According to a Department of Justice press release, a recently-naturalized U.S. citizen faces a slew of charges related to failure to disclose foreign bank accounts under the Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR) regime after immigrating to the U.S. from Chile. This story should serve as a reminder to taxpayers with interests in foreign bank account(s) that federal law requires you to report the interest in such accounts if certain balance thresholds are met. If you have a foreign bank account that you have not previously disclosed to the U.S. government or you have failed to file a tax return for one or more years, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced tax defense attorney as soon as possible to determine the best course of action to bring you into federal tax and FBAR compliance.
Court documents reveal that Lucia Andrea Gatta, a former south Florida resident, immigrated to the United States from Chile and became a U.S. citizen in 2012. Prosecutors allege that between 2012 and 2014, Gatta controlled bank accounts in a Swiss bank that should have been annually reported to the Department of the Treasury as part of the FBAR regime. Federal authorities allege that Gatta not only failed to report such accounts, but also failed to file a federal tax return between 2011 and 2014. Finally, prosecutors allege that Gatta lied to immigration officials in obtaining her citizenship by not disclosing her failure to properly file a tax return or report the existence of her control over Swiss bank accounts.
It is important to note that an indictment is not an indication of guilt. If convicted at trial, Gatta faces up to five years in prison for each year that she willfully failed to disclose her bank accounts under the FBAR regime. Additionally, she faces up to one year in prison for each year that she failed to file a tax return. Lastly and potentially most devastatingly, Gatta faces up to ten years in federal prison and automatic denaturalization if convicted of naturalization fraud
FBAR enforcement has skyrocketed in the past decade. Over that time, the Department of the Treasury has worked tirelessly alongside the State Department to uncover and expose those Americans with unreported bank accounts in foreign countries. Under the FBAR regime, Americans must disclose the existence of an interest or signature authority over foreign bank accounts if the balance of such accounts crosses the $10,000 threshold. Willful violation of the FBAR regime can lead to up to five years in federal prison for each year of noncompliance. Additionally, the monetary penalty for such willful failure to comply with the FBAR regime is one half of the high balance of the unreported bank account for each year of noncompliance.
If you have failed to report your foriegn bank account as required under the FBAR regime, there is good news. With the assistance of an experienced international tax lawyer, you can determine the best strategy to come into compliance while minimizing the chances that you will face criminal prosecution or excessive monetary penalties. Although some of the more generous voluntary disclosure programs have ended, there are still plenty of techniques and strategies to bring you into FBAR compliance.
Note: As long as a taxpayer that has willfully committed tax crimes (potentially including non-filed foreign information returns coupled with affirmative evasion of U.S. income tax on offshore income) self-reports the tax fraud (including a pattern of non-filed returns) through a domestic or offshore voluntary disclosurebefore the IRS has started an audit or criminal tax investigation / prosecution, the taxpayer can ordinarily be successfully brought back into tax compliance and receive a nearly guaranteed pass on criminal tax prosecution and simultaneously often receive a break on the civil penalties that would otherwise apply.
It is imperative that you hire an experienced and reputable criminal tax defense attorney to take you through the voluntary disclosure process. Only an Attorney has the Attorney Client Privilege and Work Product Privileges that will prevent the very professional that you hire from being potentially being forced to become a witness against you, especially where they prepared the returns that need to be amended, in a subsequent criminal tax audit, investigation or prosecution.
Moreover, only an Attorney can enter you into a voluntary disclosure without engaging in the unauthorized practice of law (a crime in itself). Only an Attorney trained in Criminal Tax Defense fully understands the risks and rewards involved in voluntary disclosures and how to protect you if you do not qualify for a voluntary disclosure.
As uniquely qualified and extensively experienced Criminal Tax Defense Tax Attorneys, KovelCPAs and EAs, our firm provides a one stop shop to efficiently achieve the optimal and predictable results that simultaneously protect your liberty and your net worth. See our Testimonials to see what our clients have to say about us!
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