Category Archives: FBAR

What do you Think of the Penalties in These Three Cases of Unreported FBARs ?

Ty Warner

Ty Warner
Ty Warner, founder/owner of the Beanie Babies line, was sentenced in July 2015 for tax evasion.The panel of three U.S. District Court judges gave him 2 years of probation and 500 hours of community service. The sentencing guidelines ranged from 46 months up to a maximum of 57 months. He agreed to pay back taxes and interest of $16 million as well as a $53.5 million penalty (the full FBAR penalty of 50% of the balance of the highest account-$107,000,000). According to Melissa Harris (author of this article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune, July 15, 2015) Warner’s sentence was “a punishment that reduces evading millions in taxes to a speeding ticket,” and that the sentence “flies in the face of both reason and justice”.

Warner had an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion, and was the 209th richest American.   According to Janet Novak of Forbes:

He admitted that around Jan. 31, 1996, he flew to Zurich and deposited about $80 million at UBS AG, instructing that no account statements be sent to him in the U.S., and that he kept the account secret until November 2007. During that period he failed to report at least $24.4 million in interest income on the account to the Internal Revenue Service, evading at least $5.6 million in taxes. He also failed to file with the Treasury the required annual “FBAR” report on his foreign accounts

What beggars belief is that Mr. Warner never provided any explanation for:

  • why he opened the account
  • the origin of the funds
  • audits of his books & records show the funds did not come from his company
  • his personal domestic accounts showed no signs of the origin of the funds

In fact the evidence suggested that the funds may have been pre-tax payments of some sort. To this day, the extent of his willful tax evasion is in reality, unknown.

So why did Mr. Warner get off so lightly? Was it because his lawyer Mark Matthews used the Olenicoff Defense?
Was it because his creation, the Beanie Babies line of stuffed toys, was just too cute for anyone to believe he was guilty of such evasion?

Peter Henning a Wayne State University Law School Professor and co-author of ‘Securities Crimes ”said in an interview, “I don’t want to say anything goes,….Clearly you can’t consider race or wealth. But you are looking at character. That is something judges can take into account. The question is how much should it weigh into the decision?”

This is where Mr. Warner hit the jackpot. He received 70 letters of support from friends, employees and recipients of his charity, actions which had nothing to do with the charges and only someone with money could do.

U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras (of the panel) based his sentence on:

…..a reading of 70 letters, Kocoras found that “Mr. Warner’s private acts of kindness, generosity and benevolence” were “overwhelming,” with many occurring before he was under investigation and, in Kocoras’ words, motivated by “the purest of intentions.” Most were done “quietly and privately.” The judge concluded: “Never have I had a defendant in any case — white-collar crime or otherwise — demonstrate the level of humanity and concern for the welfare of others as has Mr. Warner.”

So a man guilty of many years of tax evasion, who did not even account for the origin of the account nor any records of it, received an incredibly light sentence based upon support from his family, friends and beneficiaries of his kindness. Where is the law here?
 

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Synopsis: Solving U.S. Citizenship Problem with John Richardson (London, Ontario)

Finally, I’m posting a synopsis of Solving the Problem of US Citizenship information session presented by John Richardson of citizenshipsolutions.ca that was held in London, Ontario on February 8, 2014.

I apologize for the delay. Other FATCA projects have consumed my life.

You can read the synopsis in the link, but here are a few highlights:

CITIZENSHIP:

John first gave an overview of US citizenship laws, tax laws, renunciation and relinquishment and many changes that have taken place over decades.

People have many differing circumstances and each one is unique. Because of the complexities, John stressed:

 “The bottom line is you have to check the law at the time the act took place.”

 For people born in Canada to one or more parent born in the U.S., John suggested they should not automatically assume they are US citizens or US persons. There are many different rules around that. In addition John questions whether the US can apply their laws on people born outside of U.S.  So, he recommended people explore that before making an assumption they must be a US citizen.

He said:

“I would never, never, never under any circumstances advise someone to simply swallow hook line and sinker, well my father was American, therefore I am American for a number of reasons.:

A Supreme Court decision from the 1960s dealt with the forcible destruction of US citizenship. John confirmed many in the room felt they were being forced to relinquish US citizenship.

John believes:

The forcible destruction of US citizenship is going to become THE argument on this issue.

 

John explained renunciation is one form of relinquishment, along with other expatriating acts like becoming a citizen of another country with the intent of relinquishing US citizenship, working for a foreign government and other actions.

For numerous reasons, John recommended people who are renouncing or relinquishing by other means should get a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN) through US Department of State by renouncing or reporting relinquishing at a US Consulate.

