Protect Yourself and Limit Your Liability
Those in the financial services industry typically have a candid and open relationship with their clients. The clients of bankers, CPAs, tax preparers and financial advisers or financial planners speak of their hopes and dreams as well as their troubles and concerns.
If your client discloses the existence of offshore accounts during one of these candid discussions, I recommend that you advise your client to speak with a tax attorney. My name is Connie Yi, and at my California law firm of Law Offices of Connie Yi, PC, I assist clients with offshore asset voluntary disclosure. I am also a licensed CPA and am well aware of the professional responsibility for financial professionals. It is for this reason that I recommend that you refer your clients to an experienced and qualified tax attorney. I would be glad to accept those referrals.
If your clients are under IRS investigation, they are no longer eligible for voluntary disclosure. It is important that clients disclose before the IRS discovers.
Why Disclosure Matters to Financial Professionals
The non-disclosure of offshore assets carries heavy IRS penalties, including some that rise to the criminal level. Consider the following scenario:
- If your client mentions an offshore account and,
- If your client does not voluntarily disclose it to the IRS and,
- If the IRS discovers the offshore account and your knowledge of it,
- Then you could be charged with aiding and abetting the taxpayer.
The IRS is increasing its efforts to identify individuals in the U.S. who have offshore accounts.
The Next Steps
If your client discloses an offshore account, you have certain ethical and professional responsibilities. From a legal standpoint, your next steps are important and what you do not do can be as important as what you do.
- Do — Tell your client to consult with a tax attorney
- Do — End the conversation and limit your exposure
- Do — Refer to your financial ethical code for guidance
- Do not — Disclose the assets without talking to a tax attorney first
- Do not — Move the funds
- Do not — Ask any additional questions (the answers to which are not protected by client/attorney privilege)
In the area of tax compliance and offshore assets, I frequently accept referrals from financial professionals. I would be happy to advise your client on the best course of action regarding the disclosure of their offshore assets.