Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program

OVDP Closure Sets the Stage for a Dramatic Increase in IRS FBAR Audits

There has been virtually no discussion of the impact of the OVDP closure beyond how it affects the ability of willful taxpayers to settle their past noncompliance. This is very unfortunate, because there is a direct correlation between OVDP and IRS tax enforcement activities. In this article, I will discuss how the OVPD closure sets the stage for a dramatic increase in the IRS FBAR Audits as well as IRS audits of other US taxpayers with international tax exposure.

The Utility of the OVDP Program Prior to the OVDP Closure

The IRS flagship 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program served various purposes prior to its closure on September 28, 2018. Let’s concentrate on its two most important roles.

First and foremost, it was an important information-gathering tool for the IRS. The taxpayers who participated in the OVDP disclosed not only their noncompliance with US tax laws, but also the identity of the persons and institutions who facilitated this noncompliance. In other words, the OVDP supplied to the IRS valuable, up-to-date information about foreign financial institutions and foreign financial advisors who participated and even set-up the various tax evasion schemes. This ever-growing mountain of evidence was later used by the IRS to target these schemes effectively and efficiently.

Second, the OVDP greatly enhanced the IRS tax enforcement activities in two different ways. On the one hand, the OVDP promoted the general awareness of FBAR requirements as well as voluntary disclosures of FBAR noncompliance by US taxpayers, thereby saving the IRS the time and resources that otherwise would have been unnecessarily spent on finding and auditing these taxpayers. On the other hand, by “weeding-out” these repentant taxpayers, the OVDP allowed the IRS to concentrate its enforcement efforts on the taxpayers who the IRS believed to be true and inveterate tax evaders.

Diminished Utility of the OVDP and the OVDP Closure in 2018

Over time, however, the IRS came to conclusion that, in precisely these two most important aspects, the OVDP had lost a substantial part of its prior utility. The full implementation of FATCA and the ever-spreading web of bilateral and multilateral information exchange treaties made the OVDP a relatively unimportant information collection tool by the end of 2017.

At the same time, due to the introduction of the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures and the fact that most willful taxpayers who wanted to take advantage of the OVDP had already done so, fewer and fewer taxpayers were entering the OVDP. In other words, by early 2018, the IRS was in the position to make the decision that the “weeding-out” process was substantially complete.

For these two reasons as well a number of other smaller reasons, the IRS decided to finally close the 2014 OVDP (which itself was a modification of the 2012 OVDP) on September 28, 2018. The OVDP closure did not happen suddenly; rather, the IRS gave a more than nine-month notice to the public that the OVDP was going to be closed. This was done very much according to the “weeding-out” concept – the IRS gave one last opportunity to certain groups of taxpayers to settle their prior US international tax noncompliance under the established terms of the OVDP program.

The Link Between the OVDP Closure and IRS FBAR Audits

At this point, after giving noncompliant US taxpayers their last chance to “peacefully” resolve their FBAR and other US tax problems, the IRS believes that it has completed its weeding-out process. The time has come for harsh IRS tax enforcement.

Based on my conversations with various IRS agents, I have identified the trend where the IRS currently encourages IRS agents to quickly close their voluntary disclosure cases and shift to doing field audits involving international tax compliance, including FBAR audits.

In other words, the OVDP closure frees up the critical resources that the IRS needs to conduct audits based on the mountains of information it has accumulated over the past decade. Some of this information came from the OVDP, the Swiss Bank Program, from FATCA and other  information exchange mechanisms.

What is worse (from the perspective of noncompliant taxpayers) is that the IRS now can justify the imposition of higher FBAR penalties since it can claim that the taxpayers had prior chances to resolve their prior FBAR noncompliance and intentionally failed to do so.

Sherayzen Law Office Predicted the Shift Toward Tax Enforcement a Long Time Ago

All of these developments – the OVDP closure and the shift toward stricter tax enforcement – were predicted years by Sherayzen Law Office ago. As early as 2013, Mr. Sherayzen made a prediction that the Swiss Bank Program and FATCA are likely to lead to higher levels of FBAR audits and FBAR litigation as well as the general shift of the IRS policy from voluntary disclosures to tax enforcement.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With FBAR Audits and Other International Tax Audits

If you are being audited by the IRS and your tax return involves any international tax issues (including FBARs), you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our experienced international tax law firm has successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers to settle their US tax affairs.