John reported there are various reasons to

“Deal with this sooner, rather than later.”

For many different reasons, John thinks:

“U.S. citizenship is probably the most dangerous, toxic citizenship in the world today.”

Lynne advised people who became naturalized Canadian citizens may be able to get information from their Canadian citizenship file by applying through Access to Information at (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/atip/form-imm5563.asp)

PERSONAL EFFECTS:

John recognized the toll these issues are taking on people.  He stressed:

“Your life, your health, your family is so, so much important than any of this stuff. If you focus on this in a way that jeopardizes the things that make life worthwhile, you’re going to let these people win–absolutely destroy your life.”

TAXES:

John said there are two types of US persons:

1. Those Who Are Compliant

2.  Those Who Are Not Compliant

No matter what, you’re going to have a problem.  “When we talk about U.S. taxes, we’re talking about much more than taxes. It’s a whole information reporting regime, which is a huge problem.”

He covered many of the issues relating to taxation, but said the most important message was:

“One thing you should absolutely not do is enter the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program” (OVDP).

CANADA REVENUE AGENCY, CANADIAN COURTS:

John explained that under the Canada-US Tax Treaty, CRA will not collect penalties for the IRS for Canadian citizens or residents. CRA also will not collect taxes for the IRS on a US citizen who also was a Canadian citizen at the time the tax liability arose.

Plus, under the Revenue Rule, Canadian courts will not issue a judgement for the IRS.

FATCA:

John thinks FATCA is a “gross abuse of power” by the United States.

“FATCA allows them to redefine any time they want what the information is and any person who is affected.”

 Lynne noted the proposed legislation to allow FATCA to be implemented will prevail over other federal laws, including banking, privacy and human rights laws.  Some individuals have contacted a constitutional lawyer about this and more information will be posted at Maple Sandbox (maplesandbox.ca and Isaac Brock Society (isaacbrocksociety.ca)

UPDATE: Money was raised and constitutional lawyer Joseph Arvay was retained on March 10 by Dr. Stephen Kish and Lynne Swanson to provide a legal opinion on a possible challenge to the FATCA IGA enabling legislation under the constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

US Senate Finance Committee Submission–Richardson, Yates and Kish

Here’s an excellent submission (Request for Tax Rule Changes) to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

This was written by Toronto lawyer John Richardson, University of Toronto professor Dr. Stephen Kish and (this is huge!) U.S. attorney Willard Yates.  Mr. Yates’ involvement is significant because he retired from Office of Associate Chief Counsel (International) (ACCI), Internal Revenue Service after 31 years of service.

The 32 page comprehensive submission deals with everything from problems of citizenship based taxation to the financial and psychological costs of renouncing US citizenship. Despite the complexity of issues covered, it is quite easy to understand for most of us who have been around this issue for a while (although newbies may very well find it overwhelming and frightening).

The report is also posted at citizenshipsolutions.ca, John Richardson’s Canadian website designed to counsel US citizens abroad who find themselves having to live in a FATCA and FBAR world.

Citizenship Based Taxation: Unique or Outrageous

If all countries adopted American citizenship and tax laws, US President Barack Obama, Senator Ted Cruz and Secretary of State would finally agree on one thing. Citizenship-Based Taxation and FATCA are “Outrageous.”

Citizenship-Based Taxation: Unique or Outrageous was published in Tax-News today. This is an international tax publication based in the UK. The article by Lynne Swanson (aka Blaze) was originally published as a Letter to the Editor in Tax News International two weeks ago, but is only available to subscribers there. Continue reading

Beanie Babies, Hyatt Heiress and IRS

Beanie Babies are now “US persons.”  Uncle Sam is mad at Beanie Babies.  Good old Sam has grabbed $53.6 million in FBAR penalties for $885,000 in taxes owed.

In IRS vs. Beanie Babies, Beanie Babies creator Ty Warner agreed to pay $53.6 million in restitution for his Swiss bank account of $94 million.

I do not support offshore tax evasion, but does this seem extreme to anyone else?  Maybe it’s just a drop in the bucket when your net worth is $2.6 billion, but Ty could still face prison time.

Here’s what the U.S. Attorney said:

“Regardless of wealth, everyone must pay taxes on all of their income, not just the amount they choose to report. Such conduct invites federal prosecution.”

On the other hand, Hyatt Hotel heiress Penny Pritzker Understated Income by $80 million in income to IRS due to an “inadvertent clerical error.”  Penny’s punishment?  She was appointed Secretary of Commerce.

Here’s what a White House senior adviser said:

“I think she’ll be extremely effective in leading trade missions around the world and helping U.S. companies develop those contacts that will lead to contracts back here in America.”

Hmmm.