Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program

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!

3 Main Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages | SDOP Lawyer

In a previous article, I described the three main advantages of doing an offshore voluntary disclosure through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“Streamlined Domestic Compliance”). Today, I would like to discuss three main Streamlined Domestic Compliance disadvantages.

Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages: Audit Risks

The first main disadvantage of Streamlined Domestic Compliance is the potential IRS audit within three years after the voluntary disclosure is completed. The audit is likely to include everything: FBARs, amended tax returns, Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty calculation and, most importantly, the determination of non-willfulness.

The potential IRS audit stands in a shark contrast to the IRS flagship Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) which closed in September of 2018. At the end of a voluntary disclosure through OVDP, the taxpayer and the IRS sign the Closing Agreement, which (absent fraud or material mis-statements) effectively closes prior tax noncompliance issues forever.

The audit risks may be particularly important to taxpayers who are in the process of obtaining their US citizenship or US permanent residence.

Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages: Penalty Base Not Limited to Income Noncompliance

One of the main Streamlined Domestic Compliance disadvantages is the fact that the calculation of the penalty base (i.e. what assets are subject to the 5% penalty) includes assets that never produced any foreign income. Moreover, the penalty base includes a foreign asset even if the foreign income from this asset was timely disclosed on the taxpayer’s original tax return, but the asset itself was not reported on FBAR or any other international information return.

In other words, a taxpayer who participates in the Streamlined Domestic Compliance should be prepared to pay a 5% penalty even on assets that are compliant with the US income tax laws.

Again, this is contrary to the rules of the OVDP. In the OVDP, only assets that are tied to income tax noncompliance are included in the penalty base.

Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages: Danger of Superficial Analysis

Finally, the danger of superficial analysis concerning non-willfulness constitutes the third main disadvantage of the Streamlined Domestic Compliance. In reality, there are two dangers which should be placed at the opposite ends of the voluntary disclosure continuum.

The first danger is the natural bias in the self-assessment of non-willfulness. Oftentimes, a taxpayer may exaggerate the facts in his favor while selectively ignoring the facts that may establish willful noncompliance. This is very natural. It is difficult to find a person who will state outright that he was willful in his prior tax noncompliance.

Usually, this problem can be (and should be) fixed by retaining an international tax attorney to do an independent assessment of the taxpayer’s non-willfulness.

At the opposite end is the danger of concentrating on non-willfulness and ignoring the possibility of doing a Reasonable Cause disclosure. In most cases, this is not a problem because Streamlined Domestic Compliance would be a superior choice despite the 5% penalty. This, however, is not true in all cases and real opportunities are often lost by failure to explore this route.

I should state that the biggest problem that I found in my practice is the fact that some taxpayers do not consult an international tax attorney on this issue. Instead, they try to do everything themselves even though they have no specialized knowledge in this field. I strongly discourage this practice.

I believe that the involvement of an international tax attorney is essential to doing a proper offshore voluntary disclosure.

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

Choosing the correct offshore voluntary disclosure path is the most important decision for a taxpayer who wishes to remedy his past noncompliance with US tax laws. Every voluntary disclosure option has its advantages and disadvantages. All essential factors must be considered.

The failure to do proper legal analysis may have highly negative legal and tax consequences. It may even put a taxpayer in a position worse than what he was prior to his attempt to do a voluntary disclosure.

This is why you need the professional help of Sherayzen Law Office. Our experienced legal team has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to do their offshore voluntary disclosures properly. We Can Help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Main Advantages | SDOP Attorney

At this point, Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“Streamlined Domestic Disclosure”) is undoubtedly the most popular offshore voluntary disclosure option. Let’s explore three main reasons for this preference of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure among US taxpayers.

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Background Information and General Requirements

The IRS created the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure as an offshore voluntary disclosure option on June 18, 2014. The IRS specifically the designed Streamlined Domestic Disclosure to address the critique of many practitioners and taxpayers that the 2012 OVDP did not adequately deal with US taxpayers who non-willfully violated their US tax obligations (for example, in cases where the taxpayers simply did not know about the existence of FBAR or Form 8938).

Any taxpayer can participate in the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure as long as he satisfies all three parts of the eligibility criteria: US tax residency, absence of IRS examination or investigation and non-willfulness.

If a taxpayer satisfies the eligibility criteria, he then must comply with all of the required submissions. The key requirement here is the certification under the penalty of perjury that the taxpayer’s prior tax noncompliance was non-willful. This requirement is the heart of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure and must be approached with special care.

The other requirements include filing of amended tax returns for the past three years (with all of the necessary information returns), filing FBARs for the past six years, payment of tax due with interest and payment of Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty. Other requirements may also apply depending on the specific situation of a taxpayer.

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure Offers a Number of Advantages to Noncompliant US Taxpayers

While the list of the requirements above may seem like a lot of work, in reality, Streamlined Domestic Disclosure definitely offers a number of advantages compared to other offshore voluntary disclosure options. I will discuss in this article only the main three advantages.

Keep in mind that the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure may not always be advantages to taxpayers. There are plenty of situations where other offshore voluntary disclosure options may be superior to Streamlined Domestic Disclosure.