We possess profound knowledge and understanding of US international tax law as well as the IRS procedures. We have experience in every stage of IRS enforcement: from offshore voluntary disclosures and IRS administrative appeals to IRS audits (including FBAR audits and audits of Streamlined disclosures) and federal court litigation.

We are a leader in US international tax compliance and We Can Help You!

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SDOP Real Estate Penalty | Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Law Firm

One of the most important considerations in an offshore voluntary disclosure is the type of assets that form the Penalty Base for the imposition of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty. In this article, I would like to explore the issue of whether there is such a thing as SDOP Real Estate Penalty.

SDOP Real Estate Penalty: Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Background

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures or SDOP is an offshore voluntary disclosure option that was announced by the IRS in June of 2014. With the recent termination of the OVDP (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program), SDOP has become the main voluntary disclosure vehicle for eligible taxpayers.

Under the terms of the SDOP, a taxpayer voluntarily discloses his prior noncompliance with US international tax laws, files FBARs for the past six years, amends tax returns for the past three years and certifies under the penalty of perjury that his prior noncompliance with US tax laws was non-willful. Moreover, the taxpayer must pay a 5% Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty that supplants all other penalty structures associated with FBAR and other US international information returns (such Form 5471, 8865, et cetera).

SDOP Real Estate Penalty: SDOP Penalty Base

The 5% Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on the entire SDOP Penalty Base. The SDOP Penalty Base is formed by the inclusion all foreign financial assets undisclosed on US international information returns as well as income-noncompliant foreign financial assets. This includes without limitation all assets listed on FBARs and Forms 8938, 5471, 8858, 8865, 3520 (the foreign trust portion), 3520-A, et cetera.

Is there A SDOP Real Estate Penalty?

Now, armed with this understanding of the structure of the SDOP Penalty Base, we can answer the question of whether there is such a thing as SDOP Real Estate Penalty. Since the SDOP Penalty Base is formed by the inclusion of all foreign financial assets and real estate is not a foreign financial asset, we can conclude that there is no SDOP Real Estate Penalty on the real estate owned directly by a US taxpayer.

What about real property owned through a foreign business entity or a foreign trust? Unfortunately, it is here where we encounter the hidden SDOP Real Estate Penalty. If the foreign entity (or income from this foreign entity) was not properly disclosed on Form 8938 or any other relevant information return which is used to avoid the duplication of reporting of foreign business ownership (i.e. Form 5471, 8865, 8858, 3520 and 3520-A), then the SDOP Penalty Base will include the fair market value of the undisclosed foreign entity. In other words, the SDOP Real Estate Penalty may be imposed on the value of the entity that is holding the real estate, not real estate per se.

This is very worrying news to taxpayers who hold real estate through foreign entities. In virtually all Latin American countries, US taxpayers usually own real estate through a corporation. This means that they are exposed to the imposition of SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty on their personal real estate that is held through a foreign entity simply because it is a local custom to do so.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

If you have undisclosed foreign assets and/or foreign income, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our legal team, led by an international tax attorney Eugene Sherayzen, is highly experienced in offshore voluntary disclosures of unreported offshore assets and income. Whether it is Indian mutual funds, Swiss Structured Products, a French Assurance Vie account, Polish lokatas, Australian Superannuation accounts, Canadian RRSPs, a Malaysian health insurance investment policy, a Singapore Central Provident Fund (CPF), an Italian Corporation, a British Limited Company, a Spanish rental property, a Panamanian Sociedad Anonima, a Kazakh foreign branch, a Jersey trust and many, many other varieties of foreign assets – we have done it all and successfully brought our clients in full compliance with the US international tax laws. We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

August 24 OVDP Deadline | OVDP Tax Lawyer & Attorney

The fact that the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) closes on September 28, 2018, obscured another important deadline that is much closer – the August 24 OVDP Deadline to submit the Preclearance Request.

August 24 OVDP Deadline: What is a Preclearance Request?

