What You Need to Know About OFAC License
OFAC Regulations and tax implication of bringing money from Iran
What are OFAC Functions?
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is a division of the US Treasury and administers the US economic sanctions programs imposed against many countries, including Iran.
OFAC issues specific licenses for conducting transactions in Iran also known as the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR), and enforces the US economic sanctions laws against person who may violate OFAC Regulations.
Depending on the severity of violations, OFAC may refer perpetrators to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.
What is an OFAC license?
A license is an authorization or permit from OFAC to engage in a transaction that otherwise would be prohibited under the law. There are two types of licenses; OFAC general licenses and OFAC specific licenses.
Who is a US person?
A US Person is defined as US Citizen, Green Card Holder, one who lives in the US, or US legal entity.
What is an OFAC license?
A license is an OFAC authorization to engage in an otherwise prohibited transaction under the law. There are two types of licenses: (I) general license and (II) specific license.
I- OFAC General License
An OFAC general license authorizes particular types of transactions for a class of persons without requiring an OFAC license. Some examples are:
1) Exportation of US medicine to Iran;
2) Exportation of most medical devices to Iran (some may require specific license);
3) Transferring gift money from Iran;
4) Transferring inheritance money from Iran;
5) Sale of inherited property in Iran;
6) Sale of property acquired prior to being a US person;
7) Importation of Persian rugs to the US; and,
8) Importation of Iranian foodstuffs to the US.
Notwithstanding the above general license provision, consultation with an Iranian OFAC attorney is recommended.
Gift and Inheritance
Inheritance is a property received from a decedent’s estate. If your folks live in the US, property you receive from them in Iran is not inheritance, because they are still alive and the property they give you is considered “gift“. Gift is something of value given to you without consideration. Although, there are exceptions to the rule, generally gifts or inheritances are received from a close relative or loved one, not from a stranger or neighbor.
Note: Receipt of gift property or inherited property in Iran may have different tax consequences for the donee or recipient, and tax attorney consultation is required.
II- OFAC Specific License
An OFAC specific license is a written document, authorizing a particular person to engage in a particular transaction pursuant to a written license request, generally for two years. There is no OFAC License application to be filed with OFAC.
Who needs an OFAC License?
Transactions not covered under the OFAC General License, not excepted by law, may require an OFAC specific license. The following are some transactions in Iran that require OFAC Specific License:
1) Selling property acquired after becoming a US person;
2) Selling property constructed or developed after becoming a US person;
3) Selling income producing property;
4) Selling other commercial property;
5) Winding down a business;
6) Closing a bank account in Iran;
7) Purchasing property in Iran;
8) Hiring legal counsel or agent to litigate a case;
9) Conducting your own business (self-employment);
10) Employment, exceptions; UN related (World Bank, International Monetary Fund; etc.);
11) Items 2,3,4,5, and 6, may require OFAC Voluntary Self Disclosure (VSD); and,
12) Sale of civilian air craft.
Documentation of Property Received in Iran
Because of their OFAC Regulations and tax consequences, it is important to obtain necessary documents, in consultation with and OFAC attorney and tax attorney, to substantiate proper classification of the following assets acquired in Iran:
1) Cash Gift from US Persons;
2) Cash Gift from Non-US persons;
3) Real Property, Business Assets, Securities, etc.
4) Inherited Cash;
5) Inherited Rental Property, Stocks and Bonds, etc.; and,
6) Property owned prior to becoming a US person.
Under the circumstance, the transfer of money from Iran may be of special interest to OFAC, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CID), or any other government authorities, US banks. Therefore, it is crucial to seek legal advice from knowledgeable OFAC attorneys and international tax attorneys before the money is deposited in your bank account in the US.
The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), also known as the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act, is a legislation passed by the United States Congress in1970 that requires US financial institutions to collaborate with the US government in cases of suspected money laundering and fraud. As such, the US banks and financial institutions are cautious about their own security, and strive to prevent any potentially illegal funds being transferred through them. This section of the bank must issue a “Suspicious Activity Report (SAR)” when they discern a suspicion.
From time to time, these US financial institutions freeze or reject the incoming foreign funds and return them to the country where they came from. As a result, client’s other accounts in the bank, or accounts in other banks, may be frozen or credit cards be cancelled. At that point, it could be very costly and time-consuming to resolve the problem that the client had nothing to do with.
