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3 Main Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages | SDOP Lawyer

In a previous article, I described the three main advantages of doing an offshore voluntary disclosure through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“Streamlined Domestic Compliance”). Today, I would like to discuss three main Streamlined Domestic Compliance disadvantages.

Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages: Audit Risks

The first main disadvantage of Streamlined Domestic Compliance is the potential IRS audit within three years after the voluntary disclosure is completed. The audit is likely to include everything: FBARs, amended tax returns, Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty calculation and, most importantly, the determination of non-willfulness.

The potential IRS audit stands in a shark contrast to the IRS flagship Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) which will close in September of 2018. At the end of a voluntary disclosure through OVDP, the taxpayer and the IRS sign the Closing Agreement, which (absent fraud or material mis-statements) effectively closes prior tax noncompliance issues forever.

The audit risks may be particularly important to taxpayers who are in the process of obtaining their US citizenship or US permanent residence.

Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages: Penalty Base Not Limited to Income Noncompliance

One of the main Streamlined Domestic Compliance disadvantages is the fact that the calculation of the penalty base (i.e. what assets are subject to the 5% penalty) includes assets that never produced any foreign income. Moreover, the penalty base includes a foreign asset even if the foreign income from this asset was timely disclosed on the taxpayer’s original tax return, but the asset itself was not reported on FBAR or any other international information return.

In other words, a taxpayer who participates in the Streamlined Domestic Compliance should be prepared to pay a 5% penalty even on assets that are compliant with the US income tax laws.

Again, this is contrary to the rules of the OVDP. In the OVDP, only assets that are tied to income tax noncompliance are included in the penalty base.

Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages: Danger of Superficial Analysis

Finally, the danger of superficial analysis concerning non-willfulness constitutes the third main disadvantage of the Streamlined Domestic Compliance. In reality, there are two dangers which should be placed at the opposite ends of the voluntary disclosure continuum.

The first danger is the natural bias in the self-assessment of non-willfulness. Oftentimes, a taxpayer may exaggerate the facts in his favor while selectively ignoring the facts that may establish willful noncompliance. This is very natural. It is difficult to find a person who will state outright that he was willful in his prior tax noncompliance.

Usually, this problem can be (and should be) fixed by retaining an international tax attorney to do an independent assessment of the taxpayer’s non-willfulness.

At the opposite end is the danger of concentrating on non-willfulness and ignoring the possibility of doing a Reasonable Cause disclosure. In most cases, this is not a problem because Streamlined Domestic Compliance would be a superior choice despite the 5% penalty. This, however, is not true in all cases and real opportunities are often lost by failure to explore this route.

I should state that the biggest problem that I found in my practice is the fact that some taxpayers do not consult an international tax attorney on this issue. Instead, they try to do everything themselves even though they have no specialized knowledge in this field. I strongly discourage this practice.

I believe that the involvement of an international tax attorney is essential to doing a proper offshore voluntary disclosure.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

Choosing the correct offshore voluntary disclosure path is the most important decision for a taxpayer who wishes to remedy his past noncompliance with US tax laws. Every voluntary disclosure option has its advantages and disadvantages. All essential factors must be considered.

The failure to do proper legal analysis may have highly negative legal and tax consequences. It may even put a taxpayer in a position worse than what he was prior to his attempt to do a voluntary disclosure.

This is why you need the professional help of Sherayzen Law Office. Our experienced legal team has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to do their offshore voluntary disclosures properly. We Can Help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Main Advantages | SDOP Attorney

At this point, Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“Streamlined Domestic Disclosure”) is undoubtedly the most popular offshore voluntary disclosure option. Let’s explore three main reasons for this preference of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure among US taxpayers.

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Background Information and General Requirements

The IRS created the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure as an offshore voluntary disclosure option on June 18, 2014. The IRS specifically the designed Streamlined Domestic Disclosure to address the critique of many practitioners and taxpayers that the 2012 OVDP did not adequately deal with US taxpayers who non-willfully violated their US tax obligations (for example, in cases where the taxpayers simply did not know about the existence of FBAR or Form 8938).

Any taxpayer can participate in the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure as long as he satisfies all three parts of the eligibility criteria: US tax residency, absence of IRS examination or investigation and non-willfulness.

If a taxpayer satisfies the eligibility criteria, he then must comply with all of the required submissions. The key requirement here is the certification under the penalty of perjury that the taxpayer’s prior tax noncompliance was non-willful. This requirement is the heart of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure and must be approached with special care.

The other requirements include filing of amended tax returns for the past three years (with all of the necessary information returns), filing FBARs for the past six years, payment of tax due with interest and payment of Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty. Other requirements may also apply depending on the specific situation of a taxpayer.

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure Offers a Number of Advantages to Noncompliant US Taxpayers

While the list of the requirements above may seem like a lot of work, in reality, Streamlined Domestic Disclosure definitely offers a number of advantages compared to other offshore voluntary disclosure options. I will discuss in this article only the main three advantages.

