offshore voluntary disclosure lawyers Minneapolis

Failure to Conduct Voluntary Disclosure: Possible Penalties

The IRS just instituted a new voluntary disclosure program for taxpayers who have offshore accounts or assets and who failed to properly report them to the IRS and pay appropriate U.S. taxes. It is called 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (“2011 OVDI”). While 2011 OVDI is not available for everyone and some particular circumstances of a case may determine whether it is advisable to go through this program, this new voluntary disclosure program offers a great chance for taxpayers to bring their tax affairs in order and virtually eliminate the possibility of criminal prosecution.

However, what may happen if a taxpayer who should have voluntarily disclosed his offshore income and assets, but fails to do so through 2011 OVDI and the IRS discovers the noncompliance through later examination? This article addresses the common types of penalties that a taxpayer may be subject to in cases where IRS identifies noncompliance with U.S. tax laws before the taxpayer goes through the voluntary disclosure process.

Penalties in General

In general, if the IRS finds out that a taxpayer is not in compliance with U.S. tax laws and fails to voluntarily disclose his offshore assets and foreign bank accounts, the taxpayer may be subject to severe civil and criminal penalties. In additional to accuracy related penalties, the fraud-related penalties, FBAR penalties, and foreign asset reporting penalties (with interest) may be imposed. Combined, all of these penalties and interest may exceed the actual value of nondisclosed assets and foreign bank accounts. In the worst-case scenario, a criminal prosecution may be launched against the noncompliant taxpayers.

Finally, the voluntary disclosure process – which would otherwise be a far less painful way to deal with this problem – is automatically unavailable for taxpayers as soon as they are under civil examination of the IRS.

Let’s discuss the penalties in detail.

Accuracy-Related and Failure to File and Pay Penalties

An accuracy-related penalty on underpayments is imposed under IRC § 6662. Depending upon which component of the accuracy-related penalty is applicable, a taxpayer may be liable for a 20 percent or 40 percent penalty.

If a taxpayer fails to file the required income tax return, a failure to file (“FTF”) penalty may be imposed pursuant to IRC § 6651(a)(1). The penalty is generally five percent of the balance due, plus an additional five percent for each month or fraction thereof during which the failure continues may be imposed. The total penalty will not exceed 25 percent of the balance due.

If a taxpayer fails to pay the amount of tax shown on the return, a failure to pay (“FTP”) penalty may be imposed pursuant to IRC § 6651(a)(2). The penalty may be half of a percent of the amount of tax shown on the return, plus an additional half of a percent for each additional month or fraction thereof that the amount remains unpaid, not exceeding the total of 25 percent of the balance due.

Fraud Penalties

Fraud penalties may imposed under IRC §§ 6651(f) or 6663. Where an underpayment of tax, or a failure to file a tax return, is due to fraud, the taxpayer is liable for penalties that may essentially amount to 75 percent of the unpaid tax.

FBAR Penalties

Read this article discussing the penalties that may be imposed as a result of a taxpayers failure to file the FinCEN Form 114 formerly Form TD F 90-22.1 (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, commonly known as an “FBAR”).

Other Penalties

Depending on a particular fact pattern, additional penalties may be imposed for failure to file Form 926, 3520, 3520-A, 5471, 5472, and 8865.

Criminal Prosecution

In the worst-case scenario, a criminal prosecution may be launched by the IRS. Huge penalties and potential jail time are the possible in case of tax evasion.

Contact Us to Let Us Help You

Sherayzen Law Office can help. We are a tax firm based in Minnesota who has helped taxpayers throughout the United States to disclose offshore assets, foreign bank accounts and unreported foreign income to the IRS, avoiding the nightmare scenarios for our clients.

For many taxpayers, 2011 OVDI is a chance to become compliant, avoid substantial civil penalties and generally eliminate the risk of criminal prosecution. A voluntary disclosure also provides the opportunity to calculate, with a reasonable degree of certainty, the total cost of resolving all offshore tax issues.

If you believe that you may not be in full compliance with U.S. tax laws, the worst course of action is to do nothing and wait for the IRS to discover your noncompliance. Once this happens, your options are likely to be severely limited and the penalties a lot higher. Therefore, call or e-mail us NOW to let us help you with your tax problems. Remember, all calls and e-mails are confidential and attorney-client privileged.

2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative

On February 8, 2011, the Internal Revenue Service announced that a new special voluntary disclosure initiative, designed to bring offshore money back into the U.S. tax system and help people with undisclosed income from hidden offshore accounts get current with their taxes, will be available through August 31, 2011.