Before transferring money from Iran, consult an OFAC attorney and a tax attorney, to be on the safe side.
OFAC Voluntary Self-Disclosure (“VSD”)
OFAC Voluntary Self-Disclosure (VSD) refers to self-initiated notification to OFAC of an apparent violation by a Subject Person that has committed, or otherwise participated in, an apparent violation of a statute, Executive Order, or regulation administered or enforced by OFAC, prior to or at the same time that OFAC, or any other federal, state, or local government agency or official, discovers the apparent violation or another substantially similar apparent violation. Some examples of such violations are:
1) Having a bank account in Iran;
2) Engaging in a self-employment business in Iran;
3) Being employed in Iran; except for UN related organizations; and,
4) Hiring a law firm in Iran to provide you with legal services, unless authorized by specific license or general license.
For these purposes, ‘‘substantially similar apparent violation’’ means an apparent violation that is part of a series of similar apparent violations or is related to the same pattern or practice of conduct. Notification of an apparent violation to another government agency, but not to OFAC, by a Subject Person, which is considered a VSD by that agency, may be considered a VSD by OFAC, based on a case-by-case assessment.
Zaher Fallahi, Iranian OFAC Sanctions Compliance Lawyer, CPA, assists Persian-American OFAC clients in:
1) Obtaining necessary documents to prove OFAC and tax cases;
2) Responding to OFAC Administrative Subpoena;
3) Filing OFAC Voluntary Self-Disclosure (VSD) Petition;
4) Responding to inquiries by OFAC, IRS, Criminal Investigation Division of IRS, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen), and other government agencies;
5) Preparing tax returns or filing informational tax returns with respect to OFAC transactions;
6) Resolving problems regarding frozen bank accounts under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA); and,
7) Advising clients how to avoid issuance of Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) under BSA by banks.
We advise clients on Iranian OFAC transactions
Zaher Fallahi, OFAC Sanctions Attorney, CPA, advises clients with respect to sale of property in Iran and transfer of the related funds to the US in conformity with the OFAC Regulations and the US tax laws. He practices as Orange County OFAC Attorney and Los Angeles Iranian OFAC Attorney in California.
Zaher Fallahi has a radio program in a Los Angles Farsi language station on Iranian OFAC Regulations and answers questions from the callers on Iranian OFAC Sanctions Regulations and the underlying tax matters. As Los Angeles Tax Attorney and Orange County Tax Attorney, CPA, we advise clients with International Tax implication of OFAC transactions.
It is important to know how OFAC Regulations apply to the transactions occur in Iran before requesting an OFAC license or causing transactions in Iran that may be covered under OFAC general license. OFAC general license refers to transactions which are exempt from OFAC licensing requirements. Even funds transferred under OFAC general license may get frozen at the US banks and cause unnecessary problem.
General license doesn’t mean that such transactions are tax free. OFAC Regulations do not address the tax implications. Most transactions covered by general license have tax implications.
Compliance with OFAC Regulations can prevent potential violations which may have unintended monetary cost, criminal prosecution, and funds being frozen under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).
As OFAC Attorney and Tax Attorney, our firm advises our clients to obtain appropriate legal documents in Iran to prove their cases, if required by OFAC or IRS. We also prepare client to comply with law and prevent potential freezing of funds by the US bank. Based on our experience, majority of OFAC sanctions have some types of tax consequences. These include, but are not limited to:
1- Income Tax;
2- Capital Gains Tax;
3- Gift Tax;
4- Inheritance Tax;
5- Annual Return to Report Transactions with Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts (Inheritance and Gifts, among others);
6- Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP);
7- Report of Foreign Bank & Financial Accounts (FBAR); and,
8- Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and other Tax law.
The US Treasury Department has a long history of dealing with sanctions, dating back prior to the War of 1812; Secretary of the Treasury Gallatin administered sanctions imposed against Great Britain for the harassment of American sailors.
During the Civil War (1861-1865), the US Congress enacted a law which prohibited transactions with the Confederacy; a secessionist government established in 1861 by seven Southern States who were called slave states.
OFAC is the successor to the Office of Foreign Funds Control (the “FFC”), which was established at the advent of World War II following the German invasion of Norway in 1940. The FFC program was administered by the Secretary of the Treasury throughout the war.
