On June 1, 2017, U.S. Ambassador Margaret Ann Uyehara and Montenegrin Finance Minister Darko Radunovic signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to combat offshore tax evasion by implementing the provisions of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Banks from Montenegro will be able to share information about financial accounts of U.S. citizens with the IRS.
The IRS remains committed to stopping the use of offshore accounts to hide money or assets, and has kept the act on its 2017 "Dirty Dozen" list of tax scams. "Offshore compliance remains a top IRS priority," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "The IRS receives more foreign account information each year, making it harder to hide income offshore."
Seven years, 100,000 taxpayers and over $10 billion in taxes, interest, and penalties paid, and the IRS' offshore voluntary compliance efforts are still going strong.
Former intelligence agent Werner Mauss is the latest celebrity under scrutiny for allegedly evading taxes from profits on offshore accounts. Mr. Mauss says the accounts were opened by intelligence agencies to fund covert operations worldwide, including averting a mafia poisoning attempt against a Pope, and operations involving hostage releases. Mr. Mauss is a mystery. He has several aliases and is a self-proclaimed master spy. He is believed to have worked extensively under cover for Germany's BND intelligence service as well as for other governments. Mr. Mauss' lawyers identify the client confidences Mr. Mauss must maintain and other problems with standard litigation given the secret nature of Mr. Mauss' work and identity. For more information, click here.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may begin ramping up its investigation of offshore account compliance soon, based on recommendations from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). TIGTA recently released its final report on the IRS' offshore voluntary disclosure programs (OVDPs) after analyzing a stratified random sample of 100 taxpayers from a population of 3,182 requests to participate in the OVDP that were ultimately denied or withdrawn. Twenty-nine of these should likely have been subject to FBAR penalties, but the IRS did not pursue compliance actions. TIGTA projected a potential $21.6 million in delinquent FBAR penalties that the IRS could have assessed and collected.
The US Department of Justice recently determined that the Singapore affiliate of UBS (UBS AG) "has complied with an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) summons for bank records" related to a taxpayer whose liabilities are at issue. The international financial institution refused to produce the records when first served the summons. After a petition was filed to enforce the summons formally, UBS and the IRS resolved the matter amicably and the petition was voluntarily dismissed.
The Panama Papers leak has led President Obama to urge Congress to take action now against corruption and illegal financial activity. This recent, large-scale information leak has made it impossible for the government to ignore the less positive aspect of shell companies, which in theory protect the market from speculative price gouging when companies prepare to make big moves on the market, but which also have been used to hide the illegal activities of less honest beneficiaries.
If you have offshore assets that are not yet properly disclosed, you should consider contacting an attorney immediately for assistance, before a civil or criminal investigation begins. On April 3, 2016, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), with the help of German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, revealed approximately 11.5 million documents on 214,000 shell companies that operated between the 1970s and 2016, causing extreme embarrassment and panic for many of the world's leading figures. Although shell companies are not illegal to own, using them to avoid paying your taxes is.
A record number of US taxpayers are coming into compliance with their foreign filing requirements, with 1,163,229 Forms 114 (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, or FBAR) filed for 2015---an 8 percent increase from 2014. FBAR filings have increased at an average rate of 17 percent per year for the last five years.
Paying U.S. taxes while overseas doesn't have to be difficult with this year's improved IRS.gov help guides. In addition to the standard International Taxpayer page, U.S. citizens and other international taxpayers living outside the U.S. can now watch videos to learn about the following topics: