Anyone who is conducting business internationally or making large transactions should be aware of attorney paymaster services. These services are designed to protect you and others involved in your high-dollar transaction from fraud, and to offer legal protections by ensuring that all the proper steps are followed to comply with financial regulations, including KYC, AML, CDDand EDD. Beloware just a few of the risks that an attorney paymaster can protect against.
FraudWhenever you conduct high-dollar transactions (such as real estate, jet fuel or precious diamonds and metals), or work with an overseas buyer or seller, there is a risk that you could be participating in a fraudulent transaction. This is especially true in transactions in which you may have never met the person face to face or talked to them except electronically. With an attorney paymaster acting as an escrow account, you can hold funds in the reserve account until you verify that the transaction is legitimate. This is prudent on both the buyer’s and the seller’s side—if you are selling goods, the attorney paymaster can confirm that payment is made before you release the items. If you are buying, the attorney paymaster can release your funds to the seller and track the shipment of goods.
Money LaunderingAnother potential risk that people face when they are doing business with entities or individuals they have never met is inadvertently becoming a participant in a money laundering transaction. Your attorney paymaster can help you verify the person or entity on the other end of the transaction using KYC (know your customer), CDD or EDD (customer due diligence or enhanced due diligence) and AML (anti-money laundering) verifications. It is often easier for an attorney paymaster to perform these checks than it would be for you, as they can be time-consuming and difficult if you don’t have experience in these areas. These checks are also required by law, so it’s important that you have them done by someone who knows how to do it right.
Clerical ErrorsEven legitimate transactions with buyers who have checked out through KYC, CDD and AML can run into issues when it comes to the paperwork. A lot of information must be confirmed, filled out, filed with various regulatory bodies and shared in the process of your transaction. Missing a key piece of information or filling out some of the forms incorrectly can still land you in trouble or significantly slow down a transaction. Working with an attorney paymaster service ensures that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, so you can move forward confidently in your transaction. Cantley Dietrich is available to provide attorney paymaster services for your high-value domestic or international transactions. Contact us today to learn more.
High-net-worth individuals have a lot to consider when it comes to asset protection, but one important factor that not everyone thinks to take into account is how well your asset protection strategy protects your privacy. How does your attorney or financial advisor work to protect your privacy? If you’re not sure, you could be putting yourself at unnecessary risk.
Most Info Is Just a Click AwayThe internet provides us with a lot of connectivity tools, and nowhere has it had more of an impact than on privacy. Sensitive information is easily available with just a few website clicks. In fact, people with high net worth might be at even higher risk for the exposure of personal information. This is because they are more likely to have transactions recorded that can be traced electronically through the internet than someone who has lower net worth and fewer assets (property ownership, public salary information, asset registrations, etc.). Even information you would prefer to keep private is more accessible than ever, which can make financial planning more difficult without the right strategies and tools.
Opportunistic Plaintiffs Can Make Life HarderWhen financial information is readily available online, it can make you the target of an opportunistic plaintiff looking to make a quick buck from a frivolous lawsuit. With so much information available online about assets, properties, bank accounts, salaries, net worth and more, anyone who is wealthy could quickly find themselves embroiled in a lawsuit or on the receiving end of demands for money. Information that is readily available about your net worth or the extent of your assets could also come back to harm you in civil or personal cases—for example, a divorced spouse or an ex-business partner who decides to sue. You never know who might be keeping tabs on your overall net worth online, so the more privacy you can get, the better.
Commercial or Business InterestsThe more public your financial information, the more likely you will be exposed to commercial sales calls, business propositions and other unwanted requests as well. While not as troublesome as lawsuits, it is certainly an inconvenience when you are constantly interrupted by phone calls, emails or even in-person solicitations for donations. For all these reasons, it’s important to work with an attorney and financial advisor who understands the tools available to protect your assets, and the importance of protecting your privacy in the process. Find out how Cantley Dietrich can help by contacting us about your asset protection and financial planning needs today.
For some transactions, it’s important to protect yourself and others by engaging an attorney paymaster. These services are available for both domestic and foreign transactions, and while there are no set rules about what you can and cannot use attorney paymaster services for, there are a few transaction types or industries in which these services are more common.
