Monthly Archives: August 2021

IRS Cautions Taxpayers About Fake Charities and Scammers Targeting Immigrants

By Coleman Jackson, Attorney & Counselor and CPA
August 01, 2021

IRS Cautions Taxpayers About Fake Charities and Scammers Targeting Immigrants
The IRS continues to observe criminals using a variety of scams that target honest taxpayers. In some cases, these scams will trick taxpayers into doing something illegal or that ultimately causes them financial harm. In this blog we will discuss about Fake Charities and Immigrant Fraud which are part of the “Dirty Dozen” of tax scams list in 2021.


Fake charities

Fake charities

Taxpayers should be on the lookout for scammers who set up fake organizations to take advantage of the public’s generosity. Scammers take advantage of tragedies and disasters.

Scams requesting donations for disaster relief efforts are especially common over the phone. Taxpayers should always check out a charity before they donate, and they should not feel pressured to give immediately.

Taxpayers who give money or goods to a charity may be able to claim a deduction on their federal tax return by reducing the amount of their taxable income. However, to receive a deduction, taxpayers must donate to a qualified charity. To check the status of a charity, they can use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool. It’s also important for taxpayers to remember that they can’t deduct gifts to individuals or to political organizations and candidates.

Here are some tips to help taxpayer avoid fake charity scams:

  • Individuals should never let any caller pressure them. A legitimate charity will be happy to get a donation at any time, so there’s no rush. Donors are encouraged to take time to do their own research.
  • Confirm the charity is real. Potential donors should ask the fundraiser for the charity’s exact name, website and mailing address, so they can confirm it later. Some dishonest telemarketers use names that sound like well-known charities to confuse people.
  • Be careful about how a donation is made. Taxpayers shouldn’t work with charities that ask for donations by giving numbers from a gift card or by wiring money. That’s a scam. It’s safest to pay by credit card or check – and only after researching the charity.


Immigrant fraud

Immigrant fraud

IRS impersonators and other scammers often use threats and intimidation to target groups with limited English proficiency.

The IRS phone impersonation scam remains a common scam. This is where a taxpayer receives a phone call threatening jail time, deportation or revocation of a driver’s license from someone claiming to be with the IRS. Recent immigrants often are the most vulnerable. People need to ignore these threats and not engage the scammers.

A taxpayer’s first contact with the IRS will usually be through mail, not over the phone. Legitimate IRS employees will not threaten to revoke licenses or have a person deported. These are scare tactics.

 

This law blog is written by the Taxation | Litigation | Immigration Law Firm of Coleman Jackson, P.C. for educational purposes; it does not create an attorney-client relationship between this law firm and its reader.  You should consult with legal counsel in your geographical area with respect to any legal issues impacting you, your family or business.

Coleman Jackson, P.C. | Taxation, Litigation, Immigration Law Firm | English (214) 599-0431 | Spanish (214) 599-0432 | Portuguese (214) 272-3100

Reporting Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts | LEGAL THOUGHTS

Coleman Jackson, P.C. | Transcript of Legal Thoughts Podcast
Published June 14 ,2021

FBAR - Reporting Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts

LISTEN:

Legal Thoughts is a podcast presentation by Coleman Jackson, P.C., a law firm based in Dallas, Texas serving individuals, businesses, and agencies from around the world in taxation, litigation and immigration legal matters.

This particular episode of Legal Thoughts is a podcast where the Attorney, Coleman Jackson is being interviewed by Mayra Torres, Public Relations Associate of Coleman Jackson, P.C.   The topic of discussion is “Reporting Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts“. You can listen to this podcast by clicking here:

You can also listen to this episode and subscribe to Coleman Jackson, P.C.’s Legal Thoughts podcast on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, Cashbox or wherever you may listen to your podcast.

TRANSCRIPT:

ATTORNEY:  Coleman Jackson
Legal Thoughts
COLEMAN JACKSON, ATTORNEY & COUNSELOR AT LAW

ATTORNEY:  Coleman Jackson

Welcome to Tax Thoughts

  • My name is Coleman Jackson, and I am an attorney at Coleman Jackson, P.C., a taxation, government contracts litigation and immigration law firm based in Dallas, Texas.
  • Our topic for today is: “Reporting Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts”.
  • Other members of Coleman Jackson, P.C. are Yulissa Molina, Tax Legal Assistant, Leiliane Godeiro, Litigation Legal Assistant, Reyna Munoz, Immigration Legal Assistant and Mayra Torres, Public Relations Associate.
  • On this “Legal Thoughts” podcast our public relations associate, Mayra Torres will be asking the questions and I will be responding to her questions on this important tax topic: “Reporting Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts.”

