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2 OVERVIEW Foreign Banking Depositors place securities/funds in financial/banking institutions located overseas Depositors do this to… Take advantage of lower or no taxes Achieve greater privacy Protect assets against local financial or political instability Take advantage of less regulation and easier access Take advantage of higher rates of return offered by some foreign banks 2

3 OVERVIEW Tax Haven A country or territory that has lower or no taxes and provides a safe place for deposits in order to attract capital Tax havens create tax competition among governments in order to maintain or attract depositors via the altering of banking/fiscal policies and rules. 3

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5 TAX HAVEN DEBATE For Avoidance of excessive tax burden Greater security and lower risk Privacy Tax competition encourages pro- growth tax policies 5

6 TAX HAVEN DEBATE Against Lack of transparency Tax avoidance and loss of tax revenue In some instances, it perpetuates illegal activity i.e. money laundering 6


8 THE HIRE ACT (THE HIRING INCENTIVES TO RESTORE EMPLOYMENT ACT) Law was passed to provide payroll tax breaks for businesses to hire unemployed workers, but includes a number of anti-evasion provisions relating to international compliance Key Provisions: Reporting on Foreign Accounts: must report on tax return if the amount in the account is $50,000 or more Statute of Limitations of Cross-Border transaction: extended from 3 to 6 years where more than $5,000 in income is omitted Penalties: The 20% penalty that applies would be increased to 40% for transactions involving foreign accounts where the taxpayer failed to disclose reportable information 8

9 PUBLIC LAW 111-226 “THE ACT” This law was put in effect to counter the issue of having foreign taxes paid abroad to be credited against U.S. tax on foreign earnings Key Provisions Preventing Splitting Foreign Tax Credits from Income: firms would no longer be able to recognize and take credits for foreign taxes paid without reporting the income that gave rise to the foreign taxes 9

10 P.L. 111-226- CONTINUED Key Provisions Denial of Foreign Tax credits for Covered Asset Acquisitions: prevent firms from obtaining credits for excess taxes Repeal of 80/20 Rules: dividends and interest paid by a domestic corporation are generally U.S. source income and subject to gross basis withholding if paid to a foreign person. But interest and dividends paid by a firm with at least 80% of its gross income foreign source are not subject to withholding. 10

11 BANK SECRECY ACT CURRENCY AND FOREIGN TRANSACTIONS REPORTING ACT Anti-Money Laundering Law passed by Congress in 1970 Requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering Financial Institutions must file reports of cash purchases of negotiable instruments over $10,000 and report suspicious activity that might signify tax evasion or money laundering 11

12 FATCA (FOREIGN ACCOUNT TAX COMPLIANCE ACT) Requires foreign banks to find all American Account holders and disclose their balances and other relevant information to the IRS If foreign banks fail to report to the IRS, it would be subject to a 30% withholding tax on income from US financial assets Account holders would be subject to a 40% penalty on understatements of income in an undisclosed foreign financial asset American Citizens Abroad, an organization based in Geneva representing the interest of Americans living abroad has launched a campaign to repeal FATCA 12

13 LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act Authorize special measures to stop offshore abuse by allowing Treasury to take specified steps against foreign jurisdictions or financial institutions that impede U.S. tax enforcement. Will Strengthen FATCA & detection of offshore activities and establish rebuttable presumptions to combat offshore secrecy The American Jobs and Closing Loopholes Act Source Rules on Guarantees: The treatment of guarantee fees for interest and payment for services are unclear. When payments for services are sourced to the country where the service is performed, it allows U.S. subsidiaries of foreign firms to make deductible payments that reduce U.S. income with paying the withholding tax as they would with interest. This act will prevent firms from doing this 13

14 CRITICISMS OF ENACTED LEGISLATION Many argue that the cost of compliance for these laws may exceed the revenue that is expected to come from it Laws targeting international institutions such as FATCA will significantly discourage foreign investment in the U.S and negatively impact U.S. businesses operating in global markets Compliance is sometimes so expensive for non-U.S. banks that they are refusing to serve American investors 14

15 CRITICISMS OF ENACTED LEGISLATION – CONTINUED World renowned tax havens like Switzerland and the Caymans are not always willing to comply with American laws because it would moderate their legitimacy as a tax haven These laws create many biases, such as the targeting of Americans living abroad as opposed to Americans living at home. It tries to address the problems of tax evasion but does not do enough to combat tax avoidance, which is not illegal but costs money 15

16 OPPOSITION TO FATCA Banks argue that the measure imposes steep compliance costs and unrealistic deadlines Creates significant hassle and paperwork for U.S. citizens living abroad – extra tax forms and very high penalties Expatriates complain that most of the information they are now required to report is already covered in the Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts form, known as FBAR The United States is alone among industrialized countries in taxing on the basis of nationality, rather than residence 16

17 OPPOSITION TO FATCA To avoid withholding, foreign banks must enter into an agreement with the IRS to: Identify U.S. accounts; Report certain information to the IRS regarding U.S. accounts; and Withhold a 30% tax on certain payments to non-participating foreign financial institutions and account holders unwilling to provide the required information. Many Americans are finding it difficult to open legitimate new accounts abroad and facing closure of old ones based on their nationality Some foreign banks have decided to refuse accounts to Americans rather than deal with this new law 17

18 POLICY PROPOSAL Created unintended problems and threatens investment Placed extensive obligations on foreign financial institutions These institutions are now reluctant to accept American depositors Example: Compliance costs are estimated between $150 million to $200 million for every medium sized bank. We need to reform the policy in order to: 1. Curtail tax avoidance and ensure “tax justice” 2. Allow for the free movement of capital and investment 18

19 POSSIBLE POLICY ALTERNATIVES TO FATCA Make broad changes to International Tax Rules Eliminate deferral for specified tax havens or countries with tax rates below U.S. rates Expand multilateral and bilateral information sharing i.e. European Union Directive, expanding treaties to tax havens, OCED bilateral Tax Information Exchange Agreement Sanctions on non-cooperative tax havens, ideally through a multi-lateral approach. Strengthen Report of Foreign Banks and Financial Accounts (FBAR) rules, resulting in more information exchange and allowing DOJ to pursue more tax haven cases. 19

20 OUR PROPOSAL A number of proposals have already introduced in the U.S. Congress. These proposals can be modified and reintroduced to address tax havens without overburdening American depositors and foreign financial intuitions. 1. Reintroduce the major provisions of the “Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act” introduced by Sen. Carl Levin Close Credit Default Swap loophole Prevent U.S. companies from claiming overseas status and close foreign subsidiary deposits loophole Strengthen anti-money laundering programs and encourage greater information sharing between regulators, law enforcement and the IRS Allow treasury to take specified steps against foreign jurisdictions that impede U.S. tax enforcement., i.e. sanctions. 20

21 OUR PROPOSAL 2. Implement Senate Finance Committee recommendation outlined in their March 12, 2010 proposal. Require FBAR report to filled with tax report Double fines and penalties on payments attributable to offshore transactions Require entities transferring funds offshore to report to the IRS the amount and destination. Publicly traded companies are excluded 3. Burden of proof should be placed more heavily on U.S. depositors and corporations. For foreign financial institutions to comply with U.S. requirements this necessitates non-compliance with their own domestic laws. 21


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