Keep in mind that the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure may not always be advantages to taxpayers. There are plenty of situations where other offshore voluntary disclosure options may be superior to Streamlined Domestic Disclosure.

I also wish to emphasize that the analysis of advantages or disadvantages of a particular voluntary disclosure option is highly fact-specific. I strongly recommend that you contact Sherayzen Law Office for a detailed analysis of your voluntary disclosure options before you even attempt to proceed with your offshore voluntary disclosure.

Advantages of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Flexible Risk Management

One of the greatest advantages (though, the one rarely discussed on the Internet) of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure is the opportunity this option offers to manage the voluntary disclosure risks. We can be even more precise – to manage the risk-reward ratio.

There is no doubt that OVDP (the 2014 IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) may be the safest option available in the great majority of cases, but its “rewards” in terms of penalty rate, calculation of Penalty Base and other factors are generally (though, not always) inferior to those of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure. Noisy Disclosures stand at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the OVDP.

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure, however, occupies the middle ground. You only have to establish non-willfulness, not reasonable cause. This is a much lower standard. Moreover, this standard is applied to all international information returns, not just FBARs. At the same time, the penalty rate (see below) is generally far more advantageous than that of the OVDP.

Advantages of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Relatively Low Penalty Rate

One of the most cited advantages of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure is the low penalty rate of 5%. Compared to the OVDP penalty rate of 27.5% or FBAR non-willful penalties outside of a voluntary disclosure program, this can be a very advantageous option. This is not always the case, but it is true in most non-willful cases.

Advantages of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Shortened Voluntary Disclosure Period

Another great advantage of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure is the smaller number of years covered by the voluntary disclosure period. Unlike the OVDP voluntary disclosure period (which covers eight years of FBARs and tax returns), this voluntary disclosure option only encompasses the years which are covered by a regular statute of limitations.

In other words, it only includes the past six years of FBARs (occasionally seven) and past three years of tax returns. Obviously, this is a lot more convenient than OVDP.

A voluntary disclosure that involves an expatriation will require an increased number of amended tax returns.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Streamlined Domestic Disclosure

Despite having a much simpler procedure, Streamlined Domestic Disclosure may still be quite complex and require professional attention. There are a number of pitfalls that may seriously undermine the advantages of a Streamlined Domestic Disclosure. Sometime, unrepresented taxpayers may also make mistakes that will result in a disastrous result during a subsequent IRS audit.

This is why you need the professional help from Sherayzen Law Office. Our experienced legal team has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their Streamlined Domestic Disclosures, and We Can Help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2018 Post-OVDP Options | Foreign Accounts IRS Lawyer & Attorney

In a previous article, I discussed the recent IRS announcement with respect to the closure of the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) on September 28, 2018. Today, I would like to predict the range of the 2018 post-OVDP options for offshore voluntary disclosures starting October of 2018.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Streamlined Compliance Procedures

As of October 1, 2018, the taxpayers will still be able to utilize the Streamlined Compliance Procedures to complete their voluntary disclosures with respect to their foreign income and foreign assets. This option will be available only to taxpayers who will be able to certify that their prior noncompliance with US international tax laws was non-willful.

There are two variations within the Streamlined Compliance Procedures that are available to taxpayers depending on their residency: Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”). I expect both options to be available on October 1, 2018 and even into 2019.

I should emphasize, however, that the existence of Streamlined Compliance Procedures is by no means assured in the future. As I have stated in the article that predicted the demise of the OVDP, there may be a point in the future (and it can be a near future – 2020 or 2021) when even these procedures will be affected. It is more likely that SFOP will survive for a longer period of time than SDOP.

The other issue with Streamlined Compliance Procedures is that some of the terms of this type of voluntary disclosures may change over time even if SDOP and SFOP will remain in place.

Nevertheless, the Streamlined Compliance Procedures is a very popular option.  In fact, according to the IRS, about 65,000 taxpayers have used it since its creation in 2014). This is a very high dis-incentive for the IRS to end this option.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures

I fully expect the Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures to be available as of October 1, 2018. In one form or another, this option has always existed within the IRS. First, it was an informal understanding of the IRS that, in the absence of income tax noncompliance and other aggravating factors, there would be no FBAR penalties. Then, this option was “codified” as FAQ #17 within the OVDP programs.

In 2014, the Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures became an independent option. Of course, now, this is a somewhat harsher option.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures

I expect that this option will continue to exist as of October 1, 2018. Similarly to FBAR, it used to be a part of various OVDPs as FAQ #18. Now, Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures is a separate option which requires a reasonable cause explanation.

