Switzerland Reports 2 Million Accounts (Swiss FATCA & FBAR Risks)
Switzerland Reports 2 Million Accounts (Swiss FATCA & FBAR Risks)
You know it is a bad day in offshore banking, when Switzerland (yes, that Switzerland) announced (via the Swiss Federal Tax Administration website) that it has already exchanged accountholder information with multiple EU countries and many others.
While the transfer was to other EU countries (via AEOI) and not FATCA, it is only a matter of time before FATCA makes the situation infinitely worse for U.S. Accountholders.
How many Accounts Have Been Compromised?
As provided by the FTA:
This first exchange within the framework of AEOI provides that Switzerland exchanges in 2018 with EU states as well as with a further nine states and territories (Australia, Canada, Guernsey, Iceland, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, Norway, South Korea).
Transmission of data by Switzerland took place at the end of September 2018. Cyprus and Romania are currently excluded as they do not yet meet the international requirements on confidentiality and data security. Transmission of data to Australia and France is delayed, as these states could not yet deliver data to the FTA due to technical reasons. Similarly, the FTA has not yet received data from Croatia, Estonia and Poland. The other partner states have transmitted data to the FTA.
Currently, around 7,000 reporting financial institutions (banks, trusts, insurers, etc.) are registered with the FTA. These institutions collected the data and transferred it to the FTA. The FTA sent information on around 2 million financial accounts to the partner states and received information in the millions from them. Definitive numbers on information received are not yet available. The FTA cannot provide any information on the amount of financial assets.
FATCA & FBAR Makes it Much Worse
The reason why FATCA and FBAR reporting makes the disclosure much worse, is because now multiple countries that have entered into FATCA agreements with the United States will have additional information regarding Swiss Accounts held by U.S Account Holders, which they may share with the U.S pursuant to FATCA.
Moreover, if the U.S makes a Hague Evidence Convention request for the information, it can make it even worse from there….
And, because oftentimes the U.S. Government infers that a Swiss account implies tax evasion and willfulness — it could lead to bigger problems in the future.
How FATCA comes into Play (3 Steps)
Here is how the Swiss AEOI with EU countries may impact U.S. Account Holders:
Switzerland Reports to EU and Other Countries
At the end of September, 2018, the Swiss reported 2 million accounts to the following countries (some delays may have interrupted the actual transfers, but are still scheduled for transfer):
- Australia (Pending due to a technical delay)
- France (Pending due to a technical delay)
- Isle of Man
- South Korea
- *Cyprus (Pending the signing of an International Agreement)
- *Romania (Pending the signing of an International Agreement)
EU Countries Reports Information to the U.S. (Or Keeps it on File)
The United States has entered into FATCA Agreements with more than 110 different countries and more than 300,000 Foreign Financial Institutions, In addition, in accordance with the Hague Evidence Convention (and other International Agreements/Conventions), the U.S. Courts may seek information about U.S. Account Holders from foreign nations.
If these countries have information regarding Swiss accounts, a U.S. Account Holder may be at risk once the information is turned over.
IRS Audits, Examines and/or Investigates You
The IRS uses this information to pursue a civil audit or investigation — or even a referral to the IRS Special Agents for a Criminal Investigation.
Recent FATCA Criminal Conviction
Recently, on September 11, 2018 the former Chief Business Officer and former Chief Executive Officer of Loyal Bank Ltd, pleaded guilty under FATCA for committing FATCA Fraud.
Specifically, the CEO of the offshore bank (with offices in Hungary and Saint Vincent & Grenadines) pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States by failing to comply with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
Baron was extradited to the United States from Hungary in July 2018.
FBAR & A Hague Evidence Convention Request
The “Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters,” or Hague Evidence Convention is a treaty signed in the Netherlands more than 40 years ago.
The purpose of the Hague Evidence Convention, is for one country to be able to make a request to another country for evidence, using a more direct manner than the usual information gathering channels (which are highly bureaucratic).
Example of a Recent FBAR Hague Evidence Convention Request
The United States District Court for the Western District of New York (“District Court”) presents its salutations to the Greek Central Authority, and requests assistance in obtaining evidence to be used in civil proceedings before this Court.”
