuse & frighten and assumes we are all idiots.

I also should have challenged the nonsense about ICE not allowing visas of former citizens being allowed to enter the U.S. This amounts to the usual threat of the Reed Amendment. Does ICE have the power to override the State Department?

I am simply astonished at the arrogance of this person. What to say of the obvious limited exposure of such an “expert.” (I have never heard anyone suggest that there are bank problems in Canada). Mentioning OVDP and not Streamlined. Who on earth does this person think he/she is?

My USC/resident-CPA sister strongly suggests I complain to the appropriate accountancy board.

And the unmitigated gall of implying I should send clients………good gawd………

*******

(emphases are mine)

If this is the Patricia Moon who has given up her US citizenship because of FATCA, then this is for you. I have seen your “protests” regarding FATCA and filing US tax returns. You stated that you were delinquent in your filings, and that you caught yourself up and then renounced your citizenship.

You are one of the very reasons that FATCA with its harsh penalties was implemented. I have been practicing in the international tax area, specializing in US expatriates, for over 31 years. I am the chairman of a state CPA Society’s International Tax Committee, and have an international reputation in this area. Over my 31 years’ time I have prepared and/or reviewed several thousand tax return. I have seen dozens of people such as yourself , people who are American citizens, and enjoy the benefits of being an American citizen, while failing to fulfill the obligations that come with citizenship – namely filing a US tax return and paying any tax due. One cannot enjoy the benefits of American citizenship without complying with the responsibilities.

Since FATCA has been implemented, there have been citizens such as yourself who have renounced their citizenship. I understand from a couple of US Customs & Immigration attorneys that I work with that ICE often won’t allow visas to come back to the US, sometimes even for vacations, to former US citizens. However, a much larger number of persons have come forward and are now filing tax returns and complying with the responsibilities of being a US citizen.

So the law has worked. It is accomplishing its intended goals. I personally have worked with several formerly noncompliant individuals to “get them legal” through the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

Staying legal is not a difficult process. It requires filing a US tax return every year. Often there is no tax due from it, as the foreign tax credits and the foreign earned income exclusion will reduce or eliminate the tax on all but US-sourced income.

Giving up citizenship is a drastic step when compliance is so easy. It is like amputating your arm because you have a hang nail.

And, from my experience, most larger banks WILL continue to work with Americans abroad. Very few are closing American accounts. In Canada, for example, I know that BMO Harris actually promotes accounts for Americans. I have several clients in Canada who bank with them. RBS Bank, Banque Scotia, TD Mortgage Corporation, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and many others.

Just my thoughts. Feel free to give my name to any individual who wants to become legal, but does not want to go to the extreme that you did.

Thank you.

*******

My response:

Your email is extremely offensive and demonstrates that you understand this situation from one point of view and one only.

Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that the large majority of expats living outside the US for decades were simply unaware of any requirement to file taxes and information returns. The U.S. made no attempts to educate or notify people of these requirements. Surely you have known people who were “non-willful.” I certainly hope you did not put any persons such as these in the OVDP/OVDI.

Your comment “You are one of the very reasons that FATCA with its harsh penalties was implemented” is curious, given I did not owe any tax. I was a stay-at-home mother with an annual income that never exceeded $11,000 CAD from doing the books for my husband’s company. An annuity inherited from my parents was transferred at a later time and I most certainly paid the tax that was due.

As to “I have seen dozens of people such as yourself, people who are American citizens, and enjoy the benefits of being an American citizen….”

  • I had not lived in the United States for thirty years and was/am a law-abiding, tax compliant citizen/resident of Canada
  • I was not “enjoying the benefits of being an American citizen”
  • If you are referring to having the right of return, there is nothing particularly unique there; the majority of countries on earth allow their citizens to return
  • And I certainly am in no need of the Marines coming to save me in Canada (a “benefit” that one would have to pay for, were it even relevant to those living in first-world countries).

If by “benefit” you mean having access to “the greatest country on earth” I will tell you that a component of renouncing involved my observations about Abu Gharib, Guantanamo, the assassination of American citizens by drone without due process and other actions that frankly made me ashamed to have ever been an American citizen. In other words, your assertion that my renunciation was “like amputating your arm because you have a hang nail” simply does not cover all that was involved. Not the least of which, was my Canadian family and how they felt about the effect of U.S. policy on their lives. My husband resented any account information being turned over to FINCEN (given the fact it was his money)and it was a huge issue in the marriage.

I have remained active in this movement having renounced over 6 years ago. I don’t gain anything personally by volunteering a huge portion of my life to this. I am fully conversant with what is required regarding compliance. It is not always simple and it is very expensive. You fail to mention facts such as:

  • the U.S. would expect capital gains tax on the sale of our personal residence for a gain greater than $250k
  • the U.S. treatment of Canadian mutual funds as PFICs is particularly punitive and would require 8621 every year
  • the U.S. insistence that my country’s tax-deferred vehicles designed to help save for education, disability and non-RRSP uses are foreign trusts requiring 3520 and 3520A every year; all of these plans mirror similar programs in the US (529s, ABLE and Roth IRAs)
  • had I been signed on my husband’s company (I wasn’t) we could have found ourselves subject to an annual 5471 and the particularly abusive Transition Tax

I personally have no desire whatsoever to go to the United States. I don’t care what CBP and ICE do. It doesn’t frighten me at all. A Canadian does not need a visa to visit the U.S. anyway.

None of us have ever claimed that obtaining bank accounts or mortgages is difficult in Canada. This is a situation that primarily affects Europeans and it is very, very real. I know many people who have been severely impacted by it. It was perversely disingenuous for Judge Rose claim in the Bopp FATCA ruling, that this was not due to FATCA but to independent action of the banks.

Over the years I have encountered many people such as yourself, who seem to think they are entitled to inflict their opinions and judgments about character based upon presumptions made about U.S. expectations. I wonder if it could ever occur to you that there are other places and people in the world who do not base the value of their existence upon opinions such as you have expressed. I find it difficult to believe you would end asking me to send you clients. I trust this will be the end of any communication.

Regards,

Patricia Moon
Secretary-Treasurer
xxx-xxx-xxxx
Alliance for the Defence of Canadian Sovereignty &
Alliance for the Defeat of Citizenship Taxation

Part 5: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Shades of #OVDP! April 15/18 is your last, best chance to comply!

cross posted from citizenship solutions
    by John Richardson

I suggested to John that some might not understand why a similarity between OVDP and the Transition Tax was being made. He asked me to introduce the post to make sure it was clear that the U.S. government has demonstrated that confiscation is the name of the game (NOT tax).

Some of you may wonder why a connection is being made between the OVDP program and the Transition “Tax.” The reason is very simple. We need to change the language. We need to call it what it really is. In the beginning, people were too frightened to understand what the OVDP really was. It took years before it was clear it was nothing less than confiscation. Fortunately, we knew prior to the passage of the Tax Jobs Cut Act that the Transition “Tax” was a blatant confiscatory provision.

The “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.” An “amnesty” program. Nine years and many destroyed lives have exposed it for what it really was. No one could really have considered it “voluntary.” The IRS and the tax compliance community certainly presented as one’s only option. In 2011, we did not have the advantage of what we know now; the limitations of being discovered, the extremely difficult/unlikely ability of the IRS to collect. People who had no tax liability among other atrocities, were fined from 20 – 27.5% of their assets. There was no taxable event. This revolved around not filing a piece of paper. FBAR. An appropriate term used was “The FBAR Fundraiser.” Another word would be confiscation. IOW, OVDP was NOT about TAX.

Some words have powerful associations. Sometimes those associations grow into clichés. We are all familiar with the association that anyone who has left America is rich has done so to avoid tax. We have been working at this since late 2011. Seven years. No amount of trying to educate via comments on online articles etc. has put a dent in this erroneous and damaging perception. Recently, some of us have started replacing “citizenship taxation” with “non-resident taxation.” Non-resident taxation describes what it really is and dissociates from the idea that a patriotic citizen (American) should pay it. It appeals to the notion that reasonable people accept i.e., that one pays taxes (only) where one lives. It may take time but the value of changing the language in this situation, is obvious.

To refer to this new requirement as a “tax” is to immediately justify it as being reasonable. Take the Canadian government for example. It’s position is that the U.S. has the right to tax it’s own citizens and that Canada has no business interfering with that. Thus the IGA. Nevermind that the majority of the people affected are Canadian citizens and residents FIRST.

