On August 24th, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) issued a guidance that requires private banks, credit unions and trust companies to identify the beneficial owners of legal entities and the people who control these entities. The step is taken to track down people who are hiding company ownership to avoid taxes and other government rules.
As the readers may recall, the rules announced in May 2016 covered federally regulated banks.
It is believed that the FinCen will also soon announce that certain other banks and financial institutions will also be covered under these rules. Banks authorized by law in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide banking and other services to nonresident aliens can also be included.
The IRS said this list isn’t exclusive and could be expanded at some point.
In one feature likely to attract attention, FinCEN didn’t propose changing the ownership percentage that triggers reporting from the 25% required in the final rule in May.
Some called for the agency to lower it, asserting that 25% was too high and wouldn’t catch numerous taxpayers trying to hide from the IRS. Others said it was too low and would create big hassles for banks.
FinCEN said it considered increasing the ownership percentage to 50%, but finally concluded that 25% is “appropriate to maximize the benefits of the requirement while minimizing the burden.”
The beneficial ownership rules would require banks to enhance customer identification programs and anti-money laundering initiatives.
Tax professional community including CPA Global Tax & Accounting encountered issues in recent times regarding the filing of tax returns and receiving refunds for foreign students, grantees, researchers and similar foreign persons working temporarily in United States. In recent years number of tax returns filed by these taxpayers, whose US source income and tax withholding were reported on 1042-S, were either regularly audited or their refunds were delayed beyond a reasonable period of time. This was creating an undue hardship to such taxpayers. After several representations, IRS was convinced that in most cases there were no fraudulent or questionable claims and provided a reassurance that such refunds are being issued as soon as possible while IRS is working on redesigning the process in the interim.
Here is the news release issued by IRS today (2016-23):
“In response to concerns about the difficulties that some foreign students are experiencing in obtaining refunds of withholding tax reported on Form 1042-S, Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding, the IRS just completed a comprehensive review of the program. As a result, the IRS is taking steps to help foreign students at United States colleges and universities and other foreign taxpayers affected by this situation, including adjusting withholding and issuing refunds as appropriate.
No additional action is needed at this time by foreign students and other foreign taxpayers who filed Form 1040NR to request a refund of tax withheld on Form 1042-S.
The IRS review found several areas that are resulting in a significant number of “false positives” in our processing systems – meaning tax returns are being selected for review and validation for issues that present minimal risk of fraudulent or erroneous refunds. While some degree of false positives is inevitable in any compliance program aimed at detecting fraud and protecting revenue, our review indicated we are not achieving the proper balance in this area. Although we initially thought the issues were caused by tax software, upon a closer review these problems were minimal and easily corrected.
Steps the IRS is taking
We are taking several actions to resolve the accounts of those taxpayers who were affected by our existing verification process and to adjust the process going forward to help avoid further issues. We are working as quickly as possible to identify all the taxpayers whose refunds are being held as a result of this process. As they are identified, we will release the hold and issue the refunds (with interest, in instances where we have exceeded the 180 calendar day period for processing these refunds).
Taxpayers whose withholding credits were denied will have their withholding restored, eliminating any balance due and thus stopping the notices of levy. Also, we will not be holding any additional refunds until we have redesigned the process in place for detecting fraudulent or questionable returns and refunds. “)
NASA recently announced that your name can be put on the planet Mars. This is incredibly great news for the people with good fortunes who are thrilled by the opportunity to gain their foothold in the universe and enhance their fame. However, in another space mission, scientists are attempting to find out if any life exists in other planets.
Think about it. If they indeed were able to find the life on Mars and if the inhabitants there happen to be much more advanced than the humans on earth, they are likely to have a tax law that can tax such inbound activities. Beware and think before you make that tempting decision.
Putting your name on a planet may have its other side. If “cross planet” law applies and absence a tax treaty (we are not aware about any as of today), just by putting your name can create economic “nexus” and a Permanent Establishment in Mars. If BEPS – Base Erosion and Profit Shifting – laws are much more advanced than our planet earth, you may receive a tax bill from Martian tax authority as soon as your name appears there.
Not enough information is available at this stage if IRS has signed any information exchange pact under FATCA with Mars or whether the tax agencies around the globe are secretly using the “trick” to disclose your name to Martian government!
It will certainly be to your advantage to consult a “cross planet” tax advisor who can keep you out of any trouble. Watch out and do not fall in the trap – think before you leap!!
Recently in Rogers case, the DC court affirmed the Tax Court’s decision that a flight attendant who performed some duties in and over the U.S. and international waters could not exclude all of her wages under IRC 911 as foreign earned income.
The taxpayer worked as an international flight attendant based in Hong Kong. She performed in-flight duties and some pre-departure and post-arrival work and was generally paid according to her flight time. She received vacation time and benefits, and could receive guarantee pay for work that she would have performed on flights that were canceled. When she received guarantee pay, she was required to remain in Hong Kong awaiting reassignment to another flight. The airline provided the taxpayer with an apportionment of her estimated duty time between minutes spent in or over foreign countries, in or over the U.S., and over international waters. The taxpayer and her husband filed a joint return and excluded all of the taxpayer’s earnings as foreign earned income under IRC 911.
IRS and later Tax Court disallowed the foreign earned income exclusion for the portion of income allocated to her time within U.S. and allowed exclusion only for the flight time that the taxpayer was outside the U.S.
Foreign earned income exclusion is claimed on Form 2555 and the taxpayer must meet either bona fide residence test or physical presence test. There are several exceptions and rules as well as planning opportunities. CPA Global Tax professionals can help you navigate this.
IRS today announced that it posted the revised FATCA regulations in the Federal register for publication.
This contains the regulations coordinating chapters 3, 4, 61, and Section 3406 of the Internal Revenue Code as well as the revised final FATCA regulations.
IRS also posted on its website the revised certain FATCA Forms. These Forms were in draft form until now:
- Form 1042
- Form 8966
- Form W-8BEN
- Instructions to Form W-8BEN
- Form W-8ECI
- Instructions to Form W-8ECI
It is important to note that the foreign entity receiving the US source FDAP income should file Form W-8BEN-E and is not eligible to file W-8BEN.
Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) and the Ministry of Finance (MoF), jointly announced their intent to pursue an intergovernmental agreement to facilitate the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) – RIA News.
Taiwan has created an interagency task force, including the FSC, the MoF, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Economic Affairs to study compliance options under FATCA. Previous consultations between the U.S. Treasury and Taiwan were focused on reducing compliance costs associated with FATCA. In addition, efforts have been dedicated to assisting local financial institutions to comply with all the domestic legal requirements and to protecting the depositors as well as the investors.
“The Taiwan authorities are supportive of the underlying goals of FATCA, and are interested in exploring a framework for mutual cooperation to facilitate the implementation of FATCA,” the statement said.
“Both sides affirm their willingness to continue their consultations and actively seek to finalize the signing of an agreement.