Like people across the country, many people here in Massachusetts do what they can to avoid paying too much in taxes. Some of them may consult with self-styled financial gurus in order to make that happen. Many times, those consultants end up involving otherwise innocent taxpayers in offshore tax schemes that end up getting them in trouble with the IRS. Many of these foreign bank accounts violate the law.
Some countries have financial secrecy laws that allow people to hide money in their banks. A consultant sets up some sort of structure such as a foreign trust, offshore credit cards and bank accounts or foreign corporations, just to name a few. This scheme relies on keeping the identity of the Massachusetts resident a secret from the government. The taxpayer is then told that it is not necessary to disclose the assets put into these accounts to the IRS at tax time.
These tax schemes used to be used most often by those with significant wealth. However, with the advent of the internet, more middle-income individuals are now being solicited to participate in them. It may seem like a win-win situation since the participants incur little to no tax from the host country. The consultant convinces the taxpayer that this is perfectly legal, but as the old saying goes, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Unfortunately, these foreign bank accounts often put the participants in a precarious position. They could find themselves in substantial trouble with the IRS, with the prospect of having to remit unpaid taxes, penalties and interest — along with the possibility of federal criminal charges. At the first hint of a problem with the IRS, an attorney experienced in tax controversies is a crucial ally.