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August 24 OVDP Deadline | OVDP Tax Lawyer & Attorney

The fact that the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) closes on September 28, 2018, obscured another important deadline that is much closer – the August 24 OVDP Deadline to submit the Preclearance Request.

August 24 OVDP Deadline: What is a Preclearance Request?

The Preclearance Request is basically a pre-application process to make sure that a taxpayer is eligible to apply for the OVDP. It is filed with the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit (“IRS-CI”), which will check for any outstanding investigations or examinations concerning the taxpayer.

August 24 OVDP Deadline: Is the Preclearance Request Required?

The short answer is “no”. I have seen a fair number of Internet blogs that mislead the taxpayers into believing that to the contrary, but this is simply false. A person can skip the Preclearance Request and apply directly to be accepted into the OVDP.

Nevertheless, even though the Preclearance Request is not an absolute requirement, it may be prudent to go through this process in some cases. It will be up to your international tax attorney to determine whether this is necessary.

What is the August 24 OVDP Deadline?

According to FAQ #11 published for the Closure of the OVDP, August 24, 2018 is the last day that a taxpayer will be able to submit his Preclearance (OVDP FAQ 23) Request to the IRS.

It should be remembered that the response to a Preclearance request may take 30 days or more (especially with the current rush to enter OVDP prior to its closure). In fact, the response to a Preclearance request may even come into conflict with the OVDP closure deadline. In such cases, it would be prudent to timely submit by September 28, 2018, the OVDP application letter required by OVDP FAQ #24.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your OVDP Application

If you have undisclosed offshore accounts and you wish to enter the OVDP, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

Sherayzen Law Office has successfully helped its clients around the globe with every type of an offshore voluntary disclosure, including 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI, 2012 OVDP and 2014 OVDP. We can help You!

Time is of the essence, because the current 2014 OVDP will close on September 28, 2018. Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Letters from Swiss Banks: What Should You Do?

Since the last quarter of 2013, an increasing number of U.S. taxpayers with accounts in Swiss banks have received letters from Swiss Banks regarding participation in the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) The Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks (the “Program”). It is very important to react to these letters in a thoughtful yet rapid manner.

Letters from Swiss Banks: What They Usually Say

In these letters from Swiss Banks, the taxpayers are typically advised (sometimes with the somewhat offensive phrase “as you almost certainly know”) of the fact that their Bank will participate in the Program and disclose the taxpayer’s accounts in Switzerland. Then, the letters typically discuss three issues (note: different banks would follow different format, but the essence is the same).

First, the letters from Swiss Banks ask the taxpayer to confirm whether he has already properly disclosed their Swiss bank accounts to the IRS. Some banks, like Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (“BCV”) even go as far as asking the taxpayers to confirm that other international tax compliance forms, such as Forms 5471, 3520 and, surprisingly, PFIC From 8621, have also been filed with the IRS. Other banks just ask for some sort of documentation that everything has been properly declared to the IRS.

Then, the letters from Swiss Banks ask the taxpayers are asked to verify if his Swiss bank accounts were disclosed as part of the official IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”).

Finally, the letters from Swiss Banks inform the taxpayers with undisclosed Swiss Bank accounts about the existence of the OVDP and propose such actions for the readers as considering to enter into the OVDP, obtaining more information about the OVDP from the Bank, and, finally, offering to provide the necessary bank statements for the taxpayer to enter the OVDP. Some banks (for example, Nue Privat Bank) will even later offer to supply the tax information (though, these reports should be approached with a great deal of skepticism because these statements could contain a number of mistakes, such as failure to recognize the application of PFIC rules). Most letters from Swiss Banks also provide space for the taxpayers to express their consent to the disclosure of their undisclosed Swiss bank and financial accounts to the IRS.

Consequences for U.S. Taxpayers Who Received Letters from Swiss Banks

It is difficult to overstate the great impact that these letters from Swiss Banks may have on the taxpayer’s position. I want to concentrate on two most important effects of the letters from Swiss Banks. First and foremost, they provide notice to the taxpayer about the requirement to disclose their Swiss bank and financial accounts (and, in case of BCV and some other banks, other foreign assets such as business ownership) to the United States. Even if a taxpayer simply did not know about the FBAR requirement in the past, his behavior as a result of receiving these letters from Swiss Banks will now be subject to scrutiny – failure to act on these letters for a long time and willful disregard of them may change the taxpayer’s position from non-willful to willful, subjecting him to draconian FBAR willful penalties, including opening the possibility of criminal penalties to be applied.