Interviewer:  Mayra Torres, Public Relations Associate

  • Good afternoon everyone. My name is Mayra Torres, and I am the public relations associate at Coleman Jackson, P.C.  Coleman Jackson, P.C. is a law firm based right here in Dallas Texas representing clients from around the world in taxation, litigation, and immigration law.
  • Attorney, thank you for joining us today to discuss the laws that require certain individuals, businesses and other entities to timely report Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. A very important topic anyone with foreign bank accounts and other assets abroad.
  • Question 1:
  • Could you give us a general overview of the legal source of these legal rules obligating certain individuals to disclose their foreign bank, financial accounts, and other offshore asset holdings. I mean what law requires this; who does it apply to and what are the penalties for failing to comply?  These are all questions everyone with foreign assets probably needs the answer to.  So, Attorney could you explain this in terms easy to understand?

Attorney Answers Question 1:

  • Good afternoon Mayra. Yes, I can give a general overview as to what laws impose these requirements foreign bank accounts disclosures, why Congress say they enacted these statutes, who these disclosure rules apply to and what penalties are imposed on those who fail to timely disclose their foreign holdings.
  • Answer No. 1:
  • The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) was enacted into law in 1970. The Bank Secrecy Act is codified in 31 USC Sections 5311 et seq.  The law authorizes the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) to administer and enforce the law.  The BSA gives FinCen authority to collect information from a U.S. person who have financial interests in or signatory   authority over foreign bank and financial accounts.   The BSA also gives FinCen numerous powers to enforce the law as it relates to financial institutions as well; but that is beyond the scope of this particular podcast.  I am only going to talk about the application of the law to certain U.S. persons as defined in the BSA.
  • The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), which is FinCen Form 114 required to be filed by April 15th annually to report certain foreign bank and financial holdings by U.S. persons. A timely FBAR is required because foreign financial institutions may not be subject to the same reporting requirements as domestic financial institutions. The FBAR is also a tool used by the United States government to identify persons who may be using foreign financial accounts to circumvent United States law. Information contained in FBARs can be used to identify or trace funds used for illicit purposes or to identify unreported income maintained or generated abroad.  So, this explains what Congress is getting at in terms of certain U.S. persons.  The law is designed to detect tax fraud, money laundering, and other nefarious financial criminal activity.
  • In April 2003, the Financial Crimes and Enforcement Network (FinCEN) delegated enforcement authority regarding the FBAR to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS is now responsible for:
  • Investigating possible civil violations;
  • Assessing and collecting civil penalties; and
  • Issuing administrative rulings.
  • But let’s it be clear, Form 114, the annual FBAR filed with FinCen not the Internal Revenue Service. The April 2003 delegation of enforcement authority to the IRS had absolutely no impact on who must file an FBAR (Form 114), or where the Form 114 must be filed or when the FBAR is required to be filed.  FBAR disclosure are filed on FinCen’s website.

Interviewer:  Mayra Torres, Public Relations Associate

Question 2:

Attorney it is abundantly clear why disclosing foreign bank accounts and other offshore assets and financial holdings annually in an FBAR is so important.

Please explain in more detail exactly who is required to file the FBAR?

Attorney Answers Question 2:

  • Under the Bank Secrecy Act, a United States person must file an FBAR under certain conditions that I will explain in a minute. U.S. person is defined in the BSA as: a citizen of the United States, a resident of the U.S.,  Business structured under the laws of any state or territory of the United States; such as, a corporation, partnership, limited liability company, trust and estate.  A U.S. person must file an FBAR with the Financial Crimes Network on FinCen Form 114 to report:
  • a financial interest in or signatory or other authority over one or more financial accounts located outside the United States if
  • the aggregate value of those foreign financial accounts exceeded $10,000 at any time during the calendar year reported.
  • Generally, an account at a financial institution located outside the United States is a foreign financial account. Whether the account produced taxable income has no effect on whether the account is a “foreign financial account” for FBAR purposes. But you don’t need to report foreign financial accounts that are:
  • Correspondent/Nostro accounts,
  • Owned by a governmental entity,
  • Owned by an international financial institution,
  • Maintained on a United States military banking facility,
  • Held in an individual retirement account (IRA) you own or are beneficiary of,
  • Held in a retirement plan of which you’re a participant or beneficiary, or
  • Part of a trust of which you’re a beneficiary, if a U.S. person (trust, trustee of the trust or agent of the trust) files an FBAR reporting these accounts.
  • You don’t need to file an FBAR for the calendar year if:
  • None of your foreign financial accounts, either singularly or combined exceeded $10,000 at any time during the calendar year reported.
  • All your foreign financial accounts are reported on a timely filed consolidated FBAR.
  • All your foreign financial accounts are jointly-owned with your spouse and your spouse and you authorized your spouse to file the jointly held accounts on a timely filed Form 114 by executing Form 114a.  If you own separate foreign accounts, you must file a timely Form 114.