2018 Post-OVDP Options: IRS-Criminal Investigation Voluntary Disclosure Program (CI-VDP)

This option has existed for a very long time; it just faded into obscurity during the existence of OVDP. Now, it will surge back to life as it becomes almost the default option for a voluntary disclosure for US taxpayers who willfully violated their US tax obligations. In fact, I now expect CI-VDP to become a very valuable voluntary disclosure option (similar to what it used to be prior to 2009 OVDP).

2018 Post-OVDP Options: Reasonable Cause “Noisy” Disclosures

Since Reasonable Cause Disclosures (a/k/a “Noisy Disclosures”) are based on statutory law and not on any IRS programs, I fully expect this voluntary disclosure option to be available on October 1, 2018.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Assets and Foreign Income

If you have been unable to comply with US international tax laws concerning the reporting of foreign assets (including foreign accounts) and foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leading international tax law firm in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures. Our highly specialized legal team, led by an international tax attorney Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with assets in close to 70 countries to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws.

We can Help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure May Terminate Soon | Foreign Accounts Lawyer

On November 15, 2017, the IRS sent yet another signal that certain offshore voluntary disclosure options, particularly the OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure options, will be significantly modified or even terminated as the IRS proceeds with the LB&I Compliance Campaigns. This means that US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts need to hurry up if they wish to proceed with their offshore voluntary disclosure utilizing the OVDP or the Streamlined Compliance Procedures.

OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure Termination: What Did the IRS Say?

The latest signal on the termination of the OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure options came from Mr. John Cardon (director of the withholding and international compliance area within IRS LB&I) and Mr. Daniel Price, an attorney with the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, Small Business/Self-Employed Division in Austin, Texas.

Both IRS officials emphasized that the current Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program and the Streamlined Filing Procedures are likely to terminate soon. Mr. Price emphasized the fact that these voluntary disclosure options were always intended as special offers that were bound to end at some point.

The possibility that the IRS wishes to terminate the Streamlined Disclosure options in addition to OVDP is somewhat sudden and premature. The IRS already stated in the past that it is no longer satisfied with the OVDP, but it never complained about the Streamlined Compliance Procedures (which have been highly successful with over 18,000 disclosures just in the last year). It is also not clear whether the IRS wishes to completely terminate all OVDP and Streamlined Disclosure options or whether the Streamlined Filing Procedures will survive in one form or another.

Why the IRS Wishes to End OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure Options

There is more than one reason behind the current IRS drive to end or significantly modify the existing voluntary disclosure options. Let’s focus on the two most important of them.

First, the existing voluntary disclosure options are rapidly losing value as a source of new information regarding offshore noncompliance with US taxes. FATCA has created an enormous and continuously expanding network of automatic information exchange between the IRS and foreign financial institutions. Moreover, other automatic information exchanges mechanisms have successfully filled most of the gaps left by FATCA.

In other words, now that offshore tax compliance and automatic international information exchanges have become a worldwide norm, the IRS does not need voluntary disclosures to obtain new information about offshore tax noncompliance.

Second, there has been a systemic change to a different model of tax administration. As the IRS officials emphasized on November 15, 2017, 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 LB&I Compliance Campaigns – to concentrate its limited resources on tax enforcement where it is most needed rather than engage in broad efforts with respect to voluntary correction of past errors. Hence, in an environment where enforcement dominates over voluntary disclosures, the utility of the IRS voluntary disclosure options becomes more and more limited.

OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure Termination: When Will the IRS Announce the Termination of the Current OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure Programs?

It appears that the IRS will make the appropriate announcement for the termination of the voluntary disclosures prior to the end of January of 2018.

Will the Termination of Current OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure Programs Happen Immediately or Sometime After the Announcement?

It appears that, even after its announcement of the termination of the OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure options, the IRS will provide some time for the taxpayers to finalize their on-going disclosures. Mr. Cordone even stated that the voluntary disclosure programs’ termination date could be as far away as one year from the date of the IRS announcement of such a termination.

Will the End of OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure Programs Also Mark the End of IRS Voluntary Disclosures Per Se?

While the recent IRS moves are of great concern, they should not be taken as the end of the IRS voluntary disclosures per se with no options available to remedy one’s past tax noncompliance with respect to offshore accounts. Rather, I expect that the IRS voluntary disclosures will simply shift to different options. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss these potential voluntary disclosure options, but it is reasonable to assume we will find ourselves in situation somewhat reminiscent of the period of time between the end of 2011 OVDI and the beginning of 2012 OVDP.

If, however, a taxpayer wishes to take advantage of the existing voluntary disclosure options, the taxpayer should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to make sure that the voluntary disclosure can be completed before the IRS closes OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure Program.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure, including the OVDP & Streamlined Disclosure Options

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts or any other foreign assets, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Our international tax firm is highly experienced in successful completion of offshore voluntary disclosures for clients with foreign assets in close to 70 countries. We can help You!

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!