IRS Audit Lawyers

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits | SDOP Tax Lawyer

The great majority of offshore voluntary disclosures are currently done through Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures. Hence, the majority of IRS audits concerning offshore voluntary disclosures are focused on Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures – the most common type is the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit. This article discusses the main stages of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit and provides some suggestions to attorneys who handle this type of an IRS audit.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: SDOP Background Information

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) is an offshore voluntary disclosure option that has existed since June of 2014. It is extremely popular due the fact that it is the most convenient and the least expensive voluntary disclosure option (except the Reasonable Cause/Noisy Disclosure option) for taxpayers whose prior tax noncompliance was non-willful and who otherwise meet the SDOP eligibility requirements.

Under the SDOP, a taxpayer or tax professional prepares a voluntary disclosure package and mails it to the IRS. The voluntary disclosure package usually consists of amended tax returns for the past three years, copies of e-filed FBARs for the past six years, any required international information returns which do not form part of a tax return (such as Forms 3520), the payments of additional tax with interest, the payment of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty and Non-Willfulness Certification form (Form 14654) with a detailed explanation. Certain additional items may need to be included in the package.

Once the package arrives to its destination, it is processed by the IRS. Assuming that all of the SDOP submission requirements are met, the IRS reserves the right to audit the taxpayer(s) at any point within three years after the submission of the original SDOP voluntary disclosure package.

The exact process of a Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit varies from case to case, but it usually contains all of the stages listed below.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: the Initiation Stage

All Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits start in the same way. Once an IRS revenue agent is assigned to the case, the agent will send an initial letter to the taxpayer informing the taxpayer about the fact that his SDOP is being audited. Generally, the initial audit letter will explain that the IRS decided to examine certain tax returns and ask for all worksheets and supporting documents that were used to prepare the amended returns. The letter is likely to also contain a request for the taxpayer to contact the agent to schedule the initial meeting, which would usually include an interview of the taxpayer.

At this point, you should contact an international tax lawyer who specializes in Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits. I strongly discourage you from even trying to represent yourself or to have your accountant represent you. It is very easy to get into trouble during an IRS audit and it is very hard and expensive to get out of such a situation afterwards.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Initial Meeting and Interview Stage

Prior to the initial meeting, the taxpayer’s attorney should review all documents to make sure that they support the information on the tax returns. All supporting documents and worksheets should be neatly organized by subject and year. If the audited tax returns are incorrect, the attorney should make the decision on whether amended tax returns should be prepared prior to the initial meeting.

Additionally, the attorney should conduct an extensive preparation of his client for the interview. Read this article for more information on the IRS audit interview preparation specifically for Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits.

The initial meeting usually commences with the interview of the taxpayer in the presence of his attorney. It is the attorney’s job to protect his client during the interview, including by making sure that the IRS questions are clear, explaining any confusing answers of the taxpayer, correcting the record based on available evidence and so on.

After the interview, the IRS agent will want to review with the attorney (and, sometimes, the client as well) the documents supplied on a very general level – i.e. he will want to know what is being submitted to him. The attorney should discuss with the agent any confusing parts of the case and familiarize the agent with the client’s story. If a case is very small, it is possible for an agent to cover everything in the first meeting, but it is very rare.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Follow-Up IRS Requests

After the initial meeting, the IRS agent will take some time to review submitted documents, interview third parties where relevant (for example, the accountant who prepared the original tax returns), analyze the tax returns and the Non-Willfulness Certification.

Most likely, the agent will have additional follow-up questions. It is the job of the attorney to address them. Where necessary, the attorney should secure his client’s participation in order to answer the questions. In certain cases, additional meetings with the IRS agent may be required to increase the efficiency of the audit. Continuous cooperation with the IRS while promoting the client’s position is the key to long-term success.

One of the most problematic areas for the IRS agents in Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits are PFIC calculations. A lot of agents simply do not know how to properly do PFIC calculations. In my practice, very often I have to go through the entire PFIC calculations with the agent in order to make sure that their calculations match mine.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Conclusion of the IRS Audit

Once the IRS agent completes his review process, he will submit the preliminary results to the taxpayer and his attorney. The attorney needs to review carefully the final results and contact the agent in case he finds mistakes in the agent’s conclusions. The taxpayers’ attorney will also need to build a strategy with respect to the taxpayer’s response to the audit results depending on whether the taxpayer agrees or disagrees with the results of the audit.

