On January 9, 2012, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it opens another offshore voluntary disclosure program to help people hiding offshore accounts get current with their taxes and announced the collection of more than $4.4 billion so far from the two previous international programs.
The IRS reopened the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) following continued strong interest from taxpayers and tax practitioners after the closure of the 2011 and 2009 programs. The third offshore program comes as the IRS continues working on a wide range of international tax issues and follows ongoing efforts with the Justice Department to pursue criminal prosecution of international tax evasion. This program will be open for an indefinite period until otherwise announced.
“Our focus on offshore tax evasion continues to produce strong, substantial results for the nation’s taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We have billions of dollars in hand from our previous efforts, and we have more people wanting to come in and get right with the government. This new program makes good sense for taxpayers still hiding assets overseas and for the nation’s tax system.”
The 2012 OVDP is similar to the 2011 OVDI program in many ways, but with a few key differences. First, unlike the last year, there is no set deadline for people to apply. Second, while the OVDP penalty structure is mostly similar to the OVDI program, the taxpayers in the highest penalty category will suffer from a hike in the penalty rate – the new penalty framework requires individuals to pay a penalty of 27.5 percent of the highest aggregate balance in foreign bank accounts/entities or value of foreign assets during the eight full tax years prior to the disclosure. That is up from 25 percent in the 2011 program. Some taxpayers will be eligible for 5 or 12.5 percent penalties; these remain the same in the new program as in 2011. Third, participants must file all original and amended tax returns and include payment for back-taxes and interest for up to eight years as well as paying accuracy-related and/or delinquency penalties. Fourth, as under the prior programs, taxpayers who feel that the penalty is disproportionate may opt instead to be examined.
The important details of the 2012 OVDP are still going to be announced by the IRS later. It is important to emphasize, however, that the terms of the program could change at any time going forward. For example, the IRS may increase penalties in the program for all or some taxpayers or defined classes of taxpayers – or decide to end the program entirely at any point.
The IRS also stated that it is currently developing procedures by which dual citizen taxpayers, who may be delinquent in filing but owe no U.S. tax, may come into compliance with U.S. tax law.
“As we’ve said all along, people need to come in and get right with us before we find you,” Shulman said. “We are following more leads and the risk for people who do not come in continues to increase.”
This offshore effort comes as Shulman also announced today the IRS has collected $3.4 billion so far from people who participated in the 2009 offshore program, reflecting closures of about 95 percent of the cases from the 2009 program. On top of that, the IRS has collected an additional $1 billion from up front payments required under the 2011 program. That number will grow as the IRS processes the 2011 cases.
In all, the IRS has seen 33,000 voluntary disclosures from the 2009 and 2011 offshore initiatives. Since the 2011 program closed last September, hundreds of taxpayers have come forward to make voluntary disclosures. Those who have come in since the 2011 program closed last year will be able to be treated under the provisions of the new OVDP program.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help With Your Voluntary Disclosure
If you are currently not in compliance with U.S. tax laws, contact Sherayzen Law Office for legal help. Our experienced international tax firm will explore all of the available options, advise you on the best course of action, draft all of the required documentation, provide IRS representation, and conduct the necessary disclosure to bring your affairs tax affairs into full compliance with U.S. tax system.