Specifically, the District Court requests assistance in obtaining documents and oral testimony from (Redacted), a citizen of Greece, for use at trial. (Redacted) is married to the defendant (Redacted) and is also represented by the defendant’s counsel. This Letter of Request is submitted in both English and Greek.
IRS Voluntary Disclosure – A Good Options
It is clear that in general, Governments worldwide are seeking to reduce offshore/foreign tax havens, fraud, evasion, and related matters. Whether or not your actions were willful or non-willful, there are various actions you can take to safely get yourself into IRS compliance.
IRS Voluntary Disclosure is All We Do!
We represent all different types of clients. High net-worth investors (over $40 million), smaller cases ($100,000) and everything in-between.
We represent clients in over 60 countries and nationwide, with all different types of assets, including (each link takes you to a Golding & Golding free summary):
- 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 Enter IRS Voluntary Disclosure
All different types of people submit to IRS Voluntary Disclosure. We represent Attorneys, CPAs, Doctors, Investors, Engineers, Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, Professors, Athletes, Actors, Entry-Level staff, Students, 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 is the only Attorney nationwide who has earned the Certified Tax Law Specialist credential and specializes in IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure and closely related matters.
In addition to earning the Certified Tax Law Certification, Sean also holds 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.)
He is frequently called upon to lecture and write on issues involving IRS Voluntary Disclosure.
Less than 1% of Tax Attorneys Nationwide
Out of more than 200,000 practicing attorneys in California, less than 400 attorneys have achieved this Certified Tax Law Specialist designation.
The exam is widely regarded as one of (if not) the hardest tax exam given in the United States for practicing Attorneys. It is a designation earned by less than 1% of attorneys.
Our International Tax Lawyers represent hundreds of taxpayers annually in over 60 countries.
IRS Penalty List
The following is a list of potential IRS penalties for unreported and undisclosed foreign accounts and assets:
A Penalty for failing to file FBARs
United States citizens, residents and certain other persons must annually report their direct or indirect financial interest in, or signature authority (or other authority that is comparable to signature authority) over, a financial account that is maintained with a financial institution located in a foreign country if, for any calendar year, the aggregate value of all foreign financial accounts exceeded $10,000 at any time during the year. 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.
FATCA Form 8938
Beginning with the 2011 tax year, a penalty for failing to file Form 8938 reporting the taxpayer’s interest in certain foreign financial assets, including financial accounts, certain foreign securities, and interests in foreign entities, as required by IRC § 6038D. 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
Annual Return to Report Transactions With Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts. Taxpayers must also report various transactions involving foreign trusts, including creation of a foreign trust by a United States person, transfers of property from a United States person to a foreign trust and receipt of distributions from foreign trusts under IRC § 6048. This return also reports the receipt of gifts from foreign entities under IRC § 6039F. 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
Information Return of Foreign Trust With a U.S. Owner. Taxpayers must also report ownership interests in foreign trusts, by United States persons with various interests in and powers over those trusts under IRC § 6048(b). 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
Information Return of U.S. Persons with Respect to Certain Foreign Corporations. Certain United States persons who are officers, directors or shareholders in certain foreign corporations (including International Business Corporations) are required to report information under IRC §§ 6035, 6038 and 6046. 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 5472
Information Return of a 25% Foreign-Owned U.S. Corporation or a Foreign Corporation Engaged in a U.S. Trade or Business. Taxpayers may be required to report transactions between a 25 percent foreign-owned domestic corporation or a foreign corporation engaged in a trade or business in the United States and a related party as required by IRC §§ 6038A and 6038C. 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
Return by a U.S. Transferor of Property to a Foreign Corporation. Taxpayers are required to report transfers of property to foreign corporations and other information under IRC § 6038B. 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
Return of U.S. Persons With Respect to Certain Foreign Partnerships. United States persons with certain interests in foreign partnerships use this form to report interests in and transactions of the foreign partnerships, transfers of property to the foreign partnerships, and acquisitions, dispositions and changes in foreign partnership interests under IRC §§ 6038, 6038B, and 6046A. 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.