Collective psychotherapy – U.S. citizens outside U.S. – Not what they take from you, it’s what they leave you with

cross-posted from renounceuscitizenship blog

Going back to a general thread from a few weeks ago – on law and morality – this post speaks more to the effects of the law when it is not rooted in morality. On one level, an apologist might claim that “doing one’s duty” and “paying one’s share” is moral and is necessary to maintain funding and order in a society. However, when such a law is applied to those who live outside that society, as we all know from experience, unexpected conflicts, resulting punitive actions and penalties tend to denigrate the quality of life. We are not talking about “quality of life” amounting to physical comforts or financial wealth. By “quality of life, what is referred to is mental stability, emotional trustworthiness and the ability to move through difficulties with a sense of direction and confidence. When these parameters are stifled by confusion/lack of clarity of what is expected, and ridicule and negativity is directed toward those affected, the result is a not an issue of lack of compliance but rather, wrongly imposed requirements that simply make people anxious, immobilized by fear, depression and a general inability to adjust to the situation. How this can be justified when those same people ARE compliant in the society where they live, strikes many as simply being immoral.

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The Wisdom of Moe Levine Moe Levine (not that I ever met him) was considered to be one of America’s greatest trial lawyers. Although he died in 1974, his wisdom lives on his book (appropriate called) “Moe Levine on Trial Advocacy“. He (legend has it) was a master at delivering the closing statement in his jury trials. When arguing for a severely injured plaintiff he (according to the commentators of his time) would tell the jury (referring to a badly injured client):

“It’s not what you take from them it’s what you leave them with.”
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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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Solving US Citizenship Problems -Toronto, July 19

 

Life planning, Career planning and the Reality of U.S. Citizenship for Americans Abroad including Life Preparation for U.S.Citizen-children of U.S.Citizens

 
These seminars will include discussion and analysis of the IRS “relaxed opportunities” for people to come into compliance.
 

It is estimated there are 7 million U.S. citizens living outside the United States. Some of these people don’t know that the U.S. may consider them to be citizens. The vast majority of these Americans abroad (according to U.S. law), are required to file tax returns and complete information reporting forms to the United States. Although “citizenship-based” taxation has existed for years, what is new is the enforcement.

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US Citizenship & Young Adults: Navigating The Special Rules Imposed Upon US Citizens

“Life planning, career planning and the reality of U.S. citizenship for Americans abroad”
“Everything I wish I had known, but couldn’t even have imagined to ask!”

During the winter, John Richardson presented a number of seminars for those concerned with the obvious problems of U.S. citizenship (including the “threshold question” of whether you really are a U.S. citizen).

Seminar topics have invariably included the problems of: FBAR, FATCA, investing, retirement planning, mutual funds, U.S. tax compliance, renunciation, etc.The official “FATCA Launch” of July 1, 2014 will surely make the existing problems worse.

U.S. citizens living outside the United States are subject to a regime of rules that diminish their “life opportunities”. These rules are such that U.S. citizens abroad live at a disadvantage relative to the citizens of any other nation. Those attending previous seminars have been primarily “middle aged” people, who have attempted to plan for their retirement, only to find that their retirement plans are threatened, because of their birth in the United States.

A shared sentiment has been:

“If only, I had known about these rules earlier … This is information that my children and other young adults need to hear! What does all this mean for my children?”

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2014 IRS Survey of Individuals Living Abroad – Maple Sandbox has it

As previously reported by the IRS, and several other sites, the IRS sent a survey to about 4,000 individuals ‘living abroad’, “regardless of whether or not you have filed a U.S. federal income tax return while living abroad.” This is being done through an independent survey firm, ICF.

(Updated)We have been requested to provide a specific link to the survey:
The IRS did it last year as well, and the 2012 survey results are available:
 
According to the Taxpayers Advocate Service 2013 Annual Report to Congress,
“The IRS has also contracted with an independent consultant to survey 4,000 individuals residing abroad who the IRS believes have U.S. filing requirement and did not file a return. The survey, to be conducted by mail and online, will “focus on why some individuals living abroad do not file a tax return, their awareness of certain tax provisions and forms specific to International Taxpayers, and how the IRS can encourage voluntary compliance among this population.” 
 
There is a lot to consider in this survey, and its ramifications, and much that I suspect people will find, at the least, questionable. Section 4E has 11 multiple choice questions around CBT, filing returns, etc. Section 4H is asking for ‘thoughts’ on what the IRS has done well, or how the IRS can “improve in communicating whether income earned outside the US is subject to US federal taxes”.
 
I am very, very curious to read the comments that this survey will generate!
 
(A password is required to access the survey).
Personally, I’m very interested to know if anyone who has never filed a U.S. tax return, and who thinks they should be filing, actually fills out the survey.