Foreign Account Reporting Lawyers: International Tax Compliance

Foreign Account Reporting Lawyers: International Tax Compliance

Foreign Account Reporting Lawyers

When it comes to hiring an experienced international tax attorney to represent you for unreported foreign and offshore account reporting, it can become overwhelming for taxpayers trying to trek through all the false information and nonsense they will find in their online research. There are only a handful of attorneys worldwide who are Board-Certified Tax Specialists and who specialize exclusively in offshore disclosure and international tax amnesty reporting. Whether it is because the attorney is not actually as experienced as they want you to believe, and/or the attorney has fallen victim to the 10 to 15-year ‘I am an expert, but not really trap’ as published previously by the American Bar Association — it is very important to understand what your actual tax situation is, what type of representation you require, and what pitfalls to look out for.

Board-Certified, Dual-Licensed & Exclusive Focus in Offshore Tax Matters

Offshore disclosure for previously undisclosed foreign accounts and assets is a very specialized area of international tax law. Any attorney that you hire to represent you should be a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist, dually licensed as an attorney and tax professional, and focus exclusively on offshore disclosure.  

The Attorney Claims to be An ‘Expert’

All too often, what you will find in your research quest is that any attorney who would actually be considered an expert by their peers does not hold themselves out as an expert. That is because it is nearly impossible to become an expert in the vast area of international tax law. Instead, what you will find are ‘self-proclaimed expert‘ attorneys with about 10-to-15 years of experience who claim to be experts – but are not actually experts. In fact, it has become such an epidemic in the legal world that a few years back, the American Bar Association published a very important article about what to watch out for when you come across 10-15 year attorneys claiming to be experts. The article is entitled, “Think Twice Before Calling Yourself an Expert.” 

Here are some of the key highlights from the article:

      • You have been in practice for 15 years. After starting out as a general practitioner, you found your caseload to be largely made up of employment law matters and after five years decided to limit your practice to that area. You have family who are union members, and word-of-mouth advertising has been positive.

          • Results from your work have been satisfying to clients, and your familiarity with the various laws relevant to employment matters is now solid. You teach a course at a local law school on employment law and frequently give workshops and guest lectures at seminars on the same topic. Can you now say you are an “expert” in employment law on your website?

      • You should think twice before doing so.”

          • “Put another way, use of the term expert is a subjective claim that leaves much to the reader’s imagination. In doing so, it can easily cross the line into false and misleading communication. State bar ethics opinions are unanimous on this point….”

      • “Risk of Discipline?”

          • “Lawyers have been disciplined for making misleading claims of expertise. See In re PRB Dockett No.2002.093, 177 Vt. 629, 868 A2d. 709 (2005) (affirming discipline imposed upon lawyer who advertised in the local Yellow Pages as The Injury Experts and used a list captioned by the words “We are experts in” and listed several areas of law; court noted statements carried an “ implicit statement of superiority with a serious potential to mislead the consumer”); In re Wells, 392 S.C. 371, 709 S.E.2d 644 (2011) (lawyer publicly reprimanded and fined for, among other things, making claims of expertise in advertisements without having been certified as an expert); and In re Richmond’s case 152 N.H. 155, 872 A.2d 1023 N.H. (2005) (lawyer suspended for misrepresenting that he had expertise in securities law).”

Tax and Legal Representation

When it comes to offshore disclosure and compliance, the tax and legal aspects of the submission are entwined throughout the entire process. Your tax and legal preparation should both be handled in-house.

*Beware of Law Firms falsely misrepresenting tax return protection is provided under ‘Kovel.’

No Trial or Litigation is Involved in Offshore Disclosure

Some firms try to scare taxpayers into believing that they need to retain a criminal lawyer or trial attorney in order to handle their offshore disclosure submission. In fact, offshore disclosure is not a court case and there is no litigation involved. Rather the entire matter is handled directly by the Internal Revenue Service and FinCEN. If you require a criminal lawyer or trial lawyer, you should retain a Board-Certified Criminal Law Specialist instead of a tax lawyer.

Is a Partner or Associate Handling Your Case?

Due to the complexity of international tax law and especially offshore voluntary disclosure, your case should be handled specifically and exclusively by a partner. Your legal communications should be direct communications with the partner.

Hourly or Flat-Fee?

Nearly all experienced international tax lawyers that specialize exclusively in these types of offshore disclosure matters handle these cases flat-fee, full-service. If a firm is handling your case hourly, there is the risk that they may be padding their billable hours. Here is an example of why you want to hire a flat-fee firm instead of an hourly firm — as well as a case study about how hourly lawyers pad their fees.

Current Year vs Prior Year Non-Compliance

Once a taxpayer has missed the tax and reporting (such as FBAR and FATCA) requirements for prior years, they will want to be careful before submitting their information to the IRS in the current year. That is because they may risk making a quiet disclosure if they just begin filing forward in the current year and/or mass filing previous year forms without doing so under one of the approved IRS offshore submission procedures. Before filing prior untimely foreign reporting forms, taxpayers should consider speaking with a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist that specializes exclusively in these types of offshore disclosure matters.

Avoid False Offshore Disclosure Submissions (Willful vs Non-Willful)

In recent years, the IRS has increased the level of scrutiny for certain streamlined procedure submissions. When a person is non-willful, they have an excellent chance of making a successful submission to Streamlined Procedures. If they are willful, they would submit to the IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program instead. But, if a willful taxpayer submits an intentionally false narrative under the Streamlined Procedures (and gets caught), they may become subject to significant fines and penalties

Golding & Golding: About Our International Tax Law Firm

Golding & Golding specializes exclusively in international tax, specifically IRS offshore disclosure

Contact our firm today for assistance.