Rand Paul Sues IRS Over Foreign Account Taxes, Disclosures

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Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky and 2016 U.S. presidential candidate in Washington, D.C. on June 2. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul sued the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service over rules on how Americans abroad are taxed and what foreign banks must disclose about U.S. customers.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act is supposed to make it harder to hide assets overseas, yet its regulations are unconstitutional and violate privacy rights of U.S. citizens, Paul said in the complaint. The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Dayton, Ohio, also seeks to strike down requirements for Americans to file reports on foreign accounts over $10,000.

The tax act, or Fatca, “imposes enormous economic costs on individuals and financial institutions,” according to the suit by the U.S. senator from Kentucky and six others. It makes millions of Americans living abroad report accounts above $50,000 with their annual tax returns. Fatca also requires foreign banks to report any account held by a U.S. taxpayers.

“On the most fundamental level, Fatca deprives individuals of the right to the privacy of their financial affairs,” according to the complaint. “On a practical level, Fatca is severely impinging on the ability of U.S. citizens to live and work abroad.”

Justice Department representatives didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail after regular business hours seeking comment on the lawsuit.

President Barack Obama signed the law in 2010, and the Treasury Department reached cross-border agreements that are easier for governments and banks to use than the strict rules in the law itself.

Tax Agreements

Those accords, which didn’t get congressional approval, are unconstitutional because they exceed the president’s authority, Paul claims. He asked a judge to strike down the Canadian, Czech, Israeli and Swiss agreements.

Paul, a frequent critic of the IRS, is blocking Senate ratification of a U.S.-Swiss tax treaty signed in 2009.

The lawsuit also targets the Treasury requirement that U.S. residents abroad disclose accounts through a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, or FBAR. Americans who willfully violate the law are subject to penalties of 50 percent of the high balance of the account -- a levy that can run into the millions of dollars.

Paul claims the penalties under both the FBAR provision and Fatca violate constitutional protections against excessive fines.

The lead lawyer on the case is James Bopp Jr., a longtime conservative activist whose clients have included the Republican National Committee.

Fatca requires U.S. financial institutions to impose a 30 percent withholding tax on payments made to foreign banks that don’t agree to identify and provide information on U.S. account holders. It allows the U.S. to scoop up data from more than 77,000 institutions and 80 governments about its citizens’ overseas financial activities.

The case is Crawford v. U.S. Department of Treasury, 15-cv-00250, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio (Dayton).

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