So what’s wrong with the term “Transition Tax?” As we all know, any expat with a “foreign” corporation will be unable to transition to a territorial system as will major multinationals . So to call it a “transition” is completely erroneous. As for “tax”, a general notion is that a tax is connected with delivery of services or benefits i.e., there is some relationship between the exchange of income for services. It is nothing short of bizarre to levy a 30-year retroactive tax on a group of people who were not residents, nor receiving anything in exchange for surrendering a considerable portion of what is primarily, their retirement pensions.

A phrase John has used repeatedly to describe the Transition “Tax” is “the confiscation of the retirement pensions of the citizens and residents of other countries.” That’s what it really is. Like the OVDP, it is a punitive tool that destroys the lives of long-term expats. We need to get that message across.

****

    by John Richardson

Introduction

This is the fifth in my series of posts about the Sec. 965 Transition Tax and whether/how it applies to the small business corporations owned by tax paying residents of other countries (who may also have U.S. citizenship). These small business corporations are in no way “foreign”. They are certainly “local” to the resident of another country who just happens to have the misfortune of being a U.S. citizen.

The purpose of this post is to argue that (as applied to those who do not live in the United States) the transition tax is very similar to the OVDP (“Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs” which are discussed here. Some of initial thoughts were captured in the post referenced in the following tweet:

The first four posts about the “transition tax” were:

Part 1: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: “Resistance is futile” but “Compliance is impossible”

Part 2: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: Is “resistance futile”? The possible use of the Canada U.S. tax treaty to defeat the “transition tax”

Part 3: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: They hate you for (and want) your pensions!

Part 4: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Comparing the treatment of “Homeland Americans” to the treatment of “nonresidents”

*A review of what what the “transition tax” actually is may be found at the bottom of this post.

This post is for the purpose of the arguing that, as applied to those who live outside the United States, payment of the “transition tax” in 2018, is the financial equivalent to participation in 2011 OVDI (“Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program”.

 

Seven Reasons Why The U.S. Transition Tax as applied to “nonresidents” is similar to the “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program As Applied To “Nonresidents” Continue reading Part 5: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Shades of #OVDP! April 15/18 is your last, best chance to comply!

Meet the Proposed Commissioner of the IRS – A Welcome Change?

cross-posted from Brock.

Rettig

Politico announced Trump’s nomination Of Charles P. Rettig, including the following excerpts:

Rettig, who specializes in settling complex tax disputes between his taxpayer clients and authorities like the IRS, known as tax controversies, has for more than three decades represented clients before the IRS, the Justice Department, state tax authorities and other jurisdictions.

Rettig is no stranger to the Washington tax policy community. Many IRS officials would be familiar with him because of tax litigation in which he’s been involved.

Rettig’s nomination would break a nearly two-decade practice of naming commissioners from the general business world, a trend that began after the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998. Prior to that, commissioners generally had tax backgrounds.

 
Continuing with the conversation from Media & Blogs thread, I see many mentions of the fact that his firm represented some 100 UBS clients (which may be why some of his articles concern the OVDP). I am trying to locate some actual court cases but the site that keeps coming up in references seems to be down. He also clearly, is respected for his work representing clients by his peers:

TaxControversy360

Rettig would also oversee the implementation of tax reform. Rettig has been a friend and mentor to many of us in the tax controversy bar over the years, and we are encouraged by the selection of someone from the private bar to the post.

Given he is a tax litigator, I don’t expect he would support a change to RBT (hope I am wrong about that) but some of his comments certainly suggest he understands what has happened and that our situation is very different from that of U.S. residents with foreign accounts.

Forbes IRS FBAR Streamlined Procedures Revisited, Am I Non-Willful

If, as some believe, the Streamlined Procedures are being used to entice unsuspecting taxpayers into placing their head onto the FBAR chopping block, the government should be held accountable. However, if, as most believe and our experience seems to support, the Streamlined Procedures were designed to provide not quite willful taxpayers an opportunity back into compliance through a simplified and expedited process, the IRS should respect the vast majority of Streamlined submissions (and requests for transitional treatment) and move on.

Forbes IRS FBAR Voluntary Disclosure Program Taxpayer Interviews

It should be anticipated that the IRS will pursue examinations of the amended returns of taxpayers residing in the United States in some manner. It remains uncertain whether the IRS would or could effectively pursue those residing outside the United States in any realistic manner. It should also be acknowledged that there remain viable alternatives to the OVDP, including the voluntary disclosure practice of the IRS set forth in Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) 9.5.11.9 [see Example 6(A)], Section 4.01 of the Criminal Tax Manual for the U.S. Department of Justice, and Section 3, Policy Directives and Memoranda, Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Certainly, given the complexities of the Internal Revenue Code, other relevant statutes and life in general, many of the indiscretions associated with an income tax return or FBAR are anything but willful or intentional and definitely not fraudulent or criminal in nature. In these situations, an interview of the taxpayer and/or their return preparer can lead to an extremely quick and reasonable resolution.

Forbes articles

Many, many articles penned by Mr. Reddig are available via SSRN and listed here.

Bubblebustin asked for this post to be based upon this paper. Unfortunately the most we can offer is the link and a few excerpts. Strongly suggest everyone read this particular article- Why the Ongoing Problem with FBAR Compliance? from the Journal of Tax Practice & Procedure, August-September 2016, published by CCH, a part of Wolters Kluwer.

A major point in the article is when government is trusted, is seen as legitimate, compliance tends to be a result. It probably does not help that the IRS emphasizes submissions coming from OVDP and Streamlined will be examined “in an effort to uncover leads for criminal prosecutions.” Mr. Rettig is also aware that eighty percent of non-resident filers will have no U.S. Tax Liability. Though again, that is a reference to income tax and does not cover some of our worst grievances.

Potential government actions should consider the
impact
on those six-plus million U.S. people (and their
advisors) sitting in the bleachers domestically or in various
foreign countries trying to determine how best to pursue
some form of voluntary compliance, expatriation or to
possibly just continue sitting in the bleachers … “History
repeats itself because no one was listening the first time.

 

Dewees 2: Why did he participate in the 2009 #OVDP Horror Show?

cross posted from citizenship solutions

In an earlier post I explained why the Canada Revenue Agency assisted the IRS in collecting a $133,000 U.S. dollar penalty on a Canadian resident. The bottom line was that he was presumably NOT a Canadian citizen and therefore did NOT have the benefits of the tax treaty. This post is to explain where the penalty came from in the first place.

Will you walk into my parlour?’ – #Americansabroad and IRS “amnesty” offers in the 2009 #OVDP

It has been widely reported that a U.S. citizen residing in Toronto, Canada since 1971, paid a $133,000 U.S. dollar penalty for failing to file IRS forms disclosing that he was running a business through a Canadian corporation. How did this fly get caught in the spider’s web?

The Spider and the Fly is a poem by Mary Howitt (1799–1888), published in 1829. The first line of the poem is “‘Will you walk into my parlour?’ said the Spider to the Fly.” The story tells of a cunning Spider who ensnares a naïve Fly through the use of seduction and flattery. The poem is a
cautionary tale against those who use
flattery and charm to disguise their true evil intentions.

More here

When government turns predator

 

This was the very first post at the Isaac Brock Society, published there on December 10, 2011 by the founder of Brock, Petros. At the time, there was outright terror in the expat community. Horror stories from the 2009 OVDP were coming out. Threats from Shulman (then IRS Commissioner), the media and primarily, the tax compliance industry were non-stop. Confusion and fear reigned and it was like being in a perpetual OMG moment……….

Over 5 years later there is little to suggest much has changed. It would take a major shift, such as passing tax reform that included a switch to RBT for me to even consider the U.S. government has anything less than outright malice for Americans living outside the country. The year is half-over and health care reform is still the focus. There will be no hope for change in 2018 due to the midterm elections.

There have been a few minor concessions-Streamlined was improved and offers foreign filers penalty-free filing as long as there is “reasonable cause.” However, we now have passport revocation for unpaid taxes of $50k and over; extended OVDP with the in-lieu of penalty of 27.5% of the highest aggregate value of OVDP assets (50% if the foreign financial institution is already under investigation by the IRS); attempts to pass the EXPATRIOT ACT; adjustment resulting in increase of FBAR penalties to reflect inflation (without similar treatment for the $10k threshold); two years of FATCA reporting have taken place; threats that the Streamlined Program will be discontinued; collection agencies are coming after us, the list goes on and on.

