This post contains a great review the W-8 series of forms. It is worth reading for that reason alone. But, I wonder about some of the other suggestions.
Your conclusion that:
“Accordingly, if a U.S. citizen were to sign IRS Form W-8BEN which I have seen banks erroneously request of their clients, they run the risk that the U.S. federal government will argue that such signatures and filing of false information with the bank was intentional and therefore criminal under IRC Section 7206(1).
Indeed, criminal cases are not simple, and I am not aware of any single criminal case that hinged exclusively on a false IRS Form W-8BEN. However, I have seen cases, where the government has alleged the U.S. born individual must have signed the form intentionally, knowing the information was false. It’s a question of proof and of course U.S. citizens wherever they reside, should take care to never sign an IRS Form W-8BEN as an individual certifying they are not a “United States person”; even if they think they are not a U.S. person”
With respect, I believe this statement is misleading.
The relevant statute to which you refer is:
“(1) Declaration under penalties of perjury
Willfully makes and subscribes any return, statement, or other document, which contains or is verified by a written declaration that it is made under the penalties of perjury, and which he does not believe to be true and correct as to every material matter; or . . .”
A conviction requires NOT a false statement, but a false statement with full knowledge that the statement was false. To add to the absurdity, the definition of U.S. citizen is the definition under the Internal Revenue Code – a definition over which there is substantial disagreement AND disagreement that is substantial.
It has become abundantly clear that few tax lawyers understand who or what a U.S. citizen even is.
If the lawyers don’t even understand what a U.S. citizen as defined by the Internal Revenue Code definition, then how is some poor schnuck who has been given a W-8.
In any case, a fair reading of your post leads to the conclusion that one should NOT complete any IRS form period. Maybe you are better off not playing “IRS Form Games” (when to use a Trumpism) “The form games are rigged.” If one completes the form one will be prosecuted for not agreeing to U.S. citizenship and if one does not complete the form, then …
Actually, here is a question for you.
What would be your conclusion if that same poor schmuck, knowing that he is NOT a U.S. citizen (or maybe he could never know that) decides to complete a W-9 because he wishes to be a U.S. citizen?
Individuals who do not specialize in U.S. federal tax law, often have little detailed understanding of the U.S. federal “Chapter 3” (long-standing law regarding withholding taxes on non-resident aliens and foreign corporations and foreign trusts) and “Chapter 4” (the relatively new withholding tax regime known as the “Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act”) rules.
Indeed, plenty of U.S. tax law professionals (CPAs, tax attorneys and enrolled agents) do not understand well the interplay between these two different withholding regimes –
- 26 U.S. Code Chapter 3 – WITHHOLDING OF TAX ON NONRESIDENT ALIENS AND FOREIGN CORPORATIONS
- 26 U.S. Code Chapter 4 – TAXES TO ENFORCE REPORTING ON CERTAIN FOREIGN ACCOUNTS
Plus, the IRS forms have been significantly modified over the years; with increasing factual representations that must be made by individuals who sign the forms under penalty of perjury. They are complex and not well understood. For instance…
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