The FFC’s initial purpose was to prevent Nazi use of the occupied countries’ holdings of foreign exchange and securities and to prevent forced repatriation of funds belonging to nationals of those countries. These controls were later extended to protect assets of other invaded countries.
After the United States formally entered World War II, the FFC played a leading role in economic warfare against the Axis powers (German, Japan and Italy) by blocking enemy assets and prohibiting foreign trade and financial transactions.
OFAC was formally created in December 1950, following the entry of China into the Korean War, when President Truman declared a national emergency and blocked all Chinese and North Korean assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Iranian OFAC Regulations
OFAC is sister agency of the IRS and administers and enforces economic sanctions against countries and groups of individuals. The Iranian Transactions & Sanctions Regulations, Title 31 C.F.R. Part 560 (the “ITSR”), of Office of Foreign Office Assets Control (OFAC) Regulations, generally prohibit the exportation, re-exportation, sale, or supply of any goods, technology, or services directly or indirectly, from US or by a US person, wherever located, to Iran, or the Government of Iran.
These OFAC Sanctions Regulations also prohibit US persons (citizens, green card holders or US businesses), wherever located, from engaging in any transaction or dealing in or related to goods or services of Iranian origin, or owned or controlled by the Government of Iran, or goods or technology or services for exportation, re-exportation, sale or supply, directly or indirectly, to Iran or the Government of Iran.
Employment in Iran or conducting a business in Iran such as practice of law, medicine, engineering, consulting, software development, real estate development, construction, etc. by a US person requires an OFAC license, unless exempted by law. And, there is a high likelihood that such request will be denied, because they may violate the Iranian OFAC Regulations.
Despite these OFAC prohibitions, a US person may still conduct some prohibited acts either by obtaining an OFAC specific license or based on an OFAC exception. See General licenses H Iran Nuclear Deal, BARJAM
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”), Iran Nuclear Deal (BARJAM in Farsi)
Following the 2013 nuclear negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 superpower nations, resulted in lifting of certain non-US or secondary sanctions on January 16, 2016, See Iran Nuclear Deal, BARJAM
Contrary to expectations, most of the US sanctions against Iran have remained in effect. I receive many calls from the Persian-American community as to whether OFAC has been abolished forever. My answer is “no”. I further explain that OFAC was not created for the Iran purposes and will not cease to exist if the sanctions were completely lifted in the future.
Importation from Iranian
Goods or services from Iran may not be imported into the United States, either directly or through third countries, with the following exceptions:
1- Gifts valued at $100 or less;
2- Information and informational materials;
3- Household and personal effects, of persons arriving in the United States, that were actually used abroad by the importer or by other family members arriving from the same foreign household, that are not intended for any other person or for sale, and that are not otherwise prohibited from importation;
4- Accompanied baggage for personal use normally incident to travel;
5- Foodstuffs; including caviar and pistachio, effective January 16, 2016; and,
6- Persian Carpet, effective January 16, 2016. See Iran Nuclear Deal, BARJAM
Iranian OFAC General License
An OFAC general license authorizes a particular type of transaction for a class of persons without the need to apply for a license. Transfer of cash inheritance or cash gift are examples of general license.
Iranian OFAC Specific License
An OFAC specific license is a written document issued by OFAC to a particular person or entity, authorizing a particular transaction in response to a written license application, for a specific period time, generally two years. Sale of a property acquired in Iran subsequent to becoming a US person and transfer of the related funds to the US is an example of specific license.
Persons engaging in transactions pursuant to OFAC general licenses or OFAC specific licenses must make sure that all OFAC required terms and conditions of the specific licenses are complied with. OFAC Sanctions Regulations may contain statements of OFAC’s specific licensing policy with respect to particular types of transactions.
Do I need an Iranian OFAC license?
Effective October 22, 2012, sale of inherited property in Iran, or property owned before becoming a US person, and transfer of the related proceeds to the US, do not require OFAC Specific Licenses.
In addition, transfer of non-commercial family remittances such as “cash inheritance” or “cash gift” do not require OFAC licenses. Notwithstanding, consultation with OFAC attorney is recommended to avoid potential OFAC problems. Although, most transactions may seem to be authorized under OFAC General License provisions, it is advisable to seek legal advice from an OFAC attorney to prevent missteps.