Though this comment will provoke the compliance community, one thing apparent now, is the IRS seems to have no real way to collect unless one comes forward. And we can see those who have done so, are the ones hurt the most. It is obvious that the majority of expatriates are NOT filing (out of a total of 9 million, approximately 1 million are). There are situations where some can remain hidden, depending to a point on one’s risk-tolerance. Outward resistance remains; the Canadian IGA suit is moving toward the second trial; the Bopp suit will be refiled; ADCT is on hold until we see whether there is RBT or not. And the Accidental Americans in France have begun their fight to bring forth litigation there and/or in the EU courts.

At any rate, I have always considered the post below to be a sort of rallying cry, a call to wake up to the fact that the U.S. government is indeed a predator to be dealt with…..

UPDATE

This recent comment of Andrew over at Brock says it all:

This entire story is and continues to be sickening. I too am so grateful to have renounced several years ago and to have been able to completely extricate myself from this web of nightmares. Sadly, friends and business contacts haven’t been so lucky and many of them are now embroiled in protracted legal cases, with demands that they pay millions, even though they, in two cases, have never lived in the United States and were total “accidentals” one having spent twelve days there after birth and never returned, the other only five days! Still, the corrupt system has gone after them both and they are fighting it as hard as they can. One thing both of them have said is that thy won’t pay anything, no matter what the threats. One, who has business interests in no less than sixteen countries will cut off all activity with the U.S. and stop all investment from his associates into the U.S. arm of their business.
If I didn’t witness all of this for myself I wouldn’t believe that it could be possible, but then, look at the U.S. today and the state of how it is governed. Who could believe that is possible? The best advice, stay away from that place and advise others to do the same.

*******
When Government Turns Predator by Petros

Honest US citizens are being turned into prey by the IRS, the victims a hunt for tax evaders. It is the natural, if lamentable, product of the urge to power our Founders warned us against.

More than two centuries ago, George Washington stated:

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Over the years, General Washington’s prescience has been demonstrated as government usurped and abused power. The myth that government serves the people should be shattered by now. Increasingly, government behaves as the master, not as the intended servant.

Oppression abounds, but nowhere is the raw abuse of power and coercion more possible and evident than in the Internal Revenue Service. They are the most dangerous member of the government gang. Now they have another tool to bully and expropriate wealth from innocents — US citizens living abroad.

Early in his presidency, Barack Obama pledged to add 800 new IRS agents to punish tax evaders with overseas accounts. In an effort, presumably designed to curtail and punish tax evasion on the part of wealthy Americans, legislation aimed at criminals now threatens the income and savings of the law-abiding.

Background

The Bank Secrecy Act became law in 1970 and implemented the Foreign Bank Accounts Report (FBAR) to monitor money laundering. The FBAR law required that US persons owning or having signing authority over foreign bank accounts report this information to the US Treasury Department. It was not much enforced for the obvious reason that a criminal does not willingly divulge incriminating information. During the first three decades of FBAR, there was widespread ignorance and disregard for the law.

In 2003, the Treasury Department handed over enforcement to the IRS. In 2004 non-willful non-compliance increased to a $10,000 fine per account per annum. Willful non-compliance allows criminal charges, a prison sentence, and fines of $100,000 or 50% of bank account’s contents, whichever is more (see Shepherd, p. 10).

The IRS has implemented two Voluntary Disclosure Programs I (2009) and II (2011), in which they waive criminal charges provided that all back taxes and penalties have been paid, along with an FBAR penalty of 20% (in 2009) or 25% (in 2011) of the account’s highest balance over the last six years. The penalty is lower (12.5%) for balances under $75,000. Persons who were unknowingly US citizens face a 5% penalty (see FAQ 52).

In 2010, Congress passed FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) which forces foreign banks to report on American clients, even if doing so would violate the banking and privacy laws of their country. Implementation of FACTA will be coerced by withholding 30% of US income from banks not in compliance.

The arrogance and brutality of the legislation is apparent. The penalties are severe and disproportionate. Economic blackmail of foreign banks is disgraceful. All of these actions will have repercussions, probably not intended.

US Citizens Abroad

US citizens living abroad must open a foreign bank account because commerce is done in the local currency. All who do are potentially in violation of the FBAR law. Most were unaware of the FBAR requirements; but now that the IRS has rattled its FBAR saber, taxpayers abroad are in a quandary.

Wealthier citizens spend thousands of dollars on accountants and tax lawyers to try to put themselves into compliance with the least financial damage. The average citizen not in compliance has limited options. His choices include:

  1. Do Nothing The IRS doesn’t know about you, so continuing to keep a low profile and ignore the law might be the best route. This option may become impossible once FACTA comes into force.
  2. File FBAR Forms IRS FAQ 17 of the 2011 Voluntary Disclosure Program states that filers who have complied with all taxes and filing requirements except FBAR should not enter the program but simply file the delinquent forms by August 31, 2011 with a letter of explanation. They promise that no penalties will apply to such persons. But given the severe threats of punishment issued to anyone failing to comply, many wonder whether the IRS will accept the excuse of ignorance of the FBAR requirement.
  3. Enter 2011 Voluntary Disclosure Program: Some US citizens who entered the 2009 Voluntary Disclosure Program and were otherwise in compliance with US tax laws, found that the IRS intended to apply to them the full 20% penalty (see, e.g., hereand here).
  4. Renounce Citizenship Many US citizens living overseas have lives fully integrated into their new country. They comply with the local tax laws and often possess dual citizenship. Compliance with US tax laws and FBAR are a nuisance and liability that they may be able to live without.

Renunciation of citizenship is not riskless. Such a decision will set citizens free from future liability, but may subject them to IRS penalties for prior non-compliance. In addition, for covered expatriates, those having two million in assets or $145,000 in average annual tax liability over the last five years, an exit tax is also required.

To appreciate the uncertainty and duress faced by US citizens living abroad, a couple of hypothetical situations are useful. International tax lawyer Phil Hodgen partly inspired the following hypothetical cases:

Hypothetical Case 1: Jim lives in a foreign country and has dutifully filed a US income tax return each year, but was unaware of FBAR filing retirements. Jim operates eight accounts: four retirement accounts (which he reported on his annual tax returns), two trading accounts, a checking account and a high interest savings account. The highest balance in these accounts is $1,000,000 over the last six years. His current balance is $800,000 after the market dip.

Jim doesn’t know what to do. After great worry, he enters the Voluntary Disclosure Program. The IRS assesses Jim a $250,000 FBAR penalty. In order to pay the penalty, Jim must withdraw funds from his retirement accounts forcing an additional tax liability of $100,000 on the income. Jim is no longer able to retire because his $800,000 has been reduced to $450,000, solely as a result of IRS capriciousness.

Hypothetical case 2: Nancy is a teacher and mother of three, married to a citizen of the foreign country where she has lived for fifteen years. She dutifully filed her taxes in the US, but never knew about FBAR. A friend entered the Voluntary Disclosure Program and was assessed $14,000. She contemplates the renunciation of American citizen, because her foreign husband owns a successful business and Nancy is a signer on business accounts. She fears exposing her husband’s business to the IRS and also fears that upon her death, the IRS will seek its pound of flesh from her estate. She renounces citizenship, though it breaks her heart.

Abuse Of the Law

FBAR was initially a harmless and little known embarrassment for the United States. It began as an ineffective attempt to stop money laundering. Like so many other laws (RICO, Homeland Security, etc.), it began with what some believed noble purposes, only to morph into a tyranny imposed upon law-abiding citizens. It is now a tool capable of arbitrary and oppressive expropriation of the wealth of millions of US citizens living abroad.

An insolvent government is a dangerous government. It is akin to a wounded and cornered animal. When conditions become really difficult, it is likely to do anything to survive. Arbitrariness in the interpretation of any law is dangerous to freedom, but especially so when government’s primary concern is survival rather than justice.

There are many reasons to be critical of FBAR. The following two will illustrate:

  1. Excessive fines: Ayn Rand said “The severity of the punishment must match the gravity of the crime.” This basic principle of human rights, enshrined in the Eighth Amendment, forbids excessive fines. It is immoral for the IRS to intimidate innocent citizens. Any law so uncertain that it could result in a loss of 50% of your wealth, depending upon the whims of the IRS, is not a law. It is government-sanctioned extortion.
  2. Guilt Presumed: The Fourth Amendment protects (or was supposed to) citizens against arbitrary fishing expeditions by government. Probable cause is required. The FBAR requirements circumvent this Fourth Amendment right, in effect saying: “You will volunteer to open the door to your house and let us look inside. If you don’t, we will fine and/or imprison you.” The IRS demands bank information based on a presumption of guilt even though holding funds in a foreign bank account is no crime.

