Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week: Phone Scams

This is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, and we want you to be aware of tax scams! Today’s lesson: phone scams.

Do not fall victim to scammers who call and say they are with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)! There has been an increase in aggressive phone scams where people call and threaten you with police arrest or deportation if you don’t pay them.

Even if you do owe taxes…
·         The IRS will NEVER call and demand immediate payment over the phone.
·         The IRS will NEVER try to threaten or intimidate you, demand payment with a prepaid debit card, or ask for your credit card or debit card number over the phone.
·         The IRS will NEVER threaten to call the police or immigration agents if you don’t pay.

If you get a call like this, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by calling 800-366-4484 or visiting Also, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at

For more information on tax scams, watch this video and read this IRS Tax Tip

Visit or to learn how to recognize and avoid immigration scams and find authorized legal services. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Judge Grants Extension of Work Program for International Students

From Inside Higher Ed, 01/25/2016

The current rule governing a popular postgraduation work program for international students will remain in place until May 10.
The regulation governing the STEM OPT program, which grants students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields the right to spend an additional 17 months working in the U.S. on top of the 12 months available to all international students, was set to expire Feb. 12 after a federal judge ruled the regulation invalid on procedural grounds. In a decision issued Saturday, however, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted the Department of Homeland Security’s request that the ruling be stayed for an additional 90 days, which the agency argued would give it time to implement a new proposed rule for the program and prevent disruption or hardship for participating students and employers.
“The significance of that hardship cannot be overstated,” Judge Huvelle wrote. “According to DHS, there are approximately 23,000 STEM OPT participants, 2,300 dependents of STEM OPT participants, 8,000 pending applications for STEM OPT extensions and 434,000 foreign students who might be eligible to apply for STEM OPT authorizations … If the stay is not extended, many of these people would be adversely affected, either by losing their existing work authorization, not being able to apply for the OPT extension or not knowing whether they will be able to benefit from the extension in the future. And of course, the U.S. tech sector will lose employees, and U.S. educational institutions could conceivably become less attractive to foreign students.”

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Over 4.5 Million Are Waiting for Green Cards—Over 100,000 of them are Employment-Based

From GreenbergTraurig 01/12/2016

The Department of State (DOS) recently published its annual report of immigrant visa applicants (2015 Annual Immigrant Visa Report), which tallies up the number of total applicants—including spouses and children—who are waiting for their respective priority date to become current, allowing for them to obtain their green card. The annual report, which totals the number of applicants up to Nov. 1, 2015, does not take into account those applicants who have adjustment of status applications pending with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as of Nov. 1.
Overall, 2015 saw a three precent increase of total applicants compared against last year, increasing from a total of 4,422,660 for 2014 to 4,556,021 for 2015. This total includes both family-based green cards and employment-based green cards. Employment-based green card applicants only accounted for roughly 100,000 of the 4.5 million. When compared against 2014, the percentage of employment-based applicants waiting to apply for their green cards increased from 90,910 to 100,747—an increase of 10.8 percent.
While a 10.8 percent increase seems like a marginal increase, examining specific categories individually reveals that certain categories—namely Employment First, Second, and Fifth—have grown in popularity with employers and investors. Employment First encompasses green card applications for aliens of extraordinary ability, outstanding researchers, and multi-national managers or executives. From 2014 to 2015, the Employment First category saw an increase of 27.1 percent on the waiting list, from 2,733 to 3,474. Employment Second is reserved for Aliens of Exceptional Ability, which is measured by positions that require a U.S. Master’s degree (or higher), or a Bachelor’s degree and five years of progressive experience.  In 2015, there was an increase of 36.5 percent for Employment Second, with 11,440 on the waiting list as opposed to 8,380 in 2014. Finally, Employment Fifth is reserved for investors and entrepreneurs who invest substantial capital into the U.S. economy, among other requirements. Employment Fifth saw the greatest increase from 2014 to 2015—175.2 percent. The specific wait list numbers, broken down by category, are below:

At first glance, the 140,000 of expected employment-based green card approvals this year seems like it would clear the existing backlog of green card applications of 100,747 left from 2015, but this is not the case because there is a seven percent per-country limit, which visa issuances to any single country, including China and India, cannot exceed. What this looks like for applicants from countries such as China and India is that the wait for green cards will only increase, absent legislative or executive action.
Reviewing the 2015 Annual Immigrant Visa Report by country reveals that India and China remain the world’s largest applicants across each Employment Category, a trend that will likely continue into 2016. For Employment First, China represents more than 25 percent of all applicants, with India coming in a distant second at 9.6 percent.
For Employment Second, India accounts for a two-thirds of all applicants at 66.8 percent; China, on the other hand, accounts for only 7.8 percent, falling just behind South Korea at 8.4 percent.

