Sunday, December 11, 2011

The IRS is going after me and other Americans in Israel

There have been articles in Hamodia for months about how the IRS is cracking down and is auditing people in Israel who claimed the child tax credit. However, I never thought it would happen to me. Last week I received a letter from the IRS stating that I owed tens of thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties. I was quite surprised as I file a tax return every year and get a refund every year. It took me a while to figure out why they thought I owed all that money but I finally figured out what they did. I immediately went to an accountant who specializes in these things and he told me that I am not alone, many people have gotten such letters.

Here is the IRS's modus operendi. Let's take as an example someone who made $100,000 in salary working in Israel and paid $40,000 in Israeli taxes with 6 kids. The taxes that they paid in Israel more then cover what their US tax liability and since the child tax credit is refundable they would get between $5000 - $6000 as a refund. What the IRS does is they believe that you made $100,000 but throw everything else away. (Very similar to teh idea of פלגינן דיבורא in halacha). They deny that the foreign taxes were paid and the fact that you have 6 children. From their perspective it is all a fiction to cheat the US government. Therefore, from the IRS's perspective you made $100,000, paid no taxes, and in fact got $6000 in illegitimate child tax credits. Oh, and by the way you have 30 days to answer them otherwise they start taking your assets.

Proving that I made what I said I made and paid taxes in Israel like I said, is not difficult, I have my pay stubs and year end (tofes 106) statement. However, how do you prove that your children are your children and that they live with you? What kind of proof can you bring? The accountant suggested going to our family doctor and getting a letter from him attesting that these are our children. We did that and it turns out we were not the first to ask him for it.

The accountant needs to get my Israeli pay stubs etc. translated and then he will respond to the IRS. Hopefully it will go well.

One lesson that I learned, never throw out things like pay stubs, etc. You never know when you may need them.


After submitting all my supporting documentation (pay stubs, children's passports, letters from schools, doctors, etc.) the IRS has withdrawn their claim and sent me an official letter stating that I don't owe anything.


Moshe said...

Is this for child tax credits? Taking off children as dependents on your tax returns?

Do you not have birth certificates for your children? US Passports?

bluke said...

The child tax credit is part of it. The other part is the foreign tax credit.

Of course we have birth certificates US Passports, and SS#'s for the kids(you can't file a return without a SS#), but the IRS wants proof that they live with us.

zdub said...

Your title reads as if the IRS is specifically targeting Americans in Israel whereas - unless you can show otherwise - this more likely arises out of a genuine attempt at the IRS cracking down on fraud. If your documentation is in order, you should be fine. Did you even attempt to contact the IRS to ask what kind of docs are acceptable?

bluke said...

The IRS is specifically targeting Americans in Israel, this is a known fact and has been widely reported in the press.

As for contacting the IRS, I relied on my accountant's advice. He has spoken to the IRS many times and has gotten conflicting answers.

Ellen said...

The IRS is specifically targeting Americans in Israel, because unfortunately a good number claiming child tax credits have been guilty of fraud!

A couple of years ago there were loads of classified ads luring American citizens on kollel stipends and whatever, who hadn't yet gotten citizenship for their Israeli-born children, to apply for the child tax credit. These "accountants" took fees based on a percentage of the return (illegal) and in some cases filed returns with incorrect information to the (temporary) benefit of their clients.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

The US needs every cent the IRS can extort out of anywhere.

Srul said...

This letter misrepresents the issue. The issue is Earned Income Credit that certain low-income individuals (or families) can take if they indeed have "earned income" such as wages, for example. The fraud consists of inventing earned income by declaring kollel payments, etc as such.