Second, upon fulfilling the Notice requirement with these letters, the Swiss banks are free to disclose certain information to the IRS under the US-Swiss FATCA treaty. Once the IRS receives such information from the Swiss Banks, the exposed U.S. taxpayers most likely will not be able to participate in the OVDP.

Hence, once the taxpayers receive these letters, time becomes a crucial factor, because, if the decision to enter the OVDP is made by these taxpayers, it should be implemented as soon as possible.

What Should You Do Upon Receipt of Letters from Swiss Banks?

Your initial response to the letters from Swiss Banks may determine the entire course of your case.

1. Consult an International Tax Attorney

The first and most crucial step is not to panic and contact an international tax attorney who specializes in the voluntary disclosure of the foreign bank and financial accounts as well as other assets.

I want to emphasize that you need to contact an experienced international tax attorney, not an accountant. Offshore voluntary disclosure is a legal issue and its venue should be determined by an attorney, not an accountant. I have seen too many cases where accountants horribly mishandled their clients’ cases (on both strategic and tactical issues) because the accountants overstep the limitations of their profession and enter the world of legal advice.

The geographic location of your international tax attorney should not matter; a much more important factor should be the attorney’s experience in the case and you personal feeling of trust. If the attorney immediately advises you to enter the OVDP program without even considering the facts of your case, consider it a red flag and seek second opinion.

2. Try to Obtain As Much Information As Possible While Preparing for the Initial Consultation

During the initial consultation, the attorney will have no choice but to rely on you for the initial information required to assess the state of your case. So, try to get as much information as possible regarding your foreign bank accounts while preparing for the initial consultation.

3. Retain an International Tax Attorney to Handle Your Case According to the Proposed Strategy

After the initial consultation, you should have a pretty good idea of what your options are. Think about these options and the attorney’s recommendations, but not take too much time to do so (remember, time is of the essence in these cases). Make your decision and retain an international tax attorney that you like for your case.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional and Experienced Legal Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Swiss Bank Accounts

As soon as you receive your letters from Swiss Banks, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional legal and tax help with your voluntary disclosure. Our experienced international tax law firm has helped numerous U.S. taxpayers with the voluntary disclosure of their Swiss bank and financial accounts as well as other foreign assets.

We can help you! Contact Us to Schedule a Confidential Consultation Now.

OVDP Offshore Penalty Structure: Introduction

The official IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) constitutes a viable voluntary disclosure option for many taxpayers. However, whether this is the best voluntary disclosure option will, in large part, depend on whether the OVDP penalties are lower than the penalties that a taxpayer would be facing under alternative voluntary disclosure options.

The answer to this critical question depends on your attorney’s ability to properly estimate potential OVDP penalties. In this article, I will focus on introducing the general structure of the Offshore Penalty (note that the income-tax related penalties are not discussed in this article).

OVDP Offshore Penalty

It is a requirement of the OVDP that the taxpayers who enter the program pay the Offshore Penalty. This penalty is imposed 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.

General Structure of the Offshore Penalty

The Offshore Penalty incorporates a penalty structure which contains three different penalty rates. The default penalty rate is 27.5% of the highest aggregate balance in foreign bank accounts/entities or value of foreign assets during the period covered by the voluntary disclosure (the “penalty base”).

The default penalty rate applies to all cases except the cases where the two alternative rates apply: 12.5% and 5%. Each of these exceptions has its own set of strict requirements; the 5% penalty rate structure is much more diverse and complex that the 12.5% one, but the IRS will expect strict compliance with all of the terms of these exceptions. In my practice, I often find that the IRS will be pressuring hard to disqualify a taxpayer from alternative penalty rates.

Whether your particular case satisfies the requirements of either or both of the alternative penalty rates is the question that only your attorney can answer. The qualification is highly fact-dependent and will require a very detailed analysis of your situation.

Calculation of the Offshore Penalty

The Offshore Penalty calculation consists of three steps. First, your attorney should determine what assets should be included in the calculation of the Offshore Penalty (i.e. determine the penalty base). Second, your attorney should determine what penalty rate should apply to your assets (i.e. determine what penalty category applies). Finally, after the determinations under the first and second step are made, you attorney should determine the highest account balance (if the asset is a financial account) and the fair market value of other assets, convert the values to US dollars and apply the appropriate penalty rate (i.e. calculation of penalty base and application of the penalty rate).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

Sherayzen Law Office can help you with the disclosure of any of your foreign assets. Our international tax firm is highly experienced in conducting offshore voluntary disclosures. We will thoroughly analyze your case, assess your current tax liability as well as the liability that you would face under the OVDP, determine the available disclosure options and implement the appropriate disclosure strategy (including preparation of all legal and tax documents as well as IRS representation).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office NOW to schedule your consultation!