Unintended Consequences

The term unintended consequences, a convenient euphemism for stupid policy or law, is appropriate. Some of the foreseeable outcomes are the following:

  1. An avalanche of US persons will renounce their citizenship. In July 2010, the State Department implemented a $450 fee for making a renunciation before a consular officer, presumably to exact additional income and possibly (highly unlikely) deter some from making the decision.
  2. Foreign banks and investors may decide doing business with the US is not worth the trouble of compliance with FACTA, particularly as the US economy collapses and the global economy shifts to the East.
  3. US Citizens abroad already find it challenging to open bank accounts both in US and in their countries of residence. This annoyance makes it more difficult for American companies and their employees to engage in foreign missions, business and trade.
  4. US citizens are already shunned from positions in foreign companies which do not want their banking details revealed to the United States Treasury Department.

Conclusion

The Bank Secrecy Act, passed in 1970, is an example of law designed for one purpose being expanded to be used against innocent citizens. Regardless of its good intentions, it is now a tyranny used to extort wealth from otherwise legal, law-abiding US citizens living abroad.

It represents a classic case of how government usurps freedom. What level of morality must government have to think they are entitled to shake-down hard-working citizens?

Monty Pelerin has never lived abroad or had a foreign bank account. He has friends who do and hopes that exposing this State plunder will cause it to cease in this and other parts of our lives.

NB: The preceding article appeared first at the American Thinker on April 5, 2011, then at Monty Pelerin’s World. Monty Pelerin is a retired economist who writes under a pen name. In March, I approached Monty asking if he would publish under his pen name an article on FBAR. He agreed and then we co-wrote the article and he kindly gave me no credit because I feared the long arm of the IRS. Then, Monty submitted it to the American Thinker. Now that I am out in the open with my IRS concerns, I’ve decided I can reproduce it here. So I want to thank Monty for his extraordinary help when nearly no one in the mainstream media or even conservative blogs were talking about this injustice which the IRS has afflicted upon millions of Americans – Petros

FBAR In The Homeland: The Willful FBAR Penalty Requires Proof

 

Published by Tax Connections Blog 21 Jun 2017 Posted in FBAR
Written by John Richardson
 

This is one more in a series of posts discussing the FBAR rules. The FBAR rules were born in 1970, laid virtually dormant until the 2000s and then were then unleashed in their full “ferocity” on U.S. persons.

Mr. FBAR has not visited Canada, but he has visited Canadian citizens
 

Readers of this blog (particularly those in Canada) may recall that I have previously written about the adventure of Mr. Jeffrey P. Pomerantz, currently of Vancouver, Canada, with Mr. FBAR. At that point—March 2017—it was clear that the U.S. Department of Justice planned to sue Mr. Pomerantz to collect the FBAR penalties to which it felt entitled. It is worth noting that FBAR penalties are assessed under the Bank Secrecy Act (Title 31 of U.S. laws) which is different from the Internal Revenue Code (Title 26 of U.S. laws.) In order to collect FBAR penalties, the U.S. Government must sue, and sue it did. The purpose of this post is to tell the story of what happened when the U.S. Government sued Mr. Pomerantz in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

But, before we begin our story, this post is more about “Civil Procedure” than it is about Mr. FBAR……………here

In four years, about 1% of diaspora non-filers chose to come into compliance through Streamlined: IRS

This is cross-posted from Brock. The author, Eric is a long-time writer there who composes excellent analytical posts, particularly concerning the inaccurate numbers of expatriations.

There was a discussion today that made me think of putting this particular post up. This post clearly demonstrates that in spite of all the scares – the FBAR Fundraiser aka OVDP 2009, & the FAQ 35 Bait & Switch, OVDI 2011, OVDP 2012, , OVDP 2014 the FATCA Hunt; the endless clamoring of condors, the media and folks like Shulman and Koskinen going on about The Reed Amendment, the Expatriot Act, “Quiet” Disclosures, 877A is retroactive and last but not least, if you don’t have a CLN you haven’t lost your US citizenship – none of it has made a particularly huge dent on non-compliance of Americans abroad. It is literally making me physically ill to reference all this – a vicious cycle of fines, penalties, interest, scaremongering, & whatever else can be thought of to persecute those who are simply presumed to be guilty i.e., Americans abroad. There can be no doubt whatsoever, that this is intentional. Even with the more-or-less guarantee of no penalties via Streamlined, only a very small number are choosing to become compliant. There are likely many reasons; people have begun to see what the IRS can/cannot do in terms of collection (or even detection); people are no longer willing to enter the U.S., etc. I like to think that some of our efforts to help educate people outside the bubble of American exceptionalism, U.S. Law über alles etc has contributed to opeople making up their minds based upon reason rather than reaction. If I had thought I could avoid filing/renouncing perhaps I would have chosen that too. Yet, large numbers of people remain who were literally destroyed by this shameless persecution and there will be more people who will ruin their lives out of ignorance based upon the falsehood that filing is in their best interests. It is for them that we need to continue…….

Sora Fon The tragedy of “self assessment”, self-enforcement and draconian penalties created to enforce honesty while leaving loopholes for those with influence and wealth. It is all I can do to tell the many indigent US Persons abroad I see, who could never face enforcement or confrontation abroad by an IRS interested only in collections, that (apologies to FDR) the only thing they have to fear is fear itself.

TM Yes and should one publicly caution anyone about coming into the system, there is an immediate swooping of threatening condors always quick to claim one doesn’t know what one is speaking about, what a terrible person you are to advise breaking the law, they will find everybody and blah blah blah.

Sora Fon Just saw this quote which I have to repeat: “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” — Edward R. Murrow

TM Agreed. It is why we MUST NOT remain silent.

Some of you may be aware of the nonsense Keith Redmond has endured by emphasizing on Twitter that if one is not in the tax system, it may be best not to enter it.
Excerpted from a post on Brock:

I was very surprised to see some of the Tweets on Twitter when Keith Redmond tried to warn Accidentals not to put themselves into the US tax system. It is interesting that without any proof as to the ability of IRS able to collect via QI, he presumes it and treats Keith in a manner I found inappropriate and unprofessional. I believe the point of contention was to prove that actual Accidental Americans had been “outed” due to QI. This was not provided, nor has it been since that time. There were others that ganged up in more “attacks” that I will not put up here. Brock/Wed Rally Tweeps will remember this extremely unpleasant incident.

If there is no repeal of #FATCA and a move to RBT, it will be clear that resistance will become more and more prevalent. I personally would love to see massive, visible civil disobedience. At the very least, the government can count on seeing the low numbers discussed in the post below.
*************************
Posted on February 18, 2017

On Thursday, the IRS released their “Dirty Dozen Tax Scams” for 2017, among which they listed “unreported offshore accounts”. They go into more detail in IR-2017-35:

Since the first Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) opened in 2009, there have been more than 55,800 disclosures and the IRS has collected more than $9.9 billion from this initiative alone.

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. The IRS conducted thousands of offshore-related civil audits that resulted in the payment of tens of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes. The IRS has also pursued criminal charges leading to billions of dollars in criminal fines and restitutions.

Works of the U.S. government are not objects of copyright, which is a boon for stenographers who mislabel themselves as “journalists”: they can just cut-and-paste the U.S. government’s viewpoint on the issues into their magazines without thinking about it, or attempting any analysis.

Anyway, US$450 million is an average of about US$9,400 per Streamlined participant. Not as big as the $13,000 per head they extracted from minnows with two-digit annual tax deficiencies under the 2009 OVDP, but still a sizeable sum from the perspective of the individual.

I’m sure there’s some poor deluded souls in the IRS and the Joint Committee on Taxation staff who are salivating at the thought of getting nine grand per head out of the rest of the millions of diaspora non-filers too — that might help them turn those mythical FATCA revenue estimates into reality. If that’s their aim, however, then forty-eight thousand over four years is a rather slow start.

Continue reading In four years, about 1% of diaspora non-filers chose to come into compliance through Streamlined: IRS

#IRS abuse of Americans Abroad – The greater the effort! The greater the punishment!

This post is from the RenouceUScitizenship blog.

serenity

 God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

We are now more than two years into the Obama/Geithner/Shulman/IRS assault on U.S. Citizens Abroad. It is commonly accepted that the origin of the assault has been – what can now be understood to be – a clear, deliberate, and conscious decision of the Obama administration. That decision is  to equate the day-to-day bank accounts of U.S. citizens abroad with the offshore accounts used by Homelander tax cheats. It’s no longer possible to believe the administration and the IRS are unaware of what they have done. There are  signs that the IRS is slowly trying to change the  rules, change the policies, and change the enforcement. That said, one gets the feeling that the IRS is motivated by considerations of “processing efficiency” and not by considerations of “fairness and justice”.