The Preclearance Request is basically a pre-application process to make sure that a taxpayer is eligible to apply for the OVDP. It is filed with the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit (“IRS-CI”), which will check for any outstanding investigations or examinations concerning the taxpayer.

August 24 OVDP Deadline: Is the Preclearance Request Required?

The short answer is “no”. I have seen a fair number of Internet blogs that mislead the taxpayers into believing that to the contrary, but this is simply false. A person can skip the Preclearance Request and apply directly to be accepted into the OVDP.

Nevertheless, even though the Preclearance Request is not an absolute requirement, it may be prudent to go through this process in some cases. It will be up to your international tax attorney to determine whether this is necessary.

What is the August 24 OVDP Deadline?

According to FAQ #11 published for the Closure of the OVDP, August 24, 2018 is the last day that a taxpayer will be able to submit his Preclearance (OVDP FAQ 23) Request to the IRS.

It should be remembered that the response to a Preclearance request may take 30 days or more (especially with the current rush to enter OVDP prior to its closure). In fact, the response to a Preclearance request may even come into conflict with the OVDP closure deadline. In such cases, it would be prudent to timely submit by September 28, 2018, the OVDP application letter required by OVDP FAQ #24.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your OVDP Application

If you have undisclosed offshore accounts and you wish to enter the OVDP, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

Sherayzen Law Office has successfully helped its clients around the globe with every type of an offshore voluntary disclosure, including 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI, 2012 OVDP and 2014 OVDP. We can help You!

Time is of the essence, because the current 2014 OVDP will close on September 28, 2018. Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

NPB Neue Privat Bank Signs Non-Prosecution Agreement | OVDP Lawyer

On July 18, 2018, the US Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) announced that it signed a Non-Prosecution Agreement with NPB Neue Privat Bank AG (“NPB”). Let’s explore in more detail the history of this case and its resolution.

Background Information: 2001 QI Agreement between NPB and the IRS

NPB is a Swiss private bank based in Zurich. In 2001, NPB entered into a Qualified Intermediary Agreement (“QI Agreement”) with the IRS, which had extensive requirements for US tax withholding and US information reporting. Among these requirements was the obligation for NPB to ask its new and existing US clients to complete IRS Forms W-9 if they engaged in US securities transactions. In such cases, NPB was required to report the relevant transactions on IRS Form 1099.

Based on the QI Agreement, NPB arrived at a paradoxical conclusion that became prevalent among Swiss banks in the early 2000s. It believed that, as long as the bank complied with its QI Agreement, it could continue to accept and service US taxpayers even if NPB knew or had reason to believe that these taxpayers engaged in tax evasion. In other words, the bank could service such clients as long as they were not trading US-based securities or the investment accounts were nominally structured in the name of a foreign-based entity. It does not appear that an opinion of a legal counsel was secured in support for this belief.

Background Information 2009: NPB Accepts Noncompliant US Taxpayers

Prior to 2009, NPB had relatively few US clients; in fact, at the close of 2008, all of the NPB accounts owned by its US clients held approximately 8 million Swiss francs in assets.

The situation changed dramatically in 2009. As a result of the UBS case and other signs of increased IRS activity with respect to undisclosed foreign accounts, major Swiss banks started closing accounts owned by US taxpayers, creating a flood of potential clients for NPB. In early 2009, certain external-asset managers asked the bank to give refuge to these taxpayers and their money. The managers told the bank that they asked their US clients to become tax compliant, but some of them still had not done so.

On March 9, 2009, the NPB’s board of directors unanimously voted to allow US taxpayers to open accounts with the bank, even for those clients who fled other Swiss banks. As a result, by the end of 2009, NPB accumulated close to 450 million Swiss francs in accounts owned or beneficially owned by US taxpayers. The DOJ estimated that only 69% of these assets were reported to the US government at that time.

It appears that the bank’s executives had hoped that their US clients would eventually come into full compliance with US tax laws, but no written or formal policy to encourage or mandate such compliance was ever created.

Years 2010-2012: NPB Stops Accepting US Clients and Implements Some Procedures to Encourage US Tax Compliance

In August of 2010, as a result of the fact that US tax enforcement made the environment for Swiss banks which accepted noncompliant US taxpayers more and more dangerous, NPB decided not to open any new accounts for US clients who were noncompliant with US tax laws.