For Employment Fifth, China leads the applicant-pool with 89.6 percent of all applications.  The next two countries—Hong Kong S.A.R., and Vietnam, only account for 1.4 percent each.

For 2016, approximately 140,000 employment-based green cards are projected to be approved, meaning that the wait will continue for most of the 100,747 who are already waiting for their priority date to become current so that they can obtain their green cards. As the U.S. economy continues to rebound, it is safe to assume that only more applicants, especially from India and China, will continue to apply for employment-based green cards in the higher preference categories—Employment First, Second, and Fifth—where the wait is shorter as compared to Employment Third and Fourth, reserved for skilled workers, and special immigrants, respectively.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Help for International Taxpayers Begins on; Six YouTube Videos Now Available to Assist

IRS Newswire, 01/07/2016

The Internal Revenue Service reminds U.S. taxpayers living abroad, as well as other international taxpayers, that provides the best starting place for getting answers to their important tax questions. This filing season, six new YouTube videos on common issues that international taxpayers face are also available.

The International Taxpayers page on is packed with information designed to help taxpayers living abroad, resident aliens, nonresident aliens, residents of U.S. territories and foreign students. The web site also features a directory that includes overseas tax preparers.

“These resources provide critical information to assist taxpayers with many different needs,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.  “Tax issues can be even more challenging for international taxpayers, and provides important details they need to understand their obligations.”

International taxpayers will find the online IRS Tax Map and the International Tax Topic Index to be valuable sources of answers for their tax questions. These online tools assemble or group IRS forms, publications and web pages by subject and provide users with a single entry point to find tax information.

In 2015, the IRS also created videos to assist international taxpayers with some of their most common questions. The videos cover the following international taxpayer topics:

By law, Americans living abroad, as well as many non-U.S. citizens, must file a U.S. income tax return. In addition, key tax benefits, such as the foreign earned income exclusion, are only available to those who file a U.S. return. These online resources and videos are designed to help affected taxpayers understand how these rules apply to them.

Federal law requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report worldwide income, including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts. In most cases, affected taxpayers need to complete and attach Schedule B to their tax return. Part III of Schedule B asks about the existence of foreign accounts, such as bank and securities accounts, and usually requires U.S. citizens to report the country in which each account is located.

Taxpayers with an interest in, or signature or other authority over, foreign financial accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2015 must file with the Treasury Department a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). It is due to the Treasury Department by June 30, 2016, must be filed electronically and is only available online through the BSA E-Filing System website. For details regarding the FBAR requirements, see Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).

U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts should also understand their reporting requirements under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Third-party information reporting from foreign financial institutions or through intergovernmental agreements began in 2015.

In addition, under FATCA, certain U.S. taxpayers holding financial assets outside the United States must report those assets to the IRS on Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets.  Generally, U.S. citizens, resident aliens and certain non-resident aliens must report specified foreign financial assets on this form if the aggregate value of those assets exceeds certain thresholds. Reporting thresholds vary based on whether a taxpayer files a joint income tax return or lives abroad. See the instructions for Form 8938 for more information.

To help avoid delays with tax refunds, taxpayers living abroad should visit the Helpful Tips for Effectively Receiving a Tax Refund for Taxpayers Living Abroad page.

The IRS has also added two new international tax topics to Tax Trails, the agency’s interactive online tool that helps taxpayers get answers to their general tax questions. The two topics involve filing requirements and filing status of a U.S. citizen or resident alien married to a nonresident alien.

More information on the tax rules that apply to U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad can be found in, Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, available on