Understanding Paymaster ServicesEngaging an attorney for paymaster services is a pretty straightforward transaction:
- You hire the attorney to act as a paymaster.
- The attorney verifies both parties in the transaction for compliance with KYC, CDD/EDD, and AML requirements.
- The attorney holds funds in escrow and helps complete all necessary paperwork to satisfy legal requirements.
- The attorney paymaster releases the funds to the seller upon completion and verification of the information.
When Attorney Paymaster Services Make SenseThe use of attorney paymaster services can provide an added layer of security and protection in large transactions, particularly ones involving foreign buyers or sellers. The most common situations in which people utilize an attorney paymaster include:
- Real estate, particularly large transactions or international deals
- Oil or jet fuel transactions
- The purchase or sale of gold, diamonds or other precious metals
- Steel transactions
- Note transactions
Other Important Notes About Paymaster ServicesBefore you can participate in any attorney paymaster transaction, all parties in the transaction will need to verify their identity and provide additional information to the attorney. You will need:
- A valid driver’s license or passport
- IRS form W-9 (U.S. citizens only)
- IRS form W-8BEN (for non-U.S. citizens)
- Copy of payment agreement and other transaction documentation
- Other documentation or identity verification as requested by the attorney
Learn More About Paymaster Services at Cantley DietrichTo find out more about the attorney paymaster services available at Cantley Dietrich and get your questions answered, contact us today.
In part one of this blog post, we covered two things that the IRS is focusing on now that they are back after a break during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between April 1 and July 15, they announced the People First Initiative, which would halt many of their normal audit, investigation and enforcement activities in an effort to protect their employees and help those affected by COVID-19. Once the break ended in mid-July, the IRS stepped up their efforts in these areas once again.
Focus: Abusive Tax Preparers and PromotersThe IRS hired a new coordinator to oversee investigations of promoters pushing aggressive (and unlawful) tax arrangements. They plan to monitor a wide variety of civil investigations with the goal of ensuring that tax promoters known to engage in questionable tactics remain in compliance with injunctions and other enforcement. What it means for taxpayers: You hire a tax attorney or advisor for their expertise, and most taxpayers—including businesses and high-net-worth individuals — don’t have a deep knowledge of which tax strategies are illegal. It’s important to vet a tax advisor before you hire them, checking for a history of abusive or illegal activity. Fortunately, there are still many effective tax strategies you can employ to protect your earnings, and working with a reputable advisor or firm will help you avoid the negative legal consequences.
Focus: Syndicated Conservative EasementsEarlier this year, the IRS extended an offer to settle cases involving syndicated conservative easements after announcing in 2016 that it would be looking more closely at these transactions. The IRS discovered that taxpayers were using conservative easement donations to claim deductions for more than the actual value of donated property. What it means for taxpayers: After several years of auditing and litigating, the IRS has extended a settlement offer to conservative easement cases pending litigation. They are strongly encouraging taxpayers to accept the settlement terms, and have committed to pursue further litigation (including a trial) for those who do not. If you’ve invested in a syndicated conservative easement, talk to your tax attorney about next steps.
Focus: Fraudulent Micro-Captive Insurance Tax SheltersThe IRS has included micro-captive insurance companies on the Dirty Dozen list of tax scams for several years in a row, and will continue to pursue them aggressively in 2020 and beyond. They announced the creation of 12 new investigative teams to pursue audits and litigation when they deem a captive insurance company (CIC) to be an abusive tax vehicle. What it means for taxpayers: If you have an 831(b) CIC as part of your investment strategy, it’s important to talk to a knowledgeable and trustworthy tax attorney. CICs can be useful for risk management and mitigation when used appropriately, so it’s best to have yours reviewed before the IRS contacts you for an audit.
Find a Trusted Tax AdvisorThe IRS remains committed to identifying, auditing and litigating abusive tax shelters or unethical tax practices. High-net-worth individuals and businesses should find a trustworthy tax attorney to help them identify appropriate, legal and ethical tax strategies. Talk to Cantley Dietrich today to learn more.