The biggest issue in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits is making sure that the Non-Willfulness Certification is not challenged by the IRS, because such a challenge may result in highly unfavorable consequences to the taxpayer, including a potential referral to the Tax Division of the US Department of Justice for a criminal investigation.

It should be mentioned that, even if the taxpayer agrees with the audit results, the Audit is not immediately over. The IRS agent will need to submit his conclusions to his technical advisor, his manager and the IRS National Office in Washington D.C. for the their approval of these conclusions before the audit can be officially completed.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits

An IRS audit of an offshore voluntary disclosure completed through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is one of the most important events in a taxpayer’s life. A lot is at stake during such an audit – financial stability, immigration status and, in exceptional circumstances, even personal freedom.

This is why it is so important for a taxpayer subject to an IRS audit of his Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures voluntary disclosure to retain the services of an experienced international tax lawyer to handle the audit professionally.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leader in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures and IRS audits of offshore voluntary disclosures. The firm’s owner, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, is one of the most experienced international tax lawyers in this area, including IRS audits of a Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures submission. He can help You!

Contact Sherayzen Law Office Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Amending Tax Returns during IRS Audit | IRS Audit Lawyer & Attorney

One of the most interesting questions that arise during an IRS audit is whether a taxpayer (or his tax attorney) should amend his tax returns during an IRS audit. Amending tax returns during an IRS audit may offer great benefits as long as it is done properly, but this is not a strategy available in every case. In this article, I would like to discuss the benefits and dangers of amending tax returns during an IRS audit.

Potential Benefits of Amending Tax Returns During an IRS Audit

The main job of a tax attorney during an IRS audit is to protect his client as well as make it easy and convenient for the IRS agent to make a decision that will favor his client. One of the ways to accomplish this is to do the necessary audit groundwork for the IRS agent by amending all tax returns subject to audit before your initial meeting with the IRS agent.

In such cases, amending tax returns is likely to bring the taxpayer various benefits. I will concentrate here on the three main benefits. First, amending tax returns shows that the taxpayer is willing to cooperate with the IRS far and beyond his prescribed obligations.

Second, by amending tax returns and providing supporting documentation, the tax attorney is likely to “buy” a lot of goodwill from the agent, who will appreciate that the attorney is trying to reduce his workload and make all information easily accessible. In some situations, such extensive cooperation may convince the agent not to expand the audit beyond the already audited years.

Finally, depending on the situation, it may show a rift between past noncompliance and present compliance for reasonable cause purposes. This is especially relevant in situations where the original tax preparer can be held accountable for the taxpayer’s past noncompliance.

Potential Drawbacks of Amending Tax Returns During an IRS Audit

There are, however, various risks associated with this strategy. Again, I will concentrate on the three main drawbacks of the strategy. First, the amended tax returns have to be prepared correctly. If the amended returns are incorrect, then the taxpayer would be getting himself into even bigger troubles.

Second, in some situations, a taxpayer may not benefit from prolonging the case, especially where there are Statute of Limitations issues concerning unaudited years. By prematurely exposing the taxpayer’s mistakes on the original return, the taxpayer may give the IRS additional time to open up another year for audit. It is questionable whether this concern outweighs the benefits of amending tax returns; one really should look at the totality of circumstances of the specific case in question and make the decision based on this analysis.

Third, by shifting the workload from the IRS agent to the taxpayer’s tax attorney, the taxpayer is likely to incur substantially higher legal fees. Therefore, a cost-benefit analysis must be done by the attorney to make sure that the proposed strategy of amending tax returns is cost-effective and does not result in unduly high legal fees.

Procedural Concerns: Do NOT File Amended Tax Returns; Send Them to the IRS Agent

One of the biggest procedural mistakes with respect to the strategy of amending tax returns that I see in my practice is incorrect filing of amended tax returns. By “incorrect filing”, I mean here the filing of amended tax returns directly with the IRS bypassing the IRS agent in charge of the audit.

This is a big mistake, because it goes against the proper procedure of having all adjustments to the audited original returns done by the IRS agent in charge of the case. Moreover, the IRS agent will feel ignored and to some degree betrayed by the taxpayer, and the taxpayer will likely lose all goodwill that he has accumulated with the agent up to that point.

