Form 3520-A (U.S Agent & IRS Confidentiality Foreign Trust Issues)
- 1 Form 3520-A
- 2 U.S. Agent
- 3 What is a U.S. Agent?
- 4 What if There is No U.S. Agent?
- 5 Example: Panamanian Foundation
- 6 Just Because There is a U.S. Agent…
- 7 What if I am Out of IRS Compliance?
- 8 What Type of Attorney Should I Hire?
- 9 We Specialize in Safely Disclosing Foreign Money
- 10 Who Decides to Disclose Unreported Money?
- 11 Beware of Copycat Law Firms
- 12 IRS Penalty List
- 13 What Should You Do?
- 14 Be Careful of the IRS
- 15 4 Types of IRS Voluntary Disclosure Programs
Form 3520-A (U.S Agent & IRS Confidentiality Foreign Trust Issues)
Form 3520-A is an Annual Information Return of Foreign Trust With a U.S. Owner.
We represent numerous clients worldwide who have offshore trusts or foreign trusts.
Typically, these clients may have a foreign trust in a country such as New Zealand, A Sociedad Anonima for Estate Planning purposes in Costa Rica, and/or a Foundation in a country such as Panama (while a Panamanian foundation is not per se a foreign trust under US tax law, most US persons who have Panamanian foundations prefer to file a form 3520/3520-A instead of a 5471, due to potential tax benefits).
While one of the main benefits of having a foreign trust is the idea of anonymity and confidentiality (either real or perceived), that confidentiality or anonymity can be easily destroyed in situations in which there is not at least one U.S. Agent, who serves as a member of the trust.
Why? Because as you will see, when using form 3520-A (reporting a foreign trusts), if the foreign trust does not have a U.S. Agent there is typically a much more in depth reporting document disclosure requirement necessary to appease the IRS.
When it comes to foreign trusts, one of the best ways to avoid having to disclose specific information about the trust is to appoint a US agent.
What is a U.S. Agent?
As provided by the IRS, a U.S. agent is a U.S. person that has a binding contract with a foreign trust that allows the U.S. person to act as the trust’s authorized U.S. agent (see the instructions for Part I, Lines 3a through 3g, later) in applying sections 7602, 7603, and 7604 with respect to:
– Any request by the IRS to examine records or produce testimony related to the proper U.S. tax treatment of amounts distributed, or required to be taken into account under the grantor trust rules, with respect to a foreign trust; or
– Any summons by the IRS for such records or testimony.
– A U.S. grantor, a U.S. beneficiary, or a domestic corporation controlled by the grantor or beneficiary may act as a U.S. agent. However, you may not treat the foreign trust as having a U.S. agent unless you enter the name, address, and taxpayer identification number of the U.S. agent on lines 3a through 3g of Part I of the form. See Identification numbers, later.
– If the person identified as the U.S. agent does not produce records or testimony when requested or summoned by the IRS, the IRS may redetermine the tax consequences of your transactions with the trust and impose appropriate penalties under section 6677.
– The agency relationship must be established by the time the U.S. person files Form 3520-A for the relevant tax year and must continue as long as the statute of limitations remains open for the relevant tax year. If the agent’s responsibility as an agent of the trust is terminated for any reason (for example, agent’s resignation, agent’s liquidation, or agent’s death), see section IV(B) of Notice 97-34.
What if There is No U.S. Agent?
If the trust did not appoint a U.S. agent, the trustee (or whomever is completing the Form 3520-A) must provide copies of the list of documents set forth on page one of Form 3520-A.
It is important to note, that (under most circumstances) these forms are not forms that you are going to want to volunteer to the IRS.
Specifically, the IRS requires the trust to provide:
- Summary of all written and oral agreements and understandings relating to the trust
- The trust instrument
- Memoranda or letters of wishes
- Subsequent variances to original trust documents
- Other trust documents
Example: Panamanian Foundation
For anyone who has ever seen or otherwise been associated with a Panamanian foundation, they understand the benefits of anonymity. Without getting too detailed, the IRS has not specifically stated whether a Panamanian foundation is considered to be a corporation or trust, and therefor (again, under most circumstances and due to the tax benefits) a Panamanian foundation is operated as a trust.
Moreover, in many circumstances the U.S. Beneficiary of the Panamanian foundation uses a foreign trustee to prepare all the documentation. Etc.
Much of the information regarding the beneficiaries (usually US persons) is a separate document not necessarily contained specifically in the text of the foundation document. And, if the Panamanian foundation appointed a US agent – then the above referenced forms do not need to be filed along with question 2 of Form 3520-A.
Alternatively, if there is no US agent, then these forms have to be filed. And, typically with a Panamanian foundation there are additional documents or memoranda which supplement the main document and usually includes references to the beneficiaries, percentage of ownership, etc. which you do not want to provide.