As with many different jobs and industries, COVID-19 caused significant closures at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), with service centers and offices nationwide shutting down operations and sending employees home to work. A March 25 announcement released by the IRS outlined the steps they were planning to take as part of the “People First Initiative” to help those facing challenges as a result of COVID-19. It included:
- Extending tax-filing deadlines
- Postponing payments for Installment Agreements and Offers in Compromise
- Limiting enforcement actions
- Suspending field collection activities
- Suspending new systemic liens and levies
- Stopping new delinquent accounts from being forwarded to private collection agencies
- Postponing any new field, office or correspondence audits
Focus: High-Net-Worth Taxpayer AuditsThe IRS said they would resume audits for high-net-worth individuals starting July 15, with the intent of auditing hundreds of returns by the end of the third quarter. While their examination and audit methods may be slightly different — with limited in-person and face-to-face interactions — they still intend to thoroughly examine entities such as partnerships, pass-through entities, S corporations, trusts and international financial activities. This follows the June announcement that the Large Business and International (LB&I) Division would make high-net-worth individuals a focus this year for “Wealth Squad” investigations. What it means for taxpayers: If you fall into the category of a high-net-worth individual for tax purposes, you need to recognize that the IRS has a stated goal of uncovering sophisticated planning tools and aggressive tax vehicles used for purposes of reducing tax liability. The audits are conducted by a team with specialized knowledge of foreign and domestic financial structures and are comprehensive, even if you have not filed a tax return yet for the year. It’s important to understand and utilize effective (and legal) tax-planning tools that won’t put you at risk.
Focus: Fraud EnforcementIn mid-March, the IRS formed a new Fraud Enforcement Office, appointing an experienced criminal investigator to lead the team and strengthen the link between criminal and civil IRS agents. While much of their work was likely halted in the wake of COVID-19, there is an expectation that the new office will provide a boost for fraud detection and deterrent efforts. What it means for taxpayers: There will likely be an increase in the number of fraud referrals, as well as more coordination between civil and criminal divisions, which may result in more civil penalties along with the potential for criminal charges.
Get the Tax Help You NeedAs with any situation involving the IRS, the most important preventive action you can take is to have knowledgeable tax advisors to sort through complex financial and legal tax issues. In part two of this blog post, we’ll cover a few more areas the IRS intends to focus on in the coming months. In the meantime, contact Cantley Dietrich for help if you think you might be the target of increased IRS enforcement, audits or investigations.
Even those who don’t follow politics closely know that there’s a consequential election coming near the end of 2020. With only a few weeks left to go before the nation casts a vote on who will lead the country for the next four years, now is a good time to look at how elections affect markets in general, and some specifics to understand about what is unique about this year.
Historical Effects of Presidential Elections on the MarketsIf you look at the last 60 years of data related to presidential elections and stock market activity, most of the volatility occurs before the election takes place. September tends to be the worst month for market volatility, with stocks losing an average of 0.51% historically (although that trend has reversed somewhat in the last 25 years). In fact, most election years have less volatility in the markets leading up to an election than non-election years. On the whole, market trends are positive for election years. In 19 of 23 presidential election years (going back to 1928), only four years have negative returns. But the election itself is not the only factor that can influence market performance. In 2008, a recession dramatically changed the “normal” cycles of the market. In 2020, a combination of many factors brought on by the global pandemic are once again influencing the markets far more than the presidential election.
What Experts Predict for 2020 and the MarketsThis year’s election is likely to be consequential for many reasons. From a tax perspective, the policies of the two nominees are very different. In the 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the markets focused heavily on tax policies, primarily because that is one of the most direct ways lawmakers can impact corporations and individuals. The same is true in 2020, with investors expecting that a Trump second term would continue a similar tax-cutting trend, while a Biden victory would potentially lead to an increase in taxes for high-income earners and a full or partial reversal of the corporate tax reduction from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. COVID-19 has also dramatically altered the market landscape for 2020. After hitting a record high of 29,551.42 on Feb. 12, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 35% just a few weeks later on March 20. Two of the top five largest single-day drops in history occurred on March 16 and March 12 when the Dow lost 12.93% and 9.99%, respectively. Since that time, it has regained most of the losses, but remains volatile as the election approaches. Recent events such as the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg have further amplified Wall Street’s worries ahead of what was already promising to be a volatile election season.