I also wish to emphasize that the analysis of advantages or disadvantages of a particular voluntary disclosure option is highly fact-specific. I strongly recommend that you contact Sherayzen Law Office for a detailed analysis of your voluntary disclosure options before you even attempt to proceed with your offshore voluntary disclosure.

Advantages of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Flexible Risk Management

One of the greatest advantages (though, the one rarely discussed on the Internet) of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure is the opportunity this option offers to manage the voluntary disclosure risks. We can be even more precise – to manage the risk-reward ratio.

There is no doubt that OVDP (the 2014 IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) may have been the safest option available in the great majority of cases, but its “rewards” in terms of penalty rate, calculation of Penalty Base and other factors are generally (though, not always) inferior to those of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure. Noisy Disclosures stand at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the OVDP.

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure, however, occupies the middle ground. You only have to establish non-willfulness, not reasonable cause. This is a much lower standard. Moreover, this standard is applied to all international information returns, not just FBARs. At the same time, the penalty rate (see below) is generally far more advantageous than that of the OVDP.

Advantages of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Relatively Low Penalty Rate

One of the most cited advantages of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure is the low penalty rate of 5%. Compared to the OVDP penalty rate of 27.5% or FBAR non-willful penalties outside of a voluntary disclosure program, this can be a very advantageous option. This is not always the case, but it is true in most non-willful cases.

Advantages of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Shortened Voluntary Disclosure Period

Another great advantage of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure is the smaller number of years covered by the voluntary disclosure period. Unlike the OVDP voluntary disclosure period (which covers eight years of FBARs and tax returns), this voluntary disclosure option only encompasses the years which are covered by a regular statute of limitations.

In other words, it only includes the past six years of FBARs (occasionally seven) and past three years of tax returns. Obviously, this is a lot more convenient than OVDP.

A voluntary disclosure that involves an expatriation will require an increased number of amended tax returns.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Streamlined Domestic Disclosure

Despite having a much simpler procedure, Streamlined Domestic Disclosure may still be quite complex and require professional attention. There are a number of pitfalls that may seriously undermine the advantages of a Streamlined Domestic Disclosure. Sometime, unrepresented taxpayers may also make mistakes that will result in a disastrous result during a subsequent IRS audit.

This is why you need the professional help from Sherayzen Law Office. Our experienced legal team has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their Streamlined Domestic Disclosures, and We Can Help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2018 Post-OVDP Options | Foreign Accounts IRS Lawyer & Attorney

In a previous article, I discussed the recent IRS announcement with respect to the closure of the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) on September 28, 2018. Today, I would like to predict the range of the 2018 post-OVDP options for offshore voluntary disclosures starting October of 2018.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Streamlined Compliance Procedures

As of October 1, 2018, the taxpayers will still be able to utilize the Streamlined Compliance Procedures to complete their voluntary disclosures with respect to their foreign income and foreign assets. This option will be available only to taxpayers who will be able to certify that their prior noncompliance with US international tax laws was non-willful.

There are two variations within the Streamlined Compliance Procedures that are available to taxpayers depending on their residency: Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”). I expect both options to be available on October 1, 2018 and even into 2019.

I should emphasize, however, that the existence of Streamlined Compliance Procedures is by no means assured in the future. As I have stated in the article that predicted the demise of the OVDP, there may be a point in the future (and it can be a near future – 2020 or 2021) when even these procedures will be affected. It is more likely that SFOP will survive for a longer period of time than SDOP.

The other issue with Streamlined Compliance Procedures is that some of the terms of this type of voluntary disclosures may change over time even if SDOP and SFOP will remain in place.

Nevertheless, the Streamlined Compliance Procedures is a very popular option.  In fact, according to the IRS, about 65,000 taxpayers have used it since its creation in 2014). This is a very high dis-incentive for the IRS to end this option.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures

I fully expect the Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures to be available as of October 1, 2018. In one form or another, this option has always existed within the IRS. First, it was an informal understanding of the IRS that, in the absence of income tax noncompliance and other aggravating factors, there would be no FBAR penalties. Then, this option was “codified” as FAQ #17 within the OVDP programs.

In 2014, the Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures became an independent option. Of course, now, this is a somewhat harsher option.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures

I expect that this option will continue to exist as of October 1, 2018. Similarly to FBAR, it used to be a part of various OVDPs as FAQ #18. Now, Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures is a separate option which requires a reasonable cause explanation.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: IRS-Criminal Investigation Voluntary Disclosure Program (CI-VDP)

This option has existed for a very long time; it just faded into obscurity during the existence of OVDP. Now, it will surge back to life as it becomes almost the default option for a voluntary disclosure for US taxpayers who willfully violated their US tax obligations. In fact, I now expect CI-VDP to become a very valuable voluntary disclosure option (similar to what it used to be prior to 2009 OVDP).

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Reasonable Cause “Noisy” Disclosures

Since Reasonable Cause Disclosures (a/k/a “Noisy Disclosures”) are based on statutory law and not on any IRS programs, I fully expect this voluntary disclosure option to be available on October 1, 2018.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Assets and Foreign Income

If you have been unable to comply with US international tax laws concerning the reporting of foreign assets (including foreign accounts) and foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leading international tax law firm in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures. Our highly specialized legal team, led by an international tax attorney Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with assets in close to 70 countries to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws.

We can Help You! Contact Us 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!