Interviewer:  Mayra Torres, Public Relations Associate

  • I see, so if a taxpayer has foreign financial accounts and the aggregate maximum value exceed $10,000 at any time during the calendar year then they must file Form 114 with the Financial Crimes Network.
  • Question 3:
  • Attorney, what is the due date for filing Form 114 with the Financial Crimes Network to report foreign bank account holdings?

Attorney Answers Question 3:

  • Mayra, that is an excellent question because there are potential grave civil fines and potential criminal consequences for U.S. persons who fail to timely file Form 114 with the Financial Crimes Network. The FBAR is an annual report filed on FinCen Form 114.  The FBAR is due April 15th following the calendar year reported.
  • Taxpayers are allowed an automatic extension to October 15th if they fail to meet the FBAR annual due date of April 15th. You don’t need to request an extension to file the FBAR by October 15th. The October 15th  extension is automatic.
  • If you are affected by a natural disaster, the government may further extend your FBAR due date. It’s important that you review relevant for complete information.
  • If a filer does not have all the available information to file the return by the automatic extension date of October 15th, the filer should file as complete a return as possible and amend the report when additional or new information becomes available.

Interviewer:  Mayra Torres, Public Relations Associate

Question 4:

Attorney, what could happen to a taxpayer who fails to file their required FBAR by the extended filing deadline of October 15th?

Attorney Answers Question 4:

  • If a required FBAR is not filed by the appropriate date the U.S. Person in violation of the Bank Secrecy Act may be subject to civil monetary penalties and/or criminal penalties, or both, for FBAR reporting and/or recordkeeping violations. The exact penalty imposed will depend on all the facts and circumstances of each case. The current maximum penalties for failing to file required FBARs or delinquent FBARs are as follows:
  • For Non-Willful Violations: U.S. persons who inadvertently violate the law are subject to civil penalties up to a maximum of $12,921 for each negligent violation. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that 31 U.S.C. Section 5341 permits the IRS to impose only one non-willful penalty when an untimely FBAR is filed, no matter the number of foreign bank accounts are held by the taxpayer; but this issue is not settled in all the Circuits.  I don’t think the 5th Circuit Court; which is the Circuit Court of Appeals with federal court jurisdiction over Texas; have not as far as I know addressed this issue as to whether the delinquent FBAR penalty can be imposed based on the number of unreported accounts or whether it is to be imposed on each untimely Form 114.  Taxpayer’s need to understand that the IRS takes a very aggressive posture when imposing the penalties authorized under the Bank Secrecy Act.  I am merely warning U.S. persons with unreported foreign accounts.  The penalties for violations of the Bank Secrecy Act are very severe and are aggressively pursued by the IRS.  The courts tend to decide matters regarding whether the taxpayer acted non-willfully or willfully in kind of mechanical manner; in the sense that, the annual tax return specifically asks the question as to whether the taxpayer owns, has signatory authority over or control foreign accounts.  That question on the Form 1040 tax return must be answered yes or no.  The Form 1040 tax return instructions cautions the taxpayer to consult the form’s instructions before answering the question.  With that said, let’s talk about penalties for willful violations of the Bank Secrecy Act because proving that a taxpayer’s actions were inadvertent or non-willful can be challenging.
  • For Willful Violations: U.S. persons who fail to file Form 114 or fail to retain records of the foreign accounts willfully may be subject to  civil penalties of up to the greater of $129,210, or 50% of the amount in the account at the time of the violation.
  • For a Negligent Violation by Financial Institutions or Non-financial Business or Trade: These types businesses who negligently violate the Bank Security Act’s FBAR requirements may be subject to a negligence civil penalty up to $1,118.  This penalty does not apply to individuals who violates the BSA.
  • For a Pattern of Negligent Activity by a Financial Institution or Non-financial Trade or Business: These types of businesses who engages in a patter of negligent violations of the FBAR rules may be subject to civil penalty for Negligent Violation of $1,078 with respect to any such violation, not more than $86,976. These pattern of negligent activity penalties does not apply to individuals; they apply to businesses.
  • These penalties will be applied if an FBAR is filed late or not at all. If the taxpayer has not been contacted by the IRS about the late FBAR and are not under investigation by the IRS, they may file a late FBAR. To keep penalties to a minimum, this should be done as soon as possible.
  • When filing a late FBAR, it gives the option to provide further explanation of the late filing or indicate whether the filing is made in conjunction with an IRS compliance program. If the foreign financial account is properly reported the late-filed FBAR, and the IRS determines that the FBAR violation was due to reasonable cause, no penalty will be imposed.
  • Taxpayers can be audited by the IRS. Taxpayer’s can file Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative to authorize a lawyer or other professional to represent them in delinquent FBAR matters and IRS investigations regarding foreign bank accounts and foreign assets and unreported earnings.  Sometimes the IRS discover FBAR issues during routine audit examinations of the taxpayer’s tax returns.  Sometimes delinquent FBARs are discovered during BSA/ Anti-money laundering examinations, counter-terrorist investigations and during informal and formal financial crimes enforcement actions by the Financial Crimes Network and the Office of Foreign Assets Control.  Further, banks must also make regular Suspicious Activity Reports under the Bank Secrecy Act.   So as you can see there are a lot federal agencies involved with enforcement of the Bank Secrecy Act and there are numerous ways the United States government can learn about taxpayer’s foreign accounts.  There are potentially substantial civil penalties that could be assessed against non-compliant taxpayers with unreported foreign accounts and even potentially criminal exposure for FBAR violators.

