Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Guest Column



Can I have BLUE Eyes? Pleassssse.

Please take your place in the queue – worldwide.

“Can you change my eye color while you are performing my Lasik surgery, doc?”

Every eye surgeon has heard that question many a times in their career. A question pointed by a hopeful patient who is hoping that the factor that makes you a hopefully better eye surgeon compared to another is your ability to maybe cater to their color of choice.

Until now the answer has been a verbal, “No we can’t” and a mental “Grow up, will you.”

Well, not anymore. As science moves rapidly in the field of consumer demand where medical procedures are finding cosmetic uses, changing eye color from “Brown” to “Blue” is finally a reality!

In our eye every much like a camera, we have a pupil or aperture control. Our iris is a ring of muscle fibers surrounding this pupil, the color of our iris determines our eye color.

Of course, non-surgical options such as color contact lenses have been around for quite some time but recently, the iris implant procedure has gained notoriety. During the procedure, we can place an artificial iris (of the color of choice) inside the eye, on top of the iris. The result is that only the artificial iris is showing in the selected color as it covers the natural iris completely.

Iris implants were first made for people whose irises did not develop normally at birth, or people who had damage to their eyes from accidents, trauma, etc. Iris implants are not yet approved in the United States for cosmetic use for valid reasons since their long-term side effects are surfacing with potentially sight-threatening consequences.

Strict selection criteria and an experienced surgeon are among the important factors in this direction and long-term studies along with design improvements may lead to better outcomes.

Taking cues from lasers which can alter skin pigmentation, a new concept uses a laser to remove the pigment on the surface of the iris without damage to any other structure in the eye. The altered pigment is then digested by the immune system of the eye in reaction to this implied inflammation.

This concept is based on the fact that under the dark brown pigment (Melanin) on our iris, we all have blue irises. So in fact, we are revealing the “bare” blue iris in this procedure that takes seconds.

Advocates against the concept underscore the reason for this natural pigment, which protects us from glare and controls the amount of light we let into our eye.

As the jury is still out on these two modalities, one thing is clear: we are finally looking into a long-pending patient request that has existed before Lasik became so hot.

Arun C. Gulani, M.D., M.S., is director and chief surgeon of Gulani Vision Institute in Jacksonville. He can be reached at gulanivision@gulani.com or visit www.gulanivision.com

Voluntary Disclosure End Game: Sign Form 906 or Opt-Out? – PART I

By Rahul P. Ranadive,
J.D., LL.M. (Taxation)

I’ve written in this column during the last four years on the details and relative costs/benefits of the various iterations of the IRS’ voluntary disclosure programs for undeclared foreign assets and income. For taxpayers with this problem, most have already entered one of the defined programs, completed a silent disclosure outside of the various defined programs, or have made the decision to do nothing and wait to see if the IRS audits them. Almost all of the participants in the 2009 OVDI (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative), and a large proportion of participants in the 2011 OVDI have been processed and their cases have been closed.

The earliest participants in the 2012 OVDP are now seeing their cases move toward resolution, and in some cases already resolved. This article is not for anyone who has already signed their Form 906 and closed their case. It is solely for those taxpayers who are now nearing resolution of their case and need to make the difficult decision of whether to accept the 25 percent (or 27.5 percent for the 2012 OVDP) offshore penalty on highest year aggregate balance or challenge same by opting-out and having the FBAR issues handled under standard audit procedures governed by the Internal Revenue Manual.

The decision to opt-out or not is a bit like divining for water: part science, part judgment and part faith. There are no reported decisions to rely on as precedent so predicting potential outcomes of any particular taxpayer’s factual situation is difficult at best. In Part I, this month we’ll discuss some general issues, and identify who should not be considering opting-out. Next month, in Part II, we’ll look more closely at taxpayers who could be good candidates to consider opting-out.

If you’ve reached this point of your case, I assume you’ve been represented by a tax attorney experienced with these matters. You should be having this discussion with your tax attorney. If you’ve been handling your case yourself, now would be a good time to invest some money in a consultation with an experienced attorney; the decision to opt-out or not is not a DIY project. My comments herein are not tax advice and I am not your tax lawyer. The discussion below assumes you’ve agreed to all adjustments related to omitted income and have agreed to pay all outstanding tax on the (up to) eight years of omitted income (including PFIC income from foreign mutual funds) and the 20 percent accuracy penalty, and you are only challenging the 25 percent or 27.5 percent offshore penalty on the highest aggregate balance of the previously undeclared foreign accounts and assets.

Who Shouldn’t Opt-Out

First, let’s clearly identify who shouldn’t be considering opting-out. Taxpayers who are even slightly at risk of being found subject to the substantially higher willfulness penalties (higher of $100,000 or 50 percent of the account balance per violation) should probably take the program deal and move on. For many taxpayers, the proposed offshore penalty is less than $100,000. Accordingly, the risk of the IRS determining even one willfulness penalty charge could be significantly worse than the offshore penalty number and only gets progressively worse with each violation charged. As a general matter, if your facts indicate the IRS could assert the willfulness penalty, opting-out is a poor strategy no matter how high your proposed offshore penalty is. If willfulness could be at issue under a standard audit after opting-out, you should probably not consider opting-out.

Next month, we’ll try to identify some broad categories of taxpayers for whom the decision to opt-out or not should, at least, be on the table as an option to consider.

To be continued …

Rahul P. Ranadive is admitted to the Florida and California bars and the U.S. Tax Court, and has practiced international and domestic tax planning focusing on high net-worth families with international ties for fifteen years. He is based in Miami and can be reached at rranadive@gtecllp.com or call (305) 913-7128 or visit www.gtecllp.com.

The foregoing is not tax or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is created or implied with any reader of this article. All taxpayers should seek independent advice from a qualified tax professional based on their individual circumstances.

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