In Reifler, TC Memo 2015-199TC Memo 2015-199, the Tax Court recently held that a joint return not signed by the wife was not a valid return and, as a result, imposed the failure-to-file penalty. In so doing, it rejected the taxpayer’s arguments that the return was valid either because it substantially complied with the valid return rules or because the wife intended to file a joint return and tacitly consented to the filing of a joint return.
Signatures on a tax return not only verify that a return has indeed been filed by the person indicated on the front page of a Form 1040 but also certify that all the statements in the tax return are made under penalty of perjury and are true, correct, and complete to the best of the taxpayers’ knowledge. (See Page 2 of Form 1040)
Taxpayers are advised to review this case carefully as the mistake can be extremely costly particularly in cases where the foreign reporting Forms such as 8938 and 5471 are part of Form 1040. Late filing of such Forms attracts heavy penalties. Practitioners should also ensure that the e-file authorization forms are signed by both taxpayer and spouse in case of joint tax returns.
IRS yesterday released a draft version of Form W-8IMY, Certificate of Foreign Intermediary, Foreign Flow-Through Entity, or Certain U.S. Branches for United States Tax Withholding, to accommodate the FATCA provisions of the Code’s Chapter 4. Instructions to the draft, which would expand the form from two to eight pages, haven’t been released yet.
Generally effective for payments made after Dec. 31, 2012, the HIRE Act established rules for withholdable payments to foreign financial institutions (FFIs) and for withholdable payments to other foreign entities by adding new Chapter 4 to the Code (Code Sec. 1471 through Code Sec. 1474). The rules provide for withholding taxes to enforce new reporting requirements on specified foreign accounts owned by specified U.S. persons or by U.S.-owned foreign entities.
Under Code Sec. 1471(a), a withholding agent must withhold 30% of any withholdable payment to an FFI that does not meet the requirements of Code Sec. 1471(b). A withholdable payment is, subject to certain exceptions:
- Any payment of interest, dividends, rents, salaries, wages, premiums, annuities, compensations, remunerations, emoluments, and other fixed or determinable annual or periodical gains, profits, and income (FDAP income), if such payment is from sources within the US; and
- Any gross proceeds from the sale or other disposition of any property of a type which can produce interest or dividends from sources within the US (Code Sec. 1473(1))
An FFI satisfies Code Sec. 1471(b), if it either enters into an agreement (an FFI agreement) with IRS to perform certain obligations or meets requirements prescribed by IRS to be deemed to comply with Code Sec. 1471(b).
Switzerland and Japan are the latest additions to the list of countries that agreed to cooperate with US Treasury.
Treasury said on June 21, that the U.S. had signed separate joint statements with Japan and Switzerland to intensify cooperation in combatting international tax evasion by removing legal impediments to compliance with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). The approach taken under the joint statements with Japan and Switzerland permits foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to report information directly to the IRS, which is different from an earlier approach that called for FFIs to report information directly to their governments that would ultimately be shared with the U.S. on an automatic exchange of information basis.
The announcement expands the list of countries already cooperating with Treasury to implement FATCA. Treasury said in February it was negotiating with France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. (the so-called G5) to establish government-to-government information sharing arrangements. (See International Taxes Weekly, 02/14/2012). In April, Treasury also announced that Ireland had entered into discussions with Treasury regarding an intergovernmental approach to implementing FATCA.
Treasury’s joint statement with France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. envisages a two-step approach whereby FFIs report FATCA-required information to their own governments and then the governments exchange the information with the U.S. on an automatic basis.
Treasury’s separate joint statements with Japan and Switzerland contemplates the mutual intent to pursue a second model framework for intergovernmental cooperation, a senior Treasury official said. Under the second model for inter-governmental cooperation, FFIs would report information directly to the IRS to the extent permitted under the FFI’s domestic laws. Where consent is necessary and not granted by the account holder, the governments would then be able to obtain such information pursuant to a treaty request.
Last week IRS updated the FAQs on its website regarding reporting on Form 8938 and added few more questions. Few noteworthy clarifications are:
- Tangible assets held for investment (e.g., art, antiques, jewelry, and cars) do not have to be reported.
- Safe deposit box is not a financial account.
- The omission of Form 8938 with the original return requires an amended return to be filed with the form attached.
- Filing of Form 8938 does not remove the requirement to file Form TD F 90-22.1 (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts), if otherwise required.
- Directly held precious metals, such as gold, are not specified foreign financial assets. Note, however, that gold certificates issued by a foreign person may be a specified foreign financial asset that you would have to report on Form 8938, if the total value of all your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the applicable reporting threshold.
The IRS is aggressively using intelligence gathered from the agency’s Offshore Voluntary Compliance Program to study the movement of undisclosed funds abroad and to deter tax avoidance, an IRS official said February 18.
“When [taxpayers] come in and tell us about their offshore account in one bank in one country, they may tell us about another account in another bank in another country and about the bankers they used,” said Rebecca Sparkman, Acting Executive Director Investigations and Enforcement Operations Division of the IRS at the American Bar Association Section of Taxation meeting in San Diego. “As you can imagine we start looking at all that intelligence and it points the way for the next criminal investigation.”
Although her comments had undertones of the recent indictment of Wegelin & Co., Switzerland’s oldest private bank, she declined to speak directly on any specific matter. The bank has been charged with aiding tax offenders move their undisclosed accounts from UBS.
“We want to assure you that we are reviewing all the information that comes in from your clients to match up [and provide direction on] where we should look next,” she said.
She cautioned practitioners to be fully truthful when bringing their clients into compliance.
“Please be fully, fully truthful,” she told the audience. “Because there may be those folks that are tempted to only disclose that account in that one bank that they think we know about in that one country because they think we don’t know about [an account] somewhere else. But guess what? They come in, they come through the whole program, we get their name on a list for some other bank, some other country, all bets are off! Now they are facing criminal investigation because they were not fully truthful.”
Sparkman stressed that the time to come forward with all offshore account information is at the time a voluntary disclosure is made, not subsequently.
“When you walk in the door, that is the time to be fully truthful,” she said. “Don’t be hiding anything else.”
The Treasury Department, in a joint statement with five European countries, said on Feb. 8 that the nations intend to pursue a government-to-government framework for implementing the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
Treasury sees this as a key step “toward addressing legal impediments” faced by financial institutions in complying with proposed FATCA regulations that were published on Feb. 8. “The statement does not contemplate an exemption from FATCA for any jurisdiction, but instead offers a framework for information sharing pursuant to existing bilateral income tax treaties and allows FFIs [Foreign Financial Institutions] to report the necessary information to their respective governments rather than to the IRS,” Treasury said. The countries that joined in the statement were France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. In the joint statement, the U.S. acknowledged that the policy objective of FATCA centers on enhanced reporting rather than collecting withheld tax.
The U.S. also affirmed its willingness to reciprocate in the collection and exchange of information on accounts held in U.S. financial institutions by residents of the five European countries. In addition, the joint statement cited the need to keep compliance costs as low as possible and the desirability of achieving common reporting and due diligence standards. Based on these considerations, the countries “have agreed to explore a common approach to FATCA implementation through domestic reporting and reciprocal automatic exchange and based on existing bilateral tax treaties,” the joint statement said. The document also offers a possible framework for an intergovernmental approach that provides a valuable insight into Treasury’s thinking on the subject.