The proper procedure for amending tax returns during an IRS audit is to prepare the amended tax returns and send them to the IRS agent in charge of the audit with supporting documentation.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Amending Tax Returns During an IRS Audit

Amending tax returns may not a be a strategy that is available in all cases. If done properly, in many cases, it will offer great benefits to a taxpayer, while it may result in augmenting the already existing problems in other cases. This type of a decision should not be made by the taxpayer, but by an experienced IRS audit lawyer.

This is why you should contact the professional IRS audit team of Sherayzen Law Office. Headed by our highly-experienced tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, Sherayzen Law Office has helped US taxpayers around the world to deal with various types of IRS audits, including audits of offshore voluntary disclosures and high net-worth audits.

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Streamlined Audit Interview | Streamlined Audit Tax Lawyers

In an earlier article, I described the main features of an IRS audit of a voluntary disclosure made pursuant to the Streamlined Domestic Submission Procedures (“Streamlined Submission Audit”). Today, I would like to discuss a very specific feature of this process – Streamlined Audit Interview.

Streamlined Audit Interview: Background Information on Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) is a special offshore voluntary disclosure program initiated by the IRS in 2014. SDOP allows US taxpayers to remedy their past tax noncompliance concerning the reporting of foreign assets and foreign income while paying a highly reduced 5% Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty. The reason for such a lenient treatment is that the taxpayers must certify that their prior noncompliance with US international tax laws was non-willful.

Streamlined Audit Interview: General Description

Virtually every IRS field audit will involve an attempt to interview the audited taxpayer(s). The concept of a Streamlined Audit Interview describes a situation where an audited taxpayer is interviewed specifically in the context of a Streamlined Submission Audit.

Streamlined Audit Interview: Main Differences from Regular IRS Audit Interview

In many ways, a regular IRS audit interview is similar to a Streamlined Audit Interview. In fact, procedurally, there are very few differences: both audits involve the same type of scheduling procedures, same interview format and, with respect to audited tax returns, very similar questions.

The main difference between a regular IRS audit interview and the Streamlined Audit Interview lies in the fact that the latter will involve the examination of the audited taxpayer’s non-willfulness with respect to prior tax noncompliance – i.e. whether the taxpayer carried his burden of proof to participate in SDOP in the first place. In other words, the difference between the two types of audits is in the substantive legal issues to be discussed.

There are also differences in the potential stakes. A failure for the taxpayer to substantiate his original non-willfulness arguments may lead the IRS to impose heavy penalties and even refer the case to the US Department of Justice’s Tax Division for criminal prosecution.

Finally, a Streamlined Audit Interview is likely to involve a much broader spectrum of issues than just amended tax returns. For example, there could be questions concerning FBARs, sources of foreign account balances, US assets purchased with undisclosed foreign funds, et cetera.

Streamlined Audit Interview: Extensive Preparation Is Necessary

A taxpayer should prepare for a Streamlined Audit Interview. It should be remembered that this interview may happen two or even almost three years from the time when the SDOP voluntary disclosure package was originally submitted. Hence, it is important to refresh the memory of the taxpayer so that he would be able to respond to the IRS questions (instead of constantly saying “I have no recollection”, thereby creating an impression as if he had to hide something).

The taxpayer should also be prepared on how to properly answer a question. Again, the idea is to avoid unnecessary suspicions and an impression that he has something to hide. This why the taxpayer’s answers should be firm and clear in order to eliminate any doubt of their meaning.

In every case, there are going to be weak or negative facts. The temptation to avoid a discussion of negative facts is huge, but it should be resisted. The taxpayer should be prepared to speak of them boldly, explain these facts and show how they fit into his overall non-willfulness arguments.

A taxpayer should never be trained in lying to the IRS or obfuscating the facts. Never, under any circumstances, should an attorney allow his client to commit a perjury, especially in the context of a voluntary disclosure based on the taxpayer’s non-willfulness. The outcome of this unethical strategy is likely to be disastrous (the IRS is likely to find out the truth in any case) and may result in criminal charges filed against the client, even if his original tax noncompliance was non-willful.

Being honest is of utmost importance in a Streamlined Audit Interview. This, however, does not preclude an attorney from employing certain strategies as described above to prevent unnecessary complications by the failure of a taxpayer to express himself clearly or creating a temptation on the part of the IRS to go on a “fishing expedition”.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With an Audit of Your Streamlined Submission and a Streamlined Audit Interview

If your Streamlined Submission is being audited by the IRS, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible for professional help. Sherayzen Law Office is a highly experienced international tax law firm that specializes in all stages of offshore voluntary disclosures, including IRS audits of a Streamlined Submission and federal court representation.

