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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!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2018 FBAR Audits Set to Increase | IRS FBAR Audit Lawyer & Attorney

2018 FBAR audits are set to increase at a dramatic pace. In this article, I would like to discuss what the FBAR audits are and why 2017-2018 will be the period of time when we believe that the FBAR audits will gain as a percentage of the overall IRS audits compared to earlier years.

2018 FBAR Audits and Sherayzen Law Office Predictions

As early as 2011, Sherayzen Law Office predicted that the FBAR audits would become more commonplace than ever a few years after FATCA was implemented. Once FATCA was implemented in July of 2014, we confirmed our prediction and refined it to specifically identify 2017 and 2018 FBAR audits as the years of larger than average increases. Obviously, the increase in FBAR audits will go hand in hand with the jump in FBAR litigation by the US Department of Justice.

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2018 FBAR Audits: How Do FBAR Audits Differ from Regular IRS Audits?

The public is generally familiar to a certain degree with regular IRS Audits of US tax returns. In general, in a regular audit, the IRS contacts the taxpayer or his representative and conducts a thorough review of the taxpayer’s tax returns selected for examination.

So, are FBAR Audits different from the regular US tax return audits? The answer is: “yes” and “no”. In terms of the actual procedure (i.e. the IRS contacting the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s representative and doing a thorough examination), there are no large differences, though, the fact that FBARs come under Title 31 does affect certain procedures.

However, in terms of issues involved, the FBAR audits can be vastly different, because they would involve not only the issues that are a concern during a regular IRS audit of a tax return, but also FBAR-specific issues. In other words, the FBAR audit will likely involve all of the features of the audit concerning US tax returns (especially, with respect to verification that all foreign income was properly disclosed) and FBAR -specific issues concerning the accuracy of the reported foreign account and foreign income information.

Moreover, it should be remembered that FBAR has a draconian penalty system. Hence, the stakes in the FBAR audit are much higher than those of a regular IRS audit.

Finally, FBAR audits may often lead to FATCA compliance issues, particularly Form 8938 compliance. FBAR audits may also trigger the audit of other information returns, including Form 3520 with respect to foreign gifts and inheritance.

Thus, while FBAR audits may seem procedurally similar to regular IRS audits (though, as I had pointed out above, this similarity is superficial to a large degree), the scope of the FBAR audit, the issues involved, the “expansion” effect and the stakes involved (in terms of potential penalties) make FBAR audits far more dangerous to US taxpayers than regular IRS audits of US tax returns.

Why Should We Expect to See An Increase in 2017 and 2018 FBAR Audits?

The increase in 2017 and 2018 FBAR audits is driven primarily by FATCA and other automatic information exchange mechanisms (including those provided for in bilateral treaties). Since the UBS case in 2008, the IRS has seen a steady increase of data inflow from overseas concerning foreign accounts owned and/or controlled by US taxpayers.

This stream of data became a torrential river after the implementation of FATCA in 2014 and the increase in the bilateral and multilateral automatic information exchange mechanisms since 2011. In fact, the IRS has received so much data that it has not even been able to properly process and organize it yet.

However, even with the small percentage of the data that was actually properly processed, the IRS received a treasure trove of information concerning unreported foreign accounts and noncompliant US taxpayers. This new data has already led to a steady increase of IRS investigations during the years 2015-2016. Given the fact that a much larger amount of data will be processed in 2017 and 2018, the number of IRS investigations and FBAR audits should increase dramatically in 2017-2019.

An indirect confirmation of this conclusion is the recent surge in the US Department of Justice FBAR litigation. We fully expect the FBAR audits to follow the same path of intensification in 2017-2019.

What Should You Do If the IRS Selects You for FBAR Audit?

If the IRS contacts you concerning examination of your FBARs or your US tax returns with Forms 8938 and/or foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Our firm specializes in helping taxpayers like you with the IRS audits of any US international information returns, including FBARs and Forms 8938.

The owner of Sherayzen Law Office, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, is an international tax attorney with an almost unique experience of helping US taxpayers at all stages of US international tax compliance: annual compliance, offshore voluntary disclosures, FBAR Audits and FBAR litigation in federal courts. This experience has allowed Mr. Sherayzen to have a unique perspective on FBAR Audits which allows him to be a highly effective advocate of his clients’ positions before the IRS.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!