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G-20 Stamps Out Tax Havens

OECDThe fallout from the recent tax evasion settlement with UBS is reverberating throughout the G-20 community.  As we reported back in October,  the French Governments action directing banks to close branches and subsidiaries in non-OEDC compliant jurisdictions will pressure all G-20 participants to adopt a more uniform tax code and enforcement practice.  The drive to strengthen the respect of tax treaties and the closure of havens to custody assets beyond the reach of national tax authorities signals a new era in multinational cooperation and the eclipse of radical free market tax practices.

The principal drivers for this unprecedented level of cooperation and standardization is the dire need for national tax authorities to recognize and tax revenue streams to help address the burgeoning budget deficits the global economic crisis has has wrought.

Clearly the crackdown on tax evasion is gaining momentum since the global financial crisis has devastated national treasuries.  Enormous expenditures on stimulus programs and dramatically falling tax receipts has created a perfect storm and has created an enormous threat to the fiscal soundness of national treasuries.

Forbes reports that Singapore has become the latest in a flurry of jurisdictions complying with Office of Economic Cooperation and Development standards on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes.  Fifteen jurisdictions have come into compliance since April 2009.  In addition to Singapore and the sea change occurring in the Suisse banking industry; other  governments that have lost revenue to tax havens are individually taking tough action:

–The U.K. government has informed the Isle of Man that it will reduce revenue transfers of value-added tax receipts to the island by 50 million pounds next year, 9% of the island’s revenue.

–French banks are starting to close down their operations in tax havens.

–In Germany, the hiding of funds in Liechtenstein bank accounts has prompted a backlash against tax havens.

–In the United States, White House advisor Paul Volcker in December is due to report on ways of eliminating revenue losses to tax havens.

This heightened regulation and standardization amongst  G-20 tax authorities is quickly closing any regulatory tax arbitrage opportunities for global investors.  The closure of preferential tax domiciles will heighten the power and reach of national tax agencies enforcement capabilities and the scope of their examination reach.  The IRS is stepping up its enforcement and institutional assets to assure that private equity and hedge fund industries comply with all the anti-money laundering laws and stringent tax codes.

Sum2’s IARP helps investment managers assess and manage the growing threat of audit and tax enforcement risk.  Sum2’s CARP helps large and mid-size corporations assess compliance and manage  IFI audit risk.

Risk: audit, enforcement, regulatory, tax, reputational, litigation

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November 16, 2009 Posted by | AML, CARP, corruption, IARP, IRS, legal, OECD, private equity, regulatory, reputational risk, risk management, Tax | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deloitte’s Nine Principles of Risk Intelligence

risk_triangleIs your business risk intelligent?  A review of  the following principles offers company executives a concise outline of objectives central to a risk intelligent enterprise.   Deloitte recently published White Paper, Effective Integration, Enhanced Decision Making, The Risk Intelligent Tax Executive outlined the following nine fundamental principles.

Nine fundamental principles of a Risk Intelligence Program

1. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, a common definition of risk, which addresses both value preservation and value creation, is used consistently throughout the organization.

2. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, a common risk framework supported by appropriate standards is used throughout the organization to manage risks.

3. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, key roles, responsibilities, and authority relating to risk management are clearly defined and delineated within the organization.

4. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, a common risk management infrastructure is used to support the business units and functions in the performance of their risk responsibilities.

5. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, governing bodies (e.g., boards, audit committees, etc.) have appropriate transparency and visibility into the organization’s risk management practices to discharge their responsibilities.

6. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, executive management is charged with primary responsibility for designing, implementing, and maintaining an effective risk program.

7. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, business units (departments, agencies, etc.) are responsible for the performance of their business and the management of risks they take within the risk framework established by executive management.

8. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, certain functions (e.g., Finance, Legal, Tax, IT, HR, etc.) have a pervasive impact on the business and provide support to the business units as it relates to the organization’s risk program.

9. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, certain functions (e.g., internal audit, risk management, compliance, etc.) provide objective assurance as well as monitor and report on the effectiveness of an organization’s risk program to governing bodies and executive management.

Sum2’s business mission is to help small and mid-sized enterprises (SME) become risk intelligent enterprises.  Sum2’s product suites enables managers to implement sound risk management practices guided by these principles of risk intelligence.  We firmly believe that consistent practice of sound risk management  holds the key to profitability and long term sustainable growth.

Sum2’s Profit|Optimizer product series provides mangers a consistent framework and scoring methodology to assess, aggregate and price risk, identify actions, assign responsibility and align business functions to mitigate risks and achieve business goals.

