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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

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 Extends Amnesty Program

auditThe IRS is extending the deadline for international tax dodgers to apply for an amnesty program.  To date more than 3,000 Americans hiding assets overseas have applied for the program.  The program offers no jail time and reduced penalties for tax cheats who come forward.

The Internal Revenue Service is expected to announce that the program will be extended until Oct. 15.  The IRS has a long standing policy that permits tax evaders who come forward before they are contacted by the agency will usually avoid jail time.  Provided that they agree to pay back taxes, interest and hefty penalties.  Drug dealers and money launderers are exempted from this policy but if the money was earned legally, tax evaders can avoid criminal prosecution.  Approximately 100 people apply for the program in a typical year because the penalties can far exceed the value of the hidden account.

In March, the IRS began a six-month amnesty program that sweetened the offer with reduced penalties for people with undeclared assets.  The amnesty program is part of a larger effort by federal authorities to crack down on international tax evaders.  In August, the U.S. and Switzerland resolved a court case in which Swiss banking giant UBS agreed to turn over details on 4,450 accounts suspected of holding undeclared assets from American customers.

The process of turning over that information is expected to take several months. But once the IRS obtains information about international tax dodgers, they will be ineligible for the amnesty program.  Publicity from the UBS case, even before the agreement was announced, had many wealthy Americans with offshore accounts nervously running to their tax advisers.   Lawyers and advisers from several firms have said they were swamped with calls from people hiding assets overseas.  attorneys are advising their clients to take advantage of the IRS Amnesty program and to contact the IRS before they contact you.

Hedge funds and other investment partnerships need to enhance risk management practices to mitigate rising tax risk.  Sum2 publishes the IRS Audit Risk Program  (IARP) to assist investment partnerships and corporate entities  that utilize offshore SIVs to assess audit tax risk factors and take steps to manage this significant business threat.  The IRS has developed an audit risk profile that guides field examiners through an assessment of an investment partnerships tax audit risk factors.  The IARP helps tax managers assess threats and more effectively prepare and manage tax  audit risk exposures within the focus of IRS examiners.

Risk: audit, tax, regulatory, compliance, reputation

September 21, 2009 Posted by | CPA, hedge funds, IARP, private equity, Sum2, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tax Man Cometh

taxmanThe IRS has reached agreement with UBS over disclosure of the identity of US citizens holding private bank accounts with the firm in Switzerland.  The agreement calls for UBS to release the names of 4,450 clients who are suspected of using the bank to hide assets and avoid taxation.   UBS has private banking relationships with with over 52,000 US citizens with assets approximating $15 billion.

Private banking is an important pillar of the Suisse economy.  This action may pose a significant threat to the Suisee banking industry.   Compliance with the IRS request for the names of private bank account holders  damages the venerated wall of secrecy Suisse banks employ to attract assets and clientele.  Other EU banking centers like Luxembourg and Liechtenstein may also feel pressure to comply with news standards of transparency and disclosure.  This may have the effect of driving investors to seek more exotic havens to park assets.  Offshore domiciles in the  Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and Latin America may benefit from this action.  It may also add to the risk of investors seeking safe havens for their assets.

For US taxpayers, the 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 given all the stimulus and economic recovery expenditures.  The IRS is mandated to assure that compliance is adhered to so taxpayers pay taxes on all legal capital gains and income.  As this blog reported, the IRS has developed an Industry Focus Issue, (IFI) audit strategy that  profiles investment partnerships and other corporations 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.

The IRS action against UBS is the opening salvo in the new era of enhanced compliance.  UBS is a marquee brand that indicates that the IRS is serious about compliance. As a result of the UBS settlement other Suisse banks are coming forward to make voluntary disclosures about US citizens suspected of tax-evasion.  Those bank  include, Credit Suisse, Julius Baer Holding, Zurcher Kantonalbank and Union Bancaire Privee.  UBS has  previously turned over approximately 250 names to the IRS.  It is believed that the IRS has issued indictments to 150 people from that list of names.

This high profiled action against UBS has helped to publicize the IRS amnesty program that expires September 23rd.  In an effort to encourage Americans to voluntarily disclose information about  accounts they illegally withheld, the IRS created an amnesty program. Under the amnesty program, any taxpayer who successfully completes the requirements will not be criminally prosecuted for their acts.  More details on the IRS amnesty program can be found here on the FIND LAW website.

Risk: tax, reputation, compliance,


August 21, 2009 Posted by | compliance, CTA, hedge funds, IARP, IRS, regulatory, reputational risk, Tax, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Taxing Situation

irs-and-capitol1President Obama announced his intention to curb the use of offshore tax havens for multinational corporations.  The Treasury Department is looking to raise tax revenues and believes that by closing the use of offshore tax shelters it will be able to raise over $200 bn over the next ten years.  According to the New York Times,  firms like Citibank, Morgan Stanley, GE and Proctor and Gamble utilize hundreds of these type structures to shelter revenue from being taxed by the IRS.  It has effectively driven down the tax rates these companies pay and has been a key driver in maintaining corporate profitability.

