John D. Teter Law Offices

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San Jose, CA 95128

San Jose tax audit attorney for offshore complianceTaxpayers often make errors on their tax returns that are due to simple miscalculations or misidentification of assets and income. These mistakes rarely lead to criminal charges, and they can typically be rectified with help from a qualified tax lawyer. However, when a taxpayer or business makes a deliberate effort to avoid tax liability, this may constitute illegal tax evasion. Tax evasion is a serious crime punishable by up to 5 years’ incarceration and fines up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a corporation. In recent years, the Internal Revenue Service has dramatically increased enforcement of income compliance with regard to offshore accounts. The United States, however, is not the only country that is concerned about the increasingly common crime of offshore tax evasion. Recently, the U.S. was joined by several other countries in a “day of action” against offshore tax evasion schemes.

IRS Continues to Investigate Potential Facilitation of Tax Evasion

The Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a number of other laws dictate Americans’ tax obligations. In order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, however, some individuals and businesses transfer assets outside the United States and into offshore tax shelters. Tax evasion is a massive problem that is estimated to have cost the U.S. federal government $458 billion per year from 2008 to 2010. Tax evasion schemes occur in developed countries around the world. 

In 2018, the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement was formed by leaders in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia to coordinate efforts to fight global tax evasion. The recent “day of action” occurred as part of an ongoing investigation into a financial institution in Central America that may be facilitating tax evasion and money laundering. The Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement have reason to believe that some taxpayers are anonymously hiding assets and laundering profits from criminal activities using this institution. Using interviews, subpoenas, search warrants, data analytics, and other intelligence, a great deal of information was uncovered about this institution and the activities taking place there. A number of civil and criminal actions are expected to result from the information gained during the investigation.

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San Jose, CA tax compliance attorneyMost people know that paying taxes is not optional. However, sometimes something as simple as a mistake or miscalculation on a tax return can result in a tax compliance issue. When the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) discovers a problem with an individual’s tax return, the first method for contacting the taxpayer is typically a letter through the mail. If the issue is not resolved through the mail, an IRS officer may sit down with the taxpayer in a face-to-face meeting to discuss the compliance concerns. If you have been contacted by the IRS because you have not adequately met your tax obligations, an experienced tax lawyer can help you understand your options and protect your rights.

Make Sure That it Is Actually the IRS Who Is Contacting You

In recent years, there has been an uptick in the number of scammers pretending to be IRS agents. A scammer will typically make a phone call to an unsuspecting taxpayer and impersonate an IRS agent for the purposes of gaining access to personal identifying information or stealing the individual’s money. The IRS very rarely makes phone calls regarding tax issues. If an IRS worker does call you, he or she will not demand immediate payment or ask for credit card details over the phone. According to the IRS’s official website, anyone who receives a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS should hang up and call the IRS directly to discuss any potential compliance issues.

Know What to Expect During an IRS Meeting

The IRS recently announced that it will be increasing the number of revenue officers who make in-person visits to taxpayers. These face-to-face meetings will be focused in communities that have been especially affected by reduced IRS resources. In-person meetings only occur after the IRS makes several attempts to contact the taxpayer via mail. These meetings are typically unannounced. The IRS officer should provide two forms of credentials in order to verify that he or she is indeed an IRS worker. If he or she does not offer identification, you have the right to ask to see these credentials. The officer will then discuss your tax concerns and help you understand your options for resolving the issues.

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San Jose tax evasion defense lawyerIf you are being investigated for tax evasion, you may feel lost, confused, and concerned about the possible penalties you may face. The federal offense of tax evasion occurs when an individual or corporation intentionally and systematically attempts to avoid paying taxes. The offender may falsify documents, fail to report income, or use other illegal tactics to reduce his or her tax obligations. In the last decade, countries around the world have worked together to prevent individuals from concealing income in foreign banks. Tax evasion can include any procedures that allow assets, financial instruments, or revenue to go untaxed or be taxed at a lower rate. The potential penalties for tax evasion can include heavy fines and incarceration. If you are being audited by the IRS, you should know how federal laws may affect you.