Sum2’s IARP, helps managers to assess and manage the rising threat of tax risk exposures that present significant compliance risk to the enterprise.

We welcome an opportunity to help you erect a risk intelligence enterprise.

Risk: risk management, business intelligence, compliance, sustainability, profitability

November 11, 2009 Posted by | branding, business continuity, compliance, IARP, operations, regulatory, reputational risk, risk management, SME, sound practices, Sum2 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Survey Says: Corporate Tax Audits on the Rise

An-Examination-at-the-Faculty-of-Medicine,-ParisA recent survey published by Sabrix indicates that corporate tax audits are on the rise.   Eighty-three percent of companies surveyed report an increased number of audits due to state and local tax revenue shortfalls.  Survey respondents comprised 140 tax executives from the Forbes Global 2000 Index.

Ninety-six percent of the attendees said that despite the recession, transaction taxes such as sales and use taxes will continue to be an area of focus. In response to the economic downturn, 45 percent of the attendees said their companies had reduced their employee headcount, but 45 percent also increased their investment in tax technologies.

Eighty-one percent of the respondents have made sales and use tax and value-added tax a more strategic focus of their company due to the economy. A similar proportion said they have implemented new programs and processes to remain compliant.

The IRS is under pressure to enforce compliance with federal tax statutes.  The US Treasury coffers are seriously depleted given all the stimulus and economic recovery expenditures.  The IRS is mandated to assure that corporations comply with all tax laws.  The IRS has developed an Industry Focus Issue, (IFI) audit strategy that  profiles high risk corporate tax compliance statutes.   IFI guides field audit personnel through a risk based assessment of corporate tax compliance.  The IFI aggregates and ranks  Three Tiers of high risk tax compliance issues.  Examiners will conduct rigorous reviews of these issue sensitive factors.  The factors concern revenue recognition, sales tax, partnership reporting, and the repatriation of revenue derived in foreign domiciles.

Sum2 has published a product, IRS Audit Risk Program (IARP) that guides corporate tax managers and tax professionals through a risk assessment of their exposure to IFI risk factors.  The IARP helps corporate tax professionals score tax risk exposures, determine mitigation actions, estimate remediation expenses and manage tax controversy defense strategies.  The IARP is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

Sum2 also has developed the Corporate Audit Risk Program (CARP).  The CARP is IRS tax risk assessment tool for corporate tax managers.  A  single user license for CARP can be purchased on Amazon.com.

Risk: compliance, tax audit, reputation, litigation

You Tube video: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Taxman

October 23, 2009 Posted by | CARP, CPA, government, IARP, IRS, regulatory, risk management, Sum2, Tax, Treasury | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day of Atonement: Al-Chet for Risk Managers

YomKippurTNToday is Yom Kippur.  It is the Day of Atonement.  The Jewish faith marks this day each year as a day to reflect on our sins and shortcomings we have committed during the past year.  It is a day of personal assessment.  Calling all to examine how we have failed to live a life in conformance to our highest aspirations and ideals.  It is customary to recite an Al-Chet confession prayer.  The Al-Chet is a confession of a persons past year sinful behavior. It is hoped that this admission of sin leads to  reconciliation with the aggrieved and an awareness that helps to establish a pattern of improved behavior in the future.

It is good that we commemorate such a day and use it to a constructive purpose.  After all, how many among us are without sin?  How many of us have achieved a level of perfection that obviates the need to reflect on how we can improve and make amends to those we may have hurt?   To be sure, even the best among us have fallen short of the glory of God.  A Higher Power surely keeps mere mortals rightsized and humble when our egos and perception of ourselves grows too large and burdensome.  The need to keep a strong self will from running riot is critical.  It is particularly dangerous when a person or corporation is unaware and ambivalent to the collateral damage its actions  spawn through the naked pursuit of self interest and ambition. In a sense, God is the ultimate celestial Chief Risk Officer that keeps wanton will in check.

The Day of Atonement is an important day because it is a day of transformation.  It calls for self examination and transformation.  Once we have learned the nature and extent of how our actions and inaction have negatively impacted ourselves and others,  we are called to make amends to set things right.  It is a day that requires considered action to improve ourselves so we can become a positive force for change in the world.

Considering the year that just transpired in the financial services industry, I wonder what an Al-Chet confession for risk managers would include.   We need a strong dose of atonement so we don’t repeat the egregious mistakes we committed last year.