Just Because There is a U.S. Agent…
… Does not mean the IRS is going to contact them or would have any need to do so. In other words, it is a risk analysis: is it better to not appoint a US agent but to include all these different portions of the trust document that you otherwise do not want to include, or is it better to appoint a US agent, not submit the additional documentation, and hope it goes into the black hole in which you are never audited or contacted by the IRS – and the information contained within the trust (absent an audit) remains confidential?
This is an analysis you should perform with an experienced Offshore Disclosure Attorney before making any affirmative representation to the IRS.
What if I am Out of IRS Compliance?
When you have not met your prior year IRS foreign bank account compliance obligations, your best options are either the traditional IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program, or one of the Streamlined Offshore Disclosure Programs.
What Type of Attorney Should I Hire?
IRS Voluntary Disclosure is a specialized area of law. An IRS Voluntary Disclosure is a complex undertaking. It requires the coordination of several moving parts, including strategy development, Tax Preparation, Legal Analysis, Negotiation and more.
You should hire a Tax Attorney who has the following credentials:
- ~20 Years of Private Practice experience representing his/her own clients
- Experienced in Criminal and Civil Tax Litigation
- Experienced representing clients in Eggshell and Reverse Eggshell Audits.
- Advanced Tax Degree (LL.M.)
- EA (Enrolled Agent) or CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
- Preferably a Board Certified Tax Law Specialist
We Specialize in Safely Disclosing Foreign Money
We have successfully handled a diverse range of IRS Voluntary Disclosure and International Tax Investigation/Examination cases involving FBAR, FATCA, and high-stakes matters for clients around the globe (In over 65 countries!)
Whether it is a simple or complex case, safely getting clients into compliance is our passion, and we take it very seriously.
Examples of areas of tax we handle
- Unfiled Tax Returns
- Unreported Income Penalties
- International Tax Investigations (FATCA and more)
- FBAR Investigations
- International Tax Evasion
- Structuring Investigations
- Eggshell and Reverse Eggshell Audits
- Divorce and Offshore Accounts
- Foreign Mutual Funds
- Foreign Life Insurance
- Fixing Quiet Disclosure
- Foreign Real Estate Income
- Foreign Real Estate Sales
- Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
- Subpart F Income
- Foreign Inheritance
- Foreign Pension
- Form 3520
- Form 5471
- Form 8621
- Form 8865
- Form 8938 (FATCA)
Who Decides to Disclose Unreported Money?
What Types of Clients Do we Represent?
We represent Attorneys, CPAs, Doctors, Investors, Engineers, Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, Professors, Athletes, Actors, Entry-Level staff, Students, Former/Current IRS Agents and more.
You are not alone, and you are not the only one to find himself or herself in this situation.
Sean M. Golding, JD, LL.M., EA (Board Certified Tax Law Specialist)
Our Managing Partner, Sean M. Golding, JD, LLM, EA earned an LL.M. (Master’s in Tax Law) from the University of Denver and is also an Enrolled Agent (the highest credential awarded by the IRS, and authorizes him to represent clients nationwide.)
Mr. Golding and his team have successfully handled several hundred IRS Offshore/Voluntary Disclosure Procedure cases. Whether it is a simple or complex case, safely getting clients into compliance is our passion, and we take it very seriously.
He is frequently called upon to lecture and write on issues involving IRS Voluntary Disclosure.
Less than 1% of Tax Attorneys Nationwide are Board Certified Tax Law Specialists
The Board Certified Tax Law Specialist exam is offered in many states, and is widely regarded as one of (if not) the hardest tax exam given in the United States for practicing Attorneys. Certification also requires the completion of significant ethics and experience requirements.
In California alone, out of more than 200,000 practicing attorneys (with thousands of attorneys practicing in some area of tax law), less than 350 attorneys are Board Certified Tax Law Specialists.
Beware of Copycat Law Firms
Unlike other attorneys who call themselves specialists or experts in Voluntary Disclosure but are not “Board Certified,” handle 5-10 different areas of tax law, purchase multiple keyword specific domain names, and even practice outside of tax, we are absolutely dedicated to Offshore Voluntary Disclosure.
*Click here to learn the benefits of retaining a Board Certified Tax Law Specialist with advanced tax credentials.
IRS Penalty List
The following is a list of potential IRS penalties for unreported and undisclosed foreign accounts and assets:
Failure to File
If you do not file by the deadline, you might face a failure-to-file penalty. If you do not pay by the due date, you could face a failure-to-pay penalty. The failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty.
The penalty for filing late is usually 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a return is late. This penalty will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.
Failure to Pay
f you do not pay your taxes by the due date, you will generally have to pay a failure-to-pay penalty of ½ of 1 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month after the due date that the taxes are not paid. This penalty can be as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. If both the failure-to-file penalty and the failure-to-pay penalty apply in any month, the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty is reduced by the failure-to-pay penalty.
However, if you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax. You will not have to pay a failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalty if you can show that you failed to file or pay on time because of reasonable cause and not because of willful neglect.