What Does This Mean for Investors?If you are worried about your own portfolio or what potential election results could mean for your company and personal financial situation, now is the time to talk to an experienced tax advisor. Cantley Dietrich can help you identify personal estate and planning opportunities, even during a pandemic and presidential election.
There are a few things in life that you should leave to the professionals, and tax compliance is one of them. According to a 2012 report to Congress from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), individuals and businesses spend 6.1 billion hours every year complying with tax code regulations, and that calculation doesn’t even take audits or investigations into account. Beyond just the time you can save working with a tax compliance attorney, you must consider the potential costs of not working with one. Companies and high-net-worth individuals who try the DIY approach to tax compliance issues may find out the hard way that it can be expensive to make a mistake in this arena.
Audits, Fines and FeesIn 2019, the IRS assessed over $40 billion in civil penalties. The category with the highest penalties ($14.2 billion) was individual and estate and trust income tax returns. Close behind that were employment tax penalties at around $13.7 billion, with business income tax penalties over $5 billion. Those fines were the result of more than 73,000 cases that the IRS closed in 2019, some of which began more than a year prior. The IRS has a virtually unlimited capacity to assess fines and fees if they find anything wrong in your tax returns, even if it was an unintentional error or omission. They audit millions of individuals and corporations each year, and pursue criminal and civil charges to collect.
Time and Effort to RespondIn addition to the financial risks of getting hit with fines and fees, companies and high-net-worth individuals also need to consider how much it costs to respond to and participate in an audit. The sheer volume of information that the IRS requests can leave you or your staff buried in financial documents for weeks, months or years in some cases. Once the IRS opens an audit or investigation, they will spend as much time as it takes to see it through.
Hiring a Tax Attorney is the Better WayAs Benjamin Franklin is quoted saying in a 1789 letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, “… In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Though there is not any way to avoid taxes entirely, with the help of a tax compliance attorney, you can feel confident that you are not unintentionally violating any of the myriad tax laws and regulations. That doesn’t mean the IRS will never bother you, but it does significantly diminish the risk that you will be the subject of an investigation for noncompliance. Contact Cantley Dietrich to discuss your tax compliance needs with our experts.
Attorney paymaster services are an important part of transactions in certain industries. When you are looking for an attorney who offers these services, it’s important to be prepared for what you will encounter prior to and during your relationship with a firm. Attorney paymasters must follow strict and specific rules to participate in these transactions, so you will need to be ready to comply with requests related to your business activities.
Preparing to Work with an Attorney PaymasterThe most important thing that an attorney will need to do in advance of any transaction is learn more about you, your business and your transaction(s). In the industry, it’s referred to as “Know Your Customer (KYC)” and “Customer Due Diligence” (CDD). Both these activities are required to comply with anti-money laundering (AML) laws and regulations and will be part of the process no matter what industry you work in or what type of transaction you are planning.
Know Your CustomerThese processes generally consist of identification and compliance checks. Your attorney paymaster will do some preliminary screening with various government watchlists and databases. During KYC, you will need to provide a variety of personal and/or business documents, including:
- Government-issued personal identification
- Articles of incorporation
- Business licenses
- Organizational charts
- Activity profile for your business
- Size, frequency and types of transactions
- Additional information for KYC on individual corporate officers
- Documents and information about any other corporations or entities that your business owns (including overseas entities)
Customer Due DiligenceThe next step is due diligence, which includes a risk assessment and “scoring” related to your occupation, industry or entity type. The attorney paymaster will use this information to identify your expected transaction size, frequency, geographies, products and other relevant information. Ultimately, this is used to create a “risk matrix” and activity profile, which allows the attorney paymaster to monitor and flag suspicious activity in the future.
