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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!

Secret Bank Accounts in Israel and Switzerland Result in a Guilty Plea

The earlier IRS and DOJ (U.S. Department of Justice) investigations of secret bank accounts in Israel and Switzerland continue to produce new guilty pleas. On September 28, 2016, Mr. Markus Hager, a New York City resident, pleaded guilty to tax evasion for the tax years 2003-2005 and 2007-2010 with respect to his secret bank accounts in Israel and Switzerland.

Facts of the Case: Secret Bank Accounts in Israel and Switzerland

The facts of the Hager case are somewhat typical, but contain an exhilarating story of Mr. Hager’s attempts to conceal his ownership of the account – the fact that the IRS and the DOJ were able to uncover the entire history of these transfers of his funds under different names is impressive.

According to information presented in court, between 1987 through 2011, Mr. Hager utilized various secret bank accounts in Israel and Switzerland to hide his foreign funds and foreign income from the IRS. In order to do it, he opened a sham BVI (British Virgin Islands) entity which owned three accounts (two of them were numbered accounts) at UBS. It appears that, until 2008, Mr. Hager also owned some fo his UBS accounts personally. By the end of 2004, the value of his undeclared UBS accounts exceeded $7.3 million.

With the IRS victory over UBS in 2008, Mr. Hager closed his UBS accounts and transferred all of his assets to a new opened account at Clariden Leu (which was already controlled at that time mostly by Credit Suisse; in 2012, the bank was integrated into the Credit Suisse corporate structure); the account was held in the name of his BVI entity.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Hager closed the account at Clariden Leu and transferred the assets to a newly opened account held in the name of the BVI entity at a different Swiss bank. Mr. Hager caused that Swiss bank to falsely record Hager’s Belgian cousin as the owner of the assets on the account. Approximately six months later, he closed this account at the Swiss bank and transferred the assets to an account at a bank in Israel that Mr. Hager caused to be opened in the name of yet another Belgian cousin.

Between 2005 to 2011, Hager also controlled an undeclared bank account at Bank Leumi in Israel, which he falsely held under the name of a relative who was not a U.S. person and who resided outside the United States. In February of 2010, after obtaining an Israeli Identity Card, Hager opened an account in his own name at Bank Leumi in Israel but falsely reported that he lived in the United Kingdom and signed a document, under the penalty of perjury, declaring that he was not a U.S. citizen.

According to the information filed, Mr. Hager repatriated some of the funds from his secret bank accounts in Israel and Switzerland by having his attorney draft a sham loan agreement between himself and the BVI entity. The funds were wired from some of his undeclared bank accounts in Israel and Switzerland into the attorney’s escrow account.

During the relevant years, Mr. Hager filed false federal and New York State income tax returns on which he failed to report the income from his bank accounts in Israel and Switzerland and failed to pay tax on that income. It appears that Mr. Hager evaded approximately $652,580 in federal taxes for tax years 2003 through 2005 and 2007 through 2010. Hager also failed to file his FBAR even though an accounting firm had informed Hager of his obligation to do so and advised him of the civil and criminal penalties he could suffer for the failure to do so.

Sentencing for Failure to Disclose Assets and Income from Secret Bank Accounts in Israel and Switzerland

Sentencing has been set for January 4, 2017. Hager faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison, as well as a term of supervised release and monetary penalties. According to the plea agreement, Hager agreed to pay restitution to the IRS. It is not clear if the FBAR penalty has been resolved by the plea.

Secret Bank Accounts in Israel and Switzerland: Lessons from the Hager Case

The Hager Case contains a full range of facts that lead to a criminal prosecution by the DOJ: the use of a sham foreign corporation in a tax shelter, the conscious and intentional effort to conceal the ownership of the funds by closing and opening bank accounts under different names, the failure to report the ownership of secret bank accounts in Israel and Switzerland even after Mr. Hager was advised by his accounting firms about the existence of the FBAR and its penalties, the failure to report the income from accounts, the filing of false tax returns and the repatriation of funds through a sham loan agreement and using his attorney’s escrow account. All of these items are a checklist of things that one should not do in order to avoid a DOJ criminal prosecution.

One interesting aspect of this case is the number of years for which Mr. Hager was charged with tax evasion. Apparently his especially egregious conduct had earned a total of seven years instead of the usual five years of counts of tax evasion. It is also interesting that the year 2006 was skipped in the plea; it is not clear from the plea why this was the case. My supposition is that the omission of the tax year 2006 was related to the statute of limitations concerns.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Disclosure of Your Bank accounts in Israel and Switzerland

If you have undisclosed bank account in Israel, Switzerland or any other country, please contact Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. for help as soon as possible. Attorney Eugene Sherayzen and his highly-knowledgeable team of tax professionals have helped hundreds of U.S. taxpayers around the world to bring their tax affairs into compliance. You can also benefit from their knowledge, experience, creativity and devotion to their clients’ cases by scheduling a Confidential Consultation today!

Houston OVDP Tax Attorney

Who is considered to be Houston OVDP tax attorney? Initially, most taxpayers would say that this is a strange question to ask, because the answer is very simple: Houston OVDP tax attorney is an attorney who resides in Houston and specializes in helping U.S. taxpayers disclose their undeclared foreign accounts.

This answer, however, is anachronistic and erroneous, because it does not take into account two important considerations. First, there is no “OVDP” law; OVDP is the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program which is administered by the IRS for the purpose of allowing U.S. taxpayers with undeclared offshore assets and offshore income to voluntarily disclose these assets under a mitigated penalty. This means that, in reality, the OVDP “law” is simply a sub-area of international tax law and all “OVPD tax attorneys” are simply international tax attorneys who specialize in IRS OVDPs and are also knowledgeable in other relevant aspects of U.S. international tax law.

Nevertheless, the term Houston OVDP tax attorney is commonly used to describe an international tax attorney who helps his clients with the declaration of undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income.

The second and most important correction is that Houston OVDP tax attorney does not mean that the tax attorney should reside in Houston. OVDP is a federal tax program and can be practiced by an international tax attorney who is licensed in any of the 50 states of the United States. Hence, an international tax attorney who does offshore voluntary disclosures and helps his clients who reside in Houston, Texas, is automatically a Houston OVDP tax attorney.

This means that Houston OVDP tax attorney can actually reside in Minneapolis or any other city. Mr. Sherayzen of Sherayzen Law Office is an example of such a Houston OVDP tax attorney – he resides in Minneapolis but helps his clients throughout the world, including Houston, Texas.

We can now go back and answer my original question: who is considered to be Houston OVDP tax attorney? The answer is as follows: a Houston OVDP tax attorney is an international tax attorney who is licensed to practice in any of the 50 states of the United States, resides anywhere in the United States (Minneapolis, for example) or any other country, and helps his clients in Houston with OVDP disclosures.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office If You Are Looking for A Houston OVDP Tax Attorney

If you are looking for Houston OVDP tax attorney, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., an international tax law firm that specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures and helps its clients in Houston, Texas.

Our professional legal team is highly experienced in the OVDP disclosures; we have helped clients with every major IRS offshore voluntary disclosure program (2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI, 2012 OVDP and the currently-existing 2014 OVDP), both types of Streamlined Disclosures (Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures), Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures and Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement

On February 4, 2016, the US DOJ announced that it filed criminal charges against Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd. (“Julius Baer” or “the company”). At the same time, the DOJ announced a Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement. Let’s explore this event in more detail.

Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement Background

Unlike many other Swiss Banks, Julius Baer could not participate in the Swiss Bank Program due to its classification as a Category 1 bank. Hence, the Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement comes as an independent agreement with the DOJ after the DOJ filed criminal charges against Julius Baer.

According to the IRS and the court documents, from at least the 1990s through 2009, Julius Baer helped many of its U.S. taxpayer-clients evade their U.S. tax obligations, file false federal tax returns with the IRS and otherwise hide accounts held at Julius Baer from the IRS (hereinafter, undeclared accounts). Julius Baer did so by opening and maintaining undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers and by allowing third-party asset managers to open undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers at Julius Baer. Casadei and Frazzetto, bankers who worked as client advisers at Julius Baer, directly assisted various U.S. taxpayer-clients in maintaining undeclared accounts at Julius Baer in order to evade their obligations under U.S. law. At various times, Casadei, Frazzetto and others advised those U.S. taxpayer-clients that their accounts at Julius Baer would not be disclosed to the IRS because Julius Baer had a long tradition of bank secrecy and no longer had offices in the United States, making Julius Baer less vulnerable to pressure from U.S. law enforcement authorities than other Swiss banks with a presence in the United States.

Julius Baer was aware that many U.S. taxpayer-clients were maintaining undeclared accounts at Julius Baer in order to evade their U.S. tax obligations, in violation of U.S. law. In internal Julius Baer correspondence, undeclared accounts held by U.S. taxpayers were at times referred to as “black money,” “non W-9,” “tax neutral,” “unofficial,” or “sensitive” accounts.

At its high-water mark in 2007, Julius Baer had approximately $4.7 billion in assets under management relating to approximately 2,589 undeclared accounts held by U.S. taxpayer-clients. From 2001 through 2011, Julius Baer earned approximately $87 million in profit on approximately $219 million gross revenues from its undeclared U.S. taxpayer accounts, including accounts held through structures.

However, the IRS noted that the behavior of Julius Baer started to change. By at least 2008, Julius Baer began to implement institutional policy changes to cease providing assistance to U.S. taxpayers in violating their U.S. legal obligations. For example, by November 2008, the company began an “exit” plan for U.S. client accounts that lacked evidence of U.S. tax compliance. In that same month, Julius Baer imposed a prohibition on opening accounts for any U.S. clients without a Form W-9.

Additionally, in November 2009, before Julius Baer became aware of any U.S. investigation into its conduct, Julius Baer decided proactively to approach U.S. law enforcement authorities regarding its conduct relating to U.S. taxpayers. Prior to self-reporting to the Department of Justice, Julius Baer notified its regulator in Switzerland of its intention to contact U.S. law enforcement authorities. This Swiss regulator requested that Julius Baer not contact U.S. authorities in order not to prejudice the Swiss government in any bilateral negotiations with the United States on tax-related matters. Accordingly, Julius Baer did not, at that time, self-report to U.S. law enforcement authorities.

After ultimately engaging with U.S. authorities, Julius Baer has taken extensive actions to demonstrate acceptance and acknowledgment of responsibility for its conduct. Julius Baer conducted a swift and robust internal investigation, and furnished the U.S. government with a continuous flow of unvarnished facts gathered during the course of that internal investigation. As part of its cooperation, Julius Baer also, among other things, (1) successfully advocated in favor of a decision provided by the Swiss Federal Council in April 2012 to allow banks under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice to legally produce employee and third-party information to the department, and subsequently produced such information immediately upon issuance of that decision; and (2) encouraged certain employees, including specifically Frazzetto and Casadei, to accept responsibility for their participation in the conduct at issue and cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement Details

Under the Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement, the bank admitted to helping U.S. taxpayers hide assets and knowingly assisted many of its U.S. taxpayer-clients in evading their tax obligations under U.S. law. The admissions are contained in a detailed Statement of Facts attached to the agreement. The agreement requires Julius Baer to pay a total of $547 million by no later than February 9, 2016, including through a parallel civil forfeiture action also filed today in the Southern District of New York.

Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement Impact on U.S. Taxpayers

The Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement signifies yet another IRS victory over the now-defeated Swiss bank secrecy system. The IRS is simply “mopping-up” the left-over issues in Switzerland as it shifts its focus to other major offshore tax havens. Yet, the Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement is still a major event that has repercussions for U.S. taxpayers with undeclared foreign accounts.

First, the Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement is likely to continue to impact former Julius Baer U.S. taxpayers who transferred their funds out of this Swiss bank to another country or another bank in the hopes of avoiding IRS detection of their prior non-compliance. Under the agreement, Julius Baer will continue to cooperate with the IRS in the identification of such noncompliant U.S. taxpayers.

Second, Julius Baer is an important Swiss bank and the fact that the Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement was reached encourages other noncompliant banks (not only in Switzerland, but other countries) to follow its example. Therefore, U.S. taxpayers who believe they are safe outside of Switzerland are now in the ever increasing danger of IRS detection.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Undeclared Foreign Accounts

The Julius Baer Deferred Prosecution Agreement is another reminder on how dangerous is the current tax environment for noncompliant U.S. taxpayers. Therefore, if you have not disclosed your foreign accounts, foreign assets or foreign income, please contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our team of tax professionals is highly experienced in handling these matters and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!