Interviewer:  Mayra Torres, Public Relations Associate

  • Wow, Attorney, hearing about all those penalties; it is obvious that the IRS and other law enforcement agencies of the U.S. government has a lot of power to enforce these rules against people who don’t follow the Bank Secrecy Act exactly right! The government doesn’t take this matter lightly. It is very important for FBARs to be filed accurately and by the appropriate due date.
  • Question No. 5
  • So Attorney, explain how and where does a taxpayer file an FBAR?

Attorney Answers Question 5:

  • An FBAR must be filed electronically through the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (FinCen) BSA E-Filling System . You access FinCen’s BSA E-Filing Web Portal by going to fincen.treas.gov.
  • I mentioned this fact once before during this presentation; but let me say it again; FBARs are not filed with the taxpayer’s annual tax return. Form 114 is used to file FBARs.  Form 114 is not a tax form.
  • If the taxpayer desires to file Form 114 in paper format, the taxpayer must call FinCEN’s Regulatory Helpline at 800-949-2732 to request an exemption from e-filing. If FinCEN approves the request, FinCEN will send the paper FBAR form to complete and mail to the IRS at the address in the form’s instructions. FinCen will not accept paper-filings on TD F 90-22.1, which is obsolete and was replaced by Form 114 several years ago now) or a printed FinCEN Form 114, which is currently used for e-filing only.
  • If the taxpayer would prefer to have someone else file their FBAR on their behalf, they must sign a Record of Authorization to Electronically File FBARs, to authorize that individual or law firm to electronically file Form 114 on their behalf. FinCEN Report 114a; which I mentioned a while back in this discussion when I was talking about joint-holders of foreign accounts, are not filed with FinCen. Form 114a is for recordkeeping purposes only.  The joint-account holders must present this form for examination in the event FinCEN or IRS ask for it.
  • I would like to note that the law requires that these records be kept for five years from the due date of the FBAR.
  • Records must be kept for each foreign account that are required to be included on Form 114. The records must establish the name on the account, the account number, name and address of the foreign bank, type of account, and maximum value during the year. The Bank Secrecy Act does not precisely mandate the type of document that must be kept by the taxpayer.  It could possibly be bank statements or a copy of the filed FBAR.  Whatever document the taxpayer use to substantiate this required information, must be kept for five years after the due date of the FBAR.
  • In the case of an officer or employee who files an FBAR to report signatory authority over their employer’s foreign financial accounts; the employee is not required to personally keep records on these accounts. But their employer must keep the required records for these foreign accounts.

Mayra Torres’s Concluding Remarks:

  • Attorney thank you very much for this very comprehensive and informative presentation on the topic:  “Reporting Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts.”
  • Our listeners who want to hear more podcast like this one should subscribe to our Legal Thoughts Podcast on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify or wherever they listen to their podcast. You can follow our blogs by going to our law firm’s website at cjacksonlaw.com.  Everybody take care for now!  Come back in about two weeks, for more taxation, government contract litigation and immigration Legal Thoughts from Coleman Jackson, P.C., which is located right here in Dallas, Texas at 6060 North Central Expressway, Suite 620, Dallas, Texas 75206.
  • English callers: 214-599-0431; Spanish callers:  214-599-0432 and Portuguese callers:  214-272-3100.

Attorney’s Concluding Remarks:

THIS IS THE END OF “LEGAL THOUGHTS” FOR NOW

  • Thanks for giving us the opportunity to inform you about the “Reporting Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts”.
  • If you want to see or hear more taxation, government contracts litigation and immigration LEGAL THOUGHTS from Coleman Jackson, P.C. Stay tune!  Watch for a new Legal Thoughts podcast in about two weeks and check our law firm’s website at www. cjacksonlaw.com to follow our blogs.  We are here in Dallas, Texas and want to inform, educate and encourage our communities on topics dealing with taxation, litigation and immigration.  Until next time, take care.