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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!

2014 IRS OVDP Future is Uncertain Due to Recent TIGTA Report

Recently, there have been signs that the IRS is pondering the future of its flagship Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (2014 IRS OVDP): does this means that there is a potential for the 2014 IRS OVDP to end soon?

TIGTA Report and 2014 IRS OVDP

The latest warning signal came on June 2, 2016. On that date, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a report with six recommendations with respect to the current IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (2014 IRS OVDP). The report contained the following enigmatic language: “Although the IRS agreed with the potential value of establishing one mailing address for taxpayer correspondence, this recommendation has been put on hold until a decision is made about the future status of the OVDP.” (Italics added) Furthermore, on page 15 of the report, the IRS again emphasizes the non-permanent nature of the 2014 IRS OVDP and refuses to commit additional resources to one of TIGTA’s recommendations.

2014 IRS OVDP Future is Uncertain

The language contained in TIGTA report should definitely be treated seriously. At the very least, we now have an official, though indirect confirmation that the IRS is thinking about modifying the 2014 IRS OVDP and potentially, the Streamlined Compliance procedures.

Is there a potential for the IRS to cancel the entire 2014 IRS OVDP? It is definitely possible; the IRS has always insisted that 2014 IRS OVDP exists simply as a voluntary IRS initiative that can be terminated at any point. Furthermore, there are signs of significant administrative issues with respect to the 2014 IRS OVDP with significant delays in case resolutions. The IRS budget constrains may simply no longer permit the IRS to sustain 2014 IRS OVDP, despite the funds that this program has brought to the U.S. Treasury.

It is also probable that the success of the Streamlined Compliance procedures, FATCA and the Swiss Bank Program may now allow the IRS to focus on prosecuting willful taxpayers, making the 2014 IRS OVDP superfluous. Of course, this would mean that non-compliant willful U.S. taxpayers would not have any official voluntary disclosure program that would accept them.  Drawing on the experience of prior periods of time between the voluntary disclosure programs, most likely, the absence of an OVDP is likely to force such taxpayers to either try to bury deeper their tax noncompliance or, if they wish to come forward, to negotiate with the IRS directly through the traditional voluntary disclosure program.  If the latter if the case, such a taxpayer will be negotiating with the IRS without any guarantees of a reduced penalty.

Another likely possibility is a significant modification of the terms of the 2014 IRS OVDP (which, itself is just a modification of the official 2012 OVDP). The change in terms could affect anything from penalty rates to procedural changes. For example, it is possible that, under the new program, the default penalty rate would rise to 50% from the current 27.5% and the high penalty rate would go above the current 50%.

U.S. Taxpayers with Undisclosed Foreign Accounts Should Consider 2014 IRS OVDP As Soon As Possible

The TIGTA Report and the great uncertainty surrounding the future of the current 2014 IRS OVDP program directly affect U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts. If 2014 IRS OVDP is significantly altered or even disappears entirely, U.S. taxpayers will lose one of the main voluntary disclosure venues and the only one opened to taxpayers who willfully violated U.S. tax laws.

This is why U.S. taxpayers with undeclared foreign accounts should consider their voluntary disclosure options, including participation in the 2014 IRS OVDP, as soon as possible. In order to properly initiate their voluntary disclosure process, these taxpayers should retain the services of an experienced international tax attorney.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Experienced and Professional Legal Help

If you have undeclared foreign accounts, please contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our experienced legal team of tax professionals will thoroughly analyze your case, determine your available offshore voluntary disclosure options, create your voluntary disclosure plan and implement it (including the preparation of all tax forms and legal documents).

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program: Key Requirements

2012 OVDP (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) may present a great opportunity for certain U.S. taxpayers to deal with their current as well prior non-compliance with U.S. tax laws. However, 2012 OVDP is not for everyone; while for certain categories of taxpayers it is the best option, other taxpayers may have additional choices that may make alternative disclosure options more appealing than the entrance into the official voluntary disclosure program – this is the determination that should be made by the taxpayer after a comprehensive overview of his case with an experienced international tax attorney.