This decision (which was not reduced to writing) did not stop the bank from continuing to service its already existing noncompliant US taxpayers. Moreover there were at least 89 US-related accounts, both declared and undeclared, held in the name of offshore structures, such as trusts or corporations. These offshore structures were domiciled in countries such as Panama, Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, and Belize. All of these structures, however, were set up before the clients were accepted by the bank.

Starting August of 2010, NPB finally started to require new US clients to provide Forms W-9. The existing clients were required to submit Form W-9 only starting in the summer of 2011. The bank started to require evidence of tax compliance from its external asset managers only in August of 2011.

Swiss Bank Program: NPB is a Category 1 Bank

On August 29, 2013, the DOJ announced the Swiss Bank Program, but it declared NPB as a Category 1 bank ineligible to participate in the Program. By that time, the DOJ already started its investigation of the bank and its activities with respect to noncompliant US taxpayers.

Non-Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ

NPB cooperated throughout the DOJ investigation. In fact, the bank turned over the identities of US account holders and beneficial owners of more than 88% of the US-held assets.

The parties finally reached the agreement on July 18, 2018, when they signed the Non-Prosecution Agreement. Under the Agreement, the DOJ promised not to prosecute NPB. In return, the bank agreed to pay a penalty of $5 million. The bank further agreed to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings as well as demonstrate that it implemented the necessary procedure to stop misconduct involving undeclared US-related accounts.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Accounts

The NPB-DOJ Non-Prosecution Agreement demonstrates the continued IRS focus on US international tax enforcement. The IRS has devoted considerable resources to this area and all noncompliant US taxpayers around the world are at a significant risk of discovery, not just taxpayers with undisclosed Swiss bank accounts.

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options. Time is of the essence: the IRS flagship Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) will close on September 28, 2018.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Understand How IRS Amnesty Works Before Entering 2014 OVDP

Less than two months are left before the 2014 IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“2014 OVDP”) closes on September 28, 2018. 2014 OVDP may offer great benefits to taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts, such as the possibility of avoiding criminal penalties and greatly reducing FBAR civil penalties. Yet, entering 2014 OVDP also implies a great variety of obligations and complications that many taxpayers will find overly invasive and burdensome. Moreover, non-willful taxpayers may resent not only the amount of paperwork, but also the 27.5% to 50% OVDP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty.

Furthermore, 2014 OVDP has its own eligibility requirements which may simply prevent a taxpayer from being able to participate in the program. Unfortunately, the taxpayer may only find out about it after he submits his OVDP application, thereby exposing himself to potential IRS investigation and penalties.

In sum, entering 2014 OVDP is an important and highly complex decision that requires a detailed evaluation of the taxpayers’ facts. 2014 OVDP is not the best solution for everyone, but it may be a critical opportunity to settle past tax noncompliance for some taxpayers (especially taxpayers whose noncompliance is likely to be considered “willful” by the IRS) – an opportunity that should not be wasted.

Such legal analysis should only be done by a skilled international tax attorney who specializes in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures. The stakes are simply too high to entrust a matter of such importance to anyone else.

Experienced International Tax Attorney Sherayzen Can Help You With Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

Mr. Eugene Sherayzen is an international tax attorney who specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures. In fact, this speciality occupies more than 80% of his entire practice. Mr. Sherayzen has helped his clients with respect to every major IRS voluntary disclosure program, including 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI, 2012 OVDP, 2014 OVDP, Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures and Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures.

Additionally, Mr. Sherayzen has conducted a great number of statutory voluntary disclosures based on Reasonable Cause exception or so called “Noisy Disclosures” (they were very popular prior to 2009 as well as between 2009 OVDP and the creation of the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures).

Furthermore, Mr. Sherayzen represented his clients during the IRS audits of offshore voluntary disclosures, has extensive experience with IRS appeals and federal court litigation.

Contact Attorney Sherayzen Before Entering 2014 OVDP

Such an extensive work with offshore voluntary disclosures makes Mr. Sherayzen one of the most experienced offshore voluntary disclosure lawyers whose opinion should be obtained before entering 2014 OVDP.

Contact Mr. Sherayzen Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!