Civil Tax Fraud
If any part of any underpayment of tax required to be shown on a return is due to fraud, there shall be added to the tax an amount equal to 75 percent of the portion of the underpayment which is attributable to fraud.
A Penalty for failing to file FBARs
The civil penalty for willfully failing to file an FBAR can be as high as the greater of $100,000 or 50 percent of the total balance of the foreign financial account per violation. See 31 U.S.C. § 5321(a)(5). Non-willful violations that the IRS determines were not due to reasonable cause are subject to a $10,000 penalty per violation.
A Penalty for failing to file Form 8938
The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns is $10,000, with an additional $10,000 added for each month the failure continues beginning 90 days after the taxpayer is notified of the delinquency, up to a maximum of $50,000 per return.
A Penalty for failing to file Form 3520
The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns, or for filing an incomplete return, is the greater of $10,000 or 35 percent of the gross reportable amount, except for returns reporting gifts, where the penalty is five percent of the gift per month, up to a maximum penalty of 25 percent of the gift.
A Penalty for failing to file Form 3520-A
The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns or for filing an incomplete return, is the greater of $10,000 or 5 percent of the gross value of trust assets determined to be owned by the United States person.
A Penalty for failing to file Form 5471
A Penalty for failing to file Form 5472
The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns, or to keep certain records regarding reportable transactions, is $10,000, with an additional $10,000 added for each month the failure continues beginning 90 days after the taxpayer is notified of the delinquency.
A Penalty for failing to file Form 926
The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns is ten percent of the value of the property transferred, up to a maximum of $100,000 per return, with no limit if the failure to report the transfer was intentional.
A Penalty for failing to file Form 8865
Penalties include $10,000 for failure to file each return, with an additional $10,000 added for each month the failure continues beginning 90 days after the taxpayer is notified of the delinquency, up to a maximum of $50,000 per return, and ten percent of the value of any transferred property that is not reported, subject to a $100,000 limit.
Fraud penalties imposed under IRC §§ 6651(f) or 6663
Where an underpayment of tax, or a failure to file a tax return, is due to fraud, the taxpayer is liable for penalties that, although calculated differently, essentially amount to 75 percent of the unpaid tax.
A Penalty for failing to file a tax return imposed under IRC § 6651(a)(1)
Generally, taxpayers are required to file income tax returns. If a taxpayer fails to do so, a penalty of 5 percent of the balance due, plus an additional 5 percent for each month or fraction thereof during which the failure continues may be imposed. The penalty shall not exceed 25 percent.
A Penalty for failing to pay the amount of tax shown on the return under IRC § 6651(a)(2)
If a taxpayer fails to pay the amount of tax shown on the return, he or she may be liable for a penalty of .5 percent of the amount of tax shown on the return, plus an additional .5 percent for each additional month or fraction thereof that the amount remains unpaid, not exceeding 25 percent.
An Accuracy-Related Penalty on underpayments imposed under IRC § 6662
Depending upon which component of the accuracy-related penalty is applicable, a taxpayer may be liable for a 20 percent or 40 percent penalty
Possible Criminal Charges related to tax matters include tax evasion (IRC § 7201)
Filing a false return (IRC § 7206(1)) and failure to file an income tax return (IRC § 7203). Willfully failing to file an FBAR and willfully filing a false FBAR are both violations that are subject to criminal penalties under 31 U.S.C. § 5322. Additional possible criminal charges include conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims (18 U.S.C. § 286) and conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. § 371).
A person convicted of tax evasion
Filing a false return subjects a person to a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to $250,000. A person who fails to file a tax return is subject to a prison term of up to one year and a fine of up to $100,000. Failing to file an FBAR subjects a person to a prison term of up to ten years and criminal penalties of up to $500,000. A person convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims is subject to a prison term of up to not more than 10 years or a fine of up to $250,000. A person convicted of conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States is subject to a prison term of not more than five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
What Should You Do?
Everyone makes mistakes. If at some point that you should have been reporting your foreign income, accounts, assets or investments the prudent and least costly (but most effective) method for getting compliance is through one of the approved IRS offshore voluntary disclosure program.
Be Careful of the IRS
With the introduction and enforcement of FATCA for both Civil and Criminal Penalties, renewed interest in the IRS issuing FBAR Penalties, crackdown on Cryptocurrency (and IRS joining J5), the termination of OVDP, and recent foreign bank settlements with the IRS…there are not many places left to hide.
4 Types of IRS Voluntary Disclosure Programs
There are typically four types of IRS Voluntary Disclosure programs, and they include:
- Traditional (IRM) IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program
- Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (SDOP)
- Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (SFOP)
- Reasonable Cause (RC)
Contact Us Today; Let us Help You.
Sean holds a Master's in Tax Law from one of the top Tax LL.M. programs in the country at the University of Denver, and has also earned the prestigious Enrolled Agent credential. Mr. Golding is also a Board Certified Tax Law Specialist Attorney (A designation earned by Less than 1% of Attorneys nationwide.)