It is equally important to obtain tax advice from a tax attorney with knowledge of international tax laws and a counsel familiar with the laws of Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”), as well.
The BSA, also known as the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act, is a legislation passed by the United States Congress in 1970 that requires US financial institutions to collaborate with the US government in cases of suspected money laundering and fraud.
Therefore, the US banks and financial institutions are cautious about their own security, and strive to prevent any potentially illegal funds being transferred through them.
This section of the bank must issue a “Suspicious Activity Report (SAR)” when they discern a suspicion. From time to time, these financial institutions reject the incoming funds and return them to the country where they came from.
It is recommended to obtain legal advice regarding the documentation of the character of the funds as to “gift” and “inheritance”, among other things.
E-2 and EB-5 visa applicants
The OFAC General License provisions equally apply to the seekers of E-2 visa and EB-5 visa. In other words, you do not need to obtain OFAC Specific License for these transfers.
Tax implication of E-2 and EB-5 visa holders
Holders are visas E-2 and EB-5 become US persons and subject the US taxation on their world wide income.
US goods subject to OFAC General License
Exportation of most medical devices, medicine, and food products from US to Iran are also authorized by OFAC General License. Merchants exporting the above items to Iran are advised to consult Iranian OFAC attorneys and be compliant with the requirements of the Commerce Department.
Definition of Inheritance and Gift
Inheritance is a property received from estate of someone who has already deceased. If your folks live in the US, property you receive from them in Iran is not inheritance, because they are still alive and the property they give you is considered “gift “and may have additional tax reporting issues.
Gift is a property given to someone without consideration. Although, there are exceptions to the rule, generally gifts or inheritance are received from a relative or family member, not from a stranger or neighbor.
To be prudent, obtain documents with evidentiary value to potentially substantiate the character of property that may be required by OFAC, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen), IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CID), and other government authorities interested in the true character of your incoming money, in case circumstances arise.
Misclassification of a property or naming a property something which is not, to evade a law, is illegal and may subject the perpetrator to criminal prosecution regardless of whose idea it was; a non-lawyer friend, lawyer friend, paid lawyer, accountant, CPA, neighbor or your car mechanic.
Carrying More than $10,000 through US Customs
Strict rules apply to transfer of funds via a financial institution (structuring) or carried in a briefcase through the boarders or airports. Click below for additional information. See Carrying more than $10,000 through US Customs
Zaher Fallahi, Iranian OFAC Sanctions Compliance Lawyer, CPA, advises Persian-American clients in obtaining necessary evidentiary documents for properly responding to potential OFAC Administrative Subpoenas and inquiries by BSA, IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CID), FinCen, and the US Customs and Border Protection.
Tax Implication of Money Transfer from Iran
Who is subject to United States tax laws?
If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien (green card holder), the applicable tax laws for filing income tax, estate tax, and gift tax returns are generally the same whether you are in the United States or overseas. Therefore, your worldwide income from interests, dividends, wages, or other compensation for services, income from rental property or royalties, and other types of income, must be reported on your U.S. tax return whether they are earned within or outside the United States.
In addition, you are subject to requirements of FBAR, FATCA and other International Tax Laws. See below for details.
Zaher Fallahi, International Tax Attorney, CPA, advises Iranian OFAC clients on the US tax matters throughout the world. Telephone appointments are available for Iranian OFAC sanctions clients who may not be able to meet in person.
The tax implications of transactions conducted in Iran maybe as follows:
If the decedent was a US person, the estate of the decedent may be required to file an Inheritance Tax Return, IRS Form 706. For the year 2017 estates up to $5,490,000 are not taxable. However, a return may still be filed for the portability election (an election to use the deceased spouse’s unused exclusion) purposes. If the decedent was not a US person, or the estate did not file an estate tax return, the recipient may be required to report amounts in excess of $100,000 per year.
If the donor is a US person, he or she may be required to file a Gift Tax Return, IRS Form 709 for gifts in excess of $14,000 per person per year.
