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san jose tax lawyerProperty owners in the state of California are often subject to high property taxes. Fortunately, while a home or commercial property may increase in value, California laws limit the amount by which property taxes can be increased. Each year, property taxes cannot increase by more than 2 percent, regardless of how the value of the property has changed. However when ownership of property is transferred, this may trigger a reassessment of property taxes based on the property’s current market value, and the new owner may be required to pay higher taxes than the previous owner. In cases where the parties to a transaction did not fully understand the tax consequences of a transfer of ownership, a deed may be rescinded, ensuring that property taxes will revert back to their previous levels.

Requirements for Deed Rescission

A deed rescission will return ownership of property to the previous owner as if the sale or transfer of property had never occurred. To be legally valid, a deed rescission must be mutual, meaning that all parties involved in the transaction must consent to the rescission. A rescission must be performed within a reasonable amount of time. Since each situation is unique, rescissions will be handled on a case-by-case basis, and a County Assessor will determine whether a rescission was completed promptly and within a reasonable time period. An assessor may look at factors such as whether the parties received benefits prior to the rescission, including earning income through ownership of the property.

All parties involved in a rescission must be restored to the position they were in before the transaction took place. Any payments received must be refunded, or other property received in exchange for real estate must be returned to the original owner. An assessor may look at different forms of evidence to determine whether the parties were restored to the status quo, such as bank records showing that funds were transferred or tax returns that demonstrate that the proper party received income from their ownership of the property.

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san jose tax lawyerOver the past decade, the rates of expatriation, in which a U.S. citizen renounces their citizenship or a long-term resident of the United States ends their legal residence status, have increased significantly for a variety of reasons. Because U.S. citizens and residents are required to pay taxes on all income they earn, including income earned in foreign countries, expatriation may seem like a good option to alleviate a person’s tax burden. However, expatriation has tax consequences, and upon renunciation of U.S. citizenship or termination of residency status, a person may be required to pay taxes based on the assets they own. Failure to do so can result in significant tax penalties. Fortunately, an experienced attorney can help expatriates understand the tax laws that apply to them and ensure they are taking the correct steps to avoid penalties.

Recent Case Demonstrates the Consequences of Misreporting Income and Assets

In a recent case prosecuted by the Justice Department, the founder of a Russian bank pled guilty to committing tax fraud when he expatriated from the UnitedStates. After the bank became a publicly traded company that was worth billions of dollars, the founder renounced his citizenship. When doing so, he falsely reported that his net worth was only $300,000, and on his tax return for that year, he falsely reported an income of around $200,000. In actuality, the court found his net worth was over $1.1 billion.

The man’s false reporting led to an underpayment of taxes by more than $248 million. After he was arrested and charged with tax fraud, he pled guilty to the charges. Under a plea deal, he agreed to pay over $506 million, which included the taxes owed, statutory interest, civil tax penalties, and a fine of $250,000.

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san jose tax lawyerThere are many different issues that can lead to tax penalties, including failing to file the correct forms and report certain information to the IRS. In a recent blog, we looked at the potential penalties that may apply if a taxpayer fails to file Forms 3520 and/or 3520-A. These forms are used to report transactions involving foreign trusts, and in some cases, a taxpayer may be required to pay a penalty of 35% of the amount that was transferred to or distributed from a trust. For those who have not filed these forms as required, it may be possible to mitigate this issue by using the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, which is commonly known as streamlined compliance.

What Are the Streamlined Procedures?

Individual taxpayers who meet the standards of being “U.S. persons” may use the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures to fulfill all of their reporting requirements and correct any errors that may have led to an underpayment of the taxes owed. While these taxpayers will be required to pay a penalty, it will often be lower than the penalties that would apply otherwise.

The streamlined procedures will only be available for taxpayers who acted non-willfully when they failed to meet their requirements. Negligence, ignorance of tax laws, inadvertent errors, or other actions taken in good faith may be considered to be non-willful conduct. Deliberate attempts to avoid paying taxes or purposeful failure to report income or assets is considered willful conduct that will disqualify a person from using the streamlined procedures. 

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california tax lawyerThe U.S. Tax Code is complicated, and it is easy for taxpayers to make mistakes when filing tax forms or reporting their income and assets to the IRS. This is especially true for taxpayers with foreign assets or income. These taxpayers will need to meet multiple types of reporting requirements, and failure to do so can result in large penalties. A taxpayer who is the owner or beneficiary of a foreign trust will need to be sure to file Forms 3520 and/or 3520-A at the appropriate times, and if they fail to do so, they may face significant penalties.

A person may hold assets in a trust that is outside the jurisdiction of the United States. Since these types of trusts may sometimes be used in tax avoidance schemes, taxpayers are required to report certain types of transactions to ensure that income taxes and any other applicable taxes will be applied correctly. These requirements may apply to the owner or grantor of a foreign trust, a beneficiary who receives distributions from a foreign trust, and a trust itself.

Form 3520

U.S. citizens, domestic corporations or partnerships, estates, and trusts that are controlled by U.S. persons are required to file Form 3520 in the following situations:

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san jose tax lawyerBusiness owners may need to address a variety of tax matters, and one important issue involves the classification of workers as either employees or independent contractors. Employers who classify workers incorrectly could face penalties, or they may be required to pay certain types of employment taxes at the federal and state levels. By understanding the rules for classifying workers, business owners can be sure they are in compliance with all applicable tax laws.

Federal Worker Classification Rules

Employers will need to withhold and pay certain types of federal taxes on behalf of employees, including income taxes, Social Security taxes, and unemployment taxes. However these taxes do not need to be withheld for independent contractors. The IRS looks at three issues to determine whether a worker should be classified as an employee or independent contractor:

  • Behavioral control - If a company controls how a worker performs their job, such as the hours and locations they work and whether they can work for other companies, they will be more likely to be considered an employee.

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