This move should come as a surprise to no one.  The Treasury Department needs to find sources of tax revenues to cover the massive spending programs necessitated by the credit crisis and the global economic meltdown.  The TARP program designed to revitalize banks has  expenditures that amounted to $700 bn.  Amounts pledged for economic recovery through EESA, PPIP and ARRA will push Treasury Department expenditures targeting economic stimulus projects and programs to approximately $2 tn.  These amounts are over and above routine federal budget expenditures that is running significant deficits as well.

The planned move by the Treasury Department to rewrite the tax code may be an intentional effort to close budget deficits but it also represents a significant rise in tax audit risk.   For the past two years the IRS has been developing a practice strategy and organizational assets to more effectively enforce existing tax laws.  Private sector expertise, practices and resource has significantly out gunned the IRS’s ability to detect and develop a regulatory comprehension of the tax implications of the sophisticated multidomiciled structured transactions flowing through highly stratified and dispersed corporate structures.  The IRS is looking to level the playing field by adding to its arsenal of resources required to engage the high powered legal and accounting expertise that corporate entities employ.

The IRS has hired hundreds of new agents  and has developed risk based audit assessment guidelines for field agents when examining corporations with sophisticated structures and business models.  As such investment partnerships, global multinational corporations and companies utilizing offshore structures can expect to receive more attention from IRS examiners.

The IRS had developed Industry Focus Issues (IFI) to be used as an examination framework to guide audit engagements for sophisticated investment partnerships and  Large and Mid-size Businesses (LSMB).  The IFI for LSMB has developed three tiers of examination risk.  Each tier has comprises about 12 examination issues that will help examiners focus attention of audit resource on areas the agency considers as high probability for non-compliance.  Clearly the audit risk factors risk

To respond to this challenge, Sum2 developed an audit risk assessment program to assist CFO’s, tax managers, accountants and attorneys conduct a through IFI risk assessment.  The IRS Audit Risk Program (IARP) is a mitigation and management tool designed to temper the threat of tax audit risk.   A recent survey commissioned by Sum2 to measure industry awareness of IFI risk awareness indicated extremely low awareness of tax audit risk factors.

Sum2’s IARP helps corporate management and tax planners score exposure to each IFI risk factor.  It allows risk managers to score the severity of each exposure, mitigation capabilities, mitigation initiatives required to address risk factor, responsible parties and mitigation expenses. The IARP allows corporate boards and company management to make informed decisions on tax exposure risk, audit remediation strategies, arbitration preparation and tax controversy defense preparation.

The IARP links to all pertinent IRS documentation and information on each tax statute and IFI audit tier.  The IARP links to pertinent forms and allows for easy information retrieval and search capabilities of the vast IRS document libraries.  The IARP also has links to FASB to have instant access to latest information on accounting and valuation treatments for structured instruments.

The IARP is the newest risk application in the Profit|Optimizer product series.  The Profit|Optimizer is a enterprise risk management tool used by SME’s and industry service providers.

The IARP is available in two versions.

The IRS Audit Risk Program for investment partnerships (IARP)

Buy it on Amazon here: IARP

The Corporate Audit Risk Program (CARP)

Buy it on Amazon here: CARP

Sum2’s Audit Risk Survey results are here: IFI Audit Risk Survey

You Tube Video: Chairman of the Board, Pay to the Piper

May 6, 2009 Posted by | business, CPA, EESA, FASB, hedge funds, IARP, IRS, NP, private equity, risk management, Sum2, Tax, Treasury | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

IRS Audit Risk Survey: Final Results

tax-returnSum2 is please to report the final results of the IRS Audit Risk Survey for Fund Managers. Sum2 has commissioned the survey to determine financial services industry awareness and readiness for IRS audit risk factors. The survey sought to determine industry awareness and readiness to address IRS Industry Focus Issue (IFI) risk exposures for hedge funds, private equity firms, RIAs, CTAs and corporations using offshore structures.

Survey Background

Due to the pressing revenue requirements of the United States Treasury and the need to raise funds by recognizing new sources of taxable revenue; hedge funds, private equity firms, CTA’s and other corporations that utilize elaborate corporate structures, engage in sophisticated transactions and recognize uncommon forms of revenue, losses and tax credits will increasingly fall under the considered focus of the IRS.

Since 2007 the IRS began to transition its organizational posture from a benign customer service resource to a more activist posture that is intent on assuring compliance and enforcement of US tax laws. Specifically the IRS has invested in its Large and Mid-Size Business Division (LMSB) to enhance its expertise and resources to more effectively address the tax audit challenges that the complexity and sophistication of investment management complexes present. The IRS has developed its industry issue competencies within its LMSB Division. It has developed a focused organizational structure that assigns issue ownership to specific executives and issue management teams. This vertical expertise is further enhanced with issue specialists to deepen the agencies competency capital and industry issue coordinators that lends administrative and agency management efficiency by ranking and coordinating responses to specific industry issues. IRS is building up its portfolio of skills and industry expertise to address the sophisticated agility of hedge fund industry tax professionals.