Compliance with KYC and CDD ProtocolsYour attorney paymaster is required to comply with federal and international laws and regulations related to financial transactions, and courts have upheld that responsibility for attorneys who failed to perform adequate checks and ultimately were party to internet scams or other money-laundering activities. While the process may seem frustrating, it’s important to understand why it’s necessary. Being prepared with the right paperwork can help speed the process, especially for large or complex organizations. Contact us to find out more about the attorney paymaster services available at Cantley Dietrich.
Working with an attorney paymaster is a good idea for businesses engaging in large transactions including real estate, jet fuel, gold or diamonds, and note transactions. These often involve significant amounts of money and have several federal regulations that you must satisfy to avoid legal trouble. As paymaster, the attorney acts as a neutral third-party to receive funds from a buyer, hold them in escrow as all the paperwork and legal requirements are settled, then release the funds to the seller. Anyone looking to hire an attorney in these capacities should be aware that they must comply with certain regulatory requirements around KYC, CDD, and AML.
Breaking Down KYC, CDD, and AMLRegulatory landscapes around financial transactions have a lot of abbreviations and acronyms, but perhaps none more important than:
- KYC — Know Your Customer/Client
- CDD — Customer Due Diligence
- EDD — Enhanced Due Diligence (sometimes required)
- AML — Anti-Money Laundering
Know Your Customer/ClientKYC is a critical part of financial transactions, particularly large or international transactions. These activities are intended to provide more information about the person or company behind the transaction to ensure the funding source is legitimate and not tied to nefarious organizations, such as terrorism or organized crime.
Customer Due DiligenceIn order to manage risk effectively and protect themselves from potential involvement in financial crimes or similar activities, attorneys perform CDD. This process, along with the KYC activities, provides in-depth information about the location and identity of a client and a client’s activities to properly assess potential risks. It’s critical that clients work with attorneys to complete the CDD process to avoid delays in the transaction.
Enhanced Due DiligenceSome high-risk customers may need to go through an enhanced due diligence process to get a better understanding of their financial activities. The initial CDD will usually determine whether a more in-depth review is necessary. What may trigger EDD? High transaction amounts or volume, ties to high-risk countries, or evidence of current or past high-risk activities.
Anti-Money LaunderingAML activities ensure that an attorney paymaster will not participate in transactions for purposes of money laundering or with laundered money. The purpose is to make it more difficult for someone involved in criminal activities to get away with the money, and to prevent corruption, tax evasion, theft or fraud. AML usually involves an initial review, then continual monitoring of financial transactions to spot potential red flags. If you are interested in working with Cantley Dietrich for attorney paymaster services, contact us today to learn more about our KYC, CDD and AML processes and important details about how these services can benefit you in certain financial transactions.
Beckett Cantley, senior partner of Cantley Dietrich, was named to the top ten most downloaded papers published on the research site SSRN under the Consumer Protection & Enforcement and the Life Insurance topic headings. The paper, Summary of Articles on Abusive Captive Insurance Companies, was published by the Utah chapter of the American Institute for CPAs (AICPA) on September 15, 2013.
About the PaperAuthor Beckett G. Cantley, JD, LLM, analyzed the current IRS enforcement actions in light of the multiple publications Prof. Cantley had previously published in scholarly journals dissecting the tax promoters and life insurance agents who advised unsuspecting business owners to use Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 831(b) to form a captive insurance company (CIC) for reasons not in keeping with the intent and substance of the statute. The provision was rarely used until the late 2000s, and promoters advised clients that since the IRS rarely audited these vehicles, a CIC was compliant as a tax planning, estate planning, or wealth transfer entity. As CICs gained in popularity, the IRS took note and started updating statutes and regulations to go after individuals or companies abusing the purposes of Section 831(b) CICs.
The IRS Targets CICsThe IRS identified five areas of Section 831(b) non-compliance:
- Life insurance on the owners of CICs as a core “investment”
- Offshore jurisdictions posing as unassailable managers
- Premiums in excess of risk and inappropriate coverages
- Estate planning ownership
- Loan-back structures
- Circular cash flows
- Lack of bona fide debt
- Step transaction doctrine
- Sham transaction doctrine
- Business purpose doctrine
- Substance over form doctrine
- Economic substance doctrine