The IRS decision to open a second special disclosure initiative follows continuing interest from taxpayers with foreign accounts. The first special voluntary disclosure program closed with 15,000 voluntary disclosures on October 15, 2009. Since that time, more than 3,000 taxpayers have come forward to the IRS with bank accounts from around the world. These taxpayers will also be eligible to take advantage of the special provisions of the new initiative.

The new initiative is called the 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI) and includes several changes from the 2009 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). The overall penalty structure for 2011 is higher, meaning that people who did not come in through the 2009 voluntary disclosure program will not be rewarded for waiting. However, the 2011 initiative does add new features.

For the 2011 initiative, there is a new penalty framework that requires individuals to pay a penalty of 25 percent of the amount in the foreign bank accounts in the year with the highest aggregate account balance covering the 2003 to 2010 time period. Some taxpayers will be eligible for 5 or 12.5 percent penalties. Participants also must pay back-taxes and interest for up to eight years as well as paying accuracy-related and/or delinquency penalties.

The IRS also created a new penalty category of 12.5 percent for treating smaller offshore accounts. People whose offshore accounts or assets did not surpass $75,000 in any calendar year covered by the 2011 initiative will qualify for this lower rate.

The IRS is also making other modifications to the 2011 disclosure initiative.

Taxpayers participating in the new initiative must file all original and amended tax returns and include payment for taxes, interest and accuracy-related penalties by the August 31, 2011, deadline.

For the eligible taxpayers, the 2011 initiative offers clear benefits to encourage taxpayers to come in now rather than risk IRS detection. Taxpayers hiding assets offshore who do not come forward will face far higher penalty scenarios as well as the possibility of criminal prosecution.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office at (612) 790-7024!

Sherayzen Law Office can help you.  Our experienced voluntary disclosure tax firm will guide you through the voluntary disclosure process and vigorously advocate your position, vying for the best outcome possible in your case.  E-mail or call us NOW!

Expatriation to Avoid U.S. Taxes

Although there is a general misconception that U.S. citizens can relinquish their citizenship in order to escape high U.S. taxes, most of the time this is not true. If you are contemplating such a move, it is essential to understand the basic rules relating to expatriation for purposes of tax avoidance, as the taxes and fines can be costly. Under IRS rules, U.S. citizens who renounce their citizenship, as well as long-term lawful permanent residents (also know as “green card” holders), can still be taxed on their worldwide income provided that statutory exceptions are not met.

Expatriation Tax Rules Explained

U.S. citizens and resident aliens generally must pay income taxes on worldwide income, regardless of where individuals live. Under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Sections 877 and 877A, U.S. citizens who renounce their citizenship within ten-years of earning U.S.-source income are still subject to U.S. taxes on such income if citizenship was relinquished for tax avoidance purposes.

In addition, pursuant to IRC Section 877(a)(1), nonresident aliens (generally defined to be individuals who are not citizens or residents of the U.S.) who, within a ten-year period immediately preceding the close of the taxable year, lost U.S, citizenship may also be subject to taxes on their U.S.-source income if the purpose of their expatriation was to avoid U.S. taxes. It is presumed that tax avoidance was the purpose if any of the following criteria are met:

1) the average annual net income tax (as defined in IRC section 38(c)(1)) of such individual for the period of 5 taxable years ending before the date of the loss of United States citizenship is greater than $124,000 (subject to adjustments)

2) the net worth of the individual as of such date is $2,000,000 or more, or

3) such individual fails to certify under penalty of perjury that he has met the relevant requirements of IRC for the 5 preceding taxable years or fails to submit such evidence of such compliance as the Secretary may require.

The tax provisions of IRC Section 877 also apply to long-term lawful permanent residents who cease to be taxed as U.S. residents. A long-term permanent resident is defined to be any individual (other than a citizen of the United States ) who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States in a least 8 taxable years during the 15-years ending with the taxable year in which an individual ceases to be a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. However, generally, an individual shall not be treated as a lawful permanent resident for any taxable year, if such individual is treated as a resident of a foreign country for the taxable year under an income tax treaty between the U.S. and the other country, and does not waive the benefits of such treaty.

Additionally, there are exceptions for certain individuals with dual citizenship, or who are minors.

Form 8854

Individuals will continue to be treated for tax purposes as U.S. citizens or residents until Form 8854 (expatriation notification form) and other required information is filed. There are different rules noted in the form depending upon the date of expatriation. In certain specified cases, Form 8854 must also be filed on an annual basis.