Federal Law Regarding Tax Evasion

Tax evasion is a willful act. Simply making mistakes on your tax return will not result in tax evasion charges. Section 7201 of the Internal Revenue Code describes the offense of tax evasion. In order for the IRS and other authorities to prove that a party engaged in tax evasion, they must prove that:

  • The party has an unpaid tax liability.
  • The party intentionally took actions to evade or avoid taxes.
  • The party had “specific intent” to evade his or her duty to pay a certain tax.

Because tax evasion is a criminal matter, prosecutors must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a person for tax evasion.

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San Jose tax attorney for IRS auditsIf you are the subject of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit, you likely have many questions about what the auditing process will entail. The IRS may have chosen you for an audit after comparing your tax return against “norms” for comparable returns, or you may have been selected because your tax returns involved transactions with other taxpayers who have been selected for an audit. The IRS manages audits through the mail and/or in-person interviews. As part of the auditing process, the IRS will request access to certain documents and financial information that supports the income and deductions claimed on your tax return.

Common Records Requested by the IRS

The documents and records that the IRS will want to examine during an audit can vary depending on your specific circumstances and the basis for the audit. Commonly, the IRS will request copies of:

  • Receipts: You may be asked to send the IRS receipts proving purchases you have made or money you have received for a product or service.
  • Canceled checks 
  • Bills: The IRS may request bills showing the person or entity receiving payment, the type of service received, and the dates on which you paid them.
  • Loan agreements: You may need to send copies of loan applications or agreements as well as information about how you used money that was loaned to you.
  • Travel logs and tickets: The IRS may want to examine travel plans and dates, mileage information, tickets, and expenses.
  • Theft or loss documents: If you experienced a theft or loss, the IRS will want to see insurance reports describing the loss, police reports, adjustor appraisals, and other relevant information.
  • Medical records
  • Legal documents: The IRS will likely want copies of documents related to property acquisition, tax preparation, divorce settlements, custody agreements, and any civil and criminal cases you have been involved in.

Your Rights During an IRS Audit

It is critical for anyone going through a tax audit to remember that they have certain rights as a taxpayer. In addition to professional and respectful treatment from IRS employees, you also have a right to confidentiality, the right to know why the IRS is auditing you, the right to know how the IRS will use any information gathered, and the right to know what the consequences will be if you do not provide the requested information. Most importantly, you have the right to be represented by a qualified tax lawyer. If you disagree with the IRS’s findings, you have the right to challenge or appeal the IRS auditor’s decision or file a petition with the U.S. Tax Court.

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: San Jose foreign income tax compliance lawyerIn July 2019, the Internal Revenue Service Large Business and International Division announced that six new campaigns are being launched to help noncompliant taxpayers avoid criminal prosecution and/or civil penalties. These campaigns are part of an effort to allow taxpayers who are currently behind on their tax obligations to become compliant with the law. Two such campaigns address obligations related to foreign financial assets and expatriates. If you have unresolved tax issues related to foreign assets or are living outside the United States, these campaigns may be of special interest to you.

The Purpose of the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program

U.S. citizens or residents who make money outside the United States are still required to report this income to the Internal Revenue Service. Those who fail to report foreign assets and pay the associated taxes may be subject to civil penalties and even criminal prosecution. In 2009, the IRS created the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) as an avenue for taxpayers to avoid criminal liability and resolve outstanding tax debt related to foreign assets. This program ended in 2018. Because many former OVDP participants are still noncompliant with U.S. tax laws, the IRS has launched a number of new campaigns to address compliance issues.   

Post OVDP Relief and Expatriation

The IRS has recently announced a new campaign addressing individuals who had previously participated in the OVDP but have failed to remain compliant with foreign asset reporting. The Post OVDP Compliance campaign will identify problems that represent a risk of noncompliance. The IRS says it plans to address tax noncompliance through examinations (audits) and “soft letters,” which warn taxpayers that they may need to take steps to meet their reporting requirements.

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