In order to make this determination, however, one must understand what are the key requirements of the 2012 OVDP once a taxpayer is accepted into the program (the acceptance requirements are described in another article). In this article, I will strive to provide a broad overview of such requirements, though you will need to consult Sherayzen Law Office for a more detailed explanation of the program and the exact requirements that may apply to your case.

General Understanding of the 2012 OVDP Requirements

The 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program is a fairly rigid and invasive program designed to allow certain types of U.S. taxpayers to voluntarily bring themselves back into compliance with U.S. laws in exchange for lower penalties and general avoidance of criminal prosecution. It is important to emphasize the 2012 OVDP is NOT a full-amnesty program; rather, it offers an alternative penalty system in exchange for voluntary compliance with a number of requirements.

The 2012 OVDP requirements can be broadly divided into five categories: statute of limitations, disclosure filings, cooperation, payment and closing agreement.

Statute of Limitations Extensions

As part of the 2012 OVDP requirements, the taxpayer must agree to extension of statute of limitations for the purposes of assessing additional taxes (including tax penalties) and the FBAR penalties. For this purposes, the taxpayer must supply the properly completed and signed Form 872 (Consent to Extend the Time to Assess Tax) and a Consent to Extend the Time to Assess Civil Penalties Provided By 31 U.S.C. § 5321 for FBAR Violations.

The key reason for the Statute of Limitations extensions is the ability of the IRS to extend its power to assess taxes and penalties to eight years instead of usual three years for the tax returns and six years for the FBARs. This is a key requirement of the 2012 OVDP and it must be communicated to the taxpayer before he submits his application to participate in the 2012 OVDP.

Disclosure Filings

This is the biggest part of the OVDP requirements. The taxpayer must provide:

1. Copies of previously filed original (and, if applicable, previously filed amended) federal income tax returns for tax years covered by the voluntary disclosure;

2. Complete and accurate amended federal income tax returns (for individuals, Form 1040X, or original Form 1040 if delinquent) for all tax years covered by the voluntary disclosure, with applicable schedules detailing the amount and type of previously unreported income from the account or entity (e.g., Schedule B for interest and dividends, Schedule D for capital gains and losses, Schedule E for income from partnerships, S corporations, estates or trusts and, for years after 2010). Starting year 2011, this requirement includes Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets. Note that, for the taxpayers who began filing timely, original, compliant returns that fully reported previously undisclosed offshore accounts or assets before making the voluntary disclosure for certain years of the offshore disclosure period, these taxpayers must provide copies of the such previously filed returns for all corresponding years;

3. Complete and accurate original or amended offshore-related information returns and Form TD F 90-22.1 (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, commonly known as an “FBAR”) for tax years covered by the voluntary disclosure. This requirement includes any forms 5471, 8865, 8858, 3520, 926 and so on;

4. Completed Foreign Account or Asset Statement for each previously undisclosed foreign account or asset during the voluntary disclosure period if the information requested in that statement was not already provided in the initial Offshore Voluntary Disclosures Letter. Also, a copy of the completed and signed Offshore Voluntary Disclosures letter and attachments should be included in the disclosure (I am not discussing this part of the OVDP process here because it is outside of the scope of this article);

5. Completed penalty computation worksheet showing the applicant’s determination of the aggregate highest account balance of his/her undisclosed offshore accounts, fair market value of foreign assets, and penalty computation signed by the applicant and the applicant’s representative if the applicant is represented;

6. Copies of offshore financial account statements reflecting all account activity for each of the tax years covered by your voluntary disclosure (only for the taxpayers who are disclosing offshore financial accounts with an aggregate highest account balance in any year of $500,000 or more). An explanation of any differences between the amounts reported on the account statements and the tax returns should be provided as well. For those applicants disclosing offshore financial accounts with an aggregate highest account balance of less than $500,000, copies of offshore financial account statements reflecting all account activity for each of the tax years covered by your voluntary disclosure must be available upon request;