Two important aspects of the problem are:

1. All bank accounts outside the United States are considered to be “sacred instruments” of tax evasion. Not even the IRS is stupid enough to believe this. Therefore, it’s clear that the IRS is at least threatening (how do you like your freedom now?) to use the day-to-day bank accounts of  U.S. citizens abroad as an  “FBAR Fundraiser“. The IRS is using the  retirements plans of U.S. citizens in their country of residence, to levy fines for failure to file Form 3520. The IRS is using the fact that middle class U.S. citizens invest in mutual funds to subject them to impossible compliance costs and more threats of penalties. This has been documented by Taxpayer Advocate and ignored by the IRS.  We know this. What is different is that in 2011, there was a sense that this “must be some kind of mistake”. It must be “some kind of misunderstanding”. Only a fool would believe that today. The only sane way to view this today is as follows:

The Obama administration is deliberately using penalties and threats of penalties to confiscate the assets of U.S. citizens abroad. Don’t believe it? What’s Form 8938? This is not about taxation. It is about confiscation. But you know that. But, this is not the purpose of this post.

2. The purpose of this post is to explore an aspect of  this that has not been adequately discussed. In the same way that it is a mistake to treat all “non-U.S. banks accounts” the same. It is a mistake to think that the impact of all of this is the same on all. In fact, the people who are the hardest hit  are those U.S. citizens abroad who have tried the hardest.

Group 1 – Those Who Have Been In The U.S. Tax System

This group has  been filing their U.S. tax returns, to the best of their abilities. They are in the system. They are now “low hanging fruit”.  The fact that they have been filing all these years means that they are likely very financially responsible, very aware, very law abiding people. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are also people who by vritue of having tried to save for retirement have assets that the U.S. wants to confiscate. Obviously this includes the PFIC mutual fund problem.

The problem of owning mutual funds is two-fold:

First, mutual funds are not subject to rules of taxation. They are subject to rules of confiscation.

Second, that in order for the IRS to confiscate them, one must first comply with all kinds of reporting requirements that are impossible to understand and are far too expensive for the average person.

Here is a historical analogy to the IRS treatment of U.S. citizens abroad who have mutual funds:

Jesus was forced to carry his own cross (paying the cross-border professionals to complete the forms) to his crucifixion (the confiscation rules will take it all).

Now, I know that at this moment, at least some readers are howling at the last sentence.  Really! What that tells me is that you:

A. Have not tried to be U.S. tax compliant;

B. Have not tried to use mutual funds to invest for retirement;

C. Probably do NOT feel strongly that one should be tax compliant;

D. Probably are far enough enough away from retirement age so that you can make up the losses.

Just try living this reality!

The people most hurt by this are the people who have tried the hardest to comply with the law. I remind you that it was not until OVDP started in 2009 that the IRS enough knew now to deal with mutual funds and not until 2010 that the ruling came from an IRS counsel (that the cross-border professionals are using to deem mutual funds as vehicles of confiscation).

Group 2 – Those Who Tried To Fix Any Past Compliance Problems

It has become increasingly clear that those who entered OVDP or OVDI were simply suckered. After the vicious and frightening propaganda of the summer of 2011, many people were terrorized into entering OVDI. The lawyers were there to usher them in. They are now locked into the program (although there is some indication that some will be moved to “Streamlined Compliance”). Those who waited appear to have better compliance options.

Of course, by December 2011, the IRS had issued the infamous FS which made it clear that, one didn’t need a formal program of voluntary disclosure. Of course, that didn’t stop the IRS, with full knowledge that minnow were being terrorized into the program,  from resurrecting (another Biblical analogy) the corrupt OVDP program in 2012.

My point is a simple one: those who tried to become compliant by entering the OVDP programs have been the hardest hit. The main reason has nothing to do with taxes. It has nothing to do with compliance. It is the fact that many of them have heard nothing from the IRS. Reminds of the Steven Miller (a cousin of his perhaps) song:

Those who entered OVDI have been living in fear and anxiety since entering the program. What have they heard from the IRS? In many cases, nothing.

IRS Bait and Switch Tactics in OVDP and OVDI

One would think the terms of the OVDP programs were abusive enough. But, the IRS didn’t stop there. In 2009 the IRS changed the terms of the program after people had entered the programIn 2013 the IRS kicked a group of people out of the program after accepting them into the program. It is now certain that:

Any lawyer who advises a client to enter the OVDP program should be disbarred!

The only benefit to the OVDP program was certainty of result and now that certainty has been forever compromised. As a letter from the New York State Bar suggests, who could possibly trust the IRS? The trust issue was recently highlighted by former IRS lawyer Steven Mopsick on this blog. (See also the Mopsick Trilogy – a series of posts about OVDP and its impact on U.S. citizens abroad and Green Card Holders.)

So, what’s a law abiding person who believes he is supposed to be tax compliant supposed to do?

I am writing this post in response to a series of comments at the Isaac Brock Society. The post was about PFICs and it generated a number of comments. The interesting comment stream starts here. We are confronted with a situation of a frightened, confused U.S. citizen abroad, who really wants to be tax compliant, did his best to save for retirement, like the IRS knew nothing about the perils of mutual funds, and must now choose between:

A. Financial ruin – all his money must to to the IRS and compliance costs

B. Non-compliance – but having to live as a “tax cheat”

The problem is that this is exactly the situation of many U.S. citizens abroad who have have lived commendable responsible lives. It is worth noting that neither the IRS nor the U.S. government has ever AND TO THIS DAY DOES NOT make any real effort to educate U.S. citizens about their tax responsibilities! The IRS defines “education” as “threats or penalties”. I feel for the children of Douglas Shulman and Steve Miller (if they have any).

I am going to reproduce this comment stream and invite suggestions on how what people like this should do.

  1. @USCitizenAbroad, @Kalc, @Bubblebustin

    “What would you expect a U.S. person with many years of fillings in the system to do?”

    That is exactly the issue. This whole PFIC thing makes me SO ANGRY and FRUSTRATED!
    I don’t see ANY good answer for such persons. No matter what option you look at it spells financial disaster, especially for people who are at or near retirement age. They cannot afford
    to lose all of the money they have invested over many years just to now become “compliant” (i.e.pay big bucks to have some accountant fill dozens of 8621s, pay back taxes, interest, and penalties and more taxes and interest after they sell the PFICs) and they do not have any other regular source of revenue to replace such a loss.

    “If you are a Canadian citizen without US assets, you are protected. Don’t tell your FI if you happen to have been born in the US. Don’t have more than 1 million in one account.”

    It’s not so simple. If you’ve had a long term relationship with your financial advisor, he likely may already know that you are a USC. Many mutual fund portfolios contain a mixture of US and non- US assets, so you likely may have some in your portfolio already. What should you do? Sell them and then what?
    How do you deal with them on the following year’s tax return? FATCA kicks in way below having 1 million in one account.

    “I do NOT believe that the Government of Canada understands this problem in its entirety. Would you be willing to collect these comments (including the one about the interaction between PFICs and SubPart F),”

    I agree totally. If the government of Canada DID understand all the implications and what a horrendous financial burden this will create for U S persons in Canada, when their financial institutions turn over the data about their TFSAs, RESPs, PFICs, and other investments via FATCA, I think they would not be so ready to sign an IGA. Those persons will be financial bankrupted if the IRS gets their data and goes after them. And when these people are left bankrupted, it will be the Canadian government that will have
    to help support them because we all know that the US government won’t do anything for USCs abroad.

    So, please, please do everything that you can to inform them (Kevin Schoom and others) of what are all the implications if they go down the FATCA compliance path. I think this PFIC problem has certainly not been given enough visibility with our government. It is incredulous to me that the IRS could make a policy change in 2010 about Canadian mutual funds without a formal regulation and then apply it retroactively. This is just WRONG and the Canadian govenment needs to stand up for us and fight this.

    Sorry for the rant, but this issue makes me crazy. Reading what USCitizenAbroad suggested as the only solution for the most financially responsible citizens today just makes me feel more depressed about an already depressing situation. Yes, it does help to be able to talk about it here with others but the reality that is looming in the near future if FATCA kicks in as planned is just too awful.