We can help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

IRS Written Advice Defense: Adequate & Accurate Information | Tax Lawyer

This is the fourth article on the topic of the IRS Written Advice Defense under 26 U.S.C. §6404(f). The first three articles outlined the legal test for the Defense and described the first and the second prongs of the test. In this say, I will briefly discuss the final third prong of the IRS Written Advice Defense – the requirement to provide adequate and accurate description of facts.

IRS Written Advice Defense: Taxpayer Must Provide Adequate and Accurate Description of Facts

When a taxpayer asks the IRS for advice, he must provide adequate and accurate description of his facts based on which the IRS has to make its decision. If the taxpayer fails to supply the IRS with adequate and accurate information, then the IRS Written Advice Defense will fail. See Treas. Reg. § 301.6404-3(b)(4). It should be noted that the IRS “has no obligation to verify or correct the taxpayer’s submitted information.” Id.

This is a much more difficult task that it may appear, because “adequate” really means here a complete set of all material facts that may influence the IRS analysis. If the taxpayer provides only the facts that are favorable and omits the facts which are unfavorable, the IRS advice will not give the taxpayer the protection against imposition of future penalties that the he seeks.

This is why I strongly encourage taxpayers to retain tax attorneys to submit their written request for the IRS written advice. This is especially true in the area of US international tax law.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your IRS Written Advice Defense And Any Other Reasonable Cause Defense

Sherayzen Law Office has an extraordinary experience in drafting Reasonable Cause Statements on various grounds, including IRS advice. We have drafted such statements in defense against imposed and potential FBAR, Form 926, 3520, 5471, 8621, 8865 and other IRS penalties.

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IRS Written Advice – Legal Test | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

IRS written advice can constitute a reasonable cause defense against an imposition of pretty much any tax penalty related to noncompliance that stemmed from that advice. This essay begins a series of articles with respect to various aspects of the IRS Written Advice Defense. Today, I will outline the statutory authority and the main legal test for the IRS Written Advice Defense as well as describe the penalties against which this Defense can be used.

IRS Written Advice Defense: Statutory Authority and Treasury Regulations

Pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) Section 6404(f) and Treasury Regulations §301.6404-3, the IRS is required to abate any portion of any penalty attributable to erroneous IRS written advice furnished to the taxpayer by an officer or employee of the IRS acting in such officer’s or employee’s official capacity.

IRS Written Advice Defense: Penalties That Can Be Abated

I already mentioned above that the IRS Written Advice Defense may be applicable to pretty much any penalty that was imposed from that advice – this is obviously a simplification, but it is very close to reality. The regulations specify that the IRS Written Advice Defense applies to any penalty or addition to tax “imposed under subtitle F, chapter 68, subchapter A and subchapter B of the Internal Revenue Code, and the liabilities imposed by sections 6038(b), 6038(c), 6038A(d), 6038B(b), 6039E(c), and 6332(d)(2).” Treas. Reg. § 301.6404-3(c)(2).

Moreover, the IRS Written Advice Defense also applies to any liability “resulting from the application of other provisions of the Code where the Commissioner of Internal Revenue has designated by regulation, revenue ruling, or other guidance published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin that such provision shall be considered a penalty or addition to tax for purposes of section 6404(f).” Id.

Finally, the Defense will further apply to any “interest imposed with respect to any penalty or addition to tax.” Id.

It is important to point out that the IRS written advice may be a very important reasonable cause defense against FBAR, Form 5471 and Form 5472 penalties.

IRS Written Advice Defense: Legal Test

The Treasury Regulations describe all three prongs of the legal test that must be satisfied before relief from tax penalties is granted based on the IRS Written Advice Defense:

(i) The written advice was reasonably relied upon by the taxpayer;

(ii) The advice was issued in response to a specific written request for advice by the taxpayer; and

(iii) The taxpayer requesting advice provided adequate and accurate information.

In subsequent articles I will explore each prong of this legal test in more detail.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your IRS Written Advice Defense And Any Other Reasonable Cause Defense

If the IRS has imposed penalties as a result of an audit of your tax return or FBAR, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Taxpayers around the world have learned to trust Sherayzen Law Office to bring their US tax affairs in order and rigorously defend them against the imposition of FBAR penalties. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!