MARCH 2012
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

Florida News


Dr. Kiran C. Patel

Dr. Kiran C. Patel speaks at the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA fundraiser in Tampa.

The Tampa Bay chapter of the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA raised $194,000 on Feb. 18, enough to fund 530 one-teacher schools for needy village populations in rural India. Performers Samir Date and Dipalee Somaiya drew an audience of 1,000 to the India Cultural Center in Tampa. Contributions from attendees flowed throughout the night, as donors pledged to support schools and in some cases even matched the donations of others.

“We are very honored by the generosity and support of the community,” said chapter president Umesh Choudhry. “With your support we have schools now in almost every state of the country educating over one million children.”

Pallavi and Kiran Patel announced that their group of friends, which included Hitesh and Anjni Patel, Mahesh and Jigi Amin, Rupesh and Nita Shah, Ravi and Daksha Patel, and Mina and Dipak Shah, would match a support of 100 schools for five years. An anonymous donor pledged support for 100 schools for five years, which was the biggest single donation of the night.

Youth volunteers Sheena Jain and Skeekha Patel, juniors at King High School in Tampa, presented their vocabulary initiative for Woodmont Charter School in Temple Terrace – an activity supported by Tampa Bay chapter of Ekal to attract volunteers. Another youth volunteer, Monic Amin, a high school student, who took active part in an Ekal-sponsored cultural program in 2011, presented the Ekal concept and mission.

A charitable trust, Ekal Vidyalaya ( initiates, supports and runs non-formal one-teacher schools in India. The movement strives to create a network of non-formal schools and health education that will educate and empower children in tribal India.
The fundraiser, which was co-sponsored by the Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay, was part of a national fundraising effort by Ekal Vidyalaya. Date and Somaiya are visiting 42 cities over the course of three months to raise funds and awareness for the Ekal cause. This was the fourth program in Florida for the pair. The singers chose both current popular songs as well as nostalgic classics for their three-hour repertoire. Dinner preceded the music program. “So far, we have raised funds for 900 schools from Florida alone,” said Jawaharlal Taunk, president of Ekal’s Florida fundraising efforts.

The organizers of the event were the dedicated core of the Tampa Bay chapter, including office bearers Umesh Choudhry, Jawaharlal Taunk, Chapter Vice President Malti Pandya, Florida Vice President Vijay Patel, Florida secretary Kaushal Chari and former National President of Ekal USA, Chandresh Saraiya.

ORLANDO IACC Speaker Series: IRS Rules on Offshore Income

By Shobana Daniell

On March 8, Indian American Chamber of Commerce in Orlando will hold a special talk on foreign income and bank accounts held by Non-Resident Indians. Uncle Sam and Internal Revenue Service has reached the shores of India … now zeroing in on NRIs with money stashed away in India-based banks. The speaker of “IRS & International Taxes” topic is Cecil K. Nazareth, CPA, MBA, of IFRS Partners, who will explain the intricacies of this tax compliance issue.

In a landmark case in 2009, the IRS went after Swiss bank UBS AG for allowing U.S citizens to hide their assets and evade taxes. UBS had to pay $780 million in fines, and more importantly, turned over about 4,000 names in a precedent-setting case. Now, the U.S. is looking for Indian-American tax evaders. On Jan. 26, 2011, U.S. prosecutors nabbed Vaibhav Dahake, a U.S. citizen and an HSBC client for tax evasion by stashing money in India. According to documents filed with the government's petition, a grand jury indicted Dahake, charging him with conspiracy to defraud the United States by using undeclared accounts in the British Virgin Islands and at HSBC India.

Last month, IRS reopened the offshore voluntary disclosure program (OVDP) to help people hiding offshore accounts to get current with their taxes. The Times of India, (Feb. 23, 2012) reports that the IRS had similar programs in 2009 and 2011 when it raised more than $4.4 billion. NRIs or a U.S. citizen living in India with offshore assets need to make some important decisions. Rahul Ranadive, a tax attorney with Florida-based Global Tax and Estate Counsel LLP, is quoted by TOI, "For those taxpayers at substantial risk of being treated as a willful non-filer by the IRS, the OVDP's fixed civil penalties, generally, are substantially lower than the potential maximum willful penalties. Therefore, filing under the OVDP generally should be a good deal for such taxpayers.”

One point to consider for NRIs who plan to participate in the OVDP is to go through an attorney. Parag Patel, a tax attorney at New Jersey-based law firm Patel Law Offices, says, “The easiest way for the IRS to identify defaulters is to issue subpoenas to CPAs and collect information about clients."

The March 8 talk will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Park Square Homes, 5200 Vineland Blvd., Orlando. Entry is free for IACC members and $20 for others; light dinner is included. To RSVP, email or call Tino Patel at (407) 579-5050.

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