  2. @Albatross

    Here are the solutions:

    Solutions From The Government of Canada

    Any IGA would exempt from its application lawful residents of Canada regardless of their citizenship. Put it another way, the U.S. can’t both have FATCA and citizenship-based taxation. Is this possible? Not unless this issue is really understood which is not.

    Solutions From U.S. Persons Abroad – Take Charge Yourself

    You and I agree that the ones with the biggest problems are the ones who are entrenched in the system. Their options are:

    1. Do not sell their PFICs. The problems kick in when they are sold. Continue to treat the distributions the way you have always treated them on your tax return. Repeat: It’s the sale that triggers the very worst of the problems.

    2. The time has come to recognize that you will never be able to be U.S. tax compliant. Just not possible unless you pay the staggering costs of compliance and all the fines associated with trying to plan for retirement. I would stay away from the lawyers who will scare you to death. Just keep living your life. Don’t do anything that will trigger taxable events. The advice that most accountants and lawyers give is: sell your PFICs. For those who have had them for the long term, that is the worst possible advice. You do NOT sell them. You hold them and simply pay tax on the distributions the way you always have. That’s the best case scenario. Include the income on your taxes.

    3. RRSPs – This may be the exception to my suggestion for holding the PFICs. Assuming that because they are in an RRSP that the sale inside the RRSP is NOT a taxable event, then perhaps you get rid of those (but get competent advice for taking that step).

    4. Don’t listen to the F_____ cross border professionals. Most of them have really not thought this through plus they have trouble separating their interest from your interest.

    5. If all else fails, hide behind the treaty.

    6. Become a Canadian citizen if you are not already. Then start lobbying the Cdn government to pass law saying that all naturalized Canadian citizens were Canadian citizens from birth. This will protect their own tax base and their citizens from the U.S. exit tax.

    7. Just accept that the US considers you to be a criminal. Hell, people live like that all the time. Of course, you should stay out of the U.S. You might even learn to like it. Dress the part. Pick up the language. Learn to talk that way. It might be fun for you. You might get the respect that you think you are lacking. Pick a criminal to model yourself on – say Barack Obama.

    8. If none of these work, and you have Supart F income, then, well you know my suggestion.

    Curious what you think of those suggestions?

  3. @USCitizenAbroad

    For those entrenched in the system, surely renouncing is still a better option than continuing to have to deal with this BS year after year. At least that frees you from the ongoing obligation. Yes, I accept that it may leave issues from the past and may not be a great idea for those that have a need or desire to set foot in the US in the future.

    Yes, there is still an issue with the 8854 compliance, but there is still a choice on how to play that game, depending on the circumstances and risk tolerance.

  4. @USCitizenAbroad,
    Thanks for your comments on my posting. Here are my thoughts on your suggestions. I’ve included a
    few questions I have on some points you raised.

    Solutions from the Government of Canada
    Yes, I agree that this would be a great solution, but I don’t believe they do understand it.

    Solutions From U.S. Persons Abroad – Take Charge Yourself
    1. Yes, I agree that it makes no sense to sell the PFICs as that will trigger a nightmare.

    2. Yes, the lawyers and accountants that I’ve talked to have all said to sell ALL the PFICs, but of course they don’t have to worry about paying the costs associated with doing so. I concur that there is thus NO
    way to ever be tax compliant in this scenario, unless of course the tax code changes.

    “You hold them and simply pay tax on the distributions the way you always have. That’s the best case scenario. Include the income on your taxes.”
    QUESTION: So I infer from your suggestion that one should not bother with now filing 8621′s and the
    complicated calculation of “income” derived from them, but just continue to include the actual interest or
    dividends or capital gains distributions you receive from the mutual funds on your tax return. Is that what you are suggesting? As soon as you look at filing 8621s for each mutual fund you are talking BIG bucks
    to have an accountant prepare it and these forms are way too complex for the average taxpayer to attempt.
    QUESTION: What happens when FATCA kicks in and the FFI or CRA turns over the details of these funds to the IRS? Won’t they then identify them as PFICs and come screaming for all they back taxes, 8621 forms, etc? Is that where your suggestion 5 comes in?

    3. Don’t know about the RRSPs. This would require more research. For now these are not as
    important since the tax is deferred by 8891.

    4. Agreed.

    5. “If all else fails, hide behind the treaty” Not sure just how one can hide behind the treaty. Can you
    clarify what you mean here?

    6. Definitely a Canadian citizen. Ideas how we can get the Canadian government to pass such a law?

    7. Yes, definitely safer to stay out of the US. Not really a big hardship on that point for many of us.

    8. I didn’t really understand the Subpart F business completely but sure hope it doesn’t apply. I’d hate to think that that would be the only solution.

    I’d be interested in your further comments and answers to my questions above. Your comments are always very informative. I appreciate having the means to exchange thoughts with people like you who do understand this complex and horrendous issue.

    It is clear that this person is in a situation where he completely compromises his financial security by allowing the cross-border professionals and the IRS to confiscate his assets or he must live with the knowledge that the U.S. considers him to be a “tax cheat”, somebody who is worthy of a “FATCA Hunt” or possibly a Whistle Blower’s Retirement Plan.

    It is impossible to live with either scenario.

    The first scenario subjects one to a total rape and having to live with the consequences the rest of your life.

    The second scenario, if not dealt with properly, has the potential to change your own “self image”. On this point though I would say:

    To be considered a criminal by the U.S. government is like being called ugly by a frog. To be a criminal is to have a certain moral stature. In the U.S. there is no correlation between law and morality – in fact, law has become a substitute for morality.

    At a minimum, leaving aside the financial issues, the emotional stress and damage is more than a person who was financially responsible can bear. So, those U.S. citizens abroad who are nearing their retirement years and have most of their wealth in mutual funds must choose one of two options. Tax compliance is possible only in a logical sense. In a practical sense, for many U.S. citizens abroad, tax compliance is not possible.  This is perfectly understandable when issues of “taxation” are confused with “confiscation”.

    The current U.S. Canada Tax Treaty, as I understand it, does NOT require Canada to assist the U.S. in the collection of taxes on Canadian residents, if the person was a Canadian citizen at the time the “debt” arose. This is information  of possible relevance. It doesn’t mean you don’t owe the money. It just means Canada won’t help the U.S. collect it. I presume that that those renouncing U.S. citizenship would be able to use the treaty to shield them from possible Exit Tax Enforcement. But, to use the treaty is to live with another layer of worry!

    The best solution is always to renounce. At this point the only reason to NOT renounce is because you think the U.S. will move to Residence Based Taxation.  Who knows? Tax reform is on the agenda. U.S. citizens abroad made a number of excellent submissions to the Ways and Means Committee. I don’t know about you. But, there are NO circumstances under which I would want to be a U.S. citizen.

    I am writing this post at time when:

    1. Canada is considering a FATCA IGA with the U.S. I hope Canada understands what it will do to one million Canadians by turning them over to the IRS.

    2. Generalized IRS abuse of taxpayers is under way in Washington. It is possible that this post has relevance to that issue.

    3. Congress is considering moving to Residence Based Taxation. That would solve ALL of these problems.

    In closing, to all U.S. citizens abroad who worked so hard to save for your retirement …

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    This is for real. You must accept that the U.S. government is not what you thought it was. It has made a conscious decision to attack you, your families and your assets.

    Courage is the willingness to proceed in the face of fear. In this case it requires you to face up to a decision with no good outcome. You must choose between being destitute or being tax compliant. “American  exeptionalism” means you cannot have both.

    Wisdom means finding a way to move beyond this frightening chapter in your life. Look at it this way: there are parts of the world where people have never experienced life without U.S. tyranny. The good news is that you do NOT live in the United States.

    On that note, I will conclude with a thought from Winston Churchill. His wife did not approve of his drinking. One night he came home and she said:

    Winston, you are drunk.

    Winston thought about it a minute and said:

    Yes, I am drunk. But you are ugly and tomorrow I will be sober.

    Put it this way, you can renounce your U.S. citizenship. Every day, for the rest of their lives, Homelanders will wake up in the Homeland!

Did Mr. #FBAR really pay a surprise visit to Canada?

 

cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions

The FBAR Chronicles continue …
 
FBAR 101

First, A Public Service Announcement – Mr. FBAR Get’s A New Filing Due Date

This is one more of my posts about Mr. FBAR. Mr. FBAR is a mean, nasty vicious thug who has no place in any civilized society.

