Tuesday, June 21, 2011

United States v. Michael F. Schiavo

Let’s look at the matter of Michael Schiavo (United States v. Michael F. Schiavo). He was a bank director in Boston and had invested in a medical device partnership. This partnership had monies overseas. Schiavo decided to tuck the money (approximately $100,000) away and not tell anyone. He did not report the income and certainly did not file the Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts report (FBAR) with the Treasury on or before June 30 every year.

The partnership gave him about $100,000 in Bermuda to play with. He failed to file the FBARs for 2003 through 2008, so he was playing for a while.

He notices what the government was doing with UBS, meets with his advisor and decides to do a “quiet disclosure.” This means that he either amends his income tax return, files the FBAR, or both, without otherwise bringing attention to it. That is, it’s “quiet.”

The IRS had offered an amnesty program for foreign-account taxpayers back in 2009. The advantage was that the government would not prosecute. The downside was that there would be income taxes, penalties and a special 20% penalty for not having reported the monies originally. This program expired in October, 2009. Schiavo decided this was not for him.

The IRS has introduced another amnesty program in 2011, again allowing foreign-account taxpayers to come clean. This time the program covers two more years, and the penalties have been increased to 25% (with some exceptions). The IRS wants to increase the burden to the taxpayer so as not to reward the earlier act of noncompliance.

So Schiavo prepares and files FBARs for 2003 through 2008 but does not participate in the amnesty. That is, he is “quiet.” An IRS special agent then contacts him, whereupon Schiavo amends his income tax return to include the unreported income he just reported to the IRS via the FBAR.

You read this right. He made a quiet disclosure to the IRS but did not amend his income tax return to include the income he had just alerted them to.

The IRS estimates that the taxes at play were about $40,000.

Schiavo was convicted. He now faces a fine and possible jail time.

You are going to take this kind of risk for $40,000 in tax? Are you kidding me? You cannot retire on $40,000. Heck, one can barely send a kid to two years of college for $40,000. What was this guy thinking?

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