An Al-Chet for Risk Managers:

I was not strong enough to stand up to my boss

I put selfish gain ahead of ethical considerations

I falsified or hid data to conceal results

I failed to be objective

My risk model was too subjective

I ignored warning signs

I was in over my head

I did not understand all the risk factors

I failed to get an outside opinion

I was beholden to monetary gain

I was victim to group think

I placed institutional interest ahead of ethical considerations

I  failed to admit I was wrong

I was not honest with regulators

I was not honest with shareholders

I looked the other way

I failed to act

I conveniently overlooked infractions / irregularities

I made exemptions

I did not understand the depth of the problem

I know there are many more.

Please help me to uncover, understand, make right and overcome.

Shalom

You Tube Music Video:  Aretha Franklin,  I Say a Little Prayer

Risk: compliance, reputation, catastrophic risk, moral hazards

September 28, 2009 Posted by | banking, corruption, credit crisis, regulatory, reputation, reputational risk, risk management, sustainability | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

UBS to Clients, “You’re on the List!”

 

tax evasionSwiss banking giant UBS, announced that it will inform American clients whether information about their bank accounts will be turned over to the US Justice Department in a tax evasion investigation.  UBS is required to disclose information on over 4,300 American citizens who are clients of the firms private banking division.  The US Justice Department believes that wealthy Americans are using these accounts to conceal assets and are using the bank to hide money under the protection of Switzerland’s storied bank secrecy laws.

UBS has so far refused to name the individuals in public. U.S. authorities, meanwhile, have hoped that the identities of the individuals on the list would be kept secret for longer so that more Americans with undeclared assets abroad might come forward under a recently extended tax amnesty program.

According to a bank  spokesperson,  “UBS is currently examining which client relationships fulfill the government’s criteria of ‘tax fraud.”  The review may take some months but UBS is committed to informing clients that they are affected by the tax evasion investigation.  UBS has already informed 500 clients that they are the subject of an investigation by the US Justice Department.

The IRS on Monday said it would extend its deadline for an amnesty program that has been flooded with applications from people who hid assets overseas. The program promises no jail time and reduced penalties for tax dodgers who come forward.

The financial services industry can expect these types of investigations to become more commonplace.  Institutions that offer hedge funds and investment products that cater to High Net Worth investors will increasingly become  subject to greater scrutiny as the US Treasury Department and its enforcement arm the IRS moves to insure that compliance with tax laws and statutes are adhered too.

This resolution signifies that the IRS is serious about its intention to ramp up enforcement of the tax code.  The IRS has enhanced its focus on US citizens and corporations utilizing foreign banks and offshore investment vehicles.  The agency is concerned that investment products and financial services offered by foreign banks have enabled US citizens and corporations to avoid tax liabilities.  Products such as credit cards, hedge funds and other investment partnerships are coming under the exacting microscope of the IRS.

The IRS is under pressure to enforce compliance with federal tax statutes.  The US Treasury coffers are seriously depleted  and the IRS is is looking to assure all taxable revenue streams are identified and taxpayers pay taxes on all capital gains and income.  The IRS has developed an Industry Focus Issue, (IFI) audit strategy.  IFI’s provides IRS field auditors tax risk profiles of investment partnerships and other corporate entities that use offshore domiciles to harbor assets.  IFI guides field audit personnel through a risk based assessment of investment partnerships.  The IFI aggregates and ranks  Three Tiers of high risk tax compliance issues.  Examiners will conduct rigorous reviews of these issue sensitive factors.  Many of the factors concern the recognition of income and assets in custody outside of the US and repatriation of revenue derived in foreign domiciles.

Sum2 has published a product, IRS Audit Risk Program (IARP) that guides corporate tax managers and tax professionals through a risk assessment of their exposure to IFI risk factors.  The IARP is a strategic tool that corporate tax professionals utilize to score risk exposures, determine mitigation actions, estimate remediation expenses and manage tax controversy defense strategies.  The IARP is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

You Tube Video: O’Jays, For the Love of Money

Risk: tax evasion, compliance, reputation, prison

September 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

IRS Audit Risk Survey for Hedge Funds (Interim Update 2)

irs-and-capitol2The IRS has developed a methodology to determine an audit risk profile for hedge funds, private equity firms, CTAs, RIAs and corporations using offshore structures. Sum2 has commissioned a survey to determine financial services industry awareness and readiness for IRS audit risk factors.

The survey seeks to determine industry awareness of IRS Industry Focus Issue (IFI) risk exposures for hedge funds, private equity firms, RIAs, CTAs and corporations using offshore structures. The survey is open to fund management executives, corporate treasury, tax managers and industry service providers.