Thomas Jefferson once said:

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

My thoughts are that:

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have FBAR without outlaws, or outlaws without FBAR, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

Unfortunately, Mr. FBAR has become the new symbol of American citizenship. Furthermore, Mr. FBAR disproportionately affects the local bank accounts of Americans abroad – becoming (in effect) a form of “domestic terrorism” against U.S. citizens living outside the United States.

Mr. FBAR As Applied To The Canada U.S. Dual Citizen …

As reported by CBC news, Global News in Canada, The Isaac Brock Society and various Facebook groups. a U.S. Canada dual citizen (Jeffrey P. Pomerantz – the Defendant) has been sued in Washington State, by the U.S. Department Justice, to collect FBAR penalties for the years 2007, 2008, and 2009. It appears that at the present time, the Defendant lives in Vancouver, Canada.

The actual “Complaint” filed in the Court which summarizes and explains the Government’s allegations is found here. (If you have read this far, you should pause and read the Complaint.)

The facts are horrendous. Basically the Defendant was assessed significant FBAR penalties which increased through interest charges to the point where they had grown to approximately $800,000 U.S. dollars (approximately 1,100,000 million Canadian dollars) by the time the law suit was commenced in 2016. FBAR penalties are frightening, draconian and are really a form of Civll Forfeiture. One comment, as reported on the Isaac Brock Society put it:

On a practical note, there is one commenter in particular, Kathy “Powell”, who could use upticks on the CBC article for her efforts to set things straight … if anyone here has CBC commenting privileges. (I gave mine up when “real names” were required.)

As for Jeffrey Pomerantz who is truly living “a friggin’ nightmare”, there’s just too little information to create a clear picture of his situation. I won’t judge him as others at CBC are doing. I’m just shaking my head at how those without a clue keep tossing in misinfoturds to muddy the waters even more. What is crystal clear to me is that the villain in this scene is the IRS/DOJ and even if Jeffrey Pomerantz is guilty of something he doesn’t deserve to be completely impoverished for it.

The complaint filed by the Department of Justice is here and should be read by all bloggers and other commenters. At first blush one gets the impression that this case is primarily about the IRS assessing an FBAR penalty on a Canadian citizen resident in Canada and that the penalty was based on unreported Canadian bank accounts. This interpretation reinforces the fear (real and legitimate) that the IRS might attempt to attempt to confiscate the wealth of Canadian citizens resident in Canada through civil forfeiture FBAR penalties. I do NOT believe that this is a fair reading of the Department of Justice Compliant. (The situation is bad enough without expanding it’s reach. There is no need to accelerate the “fear mongering”.)

This case is more like a Homelander with unreported bank accounts in Switzerland …

Here is why.

Please note that this story is based on FBAR violations for the tax years of 2007, 2008 and 2009. Based on the Department of Justice complaint, we see the exploration of the following factual allegations.

Factual allegations:

A. Was The Defendant a U.S. Resident Or A Canadian Resident During The Years In Question?

Although it is unclear, it appears likely that the Defendant was a both a U.S. citizen and a U.S. resident during all or some of the years of 2007, 2008 and 2009. The CBC article includes:

While the Justice Department’s complaint says Pomerantz lived in the United States during all three years, documents prepared by Pomerantz’s side found in the court file say he and his wife, a Canadian-Norwegian dual citizen, only lived in California for part of 2008 and 2009 before moving back to Canada.

Assuming that he was a U.S. citizen residing in the United States, his case (presumably) would have been viewed as that of a Homelander with offshore accounts.

B. Where Were The Offshore Accounts That Were The Basis For The FBAR Penalties?

RBC (Royal Bank Of Canada Accounts):

The Department of Justice complaint (paragraphs 12 and 13) describes the existence of RBC accounts which were opened “prior to or during 2007”. A reading of the brief suggests that the RBC accounts were NOT counted towards the FBAR penalties. The RBC accounts were in the name of a Vancouver, Canada based company. Although not conclusive, this suggests the the Department of Justice did NOT target those specific RBC accounts located in Canada.

Swiss Bank Accounts In The Name Of A Turks And Caicos Corporation

The Department of Justice pleading (paragraphs 8 to 10) allege the Defendant opened:

  • five swiss bank accounts in the name of a Turks and Caicos Island Corporation;
  • that the Turks and Caicos Corporation performed no active business but was opened for the sole purpose of holding the Defendant’s investments (paragraph 7); and
  • that the income from the accounts was NOT reported on the 2007 – 2009 tax returns (paragraphs 22, 36 and 44).

In other words, the FBAR penalties should be seen as penalties imposed on Swiss bank accounts (sounds horrible) which were located outside the Defendant’s country of residence (in a tax haven).

The Two CIBC “PERSONAL CHECKING” Accounts Opened Prior To 2001

Paragraph 5 of the Government’s Complaint describes two CIBC accounts that:

  • were opened prior to 2001
  • remained open during the years of 2007, 2008 and 2009
  • were not reported on an FBAR.

(Because they were “checking accounts” it is unlikely that they generated taxable income.)

Although we can (I think) assume that these accounts were located in Canada, the compliant does not specifically state this.

Nevertheless, my impression is that:

  • although the CIBC accounts were included in the group of accounts that were part of the FBAR penalty base (see paragraphs 17, 31 and 41);
  • the FBAR penalties were motivated by the Swiss bank accounts opened for the benefit of the Turks and Caicos Corporation.

To summarize …

Nobody deserves the treatment that this defendant was subjected to. It is however, wrong to interpret this case as the IRS attempting to impose FBAR penalties on the Canadian bank accounts of Canadian residents. There is enough FBAR hysteria already! This case should be seen as the IRS attempting to impose an FBAR penalty based on the unreported offshore Swiss accounts that were for the use of an offshore (Turks and Caicos) corporation used to hold personal investment assets.

Although FBAR penalties are (in general) unconscionable, unfair, draconian and a form of civil forfeiture):

this case should NOT be interpreted that the IRS attempting to impose FBAR penalties on the Canadian bank accounts of Canadian residents.

This post has been based largely on the Department of Justice complaint as filed in the Court.

John Richardson

What do you Think of the Penalties in These Three Cases of Unreported FBARs ?

 
Ty Warner

Ty Warner
Ty Warner, founder/owner of the Beanie Babies line, was sentenced in July 2015 for tax evasion.The panel of three U.S. District Court judges gave him 2 years of probation and 500 hours of community service. The sentencing guidelines ranged from 46 months up to a maximum of 57 months. He agreed to pay back taxes and interest of $16 million as well as a $53.5 million penalty (the full FBAR penalty of 50% of the balance of the highest account-$107,000,000). According to Melissa Harris (author of this article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune, July 15, 2015) Warner’s sentence was “a punishment that reduces evading millions in taxes to a speeding ticket,” and that the sentence “flies in the face of both reason and justice”.

Warner had an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion, and was the 209th richest American.   According to Janet Novak of Forbes:

He admitted that around Jan. 31, 1996, he flew to Zurich and deposited about $80 million at UBS AG, instructing that no account statements be sent to him in the U.S., and that he kept the account secret until November 2007. During that period he failed to report at least $24.4 million in interest income on the account to the Internal Revenue Service, evading at least $5.6 million in taxes. He also failed to file with the Treasury the required annual “FBAR” report on his foreign accounts

What beggars belief is that Mr. Warner never provided any explanation for:

  • why he opened the account
  • the origin of the funds
  • audits of his books & records show the funds did not come from his company
  • his personal domestic accounts showed no signs of the origin of the funds

In fact the evidence suggested that the funds may have been pre-tax payments of some sort. To this day, the extent of his willful tax evasion is in reality, unknown.

So why did Mr. Warner get off so lightly? Was it because his lawyer Mark Matthews used the Olenicoff Defense?
Was it because his creation, the Beanie Babies line of stuffed toys, was just too cute for anyone to believe he was guilty of such evasion?

Peter Henning a Wayne State University Law School Professor and co-author of ‘Securities Crimes ”said in an interview, “I don’t want to say anything goes,….Clearly you can’t consider race or wealth. But you are looking at character. That is something judges can take into account. The question is how much should it weigh into the decision?”

This is where Mr. Warner hit the jackpot. He received 70 letters of support from friends, employees and recipients of his charity, actions which had nothing to do with the charges and only someone with money could do.

U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras (of the panel) based his sentence on:

…..a reading of 70 letters, Kocoras found that “Mr. Warner’s private acts of kindness, generosity and benevolence” were “overwhelming,” with many occurring before he was under investigation and, in Kocoras’ words, motivated by “the purest of intentions.” Most were done “quietly and privately.” The judge concluded: “Never have I had a defendant in any case — white-collar crime or otherwise — demonstrate the level of humanity and concern for the welfare of others as has Mr. Warner.”