To better focus the resources of the agency the IRS has developed a Three Tiered Industry Focus Issues (IFI). Tier I issues are deemed most worthy of in depth examinations and any fund management company with exposure in these areas need to exercise more diligence in its preparation and response. Tier I issues are ranked by the IRS as being of high strategic importance when opening an audit examination. This is followed by Tier II and Tier III focus issues that include examination issues ranked according to strategic tax compliance risk and significance to the market vertical. Clearly the IRS is investing significant organizational and human capital to address complex tax issues of the industry. The IRS is making a significant institutional investment to discover potentially lucrative tax revenue streams that will help to address the massive budget deficits of the federal government.

Survey Results

The survey was open to fund management executives, corporate treasury, tax managers and industry service providers. CPAs, tax attorneys, compliance professionals, administrators, custodians and prime brokers were also invited to participate in the study. The survey was viewed by 478 people. The survey was completed by 43% of participants who began the survey.

Geographical breakdown of the survey participants were as follows:

  • North America 73%
  • Europe 21%
  • Asia 6%

The survey asked nine questions. The questions asked participants about their awareness of IFI that pertain to their fund or fund management practice and potential mitigation actions that they are considering to address audit risk.

The survey posed the following questions:

  • Are you aware of the Industry Focus Issues (IFI) the IRS has developed to determine a fund managers audit risk profile?
  • Are you aware of the organizational changes the IRS has made and how it may effect your firms response during an audit?
  • Are you aware of the Three IFI Tiers the IRS has developed to assess a funds audit risk profile?
  • Are you aware of how the Three IFI Tiers may affect your audit risk exposures?
  • Have you conducted any special planning sessions with internal staff to prepare for IFI audit risk exposures?
  • Has your outside auditor or tax attorney notified you of the potential impact of IFI risk?
  • Have you held any special planning meetings with your outside auditors or tax attorneys to mitigate IFI risk?
  • Have you had meetings with your prime brokers, custodians and administrators to address the information requirements of IFI risk?
  • Have you or do you plan to communicate the potential impact of IFI risk exposures to fund partners and investors?

Survey highlights included:

  • 21% of survey participants were aware of IFI
  • 7% of survey respondents planned to implement specific strategies to address IFI audit risk
  • 6% of survey respondents have received action alerts from CPA’s and tax attorney’s concerning IFI audit risk
  • 26% of survey respondents plan to alert fund investors to potential impact of IFI audit risk

Recommendations

Sum2 believes that survey results indicate extremely low awareness of IFI audit risk. Considering the recent trauma of the credit crisis, sensational fraud events and the devastating impact of last years adverse market conditions; fund managers and industry service providers must remain vigilant to mitigate this emerging risk factor.

These market developments and the prevailing political climate surrounding the financial services sector will bring the industry under heightened scrutiny by tax authorities and regulatory agencies. Unregulated hedge funds may be immune from some regulatory issues but added compliance and disclosure discipline may be imposed by significant counter-parties, such as prime brokers and custodians that are regulated institutions.

Market and regulatory developments has clearly raised the tax compliance and regulatory risk factors for hedge funds and other fund managers. Issues concerning FAS 157 security valuation, partnership domiciles and structure, fund liquidation and restructuring and complex transactions has increased the audit risk profile for the industry. Significant tax liabilities, penalties and expenses can be incurred if this risk factor is not met with a well considered risk management program.

In response to this industry threat, Sum2 has developed an IRS Audit Risk Program (IARP) that prepares fund management CFOs and industry service tax professionals to ascertain, manage and mitigate its IRS risk exposures within the Three IFI Tiers. The IARP provides a threat scoring methodology to ascertain risk levels for each IFI risk factor and aggregates overall IFI Tier exposures. The IARP uses a scoring methodology to determine level of preparedness to meet each of the 36 audit risk factors.

The IARP helps managers to outline mitigation actions required to address audit risk factors and determine potential exposures of each risk. The IARP calculates expenses associated with mitigation initiatives and assigns mitigation responsibility to staff members or service providers. The IARP links users to issue specific IRS resources, forms and documentation that will help you determine an IFI risk relevancy and the resources you need to address it.

The IARP will prove a valuable resource to help you manage your response to a tax audit. It will also prove itself to be a critical tool to coordinate and align internal and external resources to expeditiously manage and close protracted audit engagements, arbitration or litigation events. The IARP product is a vertical application of Sum2’s Profit|Optimizer product series.

The Profit|Optimizer is a C Level risk management tool that assists managers to uncover and mitigate business threats and spot opportunities to maintain profitability and sustainable growth.

The IARP product is available for down load on Amazon.com.

The product can also be purchased with a PayPal account: Sum2 e-commerce

Sum2 wishes to thank all who anonymously took part in the survey.

If you have any questions or would like to order an IARP please contact Sum2, LLC at 973.287.7535 or by email at customer.service@sum2.com.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | compliance, CPA, CTA, FASB, hedge funds, IARP, IRS, legal, NP, private equity, regulatory, risk management, Tax, Treasury | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments