offshore voluntary disclosure lawyers Minneapolis

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 were 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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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!

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!

IRS OVDP to End on September 28, 2018 | US OVDP Tax Law Firm

On March 13, 2018, the IRS announced that it will be closing its flagship 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure (“OVDP”) program on September 28, 2018. The closure of the IRS OVDP was already predicted by Sherayzen Law Office last year. Let’s analyze further this important development.

Historical Overview of the IRS OVDP

I already provided a profound historical overview of the IRS OVDP in a previous article. Here, I would like to state a brief summary of this history.

The 2009 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“2009 OVDP”) is considered to be the first modern offshore voluntary disclosure program created by the IRS. There were voluntary disclosure initiatives in the earlier years (most notably 2004), but they lacked the sophistication, publicity and enforcement that characterized the post-UBS case IRS OVDPs.

The 2009 OVDP ended in October of that year, but its favorable results laid the foundation for the enormously successful 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (“2011 OVDI”). In fact, the 2011 OVDI turned out be such a hit that, after it ended, the IRS almost immediately instituted the “permanent” 2012 OVDP with many terms fairly similar to 2011 OVDI.

In 2014, the 2012 OVDP underwent a profound change with the creation of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) and the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”) as well as the split off of the old FAQ 17 and FAQ 18 into new Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures and Delinquent International Information Returns Submission Procedures respectively. The changes to 2012 OVDP were so dramatic that the IRS and the practitioners treated the remaining part of the IRS OVDP as the 2014 OVDP.

Popularity of the IRS OVDP Changed Over Time

Since the introduction of the 2009 OVDP, more than 56,000 taxpayers participated in some version of the IRS OVDPs. Altogether, the IRS stated that “those taxpayers paid a total of $11.1 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties”.

The popularity of the IRS OVDP, however, changed over time. It really peaked with the 2011 OVDI – about 18,000 taxpayers participated in this program. The numbers have declined ever since; the decline greatly accelerated with the 2014 introduction of SDOP and SFOP. In fact, the IRS stated that only 600 disclosures were made through the IRS OVDP in the entire year 2017.

IRS OVDP: Its Importance Today and Who Will Be Affected Most by Its Closure

Today, the IRS OVDP remains the main voluntary disclosure option for US taxpayers who willfully failed to comply with their US international tax obligations. In fact, this is the best option available to these willful taxpayers. The IRS-Criminal Investigation Voluntary Disclosure Program (CI-VDP) does not offer any of the assurances on the penalty limitations that the IRS OVDP offers today.

It is important to point out, however, that the IRS OVDP can be a desirable voluntary disclosure option not only to willful taxpayers, but also to taxpayers who were non-willful in their inability to comply with the complex US international tax laws.

There are at least two categories of these non-willful taxpayers who will be affected by the impending closure of the IRS OVDP. First, the taxpayers who were non-willful, but lack sufficient proof to establish their non-willfulness in the SDOP or SFOP. In such cases, IRS OVDP offered a prudent, even if more expensive way to deal with prior tax noncompliance.

Second, due to the fact that the IRS OVDP does not impose penalties on unreported foreign assets that were not related to income tax noncompliance, some non-willful taxpayers may find it more economically beneficial to go through the IRS OVDP rather than SDOP.

Finally, it should be remembered that the IRS OVDP is the only offshore voluntary disclosure option (besides CI-VDP) that offers a Closing Agreement – i.e. a nearly guaranteed assurance that there will not be an IRS audit of prior years after the voluntary disclosure is completed, absent fraud and/or material mis-statements of fact.

Why Did IRS Decide to End IRS OVDP?

The reasons that IRS listed today for the closure of the IRS OVDP are practically the same as what I stated in my article last year, when I predicted the likely closure of the IRS OVDP.

First, the IRS stated that the “end of the current OVDP also reflects advances in third-party reporting and increased awareness of U.S. taxpayers of their offshore tax and reporting obligations.” In other words, as I have previously wrote, the existing voluntary disclosure options are rapidly losing value as a source of new information regarding offshore noncompliance with US taxes. Third-party reporting has overtaken the OVDP in this respect due to the huge and continuously expanding network (especially the FATCA network) of automatic information exchange between the IRS and foreign financial institutions.

Second, as I warned in November of 2017, there has been a systemic change to a different model of tax administration. The IRS noted that “it will continue to use tools besides voluntary disclosure to combat offshore tax avoidance, including taxpayer education, Whistleblower leads, civil examination and criminal prosecution.”

This means that the IRS is shifting away from processing broad voluntary disclosure programs while it is embracing the model of focused enforcement. This is precisely why the IRS created the issued-based LB&I Compliance Campaigns. Hence, we now entered into a phase where various enforcement channels will dominate the IRS efforts to implement US international tax laws.

Do US Taxpayers Still Have Time to do a Voluntary Disclosure Through IRS OVDP?

Yes, the taxpayers who wish to utilize the IRS OVDP option will still be able to do it through September 28, 2018.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Wish to Explore Your Voluntary Disclosure Options, Including IRS OVDP

If you a US taxpayer who has undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our highly experienced international tax law firm has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to successfully bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws.

You will be working directly with an international tax lawyer and owner of Sherayzen Law Office, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen. He will thoroughly analyze the facts of your case, determine your US tax compliance requirements with respect to unreported foreign assets and foreign income, estimate your penalty exposure, and determine the available voluntary disclosure options.

Once a voluntary disclosure option is chosen, the highly professional team of Sherayzen Law Office will work with you and prepare all of the necessary tax forms and legal documents. We will guide you throughout the entire process, including IRS representation in case of an IRS challenge of your voluntary disclosure or an IRS audit.

We have helped taxpayers with assets from close to 70 countries around the world and We Can Help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests Are Targeted by IRS

Since January 31, 2017, all of the denied and abandoned OVDP Preclearance requests have become the target of a special IRS compliance campaign. Let’s analyze in more detail this important development and attempt to predict what may be its main consequences for noncompliant or formerly noncompliant US taxpayers.

Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests: OVDP Background

IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) is a special program developed by the IRS to allow US taxpayers to resolve their past tax noncompliance concerning unreported foreign assets and foreign income. Under the OVDP, US taxpayers have to file delinquent FBARs and other information returns as well as amended tax returns; additionally, the taxpayers are required to pay additional tax due with interest and penalties.

In return, the IRS promises that participation in the OVDP would result in no criminal prosecution for past noncompliance. Furthermore, OVDP offers a clear and limited civil penalty exposure in the form of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, which replaces all other civil penalty systems, including the draconian FBAR penalties.

What Are These Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests?

In order to participate in the OVDP, US taxpayers have to file a Preclearance Request with the IRS-CI (Criminal Investigation). The IRS-CI determines whether applicants are eligible to participate in the OVDP; the taxpayers who fail to meet the eligibility criteria are rejected without the possibility of further participation in the OVDP.

Additionally, especially after the Streamlined Compliance Procedures were instituted, there were a lot of taxpayers who submitted their Preclearance Requests and even certain additional information, but ultimately decided not to participate in the OVDP and/or withdrew from the OVDP. These are abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests.

Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests: June of 2016 TIGTA Report

Despite the fact that the IRS was already aware of prior noncompliance of the taxpayers who submitted these denied or abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests, it failed to do any follow-up in many of these cases. In June of 2016, TIGTA issued a report on the IRS management of OVDP. Among other matters, TIGTA recommended that the IRS review all Denied or Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests.

LB&I Campaign on Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests

Partially in response to the 2016 TIGTA report, the IRS LB&I announced an unprecedented compliance campaign on Denied and Abandoned Preclearance Requests in January of 2017. The campaign specifically targets taxpayers who were denied the participation in the OVDP or who voluntarily abandoned their Preclearance requests.

On October 26, 2017, an IRS official stated that the Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests Campaign is focusing on approximately 6,000 US taxpayers. It appears that the exact treatment stream will be decided on a case-by-case basis, but the IRS is hoping to review (at least at some level) this entire category of taxpayers. In other words, virtually every one of these taxpayers should expect some sort of communication from the IRS, including, potentially (and maybe even likely) full IRS audit of their tax returns and FBARs.

What Does the LB&I Campaign on Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests Mean for US Taxpayers

US taxpayers who abandoned their OVDP Preclearance Requests or whose requests were denied by the IRS-CI should prepare as soon as possible a viable strategy on how to deal with respect to the potential IRS audit. Right now, they are at an extremely high risk of detection and possible imposition of the IRS civil and criminal penalties.

The options are various and highly depend on the individual fact pattern of a taxpayer. In particular, a taxpayer’s legal position will depend on whether the taxpayer’s prior noncompliance was willful or non-willful and whether he abandoned his OVDP Preclearance Request or such a request was denied.

This entire analysis of a taxpayer’s legal position and available strategies for dealing with a possible IRS audit should be done by an experienced international tax lawyer who specializes in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the LB&I Campaign on Denied and Abandoned OVDP Preclearance Requests

If your OVDP Preclearance Request was denied by the IRS or abandoned by you, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Our legal team is highly experienced in the area of international tax law and, specifically, offshore voluntary disclosures. In fact, we have helped hundred of US taxpayers around the globe to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws. We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!