For the year 2017 gifts up to $5,490,000 are not taxable. If the donor was not a US person, the recipient may be required to report amounts in excess of $100,000 per year. Non-compliance with the foreign gift and inheritance reporting may subject the recipient to 25% penalty of the amount. In case of failure to report foreign gifts timely, seek tax advice from a tax attorney for remedial ion.
Transactions where the underlying assets are neither inheritance nor gift, or inheritance and gift but acquired in the past, and all transactions which do not fall in either category, may be subject to Capital Gains or ordinary income taxes.
An example that I get a lot is; this is my inheritance property from my deceased dad. When I express my condolences and ask “when did your dad pass away, I learn that the dad passed away many years ago, such as three years before the 1979 Revolution or something like that. Although, sale of such assets may be considered personal family remittances for OFAC purposes and exempt under the sanctions laws, however, they may result in substantial capital gains tax.
Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), FinCEN 114
US persons defined as citizen, resident (green card holder or meeting substantial presence test) with an interest in, signature authority or other authority over financial accounts with an aggregate value in excess of $10,000, are required to electronically file their “Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)”, Form FinCEN 114 with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), See FBAR.
Taxation of Persian-Americans living in Iran
If you are a U.S. green card holder or citizen of the United States (a US person the Internal Revenue Code 7701(b)) and live in Iran, you are taxed on your worldwide income regardless where you earned it. Additionally, you are subject to all the US international tax laws, including Report of Foreign Bank & Financial Accounts (FBAR), Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), and one potential remedy (OVDP).
The good news is that you may be able exclude up to an amount of your earned (compensation) income earned in Iran which is adjusted annually for inflation ($97,600 for 2013, $99,200 for 2014, $100,800 for 2015, $101,300 for 2016 and $102,100 for 2017), if you otherwise qualify. For example not stay in the US more than 35 days in a calendar year, under the Foreign Earned Exclusion provided under the Section 911 of the Internal Revenue Code.
You may deduct certain foreign housing amounts. This exclusion can only be taken by timely filing the tax return. It is important to note that this exclusion does not apply to passive or un-earned income (see below). Neither does it waive the requirements of filing the FBAR and FATCA (see above).
Generally, there are three categories of foreign income;
I) Earned Income;
II) Un-earned Income; and,
III) Variable Income.
I- Earned income includes:
1) Salaries & wages
4) Professional fees and tips.
II- Unearned income includes:
3) Capital gains;
4) Gambling winnings;
5) Alimony, social security benefits; and,
III- Variable income; may fall into either one of these categories:
1) Business income;
2) Royalties; and,
The bad news is that unfortunately your employment in Iran may violate the US laws of sanctions against Iran also known as the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) administered and enforced by the US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets control (OFAC).
There are certain exceptions to the ITSR. For instance, employment at the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) or other United Nations related organizations that may be authorized. It is prudent to ask your potential employer to ensure that your employment in Iran is otherwise authorized by OFAC.
Also, your self-employment income in Iran even if were authorized by OFAC is excluded only for income tax purposes and not for Social Security or Medicare purposes.
Furthermore, you may not take a foreign income tax credit for taxes paid in Iran, due to the economic sanctions against Iran, but may deducted as an expense. Under the ITSR, a US person is not allowed to open a bank account in Iran.
It is important to note that the lifting of the non-US sanctions (Europeans and South East Asian countries, etc.) effective January 16, 2016, have not altered the above referenced laws. Click here for more information; Iran Nuclear Deal, BARJAM
Un-intended Iranian OFAC Violations
In case you have worked in Iran without the knowledge of the ITSR, and reading this article raises your curiosity as to whether you may have violated any US laws, you may seek legal advice from an OFAC attorney, including our firm.
Zaher Fallahi, Tax attorney, CPA, assists Americans living abroad with US taxes and offshore accounts; OVDP, FBAR and FATCA. As an OFAC Attorney, he guides clients on OFAC Licenses, sale of property in Iran and transfer of money from Iran to the US under OFAC Regulations. Telephones: (310) 719-1040 (Los Angeles), and (714) 546-4272 (Orange County), or e-mail to: [email protected]
We help clients with respect to Iranian OFAC transactions
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We have successfully assisted many clients with legal and tax implication of Iranian OFAC transactions
You can contact us at:
(310) 719-1040 (Los Angeles)
(714) 546-4272 (Orange County)
E-mail [email protected]