There is a potential $10,000 fine for failure to file the form, if required.

Conclusion

This is a general overview of the taxation rules relating to individuals who expatriate in order to avoid U.S. taxes. There are many other complex issues that may apply, depending upon the circumstances. Are you facing taxes or possible fines relating to expatriation issues? Sherayzen Law Office can assist you with these matters. Call us to set up a consultation with an experienced international tax attorney today!

Voluntary Disclosure Program: Possible Renewal With Modifications

On December 9, 2010, in his prepared remarks before the “23rd Annual Institute on Current Issues in International Taxation IRS” (in Washington, D.C.), Commissioner Doug Shulman hinted that the IRS is considering whether to renew the Voluntary Disclosure Program. The new Voluntary Disclosure Program would have tougher penalties that the original Program that ended in October of 2009, but it would still offer a way for U.S. taxpayers to comply with the U.S. tax laws while avoiding the worst consequences of tax noncompliance.

Here is a relevant excerpt from Commissioner Shuman’s speech:

“Given its success, we are seriously considering another special offshore Voluntary Disclosure program. However, there will be some fundamental differences. Taxpayers will not get the same deal as those who came in under the original program. To be fair to those who came in before the deadline, the penalty – and thus the financial cost to participate – will increase. Let me say too that we expect to make the terms of any new program available to those who have already come in after October 2009 when that program expired. Stay tuned for more details as they become available.”

Voluntary disclosure is usually the best way to bring your tax affair in full compliance with the U.S. tax laws. Moreover, voluntary disclosure process often reveals nonconformity with other U.S. tax compliance requirements, such as FBARs, Form 5471, Form 8865, Canadian RRSP disclosure, et cetera.

Sherayzen Law Office has helped the taxpayers throughout the United States to voluntarily disclose their income and assets, negotiate their tax obligations, and bring their tax affairs in full compliance with U.S. tax laws. At the same time, we have helped our clients to resolve such issues as delinquent FBARs, Form 5471/8865 filings, foreign trust income disclosure, Canadian RRSP reporting, and other relevant tax compliance issues. We will guide you every step of the way, draft the necessary documents and negotiate with the IRS.

Call NOW (612) 790-7024 to discuss your tax issues with an experienced tax attorney! Remember, your consultation is confidential and protected by the attorney-client privilege.

FBAR Penalties

In this essay, I would like to discuss some of the penalties that may be imposed as a result of the failure to file the FBAR even though you were required to do so. In particular, I will focus on three general scenarios describing specific penalties commonly attributed to each of them. The first scenario is where you willfully failed to file the FBAR, or destroyed or otherwise failed to maintain proper records of account, and the IRS learned about it when it launched an investigation. This is the worst type of scenario which carries substantial penalties. The IRS may impose civil penalties of up to the greater of $100,000, or 50 percent of the value of the account at the time of the violation, as well as criminal penalties of up to $500,000, or 10 years of imprisonment, or both.

Another scenario is where you negligently and non-willfully failed to file the FBAR, and the IRS learned about it during an investigation. Unlike the first scenario, there are no criminal penalties for non-willful failure to file the FBAR; only civil penalties of up to $10,000 per each violation (unless there is a pattern of negligence which carries additional civil penalties of no more than $50,000 per any violation). In this situation, you are likely to fare much better, and you may even be able to obtain lower penalties by showing of reasonable cause for the failure to file.

The third scenario is where you non-willfully fail to file the FBAR, accidentally discover your mistake, and come to an attorney to file a delinquent FBAR before the IRS commences its investigation of your finances. This is the most favorable of all scenarios due to the fact that you may qualify for the benefits of a voluntary disclosure program, despite the fact that the position of the IRS regarding civil penalties for voluntarily filed but delinquent FBARs is uncertain following the October 15, 2009 voluntary disclosure deadline. The best strategy for addressing delinquent FBARs, however, varies depending on the facts and circumstances of the particular case.

A word of caution: this discussion focuses solely on the penalties associated with the failure to file the FBAR. This essay does not address the various strategies that may be employed in dealing with the delinquent FBAR filings in the post-October 15, 2009 world, including qualification for the voluntary disclosure program. In certain situations, there may also be other relevant significant tax issues outside of the FBAR realm – the most important of which is non-payment of taxes on undisclosed income by the U.S. taxpayers – which may significantly alter the amount of penalties, interest, and taxes due to the IRS.