- Abusive Tax Structures (which I call bullshit tax shelters)
- Misuse of Trusts
- Captive Insurance.
I cut and paste just the discussion on Abusive Tax Structures (bullshit tax shelters):
Abusive Tax Structures
Abusive tax schemes have evolved from simple structuring of abusive domestic and foreign trust arrangements into sophisticated strategies that take advantage of the financial secrecy laws of some foreign jurisdictions and the availability of credit/debit cards issued from offshore financial institutions.
IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) has developed a nationally coordinated program to combat these abusive tax schemes. CI's primary focus is on the identification and investigation of the tax scheme promoters as well as those who play a substantial or integral role in facilitating, aiding, assisting, or furthering the abusive tax scheme, such as accountants or lawyers. Just as important is the investigation of investors who knowingly participate in abusive tax schemes.
Multiple flow-through entities are commonly used as part of a taxpayer's scheme to evade taxes. These schemes may use Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs), International Business Companies (IBCs), foreign financial accounts, offshore credit/debit cards and other similar instruments. They are designed to conceal the true nature and ownership of the taxable income and/or assets.
Whether something is “too good to be true” is important to consider before buying into any arrangements that promise to “eliminate” or “substantially reduce” your tax liability.
If an arrangement uses unnecessary steps or a form that does not match its substance, then that arrangement is an abusive scheme. Another thing to remember is that the promoters of abusive tax schemes often employ financial instruments in their schemes; however, the instruments are used for improper purposes including the facilitation of tax evasion.Here is my discussion of the features of abusive tax shelters from the current working draft of my Federal Tax Procedure Book (footnotes omitted):
Abusive tax shelters are many and varied. Some are outright fraudulent, usually wrapped in a shroud of paper work and cascade of words designed to present the shelter as a real deal. The more sophisticated are often without substance but do have some at least attenuated, if superficial, claim to legality. Some of the characteristics that I have observed for tax shelters that the Government might perceive as abusive are that (i) the transaction is outside the mainstream activity of the taxpayer, (ii) the transaction is incredibly complex in its structure and steps so that not many (including their intended audience, IRS auditors) will have the ability, tenacity, time and resources to trace it out to its illogical conclusion (this feature is often included to increase the taxpayer’s odds of winning the audit lottery); (iii) the transaction costs of the arrangement and risks involved, even where large relative to the deal, offer a favorable cost benefit/ratio only because of the tax benefits to be offered by the audit lottery, (iv) the promoters of the adventure make a lot more than even an hourly rate even at the high end for professionals (the so-called value added fee, which is often insurance type compensation to mediate potential penalty risks by shifting them to the tax professional or the netherworld between the taxpayer and the tax professional) and (v) the objective indications as to the taxpayer's purpose for entering the transaction are a tax savings motive rather than any type of purposive business or investment motive. More succinctly, Michael Graetz, a Yale Law Professor, has described an abusive tax shelter as “[a] deal done by very smart people that, absent tax considerations, would be very stupid.” Other thoughtful observers vary the theme, e.g. a tax shelter “is a deal done by very smart people who are pretending to be rather stupid themselves for financial gain.” Others have described the abusive tax shelters as “too good to be true.”