CPAs, tax attorneys, compliance professions, administrators, custodians and prime brokers are also welcomed to participate in the study. The study’s purpose is to determine the level of industry preparedness and steps fund managers are taking to mitigate potential exposures to IFI audit risk.

Sum2 will share weekly interim results of the surveys findings. The survey will run for four weeks. This is the second weekly report.

Survey Highlights

  • 65% of survey respondents are from North America
  • 15% are from Great Brittan
  • 12% are from other EU countries
  • 3% are from Asia
  • 78% of respondents indicate an unawareness of IFI
  • 18% of respondents indicate they plan to alert investors to IFI impact
  • 17% of respondents indicated that they initiated actions to address IFI
  • 11% of respondents indicated that they have received action alerts from industry service providers

Take the Survey

We invite you to participate in a survey to determine industry awareness of IRS Industry Focus Issue risk for hedge funds, private equity firms, RIAs, CTAs and offshore corporate structures.

The survey can be accessed here: IRS Audit Risk Survey for Hedge Funds

The survey is open to fund management executives and industry service providers to the industry. CPAs, tax attorneys, compliance professions, administrators, custodians, consultants and prime brokers are welcome to take the study. The study’s purpose is to determine the level of industry preparedness and steps fund managers are taking to mitigate potential exposures to IRS Industry Focus Issue risk.

Sum2 is looking to use the survey to better respond to the critical needs of fund managers and the alternative investment management industry by improving our just released IRS Audit Risk Program (IARP).

This survey asks ten questions. The questions concern your awareness of IFI and how it pertains to your fund or fund management practice.  The survey seeks to determine overall industry risk awareness, potential exposure to IFI risk factors and any mitigation initiatives you plan to address IFI risk factors.

It should take no more then 5 minutes to complete the questionnaire. Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There are no foreseeable risks associated with this project. However, if you feel uncomfortable answering any questions, you can withdraw from the survey at any point. It is very important for us to learn your opinions. Your survey responses will be strictly confidential and data from this research will be reported only in the aggregate. Your information will be coded and will remain confidential.

If you have questions at any time about the survey or the procedures, you may contact Sum2 at 973.287.7535 or e-mail us at customer.service@sum2.com

Thank you for your participation.

March 22, 2009 Posted by | hedge funds, IARP, IRS, off shore, private equity, Tax | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

IRS Audit Risk Survey for Hedge Funds Interim Results

sum2logoThe IRS has developed a methodology to determine an audit risk profile for hedge funds, private equity firms, CTA’s RIAs and corporations using offshore structures.

Sum2 has commissioned a survey to determine financial services industry awareness and readiness for IRS audit risk factors.  The survey seeks to determine industry awareness of IRS Industry Focus Issue (IFI) risk exposures for hedge funds, private equity firms, RIAs, CTAs and corporations using offshore structures.

The survey is open to fund management executives, corporate treasury, tax managers and industry service providers. CPAs, tax attorneys, compliance professions, administrators, custodians and prime brokers are also welcomed to participate in the study.

The study’s purpose is to determine the level of industry preparedness and steps fund managers are taking to mitigate potential exposures to IFI audit risk.

Sum2 will share weekly interim results of the surveys findings.  The survey will run for four weeks.  This is the first weekly report.

Survey Highlights

  • 62% of survey respondents are from North America
  • 18% are from Great Brittan
  • 16% are from other EU countries
  • 4% are from Asia
  • 50% of respondents who viewed survey begin survey
  • 20% of respondents indicate an awareness of IFI
  • 9% of respondents indicated that they initiated actions to address IFI
  • 7% of respondents indicated that they have received action alerts from industry service providers concerning IFI
  • 2% of respondents indicated that they plan to communicate impact of IFI to fund investors

We invite you to participate in a survey to determine industry awareness of IRS Industry Focus Issue risk for hedge funds, private equity firms, RIAs, CTAs and offshore corporate structures.

The survey can be accessed here:  IRS Audit Risk Survey for Hedge Funds

More information and alerts can be found here:  Credit Redi

The survey is open to fund management executives and industry service providers to the industry. CPAs, tax attorneys, compliance professions, administrators, custodians, consultants and prime brokers are welcome to take the study.

The study’s purpose is to determine the level of industry preparedness and steps fund managers are taking to mitigate potential exposures to IRS Industry Focus Issue risk.  The goal of the survey is to help Sum2 better respond to the critical needs of fund managers and the alternative investment management industry by improving our just released IRS Audit Risk Program (IARP).

