Legal Supplier, Tax

Manasuev helps clients navigate U.S. tax maze

By Kate Wallace, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

After completing his first law degree in his native Russia, Oakville-based U.S. tax attorney Alexey Manasuev had dreams of studying in the U.S. and aspirations to master one of America’s most complicated areas of law.

“I wanted to learn the most sophisticated and advanced tax system in the world,” says Manasuev, a principal of U.S. Tax IQ, an Oakville-based American tax consulting services firm. “It’s dynamic.”

Manasuev’s dream came true when he won a Hauser Global scholarship to New York University School of Law's international taxation program.

“Because of my background, international tax made sense for me,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Called to the bar in 2003, Manasuev followed a stint at the United States Tax Court with a decade working in big four accounting firms, including the Washington National Tax office of KPMG.

Three years ago, he and Brandon Vucen, a CPA, founded U.S. Tax IQ Ltd. The firm, which has offices in downtown Toronto, Washington, DC, and Irvine, California, is focused on American and cross-border tax planning, consulting, and compliance for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as individuals.

One of its focus areas is professional athletes and entertainers. The firm works with NHL, MLS and NBA players and coaches, as well as UFC fighters, musicians and artists.

“I saw a niche,” Manasuev says. "There is a huge market for U.S. tax services for clients who are often underserved by the big four accounting firms and medium-size accounting firms, whose services are geared towards large multinationals, not individuals or smaller organizations. While larger accounting firms have practices assisting smaller clients, they may not be as high a priority for them.

“Many Canadian businesses expand into the U.S., and they need advice on the multitude of complex issues that the Microsofts of the world face,” he says. “We are helping that market.”

For many small to medium-sized companies, their Canadian accountant is often their first — and last — source of advice. But the U.S. tax code is so complicated, they may lack the knowledge and expertise to offer the best advice and to protect their clients from penalties, Manasuev says.

“It’s not as simple as it looks,” he says of the U.S. tax system. “It has many moving parts. It’s worth taking a little time prior to entering into a transaction and making that investment to get it set up properly.”

One of the major misconceptions, Manasuev says, is that, unlike in Canada, you are required to file tax returns in the U.S., even if you have losses. In addition, while the Canadian and U.S. systems have some similarities, each transaction with a U.S. connection (for example, when it involves U.S. persons or the United States) needs to be reviewed for U.S. tax implications and potentially adverse U.S. tax consequences.

“The U.S. is very strict,” he says. Penalties for non-compliance can be steep, and some are assessed automatically and can escalate. More importantly, criminal penalties may apply in some circumstances.

At the individual level, Manasuev says many U.S. citizens and Green Card holders are not aware of their American filing obligations.

“We regularly deal with IRS (Internal Revenue Service) amnesty programs where we help people become compliant without any penalties or interest,” he says. "Each day, though, the IRS becomes more diligent and strict when it comes to fixing one’s delinquency. There is also no way of telling when the IRS may close its amnesty programs or change them to provide for less favorable terms."

Along with his consultancy, Manasuev has a solo law practice. An authorized foreign legal consultant, he can practise U.S. law in Ontario. Licensed in the District of Columbia and State of New York, he can offer attorney-client privilege, when needed.

Founded three years ago, U.S. Tax IQ’s rapid expansion reflects the need for its services.

“We’ve just hit the growth stage,” Manasuev says. “Suddenly it changed from a startup to a sustainable business, which was a very interesting transition.”

With staff doubling of late, he’s focused on creating the right team, and a supportive culture.

“I want to empower the employees, for them to consider this as their own business,” he says.

Manasuev is looking for entrepreneurial staff members who want to learn, as U.S. tax is ever-changing.

“We believe in continuous learning, and we invest heavily in it,” he says.

His firm also shares its knowledge, by conducting monthly webinars and posting other resources that clients can access to stay abreast of new developments.

U.S. Tax IQ has invested heavily in technology as well, including advanced research platforms, tax software to prepare and file returns electronically, internal technology to manage projects, and a secure client portal to make file sharing easy and safe.

While Manasuev loves the challenge of the complicated U.S. tax system, what really drives him is helping his clients.

“You actually see the tangible results because you’re working with individuals and small to medium-sized businesses,” he says. “It’s so nice to see how you have helped people with their day-to-day challenges.”

Manasuev says U.S. Tax IQ prides itself on its personal touch.

“Our whole business model is designed to help people and businesses,” Manasuev says.

He’s not interested in just having clients drop off tax documents once a year during the tax season.

“We want to be more personable,” he says. “We want to have lasting relationships with our clients.”

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