So a man guilty of many years of tax evasion, who did not even account for the origin of the account nor any records of it, received an incredibly light sentence based upon support from his family, friends and beneficiaries of his kindness. Where is the law here?
 

*******

Dan Horsky
horskyThe second case is that of retired university business professor Dan Horsky. He amassed a $220 million dollar fortune, hidden in secret foreign accounts. He was a citizen of the United States as well as Israel and the United Kingdom. He spent thirty years teaching at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.

According to the Justice Department report:

One investment in a business referred to as Company A, however, succeeded spectacularly. In 2000, Horsky transferred his investments into a nominee account in the name of “Horsky Holdings” at an offshore bank in Zurich, Switzerland (the “Swiss Bank”) to conceal his financial transactions and accounts from the IRS and the U.S. Treasury Department.

In 2008, Horsky received approximately $80 million in proceeds from selling Company A’s stock. Horsky filed a fraudulent 2008 tax return that underreported his income by more than $40 million and disclosed only approximately $7 million of his gain from the sale. The Swiss Bank opened multiple accounts for Horsky to assist him in concealing his assets: including one small account for which Horsky admitted that he was a U.S. citizen and resident and another much larger account for which he claimed he was an Israeli citizen and resident. Horsky took some of his gains from selling Company A’s stock and invested in Company B’s stock. By 2015, Horsky’s offshore holdings hidden from the IRS exceeded $220 million.

Horsky willfully filed fraudulent federal income tax returns that failed to report his income from, and beneficial interest in and control over, his foreign financial accounts. In addition, Horsky failed to file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs) up and through 2011, and also filed fraudulent 2012 and 2013 FBARs. In total, in a 15-year tax evasion scheme, Horsky evaded more than $18 million in income and gift tax liabilities.

Professor Horsky’s willfulness was more involved than simply failing to report income. In 2011, He had another individual gain signature authority over the Zurich accounts. Horsky provided instructions to this individual. Then this individual was to relinquish his U.S. citizenship. In 2014, this operson filed a false 8854, did not disclose his net worth or his foreign assets and he falsely certified five years of compliance with all tax obligations.

Mr. Horskey’s sentence consisted of:

  • seven months in prison
  • one year of supervised release
  • fine of $250,000
  • $100 million penalty
  • over $13 million in taxes owed
  •  
    Again, the prison sentence was far below the maximum of five years. I guess committing an intensely willful crime which included outright fraud (and no letters attesting to his character), Professor Horsky failed to even receive one year of prison.

    An interesting observation of Eric Rasmussen at thetaxprof site : (Scroll down to “comments”)

    Interesting settlement. He’s paying just $13 million of the $18 million in taxes he owes, but $100 million more in penalties? Is this a whistleblower case? The IRS used to say the whistleblower gets a percentage only of the taxes recovered not the criminal violation penalties. They lost a big case on that in Tax Court. Is the idea going to reappear here?

    *******

    Milo & Lois Kentera

    NB: all printscreens in the Kentera account are from the Complaint filed August 13, 2016

    A more complete account of the Kentera’s situation is here
     
    The third case is that of Milo and Lois Kentera. This is much closer to the “minnow” level of FBAR “violation.” Even though this is not an expat case as the Kenteras live in the US, I am sure we all can identify with them.

    Milo Kentera was a pharmacist and inherited a Swiss bank account when his father died in 1984. At this time, the account was under $10,000 USD and remained so for twenty years. During that time, Milo added his wife Lois (a homemaker) to the account. Starting in 1984, he always advised his tax advisors/accountants of the account and he reported it on 1040 Schedule B. So far so good.

    In 2005, the account gained enough to be over the FBAR filing threshold. However, the accountant did not prepare or file an FBAR. In 2007, Milo received $257,112 (a portion of the sale of his parents’ property in Montenegro; his siblings received the other $371,536). He put this money into the Swiss account. A second accountant did not ask if any interest was earned on the account so that was omitted and again, no FBAR was filed. In 2010, yet another accountant failed to prepare or file an FBAR even though he/she included the interest and the account on Schedule B.

     
    balance of Kentera account
     
    Mr. Kentera came forward on his own, having heard of the OVDI on the radio.
     
    come forward on own Kentera
     
    By then the “2011 IRS Reign of FBAR Terror was going full throttle. Toward the deadline of the program, the Kenteras entered the 2011 OVDI program. They filed six years of FBARs for 2005-2010 (inclusive) and amended their returns to include the interest income from the account. The following printscreens show the amounts of money involved in terms of omitted tax income, balance of the account etc.
     
    changes income fbar kentera
     
    Nearly two years later, in August 2013, the IRS assessed a miscellaneous penalty of $90,092. The Kenteras then chose to opt out of OVDI. The agent who had their case then advised that they should receive non-willful FBAR penalties, which were as follows:

      Lois Kentera:

    • $500 for 2006;
    • $2,500 per year for 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010,
    • for a total penalty of $10,500;

     

      Milo Kentera:

    • $500 for 2006;
    • $10,000 per year for 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010,
    • for a total penalty of $40,500.

     
    The Kenteras were understandably upset and did not want to accept this fine of $60,000 either as they felt they had reasonable cause. Virginia la Torre Jeker defines what is involved in establishing reasonable cause when one has relied upon a tax adviser:

    “…various cases have noted that the taxpayer must prove three elements. First, the adviser must be a competent professional with sufficient expertise (for example, you cannot rely on an insurance agent for tax advice); second, the taxpayer must provide necessary and accurate information to the adviser; and finally, the taxpayer must rely in good faith on the adviser’s judgment.

    The Kenteras then filed a complaint in District Court alleging that the IRS had incorrectly calculated their penalties.
    The end result was unchanged; they still had to pay the penalties.

    It would appear obvious from the get go that the Kenteras did not belong in the OVDI program. However, “quiet disclosures”* were discouraged and Streamlined was not yet available (began Sept 1, 2012); the FactStatement 2011-13 came out during the first week of December. The Kenteras were put in a program they did not belong in; they clearly satisfied the three conditions for “reasonable cause” and most of all, they are an example of “those that are hurt the worst are the ones who try to come into compliance.”

    **it was not entirely clear at that time whether a “quiet disclosure” was simply filing going forward OR filing amended returns (presumably changed by FBAR accounts’ earnings). In any event, while the IRS insisted people enter the programs, there is no law that indicates one must do so.

    *******

    These three cases present some interesting observations about the treatment of those who had not filed FBARs.

    First of all, the first and second cases are Homelanders who had very large offshore accounts. Both took very deliberate steps to conceal the accounts. Mr. Holsky even went so far as to include fraudulent attempts as to ownership and citizenship of the person with signing authority for the account. Neither of them came forward on their own. Neither were able to enter the “amnesty” program, yet Mr. Warner received no jail time and Mr. Horsky received less than a year. The amounts of money involved for both are staggering to those of us who will never have anywhere near that kind of money.I can’t really evaluate their impact but I’d be willing to bet, that in proportion to their total wealth, both were able to absorb the loss without a major change in their style of living.

    In contrast, the Kenteras, also Homelanders, had a very modest account which they inherited. They always advised their accountants of its existence. Three professionals in the tax compliance community failed to prepare or file FBAR even though two of them did report the interest and existence of the account on Schedule B. They received very bad (I would say criminal) advice and went into OVDI coming out with an original penalty assessment of $90,092. So they opt out and the IRS agent then gives then a non-willful penalty totalling $60,000.

    Was it really necessary for Mr. Kentera to receive the maximum non-willful penalty for 4 years? It seems their honesty in pointing out the existence of the account counted for nothing. The fact remains that their situation clearly QUALIFIES FOR REASONABLE CAUSE. Yet the intent of Mr. Warner and even more so for Mr. Holsky, was clearly to conceal yet neither of them received anywhere near the maximum penalty; they did not come forward on their own and could not take part in the amnesty program.

    In the past (scroll down to “Statistics on Minnows in the OVDP”) we have seen demonstrations that the least wealthy pay the highest percentage of penalties, the comparison of the three cases cannot fail to boil your blood and make the average person seriously consider not becoming compliant due to obvious treatment of “minnows” as nothing short of appalling. Why does the IRS continually fail to see this? Is it really a surprise that 7 out of 8 million #Americansabroad have yet to become compliant in spite of Streamlined?
     
    Comparison Chart