7. PFIC Statement detailing whether the amended returns involve PFIC issues during the tax years covered by the OVDP period, and if so, whether the taxpayert chooses to elect the alternative to the statutory PFIC computation that resolves PFIC issues on a basis that is consistent with the mark to market (MTM) methodology authorized in IRC § 1296 but does not require complete reconstruction of historical data, and

8. If the taxpayer has a Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) and wishes to make a late election pursuant to Article XVIII(7) of the U.S. – Canada income tax treaty to defer U.S. tax on RRSP or RRIF earnings, then: (a) a statement requesting an extension of time to make an election; (b) Forms 8891 for all tax years and type of plan covered under the voluntary disclosure; (c) a dated statement signed by the taxpayer under penalties of perjury describing (i) events that led to the failure to make the election, (ii) events that led to the discovery of the failure, and (iii) if the taxpayer relied on a professional advisor, the nature of the advisor’s engagement and responsibilities;

Cooperation

By entering into the 2012 OVDP program, the taxpayer agrees to cooperate in the voluntary disclosure process, including providing information on offshore financial accounts, institutions and facilitators, and signing agreements to extend the period of time for assessing Title 26 liabilities and FBAR penalties. Cooperation does mean that the taxpayer may provide information against his former business partners, bank advisors and accountants.

This is a very important requirement, because the taxpayer agrees to comply with any IRS requests which may subject his business dealings to a very close examination by the IRS. This is why it is important to examine the taxpayer’s tax affairs and business deadlines as much as possible (and usually the taxpayer’s attorney will have a very limited time to do so at the beginning of the case) prior to applying to the 2012 OVDP.

Payment

By entering the 2012 OVDP, the taxpayer agrees to pay the following penalties (this is added to the additional tax due as a result of the voluntary disclosure):

1. 20% accuracy-related penalties under IRC § 6662(a) on the full amount of the taxpayer’s offshore-related underpayments of tax for all years (this includes any PFIC tax as well);

2. Failure to file penalties under IRC § 6651(a)(1), if applicable;

3. Failure to pay penalties under IRC § 6651(a)(2), if applicable;

4. Interest on the additional tax due and all applicable penalties (note that the abatement of interest and penalty provisions under IRC § 6404 does not apply under the terms of the 2012 OVDP); and

5. Offshore Penalty – in lieu of all other penalties that may apply to the taxpayer’s undisclosed foreign assets and entities, including FBAR and offshore-related information return penalties and tax liabilities for years prior to the voluntary disclosure period, a miscellaneous Title 26 offshore penalty, equal to 27.5% (or in limited cases 12.5% or 5%) of the highest aggregate balance in foreign bank accounts/entities or value of foreign assets during the period covered by the voluntary disclosure.

A full payment of all tax due, interest, penalties and the Offshore Penalty must be submitted to the IRS with the voluntary disclosure package. However, it is possible to make good faith arrangements with the IRS to pay in parts if the IRS approves the taxpayer’s eligibility for a special arrangement.

Closing Agreement

At the end of the 2012 OVDP process, the IRS agent will prepare Form 906 (Final Determination Covering Specific Matters) which will describe all of the final terms of your voluntary disclosure. Upon signing of the Agreement, the taxpayer agrees to these final terms and the voluntary disclosure process is finished.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program

If you have undisclosed offshore accounts and foreign assets, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office to discuss the option of entering into the 2012 OVDP. Our experienced international tax firm will thoroughly analyze your case, identify the available options and help you determine whether entering 2012 OVDP is the best course of action in your specific case. Once the decision is made, our attorneys will prepare all of the necessary documents and tax forms, guide you through your voluntary disclosure and rigorously represent your interests during your negotiations with the IRS.