This week Morey answers listener tax questions about trusts, tax filing requirements and the changing Social Security laws. Morey constantly reads and reviews international tax law and changes in the U.S. tax code, so you don’t have to. He reminds us that tax planning can save you money and often times get your hard earned money refunded to you.
How much trouble am I in if I have not filed taxes for 5 years; I moved offshore from the U.S.?
It all depends on the amount of income you’ve made in that time period, how much tax you owe, and other situational factors. It is very important to become compliant as soon as possible. If you come back to the U.S. to visit you might find that your passport has been revoked and then you are no longer able to leave the country. However, you may only have to file for the past 3 years, as this is a typical fallback position. If we find that the tax due for those years is too high we can go back the full 5 years and see if any other deductions or exemptions are available. You never know, you may even be entitled to refund you were unaware of.
I am thinking of doing an IRA rollover, is there a tax penalty?
There is no penalty for an IRA rollover if the money is paid back within 60 days. However, beginning January 1, 2015 you can make only one rollover from an IRA to another (or the same) IRA in any 12-month period, regardless of the number of IRAs you own. Once this rule takes effect, you may be subject to a 10% withdrawal tax for each rollover. Since the tax consequences are growing larger you should start planning now to avoid costly penalties in the future.
What is a Family Trust?
A family trust is similar to a will in that it allows you to bequeath whatever you would like to your children and loved ones. It gives you much more control over the provisions and assurance that everything is carried out to your choice. There are many options when it comes to trusts. The best option for you depends on different things like the size of your estate, etc. For example, there’s an exemption of $5.4 million per individual on estate tax, so creating multiple trusts could be a benefit. Start planning to save on future estate tax and for peace of mind.
I set up a foreign trust and a Panamanian corporation, what issues do I have?
One problem we have found with the Panamanian system is that you are required to designate a nominee to be the owner of your corporation. By doing so, you are losing some control which can potentially have negative consequences. We’ve even seen money disappear which is a total nightmare. As far as foreign trusts go, just make sure you plan out everything here in the U.S. before you start moving money offshore. Among other troubles, fees to start some foreign trusts can be as high as $50,000, so do your research. Also, remember to always report the foreign trust to the U.S. on your FBAR (Form 114) and Form 3520. The penalties and interest for failing to do so can be huge; potentially up to 50% of the highest account balance every year.