This survey asks ten questions.  The questions concern your awareness of IFI and how it pertains to your fund or fund management practice. The survey seeks to determine overall industry risk awareness, potential exposure to IFI risk factors and any mitigation initiatives you plan to address IFI risk factors. It should take no more then 5 minutes to complete the questionnaire.

Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There are no foreseeable risks associated with this project. However, if you feel uncomfortable answering any questions, you can withdraw from the survey at any point. It is very important for us to learn your opinions.

Your survey responses will be strictly confidential and data from this research will be reported only in the aggregate. Your information will be coded and will remain confidential.

If you have questions at any time about the survey or the procedures, you may contact Sum2 at 973.287.7535 or e-mail us at customer.service@sum2.com

Thank you for your participation.

March 16, 2009 Posted by | IARP, IRS, risk management, Tax | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Black Knight

Sir Allen Stanford

Sir Larceny-A-Lot

Sir Allen Stanford turns out to be no knight in shining armor. He’s just another greedy creep who thought he was entitled to other peoples money.   Sir Allen might just be another garden variety Ponzi Schemer; but compared to Madoff this guy is a piker.   The theft of $8bn is petty larceny compared to Madoff’s massive $50bn swindle.

It is becoming startling clear that we can no longer view these types of events as isolated incidents. Sir Allen may be this weeks poster child for capitalists gone wild; but the shock and awe of audacious financial crime is becoming a consistent lead story on the nightly news.  Public trust in the financial markets is at stake.  If people cannot trust their financial fiduciary the whole system goes down.

The SEC’s reluctance to act on information concerning Madoff irregularities and the announcement that over 500 public firms are being reviewed for possible fraudulent business practices are raising a public outcry for more vigorous oversight and protection.  The swirling rumors of bank insolvencies, nationalizations and news of  their egregious failure to adhere to basic risk management precepts are turning the skeptical taxpayers  into vocal opponents of the TARP program and any future bank bailouts.

The allegations that UBS marketed a tax evasion scheme to attract over 50,000 US clients to their private banking business with the promise that it would shield them from onerous tax liabilities may be the straw that breaks the camels back.   US taxpayers are struggling from the burdensome pain of high taxes they dutifully pay.   They are confused and frightened by the orgy of government spending and how the financial industry bailouts will effect them.  The credit crisis and the stunning losses people incurred in their retirement and investment portfolios is casting widening doubt about the trustworthiness of the banking system.  Citizens are urging their elected representatives that all financial service providers must come under a microscope of  scrutiny and oversight.  Consumers want assurances that all fiduciaries are sound.  Taxpayers are demanding that regulators insist that financial institutions provide a level of transparency to assure consumers that they are in compliance with all regulatory mandates, have a program of risk management controls and offer proof of an ethical corporate governance program.

The US tax payer has made it clear that they can no longer shoulder an egregious tax burden that continues to finance insolvent financial institutions that failed miserably to manage risk or comply with the barest minimum standards of proper corporate governance.

The allegations that surfaced suggesting that Sanford Financial may be linked to money laundering for Latin American drug cartels through The Bank of Antigua and related banking enterprises in Venezuela and Ecuador is sure to usher in a new era of aggressive enforcement initiatives by regulators.   The practice of  selling worthless CDs to retail investors that promised high rates of interest is the tip of the spear in a sophisticated money laundering scheme.  This will create some added urgency for regulators to conduct an in depth reviews of financial institutions AML compliance programs.  Examiners will aggressively pursue fund managers  to determine that Know Your Customer (KYC), Customer Identification Procedures (CIP) and Politically Exposed People  (PEP) programs are meeting acceptable standards to detect and deter money laundering.  Of  particular concern will be hedge fund complexes with incorporated off shore structures.  To be sure, examiners will liberally interpret and claim jurisdictional nexus on all offshore structures linked to US domiciled funds.  The US Treasury coffers are bare and it will look to collect taxes on any revenue sources it deems as taxable.

Financial institutions need to demonstrate to counter parties,  regulators, SROs and most importantly investors; that they have a sound risk management program in place that protects the funds investors against all classes of operational risk.    Sum2 offers an AML audit program fund managers use to maintain compliance standards  that  demonstrate program excellence to regulators and investors.

You can believe the examiners are sharpening their spears.  Looking to bag a kill and make an example of wayward managers with lax compliance controls.  Be ready, be vigilant and be prepared.

You Tube Video: Moody Blues: Nights in White Satin

Risk: money laundering, regulatory, operations, reputation

February 23, 2009 Posted by | AML, hedge funds, off shore, operations, regulatory, reputation | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment