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Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits | SDOP Tax Lawyer

The great majority of offshore voluntary disclosures are currently done through Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures. Hence, the majority of IRS audits concerning offshore voluntary disclosures are focused on Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures – the most common type is the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit. This article discusses the main stages of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit and provides some suggestions to attorneys who handle this type of an IRS audit.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: SDOP Background Information

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) is an offshore voluntary disclosure option that has existed since June of 2014. It is extremely popular due the fact that it is the most convenient and the least expensive voluntary disclosure option (except the Reasonable Cause/Noisy Disclosure option) for taxpayers whose prior tax noncompliance was non-willful and who otherwise meet the SDOP eligibility requirements.

Under the SDOP, a taxpayer or tax professional prepares a voluntary disclosure package and mails it to the IRS. The voluntary disclosure package usually consists of amended tax returns for the past three years, copies of e-filed FBARs for the past six years, any required international information returns which do not form part of a tax return (such as Forms 3520), the payments of additional tax with interest, the payment of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty and Non-Willfulness Certification form (Form 14654) with a detailed explanation. Certain additional items may need to be included in the package.

Once the package arrives to its destination, it is processed by the IRS. Assuming that all of the SDOP submission requirements are met, the IRS reserves the right to audit the taxpayer(s) at any point within three years after the submission of the original SDOP voluntary disclosure package.

The exact process of a Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit varies from case to case, but it usually contains all of the stages listed below.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: the Initiation Stage

All Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits start in the same way. Once an IRS revenue agent is assigned to the case, the agent will send an initial letter to the taxpayer informing the taxpayer about the fact that his SDOP is being audited. Generally, the initial audit letter will explain that the IRS decided to examine certain tax returns and ask for all worksheets and supporting documents that were used to prepare the amended returns. The letter is likely to also contain a request for the taxpayer to contact the agent to schedule the initial meeting, which would usually include an interview of the taxpayer.

At this point, you should contact an international tax lawyer who specializes in Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits. I strongly discourage you from even trying to represent yourself or to have your accountant represent you. It is very easy to get into trouble during an IRS audit and it is very hard and expensive to get out of such a situation afterwards.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Initial Meeting and Interview Stage

Prior to the initial meeting, the taxpayer’s attorney should review all documents to make sure that they support the information on the tax returns. All supporting documents and worksheets should be neatly organized by subject and year. If the audited tax returns are incorrect, the attorney should make the decision on whether amended tax returns should be prepared prior to the initial meeting.

Additionally, the attorney should conduct an extensive preparation of his client for the interview. Read this article for more information on the IRS audit interview preparation specifically for Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits.

The initial meeting usually commences with the interview of the taxpayer in the presence of his attorney. It is the attorney’s job to protect his client during the interview, including by making sure that the IRS questions are clear, explaining any confusing answers of the taxpayer, correcting the record based on available evidence and so on.

After the interview, the IRS agent will want to review with the attorney (and, sometimes, the client as well) the documents supplied on a very general level – i.e. he will want to know what is being submitted to him. The attorney should discuss with the agent any confusing parts of the case and familiarize the agent with the client’s story. If a case is very small, it is possible for an agent to cover everything in the first meeting, but it is very rare.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Follow-Up IRS Requests

After the initial meeting, the IRS agent will take some time to review submitted documents, interview third parties where relevant (for example, the accountant who prepared the original tax returns), analyze the tax returns and the Non-Willfulness Certification.

Most likely, the agent will have additional follow-up questions. It is the job of the attorney to address them. Where necessary, the attorney should secure his client’s participation in order to answer the questions. In certain cases, additional meetings with the IRS agent may be required to increase the efficiency of the audit. Continuous cooperation with the IRS while promoting the client’s position is the key to long-term success.

One of the most problematic areas for the IRS agents in Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits are PFIC calculations. A lot of agents simply do not know how to properly do PFIC calculations. In my practice, very often I have to go through the entire PFIC calculations with the agent in order to make sure that their calculations match mine.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Conclusion of the IRS Audit

Once the IRS agent completes his review process, he will submit the preliminary results to the taxpayer and his attorney. The attorney needs to review carefully the final results and contact the agent in case he finds mistakes in the agent’s conclusions. The taxpayers’ attorney will also need to build a strategy with respect to the taxpayer’s response to the audit results depending on whether the taxpayer agrees or disagrees with the results of the audit.

The biggest issue in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits is making sure that the Non-Willfulness Certification is not challenged by the IRS, because such a challenge may result in highly unfavorable consequences to the taxpayer, including a potential referral to the Tax Division of the US Department of Justice for a criminal investigation.

It should be mentioned that, even if the taxpayer agrees with the audit results, the Audit is not immediately over. The IRS agent will need to submit his conclusions to his technical advisor, his manager and the IRS National Office in Washington D.C. for the their approval of these conclusions before the audit can be officially completed.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits

An IRS audit of an offshore voluntary disclosure completed through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is one of the most important events in a taxpayer’s life. A lot is at stake during such an audit – financial stability, immigration status and, in exceptional circumstances, even personal freedom.

This is why it is so important for a taxpayer subject to an IRS audit of his Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures voluntary disclosure to retain the services of an experienced international tax lawyer to handle the audit professionally.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leader in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures and IRS audits of offshore voluntary disclosures. The firm’s owner, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, is one of the most experienced international tax lawyers in this area, including IRS audits of a Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures submission. He can help You!

Contact Sherayzen Law Office Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Title 26 Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty under SDOP

The Title 26 Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty (“Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty”) is one of the most critical aspects of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”). In this article, I want to conduct a general overview of how the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is calculated.

As a side note, it is important to keep in mind that this is an educational article which aims to provide a general overview of the calculation of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty in common situations. In providing this general overview of the SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, the article necessarily glosses over some complex issues that may change the determination of Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty in a particular case.  In order to calculate your Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty properly, the readers should contact an experienced international tax attorney for a legal advice based on their specific facts and circumstances.

What is Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty?

A taxpayer who enters SDOP is required to pay a 5% Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty as part of the SDOP requirements. The Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is paid in lieu of the penalties associated with the delinquent filings of FBARs, Forms 8938 and other information returns.

The calculation of SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is very different from 2014 OVDP calculation in terms of the relevant time period and the penalty base. Let’s explore each of these factors.

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty: Time Period

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is equal to 5 percent of the highest aggregate balance/value of the taxpayer’s foreign financial assets that are subject to the miscellaneous offshore penalty during the years in the covered tax return period and the covered FBAR period. Generally, this means that the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on the past six years covered by the FBAR statute of limitations.

However, there is an exception where the three-year tax covered tax return period does not completely overlap with the six-year covered FBAR period. For example, the SDOP disclosure for tax returns covers years 2012 and 2014 because the due date for the 2014 tax return is passed, but the FBAR period is 2008-2013 because the due date for the 2014 FBAR has not passed. In such cases, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on the highest aggregate value of the foreign financial assets for the past seven years.

In most cases, six years will be the standard time period for the calculation of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, which is a lot better than the 2014 OVDP eight-year disclosure period.

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty: Penalty Base

SDOP introduced a new way to calculate Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty which mixed the old FBAR-focused penalty orientation of the 2014 OVDP with the new FATCA-focused Form 8938.

In general, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on any foreign financial asset in a given year within the covered SDOP time period if one of the following is true:

1. The asset should have been, but was not, reported on an FBAR (FinCEN Form 114) for that year;

2. The asset should have been, but was not, reported on a Form 8938 for that year; or

3. If the asset was properly reported for that year, but gross income in respect of the asset was not reported in that year.

Two important features of this calculation of the penalty base under SDOP must be emphasized. First, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty should be calculated not only on the foreign bank and financial accounts listed on the FBAR, but also on “other specified assets” required to be listed on Form 8938. This means that many more assets outside of a foreign financial account can now be subject to the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty . Examples of such assets include but not limited to: foreign stocks not held in a financial account, a capital or profits interest in a foreign partnership, certain forms of indebtedness issued by a foreign person (such as a note, bond, debenture, an interest in a foreign trust, foreign swaps, foreign options, foreign derivatives and other assets. It should be remembered, though, that this is a generalization and, in certain circumstances, an international tax attorney may except certain such assets from Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty base.

The second critical difference between SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty and 2014 OVDP Offshore Penalty is the inclusion in the calculation of the penalty base the assets for which no additional income needs to be reported. There are a lot of nuances with respect to the exclusion and inclusion of assets under the 2014 OVDP which are beyond the scope of this article. For the purposes of the present discussion, I will ignore them and concentrate on the general rule only (again, this is an area that should be explored with an international tax attorney based on the specific facts of a client’s case) that if an asset should have been reported on Forms 8938 and FinCEN Form 114 and it was not, then, it should be included in the penalty base.

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty: Calculation of Highest Aggregate Value of Assets

As it was mentioned above, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is calculated based on the highest aggregate balance/value of the taxpayer’s foreign financial assets that are subject to the miscellaneous offshore penalty during the years in the covered tax return period and the covered FBAR period. The issue is how this “highest aggregate balance/value of assets” is calculated.

For the purposes of SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, the highest aggregate balance/value is determined by a two-step process. First, you need to aggregate the year-end account balances and year-end asset values of all the foreign financial assets subject to the miscellaneous offshore penalty for each of the years in the covered tax return period and the covered FBAR period. Then, you select the highest aggregate balance/value from among those years and calculate the 5% value of this balance.

It is the first step that is radically different from the 2014 OVDP Offshore Penalty determination process, and it can produce very interesting results especially in the case of bank accounts. The most surprising result is that an account that was closed in one of the covered years is likely to produce a zero end-of-year balance irrespective of how much money was on it prior to December 31.

This factor can be a very important consideration when one decides to participate in SDOP. For this reason, I highly encourage the readers to consult an experienced international tax lawyer in these matters.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Undisclosed Foreign Assets

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts and any other assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional legal and tax help. Our team of experienced international tax attorneys and accountants will thoroughly analyze your case, estimate your current penalty exposure, identify the offshore voluntary disclosure options available to you, prepare all legal documents and tax forms (including amended tax returns) needed in your case, rigorously defend your interests in front of the IRS, and guide you through the entire voluntary disclosure process.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!